Musings

Hey, aspiring photographers: A bit of free advice for you…

Your work is worth something. Your skills are worth something. Put a value on it. Stick to your guns. Don’t be afraid to turn down an opportunity if the opportunity is only that for someone else. Free work for someone else is free labor provided by you. And you can’t live on that.

If you don’t put a value on what you do, no one else will.

A response to “Marsha”.

I got this in my email today, from a woman who was apparently irked by yesterday’s post about WalMart’s printing TOS. Her name is Marsha, and she says she’s the Manager of a Photo department at Wal-Mart:

“Name: marsha

Email: (withheld)

Message: “i think you should seriously consider taking down your blog about walmart you are more then wrong and id like to know why you think posting something like this was appropriate. walmart canada has some of the highest standards of personal safety in there photos as a lab manager myself we cant even reprint a photo u took without a lengthy contract and letters from you stating we have permission and the person trying to do it . any photo that comes through is treated with respect and is not misused in anyway even for display purposes there is a lengthy contract to go through its a shame you think is ok to di a canadaian corporation for your own benefit to ur business!”

I’m kind of at a loss for words here. Not sure how I should respond to this? It’s difficult to understand, but I’ll try..

“you are more then wrong and id like to know why you think posting something like this was appropriate”

I’m not wrong, the language is pretty clear. And it’s in plain English, right on the WalMart website. (See image links in the comments from yesterday) And I think it’s appropriate to post because I feel WalMart is preying on the unaware, by putting it in their TOS that you grant them the rights to use your property however they see fit. I feel obligated to make the information known so that people can make an informed decision about who they’re doing business with.

“we cant even reprint a photo u took without a lengthy contract and letters from you stating we have permission”

The TOS laid out in the original post clearly speak to the contrary. I encourage you to re-read it. Specifically the whole thing. It’s one very long run on sentence that says “By using our services, you agree that we can do what we want with the material, now and in the future, without any compensation to you”.

“its a shame you think is ok to di a canadaian corporation for your own benefit to ur business!”

Did you mean “diss”? If so, I’m not “dissing” anyone. I’m merely pointing out the TOS. I’ve pointed something out to people who might not have been aware. Reading the WalMart TOS “out loud”, and drawing attention to it doesn’t a diss make. A diss would be saying “WalMart sucks and only hires undereducated minimum wage workers, and drives local business out and systematically destroys the economy under the guise of bettering communities.” Or something like that.

As for all this “benefiting” MY business? I’m not a photo printer. I don’t provide printing – in any way, shape or form – as part of my business. I take photos. I give a disk of images to my clients. They go elsewhere to print said images. That’s about it. But I suppose that in giving my customers an alternative to having their images misappropriated my a huge (American, by the way) corporation, and at the same time, support local, Canadian companies and businesses, sure.. I’m doing something good for my business, and the local business community.

For example, Turning Points Arts in Saltair, a fellow named Brad Grigor, who offers high quality printing of ALL varieties, from Glicee canvas to board mount. Right from his home. For a great price. AND, you get great customer service. AND he provides fantastic products, superior to WalMart in EVERY way.

His website is http://www.turningpointarts.com. I encourage EVERYONE to check him out and give him a try.

Printing your photos at WalMart? Don’t.

***If you get your photos printed at Walmart (Canada) you may want to reconsider…***

By using Walmart’s service you are granting them an irrevocable, world-wide, royalty free license to do what they want with your photos… including using them in advertizing without payment to you or notifying you. DON’T DO IT. Know your rights. And know what rights you’re giving away.

A direct quote from the WalMart Canada websitem in the Photo Lab’s  TOS:

“You grant to Walmart Canada Corp. a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, unrestricted, world-wide right and license to access, use, copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, display, perform, communicate to the public, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, and otherwise use such Materials (in whole or in part) in connection with the Site and/or the Products, using any form, media or technology now known or later developed, without providing compensation to you or any other person, without any liability to you or any other person, and free from any obligation of confidence or other duties on the part of Walmart, its affiliates and their respective licensees”

If you’re looking for an alternative, I suggest London Drugs. I’ve had printing done there before, and they’re pretty great. And their TOS respect the photographer:

“We will not use or modify your Content for advertising purposes or any other purposes without obtaining your expressed permission.Furthermore, and as a condition to your access to LD photo lab and use of the Services, you represent and warrant to London Drugs that you are the owner of the copyright to User Content or that you have written permission from the copyright owner to submit User Content to London Drugs and provide London Drugs with the rights set forth in this paragraph. In addition, you warrant that all moral rights in any uploaded materials have been waived in writing.”

