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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Weddings & Other Family Events Talk
Thread started 04 Feb 2015 (Wednesday) 01:07
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Free Work - Fair Evaluation or Labor Abuse?

 
idkdc
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Feb 04, 2015 01:07 |  #1

Thoughts on this?

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David Bebbington Subscriber, Sep 08, 2010; 11:19 p.m.
Using unpaid assistants is morally deplorable but sadly increasingly common. Very often when taking decisions about career steps in a creative industry, it pays to ask the 3 big questions:
Am I having fun?
Am I learning something?
Am I getting rich?
Three "yes" answers is perfection, two is good, even one is OK, but none means "Don't do it!" Quite frankly, if you can afford to work for nothing, you can only gain by doing so, subject to the above - if you're learning and advancing your career, fine, but do not tolerate exploitation.


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jimeuph1
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Feb 04, 2015 03:42 |  #2

How many Pro's put out workshops where people pay good money for them?
But generally you learn a lot in these situations.

Instead of the participants paying hard cash, they are exchanging menial labour for an on the job workshop.
Though in these arrangements the amount learned will very often depend on the abilities of the main. But you do get to actually feel how much work is involved on the day.

Second shooting, if your main hands over to a client, anything the second shooter has done, then it should be compensated. If the second shooter has nothing the main wants to use and no fee was negotiated then I don't see why they should get paid, as they have exchanged time for potential portfolio work. Which could lead to paying clients.

Many pro's pay second shooters and assistants as a rule, but these photographers very often get to pick second shooters and assistants, who have already gained experience and have portfolios and references.

Shooting a wedding for free, is always to gain experience and portfolio work, as clients won't even risk you for $100 unless they have seen some previous wedding work. You gain more portfolio work, and learn first hand a wedding workflow from beginning to end. With no exchange of money the free photographer cannot be sued. Very important, as mistakes will be made and a court will rule something is only worth what has been paid for it.

I think working for free is the first rung of the ladder in this industry. Being free protects the newbie photographer from major repercussions if mistakes occur. Though a sensible person will still get insurances for at least their equipment.

Working for free as an "intern" whether it is a weeks full time work or 6 months, with the promise of paid work at the end is nearly always exploitation, lots of rather large companies use this tactic, have an intern for 6 months, and then at the end say "oh no, sorry.... you didn't get the job" only to already be pulling in the next intern.

I haven't heard that in the wedding industry, but I have witnessed it in the larger business world. TV, radio, clothing, even office work for solicitors, the list goes on...

The other stupid one is apprenticeships, you at least get a wage, but it is very often in the building trade, getting paid a lot less than minimum wage for back breaking work.

Taking a few unpaid jobs to build a portfolio, to lead to paid work and a business of your own is one thing because it is on your terms.
Chasing the carrot on the end of the stick, that someone else is holding, only for it to never be intended for you, is exploitation.




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idkdc
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Feb 05, 2015 01:40 |  #3

jimeuph1 wrote in post #17414658external link
How many Pro's put out workshops where people pay good money for them?
But generally you learn a lot in these situations.

Instead of the participants paying hard cash, they are exchanging menial labour for an on the job workshop.
Though in these arrangements the amount learned will very often depend on the abilities of the main. But you do get to actually feel how much work is involved on the day.

Second shooting, if your main hands over to a client, anything the second shooter has done, then it should be compensated. If the second shooter has nothing the main wants to use and no fee was negotiated then I don't see why they should get paid, as they have exchanged time for potential portfolio work. Which could lead to paying clients.

Many pro's pay second shooters and assistants as a rule, but these photographers very often get to pick second shooters and assistants, who have already gained experience and have portfolios and references.

Shooting a wedding for free, is always to gain experience and portfolio work, as clients won't even risk you for $100 unless they have seen some previous wedding work. You gain more portfolio work, and learn first hand a wedding workflow from beginning to end. With no exchange of money the free photographer cannot be sued. Very important, as mistakes will be made and a court will rule something is only worth what has been paid for it.

I think working for free is the first rung of the ladder in this industry. Being free protects the newbie photographer from major repercussions if mistakes occur. Though a sensible person will still get insurances for at least their equipment.

