It’s with a very heavy heart that I write this post, it’s been awhile coming, but I’ve decided that it is time for me to put down my camera, at least in a professional capacity.
It’s been a hard slog since starting full-time in 2008, I’ve changed directions a few times, had some pretty awesome highs like getting magazine covers, interviews, TV coverage, travelling to Cambodia on a volunteer trip and seeing a heap of Australia… I’ve also had some lows like getting screwed over by an insurance company when our house was broken into and all my camera gear was stolen (something I’m still trying to recover from financially, I didn’t run a “I didn’t have insurance” fundraiser like I’ve seen many photographers do), running out of money and quite often not having quite enough to make a decent living, or sometimes even put food on the table and fuel in my car, dodgy clients scamming me or using my good nature and generosity against me, another one outright lying about me and other such nonsense.
I’m reaching a point where I don’t think I’ve got anything left to give, yet the requests keep coming, I’m getting asked constantly for free photos for publications in which *everyone* else involved is getting paid. There is a large chain of magazines here in Western Australia that approached me for free photos in return for “credit & exposure”, which doesn’t pay any bills at all. This company charges in excess of $3500 per advertisement in their magazine… and their magazine is *full* of advertisements, I know, I did some advertising with them (not a single enquiry, let alone a new client.. lesson learned).
Their excuse? “We don’t have the budget for photography”… really? I’m afraid Coles & Woolies won’t let me fill up my trolley when I “don’t have the budget for food” and the petrol station doesn’t let me fill up my car when I “don’t have the budget for fuel”… you are just going to have to do with out the photos then! Even recently I was approached for photos for a small free magazine.. only the photos never actually went to that particular magazine, instead they were used in several other publications.. and I can’t even use the publication as samples of my work, because they’ll sue me for copyright violation.
This sort of treatment can easily make a person reach burn out point, emotionally, financially and mentally… It just wears you down!
The photography industry is in a very weird state of flux, where many large organisations are expecting freelance photographers, many who do photography full-time, to work completely for free.. or at absolute dirt rates. I’m not going to blame the ready access to decent camera gear, as anyone with any taste or two eyes can tell the difference between a photo taken by a professional photographer and someone who “has a nice camera”. I think part of the blame does lie on people who don’t charge proper rates though, rates that will cover the insurances required like public liability (which they don’t have), the software (which they pirate), the taxes (which some of them don’t pay) and many other factors that go into running a real, professional business.
Then there’s the inevitable delays with projects, I’ve had 3 major projects that I was counting on cash flow wise, all get postponed or delayed by several months in the last 2 weeks.. suddenly I need to find some new projects to work on, because unfortunately, no one pays me to take time off :)
Anyway, by now you’ll probably have realised that it’s April 1st here in Australia, I absolutely love what I do and I’m not quitting… I’m going to knuckle down, work harder *and* smarter to achieve my goals… my business success (or failure) will not be at the mercy of weekend warriors who don’t have the overheads I do, it is 100% my responsibility and I’m going to make it a success. Every complaint I’ve made is 100% true and as accurate as I can recall or know from my point of view, but they are distractions, not excuses and I’ll overcome them. I hope maybe you learned a little about the ups and downs of small business and the frustrations of a creative in business and I really hope it didn’t come across as a huge whine session :)
I will not be giving out free photos to companies who can clearly pay, or companies that *should* be paying, but can’t. I already support Awareness Cambodia and The Love Angel Foundation as well as donating several pieces of artwork to charity auctions in any given year.
I’m still taking on a few commercial photography clients, so feel free to contact me with your project idea!
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