Something to keep in mind if you get printing done at WalMart.

Shout out to Christal Beerman at Christal Beerman Photography for making me aware of this.

Robb

Downtown Victoria Business Association. Just another “give us free photos” contest.

I am reposting this here, because as a photographer, I feel it’s important to get the word out. The principle of these “contests” is wrong. Regardless if you’re a professional with a high end DSLR system and 20 years of work experience, or just a kid with a smartphone walking home from work. If you create something that another company or organization benefits or profits from. You should be compensated. If you agree with me, please share the post.

The following is my Facebook response to The Downtown Victoria Business Association group on Facebook, who are holding a “photo contest” called Pucker up, Victoria – Kiss the City.

Shame on you, DVBA! SHAME!

C’mon, people. Stop letting groups like this steal and scam photographers out of their work!

PAY for product! Don’t steal it!

“As a condition of submitting your photo, you unconditionally and irrevocably assign all copyrights and other rights in the photograph to the Downtown Victoria Business Association. You acknowledge that the Downtown Victoria Business Association may, at its sole discretion, publish or otherwise use any photograph submitted by you. As a condition of submitting your photograph, you (and any other individual depicted in a photograph) unconditionally and irrevocably waive all claims to compensation for use of the photograph, and/or any rights with respect to such use you may have under copyright law, the right to publicity, the right to privacy, the law of defamation, and any other common law or statutory claims under the laws of any jurisdiction. You acknowledge that you have been given the authority by each individual depicted or represented in a photograph to bind such individual to these release terms. “

Quote from Elizabeth Hall, a friend of mine on Facebook:

“This is the reason I won’t enter the contest as I am not giving up the copyright to MY work for a contest as that is a price of entry I am not willing nor should I be expected to pay, it also concerns me as I now wonder if the DVBA is going to try to claim ownership of any of the other images I have shared on this page that were not relating to the contest but to spread the word about my photography.

Photographers work damned hard for their art and should not have to give up ownership of their images in exchange for getting the word out about their work. It’s bad enough how many people try to exchange “exposure” for hard work as a way to get said work done for free, and I for one feel that the DVBA expecting ownership of any ones images in exchange for a contest entry coupled with your clear statement of intent to use the images for your own gain is ludicrous.”

Before people go grumbling at me and telling what a big jerk spoilsport I am….

*IF* the compensation for the top photo was the end of it, I’d have no problem. What I have a problem with, and what most people fail to see is that EVERY PHOTO SUBMITTED becomes the property of the DVBA.

To reiterate: “As a condition of SUBMITTING your photo, you unconditionally and irrevocably assign all copyrights and other rights in the photograph to the Downtown Victoria Business Association.”

Not “If YOUR photo is the WINNING photo you unconditionally and irrevocably assign all copyrights and other rights in the photograph to the Downtown Victoria Business Association.”

So, how about some quick math?

In a city of approximately 82,000, it’s not unreasonable to assume that conservatively, 500 people enter this “contest”. Each of those photos is now OWNED by DVBA. For life. They own every single submission, the copyrights and right to use. Forever. But to the “winning” photo, a prize of “free swag” donated by affiliates of the DVBA, collectively worth about… $1000. Not CASH, just a collection of corporate “junk drawer” stuff. Most of which was probably given to THOSE businesses by companies they represent. So. A spa might give away a few products that were given to them by Laureal, DKNY, whatever.

So, for roughly $1000 bucks worth of swag, DVBA now owns 500 images that they can use however they see fit, without credit or compensation to the person who took the photo.

That works out to a stockpile of material to pull from. Works out to $2 per. Two bucks. 8 quarters. THAT’S the “value” of each photo submitted.

It’s not a photo contest. It’s a rights grab, because holding a “photo contest” is cheaper than buying legit work or hiring a photographer to create the image you need/want.

More reading:

Photo Contests – Is that a contest or Rights Grab?