Working for free as an "intern" whether it is a weeks full time work or 6 months, with the promise of paid work at the end is nearly always exploitation, lots of rather large companies use this tactic, have an intern for 6 months, and then at the end say "oh no, sorry.... you didn't get the job" only to already be pulling in the next intern.

I haven't heard that in the wedding industry, but I have witnessed it in the larger business world. TV, radio, clothing, even office work for solicitors, the list goes on...

The other stupid one is apprenticeships, you at least get a wage, but it is very often in the building trade, getting paid a lot less than minimum wage for back breaking work.

Taking a few unpaid jobs to build a portfolio, to lead to paid work and a business of your own is one thing because it is on your terms.
Chasing the carrot on the end of the stick, that someone else is holding, only for it to never be intended for you, is exploitation.

I've already been second-shooting for a couple of photographers who compensate me pretty well in comparison to the market. Contacted another studio that does 12 weddings a weekend in my county inquiring about second shooting (they had an application on their website). Went to their "interview" with a manager who knew nothing about photography and asked me nothing but generic interview questions, then proceeded to tell me that they require FIVE free five hour shoots assisting with lighting (regardless of experience), then if approved, move up to minimum wage continuing the lighting assistance, then if approved, move up to second shooting, with a pay rate to be determined at that time. I asked what their second shooting rates again over email, at which point, they emailed back saying they were no longer interested in me...what a waste of my time.


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jimeuph1
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Feb 05, 2015 04:11 |  #4

Ouch, it is because there are people that fall for those "jobs" that they still exist. Once the economy has recovered bit more and more real jobs start appearing then they should start to disappear.

There are already fewer craigs listings for very cheap/free photography, I am taking that as a good sign.




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benji25
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Feb 10, 2015 09:37 |  #5

There should only be one question you ask when working for "free": Is what I am getting in return valuable enough for the time I am spending? And there is only one person on this planet who can answer that.

Cash is not the only thing with value. If you think the experience you get or the feeling you get helping someone out "just because" is valuable enough for your time - do the shoot. If you don't, don't.

You can argue all day about what is or is not ethical about working for no cash. However many people here value things more than cash - especially when just starting out.

What is more valuable to me: 2 hours on some random Saturday where I have nothing else planned or getting 10 pictures doing an old high-school classmate's engagement to double the size of my portfolio?

If a veteran or mentally challenged couple couldn't afford engagement photos or headshot photos for a linked in profile - I would most likely help them out.

If the humane society needed someone to cover a fundraising event I would do it for free because I love animals and am willing to donate my time to the cause.

I have found that most people who find these acts deplorable are those that are booked solid so they can't comprehend the idea of have the extra time to do it or they are the ones losing business to beginners because the beginners work is good enough for their clients.


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picturecrazy
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Feb 11, 2015 11:31 |  #6

Well, the way I see it is this way.

When I have an assistant shooting with me for free, that means they are a liability and I am taking a risk. Either I am unsure of their skill, their social etiquette, work ethic, attitude, quick thinking ability, ability to anticipate needs, or anything else that I'm unsure of. This situation usually occurs with new photographers lacking experience.

In this case, I do not want to pay them because *I* am the one providing something to *them*. They are gaining valuable experience, and I am putting my business reputation on the line. That and it's harder to actually get *MY* job done because I'm providing on the job training at the same time. It's a big burden on me.

Now, once this assistant gains enough experience and crosses the fence from being a liability to being an asset, then and only then do I pay them. It's fair, they are making my job easier, and they should be paid for it.

Having said that, I much prefer to pay someone I trust than take the risk of having someone for free.


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Feb 11, 2015 11:41 |  #7

A laborer deserves his wages.

Drop the dom on freedom and you get free: essentially slavery.

So yes, it is abuse; so it's paying unsustainable rates with excuses that you'll make contacts, build a portfolio and become known. Not unlike giving a model photos in exchange for her time. All forms of getting something for nothing.

People can justify their greed in a myriad ways, but greed it remains; and it won't go away when the economy improves. Point in fact, the economy is not gonna improve but collapse quite soon: after all, it's all because of greed that the economy is so screwed.


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benji25
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Feb 11, 2015 11:59 |  #8

Alveric wrote in post #17427148external link
A laborer deserves his wages.

And wages do not always come in the form of cash.

I could assist a wedding for $100 and then take that $100 and try and find a mentor to pay to teach me photography or use it for photography school.

