Photography studio, gallery and training complex

It’s 2 For 1 Time On Photographers!

Feeling a little deflated after reading my new issue of Grumpy Photographers Monthly, I thought you might like my own little story from the “I used to make £5k a day and go to work in my lear jet and now I’m doing weddings for £250. Woe is me,” school of optimism.

A few years ago, I used to shoot events for the local city council, who shall remain nameless, but it’s near my Birmingham-based studio and rhymes with “Nirmingham”. Well, this was quite a nice little gig really. I got to meet nice people, attend interesting events, photograph the odd (sometimes very odd) VIP and got access to some great viewpoints. And it paid quite nicely too. Only the odd day here and there but such is the life of the freelance tog.

The man who hired me was a very nice guy, and a keen photographer with an artist’s eye and so understood what was required in terms of access and opportunities to achieve a correspondingly high quality photographic record of the event. Every time he assigned me a job, he had already thought through the best places to be and the best times to be there, along with introductions to the people that would make this all possible.


Steve Bruce following a champagne soaking at the hands of the players on the balcony of the town hall. Copyright: David Rann


Anyway, during my time there, I was told by this man, and others, that they were approached on an almost daily basis by photographers – usually amateurs – who offered to do what I was doing…

But for free.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out why it might be that when said council is in the financial doledrums and the nice man leaves for pastures new, my assignments stop. I’m not saying this is definitely what happened in my case (although information recieved does rather lead one to suspect this to be so). After all, if you’re handling even a small chunk of the public purse you’re going to want to get value for that money. Instead of paying one qualified, experienced professional photographer, why not have two, or even three – hell, let’s go to town – FOUR keen (and possibly competent) amateurs for free/gratis/nada/zilch. They’ll do the same job, won’t they?

…won’t they?


4 responses

  1. Sounds familiar.. in fact.. if I said “exactly” the same thing.. it would be true!

    September 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    • Thanks Richard – I’m hearing this all over!

      September 2, 2012 at 4:49 pm

  2. I’ve seen lots of discussion threads on various sites about this. It’s very common. A pro photographer is just someone making a living from it, that’s it end of. The issue is really one of skillset and priorities. A pro/freelancer may have a skill level less than that of an experienced amateur.

    To answer the question I think the facts are that on a good day and to an average viewer yes. But… if you rely on a good amateur not being paid you run the risk of a no show due to work commitments, just a no show because “Hey I am not getting paid and I just got tickets to the game”, image turn around time can be lengthy, you have no comeback what-so-ever if you get no images and if you’ve failed to secure that critical image then it’s really down to you not the amateur. Lastly, experience plays a part. A good amateur may have the experience to get themselves out of a situation where as a less experienced amateur may not.

    If using freebie photographers is your strategy then you should spread your bets. Any professional photographers who lose work sadly have to move with the times. I would ask though that when the professional photographer was starting out did they offer free services or reduced rates? Somewhere, somehow I reckon every current pro put the pinch on an existing pro. You can’t tell me this is a new phenomenon, although I’ll accept with the benefits of digital it’s probably more widespread.

    September 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    • Thanks Craig. Good points.

      In addition though, it’s worth pointing out that it goes beyond skill levels – most amateurs (& some pros for that matter) mightn’t have appropriate public liability insurance or any sort of CRB clearance.

      Get a group of pros in a room (as has happened to me recently) and this is a conversation that inevitably comes up. Digital has undoubtedly made it easier – my one day beginners courses often include people already out there taking money for weddings or family portraits but who don’t know some of the absolute basics about their cameras but rely on shooting hundreds of images on “P” (for “professional” of course) to be whittled down to a few acceptable good ones.

      September 3, 2012 at 7:28 am

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