Josafat Miranda! You sir, are not an artist. You’re a thief.

http://youthoughtwewouldntnotice.com/blog3/see-art-steal-art/

As a photographer, one of the hardest aspects of what I do is coming up with ways to be original ALL THE TIME. For everyone else, the photos I’m taking of their wedding, portraits, grad, whatever – they’re one offs. They don’t see themselves in photos every day. You only get married once, MAYBE twice if you’re like me and need a couple tries to learn from horrible, horrible mistakes. But for me, it’s the (insert large number here)th time I’ve taken this shot. The 30th wedding. The 23rd grad. The 50th family portrait. The 5th time at THIS music festival. Same subject matter, different faces.

When creating one off art pieces, having an idea is just the first step. Then you have to find wardrobe, or someone that knows wardrobe and can assist you. Same with make up, hair, set dressing, etc. Then there’s the lighting, the working in the right weather conditions, location, etc. THEN there’s editing, the art of tweaking, cleaning, and creating the final image as you originally envisioned it. THAT’S a fraction of the process. But it IS a process, it’s how we create our art. And what we do IS art. It’s OUR creative vision, and the culmination of so many different processes. It’s often costly, takes time, and is OURS. As I’ve often said – the photograph is my canvas, the camera, my brush.

So to have some weenie jerk swoop in, take that photograph, and copy it – in EVERY detail – to a canvas of his own… That doesn’t make it his. All you are, Josafat Miranda, is a Xerox machine that eats pizza. You’re not an artist, you’re a thief. You take someone else’s vision, someone else’s creativity, and someone else’s art and claim it as your own.

Visit this link – http://youthoughtwewouldntnotice.com/blog3/see-art-steal-art/ – and follow the links. Judge for yourself.

~R

Oh, yeah. Right. Sorry.

Apparently, I have a website. A website with a blog. A blog that I have been neglecting HORRIBLY. I apologize for this. Though, I realize I’m apologizing to myself. Because yes, I’m the only one who reads it. And lets face it, I’m used to talking to myself. I’m just not used to TYPING to myself.

I promise I’ll get to updating photos VERY soon. And blogging more often. I’ve just been REALLY busy as of late. And lazy.

Mostly lazy.

Reasons why I can’t do free: Written by Sharon Hayes

Found this on the web, and wish I’d have written it myself. Alas, I did not, but a very smart woman by the name of Sharon Hayes DID. I’m re-posting the important part of the article here, but please stop by Sharon’s blog at www.sharonhayes.com/ to read the entire article.

7 Reasons Why I Can’t Do “Free”
by Sharon Hayes

1. The Time It Takes

Many people who ask for free help from others don’t consider the time involved with providing it. I know they think – it’s only a simple question. It shouldn’t take long to answer, so it shouldn’t be an inconvenience. I beg to differ.

I track everything I do – both the time spent on things as well as the volume. I’m writing this early on June 19th. In the first 18 days of the month, I received 451 requests to do something for free. If it took me an average of 10 minutes to answer each person properly, that would mean 4510 minutes or 75 hours or just over 4 hours a day.

Even if all I did was tell people I can’t provide free advice, if it took 2 minutes to read their request and tell them I can’t help them, that works out to 15 hours of time so far this month.

Most of the requests I receive somehow come back to helping someone else realize their dreams in some way. The thing is – I have my own dreams. I have more things I want to do than there are hours to get it all done in.

2. It Takes Away From My Paying Customers

The things that people ask me to do for free are actually offered as a paid service through one or other of my companies. If you were a paying customer with one of my companies, how would you feel if you knew I was offering services free to other people just because they asked? It’s not fair to my existing customers.

3. It Zaps My Creative Juice

Each of us has only so many truly productive hours in a day. In my own case, I can get in about 5 solid productive hours on a typical day. It’s like a bank for me. Each day, I start off with this reserve of 5 hours. As I do work through the day, the reserve gets depleted. But it gets depleted at a faster rate when I have to shift gears more frequently. If I had a day where all I did was fulfill 5-10 minute requests, it would likely mean I’d be able to do maybe 20 of them in a day and absolutely nothing else productive. A complicated “simple” request might mean I need to do an hour of background thinking to figure out an answer, it might mean 20 minutes of research, it might mean contacting one or more people for input.

