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Thread started 06 Jan 2009 (Tuesday) 09:22
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Unpaid Internships

 
gregpphoto
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Jan 06, 2009 09:22 |  #1

God I hate life. My sister, who's a professional stylist, recommended that to gain the necessary experience to work as a photographers assistant, I should begin by working for free. I've PA'd about 5 or 6 times, got the hang of it alright, but need some fine tuning, ya know? So she tells me to work for free, at first at least. Now the very thought of working on a shoot where everyone is getting paid but me infuriates me. It's called WORK for a reason, I've always been told, because it's not something you'd want to do for free! And in fact, her first internship (which like most things, she attained through nepotism, something I fail miserably at) was paid, so I told her why not walk in the shoes of the poor man she wants me to be by go about this before she tells me to work for fee.

Now am I wrong to think this? Should I bite it and go find an unpaid internship with the desperate hope that it will lead to paying work (I fear becoming the guy who nobody will pay because he has the rep or the habit of working for free), or am I right in believing that as long as the photographer, the stylist, the MUA, the producer and the art directors are getting paid, shouldn't I too be compensated, and not just with "experience" but with something that will pay the bills and put food in my belly?

F I'm lost.


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adam8080
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Jan 06, 2009 09:27 |  #2

There is a big difference between an unpaid internship and working for free. I can't tell you what you should be doing. It is up to you to decide depending on your situation and what you are looking to get out of an internship or work.


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gregpphoto
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Jan 06, 2009 09:29 |  #3

adam8080 wrote in post #7015571 (external link)
There is a big difference between an unpaid internship and working for free. I can't tell you what you should be doing. It is up to you to decide depending on your situation and what you are looking to get out of an internship or work.

No I need you to tell me what to do, lol. I'm looking to get paid, every-expletive-ever. I deserve it, I've been toiling away endlessly at photography for coming on four years. We all know the guy or gal who picked up a camera two months ago and is now interning at Rolling Stone. That turns my stomach. It's like, if you don't go to school (I don't), where do you turn for this? Craigs list is beat, where do you find out about these kinds of things? Forgive me for knowing so little.


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hypertech
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Jan 06, 2009 09:48 |  #4

There are different ways to gain experience and proficiency at a skill. One way is to pay a bunch of money and go to school. Another way is to work under a mentor for little or no money. Think of an unpaid internship this way - you are getting a deal because they are taking the time to teach you for free. You are paying for this education through the duties you perform in the internship.

Now that that is said, at some point, you have learned what you need to learn and people are profiting off your work. When you reach that, you most certainly should be paid or you should thank you mentor and move on to grow your career.


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gregpphoto
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Jan 06, 2009 09:53 |  #5

So you'd assist for free?


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hypertech
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Jan 06, 2009 10:38 |  #6

Depends on what the subject matter is. If it was an area I wanted to get into and working for free would get me the exposure I need to learn that side of the business - you bet. That is the best way to do that learning.

At that point, I am probably more of a burden to the main photographer than I am a benefit. Once I get past that stage and am capable of turning out results but not yet good enough to run the whole show, then I would expect to move up to a paid assistant rather than an unpaid intern.

In other areas where I am already competent - no way.

This isn't just for photography. It all depends on the field, the options within that field and my competency in the area. There is no one straight answer. There are some things I would welcome the chance to do for free and there are others where I wouldn't even consider it.


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gravy ­ graffix
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Jan 06, 2009 17:19 |  #7

Id never intern for free, maybe at a reduced rate since you would be getting something out of it. how are you supposed to live and pay for gas to get there otherwise? OT: i saw a ad on CL today for a accounting intern.... WTF? employers are taking advantage of the intern thing, do you REALLY need to intern for accounting?? no pay was mentioned either.

Now on the other hand if i set out to want to learn weddings, and i cold called someone and asked if i could tag on to learn, then thats my choice. thats how i got started and even tho no pay was discussed she still tipped me 2 hundo. Now were partners and just opened a studio...I guess there isnt mch differance, I just think no internship should go unpaid IMO.


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Jan 06, 2009 17:54 as a reply to  @ gravy graffix's post |  #8

When I was first starting out, and I mean way green behind the ears, I enterned for a pro for free and thought it was well worth my time.

I was working nights at the time, so all I was really doing was missing a bunch of sleep I would normally be getting during the day time. (I dont sleep much as it is)

After working for him for a few months of 1 or two days per week, I felt like I had taken a few months of classes in lighting, presentation, posing and how to talk with the model.

He would let me sit with him while he proofed the slides and basically showed me the entire process of what he went through from start to finish.

It was a great learning experience and the way I looked at it was I could have been sitting in class PAYING for this knowledge and probably learning from some ol' stuffy professor who had never shot magazine covers in the Miami area (where I lived at the time) or did my time learning from one of the current top shooters.

Just my .02 cents


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Karl ­ Johnston
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Jan 06, 2009 18:18 |  #9
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gregpphoto wrote in post #7015584 (external link)
No I need you to tell me what to do, lol. I'm looking to get paid, every-expletive-ever. I deserve it, I've been toiling away endlessly at photography for coming on four years. We all know the guy or gal who picked up a camera two months ago and is now interning at Rolling Stone. That turns my stomach.

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2. The 2nd is an even bigger problem.