Or I could assist a wedding and have that person help me out because clearly they already make a living doing what I want to make a living off of.

Eliminate the middle man of the cash and everyone's lives are easier.


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Feb 11, 2015 13:03 |  #9

benji25 wrote in post #17427179external link
And wages do not always come in the form of cash.

Let me Google that for you: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=d​efine%3A+wagesexternal link

"a fixed regular payment, typically paid on a daily or weekly basis, made by an employer to an employee, especially to a manual or unskilled worker."

"A wage is monetary compensation (or remuneration) paid by an employer to an employee in exchange for work done. Payment may be calculated as a fixed amount for each task completed (a task wage or piece rate), or at an hourly or daily rate, or based on an easily measured quantity of work done."


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Feb 11, 2015 13:13 |  #10

Situation A: At one time we had apprentices learning information and skills under a Master, and once they had learned sufficiently they became Journeymen who travelled and worked, but again under the oversight of a Master. One might argue that in learning skills and methods under a Master, one is far less entitled to earning real money than a Journeyman who can do almost everything as the Master can.

Situation B: Fast forward...we now have student PAYING large amounts of money to attend trade schools. Thousands of dollars. Culinary school can cost $19000-54000. Then they go out and try to find jobs.

So is not the issue of 'unpaid assistants' closer to Situation A, than it is to Situation B?! Using the $39k median price for tuition of a culinary school vs. putting in a year of being an unpaid assistant, isn't that fairly comparable in terms of 'cost' for the assistant/student? I think the real question is whether the apprentice/student learns as much or more under which program?! After all, anyone can open a studio and claim to be a 'professional photographer' with the sketchiest of skills; would you want to be an unpaid assistant under one of these?! Yet the same can be said about a 'trade school'..pay a lot of money and hope you get quality education!


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benji25
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Feb 11, 2015 13:23 as a reply to idkdc's post |  #11

I should have said compensation my bad.


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idkdc
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Feb 11, 2015 14:15 |  #12

benji25 wrote in post #17427311external link
I should have said compensation my bad.

Don't mean to give you a hard time, but that's still the wrong term. I think you're looking for "trade."

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=d​efine%3Acompensationexternal link

"something, typically money, awarded to someone as a recompense for loss, injury, or suffering.
"seeking compensation for injuries suffered at work"
synonyms: recompense, repayment, reimbursement, remuneration, requital, indemnification, indemnity, redress; More
the action or process of awarding someone money as a recompense for loss, injury, or suffering.
"the compensation of victims"
NORTH AMERICAN
the money received by an employee from an employer as a salary or wages."


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benji25
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Feb 11, 2015 14:21 |  #13

idkdc wrote in post #17427375external link
Don't mean to give you a hard time, but that's still the wrong term. I think you're looking for "trade."

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=d​efine%3Acompensationexternal link

"something, typically money, awarded to someone as a recompense for loss, injury, or suffering.
"seeking compensation for injuries suffered at work"
synonyms: recompense, repayment, reimbursement, remuneration, requital, indemnification, indemnity, redress; More
the action or process of awarding someone money as a recompense for loss, injury, or suffering.
"the compensation of victims"
NORTH AMERICAN
the money received by an employee from an employer as a salary or wages."

Compensated does not have to be money.

I compensated him for his time by giving him a free meal.
I compensated for losing my leg by using a crutch.

It just means to make whole/make up for.

com·pen·sate
/ˈkämpənˌsāt/
verb
past tense: compensated; past participle: compensated

1. give (someone) something, typically money, in recognition of loss, suffering, or injury incurred; recompense.
2. make up for (something unwelcome or unpleasant) by exerting an opposite force or effect.


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idkdc
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Feb 11, 2015 15:47 |  #14

benji25 wrote in post #17427384external link
1. give (someone) something, typically money, in recognition of loss, suffering, or injury incurred; recompense.
2. make up for (something unwelcome or unpleasant) by exerting an opposite force or effect.

The definition that you and I posted precisely says money, in return for suffering, not time lost. Hence you compensate someone for an accident or libel, or you pay someone wages. You trade services (assisting for quality teaching), you don't compensate a service for another.


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banquetbear
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Feb 11, 2015 15:54 |  #15

...I use a simple rule on whether or not I pay my assistants: If I'm getting paid then they get paid.


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