I think that a part of the issue is that some people see me active in social media and engaging, so they assume I have all this time available. Bantering with people about our respective days, the weather, the weekend or some current event topic does not require creative energy on my part. This is mental downtime. It doesn’t impact what I can get done in the day. Ask me to put on my thinking cap, even for a ‘simple’ question, and it’s a different story.

4. Most People Don’t Value Things They Get For Free

There have been countless times where I have helped people. In some cases, I’ve spent an hour or more of time with someone because I thought they genuinely needed the assistance. Whenever I have followed up to see how things were, it’s been very rare that they actually took any action on things. Often these were cases where someone was fired up about an idea, reached out to me before they even thought things through themselves, but when it came to actually doing, they lost their enthusiasm.

Now, there are some people who sincerely would value free assistance. But is it up to me to provide free help to anyone who asks for it on the basis that a small percentage of people will take it and run with it? No.

5. I’m a Professional Who Works Online

I worked my butt off to make it through business school. I had to work full-time in conjunction with school pretty much from my teens. I’ve been in business for over 20 years. I’ve paid my own dues. I am a professional. My knowledge and expertise, even if it simply a matter of answering one question – has value. It may have taken me over 2,000 working hours just to have the knowledge to answer a brief question skillfully.

Customers who pay me for my knowledge contact me through the same methods that those who want assistance for free do. The Internet is my office. You’d not expect a doctor, lawyer, accountant or other professional to provide free assistance – I should be treated with the same respect.

6. It Doesn’t Stop at One Request

I used to be much more generous with my time – that is until I got to the point where it was detrimental to my own life and well-being. One of the things I discovered is that a significant percentage of the time when I helped someone out for free, they would come back – often repeatedly – for more free help. It has to end somewhere.

7. Quality Control, Responsibility & Reputation Issues

I thought I had this post finished when my partner at Domainate, Steve Jones, reminded me of a trifecta of other issues – quality control, responsibility and reputation management.

I pride myself on doing as excellent a job at everything I do as is humanly possible. It is impossible for me to do things for free and maintain the level of quality I’d want to.

By the same token, when offering slipshod free advice, I am also opening myself up to responsibility issues that I’m not willing to take on. Let’s say if it should have taken me an hour to research something appropriately, but I short cut it to 5 minutes and miss something significant. I tell the person the 5 minute answer. They act based on this advice. It is wrong. Where are my responsibilities here? What damage could be done to my reputation if this person went public and said I gave them wrong advice. In some cases, I could be opening myself up to legal issues.

Approaching this topic – and blogging about it like this – is very difficult for me. In an ideal world, I’d love to be able to help everyone I could. I hate coming across as a bitch. But part of the reason people come to me is that I have had success in business and a big reason for this is because I know the lines that have to be drawn. This is one of them.

When I’ve told people I can’t help them or don’t offer free advice, they often get testy with me. The reality is – free for others comes with a price for me. It’s a price I’m just not willing/able to pay these days.

I know I’m not alone. Probably many of you reading this post get a varying number of requests for free help with things. In an upcoming post, I’ll tackle some ways that I have dealt and will be dealing with these requests. Hopefully it will help some of you.
Parting Words

If you need help with something and there’s someone you respect enough to approach for help, realize their time is valuable. Before contacting them directly, check out their website. See what their options may be for paid assistance or even if they take questions they would answer publicly.

If you are on the receiving end of requests for free help, realize it is okay – and healthy – for you to answer, “no.”

So, in my OWN words… When I say NO, I can’t do it for free, don’t take it any more personally than I took it when you asked me to.

My parents, my kids, photos, and all that jazz.

People have told me that at times, I can be far too liberal with who I am and what I say and how much information I share on the internet. I’ve never really been much for filters, or using them. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I’ve never held back from sharing who I am with others. Sometimes though, I will admit to sharing a little too much.

The bottom line, is that while I’m aware that this is supposed to a “business” website wherein I advertise myself as a professional photographer, and thus, I’m always supposed to put on this… front, and only show the very BEST side of myself, and I am expected to be the face of the business, the simple truth of it is, I’m not a business. I’m not even sure I WANT to be a business.

Here is what I AM:

I’m a guy, whom from a very young age, had an artists heart, and an artists mind. I saw things in sketches, in perspectives, shades of grey, and I always managed to find something beautiful even in the completely mundane. I’m a guy who grew up frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t draw worth a damn. I looked out from the back seat of my father’s aircraft when I was a kid, at the staggered tops of slightly arched wings of Cessnas flying in formation off the tip of our own wing, and wish that I could freeze THAT moment in time, and share how *I* saw it with the world.

