How to Value Yourself As an Artist.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Let me be up front, normally I don’t post things that go in depth about the business side of photography. With that said though I’ve had something on my mind lately and I wanted to blog about it.

A few months back a band called Alter Bridge posted on their Facebook about how a photographer who’s photo they decided to use as a profile page. They said the photographer had contacted them and said it was neat that they chose to use his photo, but then told them that he doesn’t usually give out photography for free and told Alter Bridge they could purchase the photo for a usage fee of $75 what he normally charges someone. Which to me seems relatively cheap if you ask me. The band went on to tell their fans that they told the photographer they respectfully declined to pay him for his photo.

This is what really gets me, this band is no small band they sell tons of records and play shows all over the place. What do you think Alter Bridge and their Record Label would do if they caught someone just freely playing their music (Which Happens All The Time) they would send that person a notice of copyright infringement and request that person pay for the rights to use that song. So to try and act like it’s ok for them to just put someones photo on their Facebook because they are famous is ridiculous. It also brings to question the current state of where photographers are as artists. You find posts on craigslist all the time of people wanting a photographic service of professional quality for free, but really do they expect they will get a professional quality image by trying to find a free service? Would you ask someone to repair your engine for free in your car and feel safe driving it? I know I wouldn’t

I know what you are thinking photographers need to start somewhere and thats who these people target. I understand people need to build a portfolio and offer to do free work, but what I’m talking about is how do you stand up for yourself when people try and assume that you should be offering them a free service, because well in the digital age you just point and take a photo and use photoshop to do whatever. It all “Sounds” easy, but do they really understand whats going on? Sure maybe they know how to open photoshop, I know how to change my own oil but would I truly understand if a mechanic went into detail about what this certain bolt hold my engine together? Probably Not.

This is why you need to stop selling yourself short as an artist, because you are not simply a photographer, you are an artist and if you want to make money out of it you need to not let someone assume what you do is easy. Take being a landscape photographer, usually you have to be out of your house by 3am to get a sunrise in late spring, and summer. You then may be out until 9-10pm each night if you also go out for sunset. You put tons of miles on your car, which you then pump gas into. On top of that you put miles on your gear, and your body. Sometimes you are out for days at a time waiting for the perfect image to form in your head. You capture that picture; and lets just say for the sake of argument you are taking this photo for a client. To them the just assume that you were out for x days and since you are using a DSLR the process must be complete to them it’s on that little 3″ screen so it must be good enough, or if anything you just have to go do a few things in Photoshop, of course they have no idea what you have to do, they just assume it’s easy.

The truth is that nine times out of ten your image is not anywhere where it needs to be when you capture it, yes you can get many things right in the camera: 

  • Focus
  • Color
  • Exposure “To a Point”
  • DOF
  • Shutter Speed
  • Exposure

Usually  no matter what when you take a photo it’s not like you saw when you where there, or you want to turn it into some other piece of art like HDR so you are doing different exposures. To me Photoshop is like a digital darkroom, I have to use Luminance Masks, Channel Masking, Multiple Exposures, Hand Blending, Color Correction Even More, Boosting Saturation, and tons of other things to really bring the final image to the client. But people don’t understand what you are doing and just assume it doesn’t take much work or that they can just do it themselves. 

This goes back to what I’m going on about you should not sell yourself short as a photographer, or assume that you should be offering anyone your service for free or really cheap, time is money when you go to your normal job? A company pays you for your time, your time is valuable it can be dependent on how skillful you are at a position, would a hospital be paying a doctor minimum wage to do brain surgery? Probably not, Companies and Employees must pay people for their time and skill.

You should start thinking of yourself as a skillful person who know their tools like a surgeon and value they work you do it is art, and even though there will be always models wanting to TFP work, or Photographers wanting the same you should not undervalue yourself as someone who will work for everyone for free. Take some time and add up all the money you have invested in:

  • Camera
  • Lenses
  • Filters
  • Computer
  • External Hard Drives
  • Laptop
  • Learning
  • College

All these are things you invest to become better at your craft they are not things you got for free, not to mention if you are a member of a photography organization, marketing, all this stuff is money you invest into your art. 

I could go on this topic for a long time, but to keep things to the point and not to make things stale, just remember the next time someone asks you for a free service with nothing in return educate them, don’t sell yourself short. Stand by the work you put out and make sure your clients, friends, family, art buyer knows why these things cost as much as they do. No one should be selling a print of a 12×18 image for 20 dollars. You put way more than 20 dollars into your work make sure you are paid properly, even if it is a hobby or something you enjoy it still costs you money so you should be able to make money when the opportunity arises.

Again Don’t Sell Yourself Short!

Marquise Moses Football Shoot - May 2012