3. There's your 3rd problem.


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Jan 06, 2009 18:34 as a reply to  @ Karl Johnston's post |  #10

It would depend on the photographer;)




  
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WillMass
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Jan 06, 2009 18:37 as a reply to  @ Karl Johnston's post |  #11

Before you react to what I'm about to say, stop and think a minute. It's not an attack.

I realize you're emotional about this, but you do come across as feeling entitled and having a chip on your shoulder.

In my business, I don't have unpaid interns. I firmly believe: If you work, do the job, and help me achieve the goals, you deserve to be paid. Albeit at a lower rate, if I'm teaching you the job.

That said, you have to decide. Weigh your options. If shooters are beating down your door to hire you to assist, and they want to pay you. Fine. If not, then plan B. So you suck it up a bit longer. Build a reputation as a good assistant, someone valuable, and the paid work may come.

Just leave the chip at home.


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MJPhotos24
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Jan 06, 2009 18:58 |  #12

gravy graffix wrote in post #7018792 (external link)
Id never intern for free, maybe at a reduced rate since you would be getting something out of it. how are you supposed to live and pay for gas to get there otherwise? OT: i saw a ad on CL today for a accounting intern.... WTF? employers are taking advantage of the intern thing, do you REALLY need to intern for accounting?? no pay was mentioned either.

Now on the other hand if i set out to want to learn weddings, and i cold called someone and asked if i could tag on to learn, then thats my choice. thats how i got started and even tho no pay was discussed she still tipped me 2 hundo. Now were partners and just opened a studio...I guess there isnt mch differance, I just think no internship should go unpaid IMO.

Our internship (non-photography related) has a few levels - full or part time. Full time is 50-60 hours a week unpaid, and if they find out you're working on the side in ANY job you are pulled from the program. So if I wanted to take a photography gig on a Saturday and they found out, they can pull me. In Fall this lasts five months, in spring six months - they refuse to answer why the extra month question repeatedly btw. I've had AD's tell me it's more hours than they actually put in and insane for them to require it. Part time is 20 hours a week for 12 months, but you can work.

Difference is one thing, this internship is required to graduate and you're getting something for it - credits and a degree. Colleges are definitely restructuring some programs to get more interns into the working field, and of course companies are taking advantage. They are contacting colleges working out deals for credit to get the free labor. Some pay, usually bad pay, and some are just free. But those interns are at least getting credit and requirements for graduation.

******

As for the OP - OK, not once did I see anything posted about how you learned marketing and promotion while toiling around with the camera. You do realize the photography business is just that, a business. It turns into 85% back end work and 15% actual shooting. You can build on what you know and practice, even on your own without having to have someone telling you what to do. Set a goal, find what you want to shoot and research how to land some jobs doing it and practice. Looking at your website I see nothing you can't do on your own and learn, trial and error. The thing that's holding you back is you, there's a feeling of entitlement in your posts above but do you have any ground work done? Not saying work for free but there's paid PA jobs out there, or smaller jobs you can shoot and learn from to build off of. Build yourself up and don't get lost in the instant gratification mind set too many have nowadays.


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Pyromaniac
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Jan 06, 2009 20:35 |  #13

MJPhotos has a point.

There are a lot of colleges that require you to intern for a certain amount of time before you can graduate and some of those internships are unpaid, some are paid. The paid ones usually don't pay any where near what someone working in that field makes.

The reason people take these internships is not only because it's required (and sometimes its not, you can take additional classes instead) but because they gain experience and knowledge that they wouldn't get in the class room. The other benefit to the internship are the contact that they make in that field, and sometimes those can be worth more than any paycheck.

So should you intern for free? Thats up to you. But if you can find the right internship the knowledge and contacts you make might be worth it.




  
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gregpphoto
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Jan 06, 2009 20:43 |  #14

Kajuah wrote in post #7019178 (external link)
1. The first line is your premier problem.

2. The 2nd is an even bigger problem.

3. There's your 3rd problem.

1. Was a joke, hence the lol.

2. If I've been shooting for four years don't I deserve a shot? (no pun intended!)

3. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.


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gregpphoto
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Jan 06, 2009 20:48 |  #15

WillMass wrote in post #7019322 (external link)
Before you react to what I'm about to say, stop and think a minute. It's not an attack.

I realize you're emotional about this, but you do come across as feeling entitled and having a chip on your shoulder.

In my business, I don't have unpaid interns. I firmly believe: If you work, do the job, and help me achieve the goals, you deserve to be paid. Albeit at a lower rate, if I'm teaching you the job.

That said, you have to decide. Weigh your options. If shooters are beating down your door to hire you to assist, and they want to pay you. Fine. If not, then plan B. So you suck it up a bit longer. Build a reputation as a good assistant, someone valuable, and the paid work may come.

Just leave the chip at home.

It's not a sense of entitlement, but rather that if I'm working, I'm doing a job for someone who's getting paid and using my services to do so, shouldn't I get something beyond experience? I would be happy with a reduced rate to start off, a highly reduced rate even. It's the idea of paying my way into it that bothers me. When you join the Army you don't pay for boot camp.

But I do see both sides of the coin. I realize that the art world is different; maybe paid training is something unheard of in our line of work. I could be paying to learn this stuff, and who knows, I find the right photographer to intern under and it could very well be worth my while to do it for free.

Thanks all, and sorry if I came off with any sense of arrogance, this wasn't my intention.


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