I was cursed with a perspective of the world around me, and no way to capture it. So, it was out of frustration that I threw away everything I’d ever tried to draw, and every medium I’d ever tried to draw it with, swearing to never again touch another tool of art manufacture again.

Years later, I was an an estate sale in Saskatoon, and one of the items up for grab was an complete camera kit, containing a Pentax ME Super, some film and an assortment of lenses. So, on a whim, and an overabundance of impulsiveness, I bought it for $300 bucks. And fell in love with photography.

Now, 7 years later, I am a guy who loves to take pictures. Of everything. Of anything. I have literally hundreds of thousands of photos spread across half a dozen hard drives. Some are great, some are total crap. But they’re mine, and they’re how I see the world. They’re my memories of how and what I see. My kids, my home, the city I live in, the province I call home, the places I’ve been, and things I’ve seen. They’re my history, and I’ve kept almost every single one of them.

I don’t want to be a business, because for me, as soon as it becomes work, as soon as it becomes a job, and as soon as I start shooting for other people, and by other peoples’ standards, and by other people’s expectations, I’m forced to let go of MY vision, and MY perspective. I started this journey as a hobby, and as a way of creating art. ART. Not photographs, not perfectly lit, metered out, by the rules, by the books “you-need-to-be-doing-it-like-I-do,-or-you’re-not-a-REAL-photographer” images that are technically flawless, but have no SOUL, and don’t stand out as unique.

Sure, I admit. I’m never going to be rich, famous, well known, widely published, or financially secure from doing what I do. I refuse to conform, I refuse to do it like THEY do it, and I refuse to give up what *I* love in order to please someone else, or because I need affirmation. I’m really learning to like who I am, and like what I do, and like how I do it. I LIKE that I’m not just like everyone else. I like that I have my own style, my own look and my own identity.

Ultimately, what I hope to find is the people – few as they may be – who ALSO like what I do, and either hire me, or buy my work based on THAT. I want people to hire be because they know I’ll give them something different, something unique. Something that while it may not meet the standards of others, it meets THEIR standards.

So, THAT’S who I am. I’m different. I’m ranty, I’m opinionated, and I’m quirky. I don’t take photographs, I create little pieces of art, the way I see them in my head, the instant I see them. Of people don’t like it, or don’t take me seriously based on that, well. That’s ok.

*EDIT*EDIT*EDIT*EDIT*FACEDESK***… *sigh*

I’ll be back someday. I swear. I won’t be a slave to editing FOREVER..

(Will I?)

Apparently, being out in left field is good for business….?

I hate weddings. I mean, I LOVE weddings, I just hate shooting them. They just don’t fit with my creative style, and I’ve had some pretty awful experiences shooting them. At the end of the day, I just find it to be too much stress, having to be responsible for what’s probably THE most important day in a couple’s lives. There’s no do-overs, no second chances, not room for mistakes, nothing. You have to do it right, and you have to do it right the FIRST time. You have to be technically perfect, have all the lighting just so and able to deal with people who hire you because they love what you do, and the results you get, but then micro manage and question you all day long, because they don’t understand how you get the results that you do. It’s just too much stress for me, and I don’t think it’s fair to let someone hire you to do a job if your heart just isn’t in it.

Then, you take weddings like the one I’ll be shooting tomorrow: Alternative, freedom to be creative and adventurous, try different things, and to step OUTSIDE the box. Do be different, and to create ART, rather than canned, cookie cutter, cliche photos that have been done over, and over and over. A wedding where the bride will be wearing a steampunk mohawk of feathers, leather and brass? Yes please! I’ll take that – two helpings, if you please.

Don’t get me wrong – if I can shoot a wedding, while being true to who I am as a photographer, then I’m in. If I have to pretend to be someone I’m not and run the risk of ruining someone’s big day because I’m only in it to make money, then no thanks.

The wedding I’m shooting tomorrow? I was hired – partly against my will, and under threat of demise – BECAUSE I’m so far out in left field, all by myself. Who would have thought, eh? Someone hiring me because I’m not just like everyone else!

Bazinga, indeed.

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