There are a lot of folks out there who shoot for free – and not because they aren’t good enough to be getting paid for their work. But they do so for the thrill of seeing their name in print or online, otherwise known as a photo credit. While this can be good, it can be seriously detrimental to the photography industry and I strongly caution those who choose to do this to proceed carefully.
The problem with photo sharing sites like Flickr is that unsuspecting photographers are approached by people who would like to use their image(s) in exchange for a photo credit. While the fact that someone wants to publish their work is great news for the new photographer, it becomes a problem for the industry when the use of the photo(s) will help generate income for the person or business who is asking to use the image.
Do I think that photo credits are helpful to someone who is starting out in photography? You bet I do – with a couple of stipulations. First, if I am shooting something for free or letting someone use my work for free then I require that I am able to get something out of it as well. If it’s a photo credit, then I require a link back to my website so that not only will viewers know that I am the photographer who created the image, but they can also quickly and easily take a trip to my website and see more of my work. Second, if the person or organization that I am shooting or providing images for are going to use them to generate revenue, then free is off the table. If they are going to make money then so should I – and so should you too! I also try and do pro bono work for organizations that I have some type of personal connection with or strong feelings toward their cause.
A photo credit in the right location can help to get your name out there as a photographer, so it’s not always a bad thing. If people search your name in Google and find all sorts of links to photos taken by you, it helps with your ‘street credit’ and gives them a little more confidence in you.
I don’t get paid for my work that I shoot for the Navy (other than my salary) but I get credit for every single image. The shot above was published by Fox News as well as several other local news sources around the Country. That’s certainly not a bad thing at all! It goes right along with what I said in the previous paragraph.
Shooting for free or letting someone use an image for free in the right setting and at the right time is a good thing. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you should never shoot for free. However, don’t start out shooting for free all the time as then everyone will come to expect that you’re the ‘free photographer’ and will get upset when you try to hand them an estimate or an invoice.
Put a limit on what and when you shoot for free and you will not only be benefiting the photography industry as a whole, but yourself as well.