When I'm not blogging or assisting upcoming brands with their social media presence, my bread+butter is photography. I've been doing it for over four years and I love it. It's my kind of therapy after a horrible moment. It keeps me sane. Although it is my main source of income, I occasionally do pro-bono with non-profits or bloggers. I actually offer a limited amount of free work per quarter. It keeps my skills sharp, allows me to push myself creatively while giving back to my community. However, there are times when pro-bono work is no longer in the cards, and a blogger reaches out. Here are the top responses that usually causes my skin to heat up just a tad bit:
1. "Your camera takes really nice pictures"
Really? Let's get this clear: whether I'm shooting with an iPhone, Canon T3 or 5D Mark 3, it's about the techniques and knowing how to shoot. I've done weddings with a T3 with a 50mm lens and some with a 5D Mark 3 with some dope lenses and in the end, they both produced a quality body of work. Of course, having great equipment helps. However, not knowing your equipment is just as bad as having the best equipment and not knowing what a shutter speed is. I say all that to say, sometimes it's not the equipment, it's the eye.
2. "Will you do it for free if you just shoot it on my card + I edit it?"
No, I will not. I will not show up to the location 30 mins early to scout spots for shooting, shoot 5 outfits all while teaching you how to pose and just hand it over so you can plaster an IG filter on it. No! No! No! Secondly, the last thing I need is to see my name attached to a poorly edited image because you didn't want to invest in quality work for YOUR BLOG that you will be using to pitch to BRANDS for collaborations. I will not. Are you going to ask an artist to paint on your canvas so you can take it home and hang it up as if it's your own without it being finalized? No, you won't. So have the courtesy to treat photographers the same way.
And no, you can't have all the raw photos.
3. "I have um-K followers. I can give you exposure"
In all my years of shooting, I've been lucky enough to collaborate with my BFF (A Dapper Chick) on a regular basis. I've always said it out loud without shame, that I do not charge her. Not because she's a blogger with huge numbers and has worked with some pretty cool brands over the last year. No. I don't charge her because she invests in my company. She bought me my first camera, my first lens, offered to be my muse so I can learn, and was there to support me in every endeavor I've ever manage to land on my own. Aside from her, I've only met 1-2 others who were willing to pay for the service + time necessary to provide them with the quality images they needed for their platform. I have no problem partnering with a blogger who will invest in my business, whether that's by bringing me ACTUAL PAYING REFERRALS, taking me to lunch (I love food and it keeps me energized during sessions), etc. It can be the simpliest thing.
Yes, collaborations are amazing. However, it's not fair to collaborate with someone when it only benefits you. If my niche is Lifestyle Portraits + Events such as weddings, maternity sessions, etc and you're asking me to take the time I would invest on a paying client to give you a handful of images for Instagram, so a brand could pay you, but you can't offer me $2.75 to take the train home, there's an issue. I think it's something to consider when choosing a photographer to work with and making sure you are both getting a ROI on whatever project you decide to do together.
Like I've said at the beginning, I'm not throwing shade. After a few years of hearing the same thing, I thought I would just vent and let off some steam. After all, I'm not trying to walk into the new year with negative feelings. I love working with bloggers. They're energetic. They're fun and exciting. But to be honest, you all expect too much free sh*t. Pay or invest in the creatives you collaborate with. Credits on your Instagram don't pay mortgages until that credit leads to a big brand hiring them for life. Let's be genuine in our support for each other as creatives. The "crabs in a barrel" mentality has done more harm than good. Let's work with each other, for each other, and pay each other what we rightfully deserve.