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Podcast #38 Show Notes

In this episode I explore the controversial topic giving your work away in order to gain publicity and make a name for yourself. Does this practice work? Will it help you make a name for yourself?

I also discuss the new segment on "Starting A Photography Business"

To see what's been started with my new business please go to California Sports Photography

Full text from the podcast below....

Devaluing Your Own Work

Some people think "I'll give away my images to get my name out there and gain some recognition... and then I'll start selling my images after I have a reputation in the industry".

Meanwhile you are devaluing your own work by giving it away. What do you think a magazine or newspaper is going to say if you've been giving away your work for months or years and then suddenly you say "now it's $250 per image" ... they are going to say "you're joking, this image is no different than the one you gave us for free last week ... why is it worth so much more?". ... and who could blame them for feeling that way.... after all, last week you were nobody, now suddenly you are a professional demanding top dollar for your images????

Another rationale some photographers us is to say "well, I already have all gear, I'm out taking photos anyways, I enjoy doing it ... why not give some images away". I suppose that makes sense ... I've always wanted an original oil painting in my living room ... I think I'll go talk to an artist ... he should give me one for free because he already has the canvas, the brushes and the paints ... and he seems to enjoy painting ... how could he argue? And of course I'll show the painting to all my friends and tell them where I got it, I'll probably tell them where they can go get their free paintings too.

So many people giving images away for free is causing publishers to lower or eliminate their budgets completely.

I actually speak from experience on this topic.

Many years ago I had a nice photo that I thought my local small town newspaper would like to have ... I sent it to them and they liked it, I asked how much they pay for images and they responded $10 ... I thought this was very low but I thought, What the hell, I'll get some publicity.
I went to their office, filled out the proper tax paperwork for independent contractors so that I could continue to provide them with images and they could pay me. About a week later a check arrived for $10. After that initial photo was published I supplied the paper with about 7 or 8 more images over a few months period of time ... however the checks did not continue. After many emails and letters to the editor I was told by someone down the chain of command a bit that "they do not pay for images any more".... "they have lots of people sending them in for free".
Since then my emails to the editor have gone unanswered. So, for $10 they got about 8 images, most of them ended up on the front page. I'm left with $10 and a lesson learned.

In another more recent situation I came across a horrific accident scene on the freeway just moments after it happened. A truck was traveling east on the freeway and the driver must have fallen asleep and the truck crashed into a bridge support ... the truck was ripped apart as if it was made of paper, the trucks engine continued traveling eastbound many dozens of yards before it came to rest. The twisted wreckage was barely recognizable as a former truck ... but somehow the driver was alive and responsive. I got some incredible photos of the rescue workers getting the driver out of the remains of the truck's cab and loading him into the waiting ambulance. As the first one on the scene with a camera I was the only person to get these shots ... the local news vans arrived after the driver was whisked away to the hospital. I immediately went back to my truck and called the newspaper (not the one from the last story, a much larger Palm Springs based paper) and I was Immediately transfered to the photo desk ... boy were they excited about my images and they really wanted to see them as soon as possible. Then I asked the important question "how much do you pay for images". Then I was told that they don't pay for images ..people send them in for free.

So you see when people send their photos to the newspaper just to get a little publicity they are really stepping on the toes of people that hope to make a living taking pictures. When you give your photos away for free hoping to make a name for yourself ... you are making a name for yourself... you are that guy or gal that gives your images away for free ... that's how they know you ... they don't know you as Frank or Sam or Betty, the great photographer, they know you as free photo dude or free photo gal ... that's all they care about.

Remember, if someone contacts you to ask for the use of one of your images it's because they like your image and they want it and chances are they will pay for it if it's to be used for a commercial purpose. So if you set a fair and reasonable price for your image it will reinforce your professional image ... and even if you walk away from the negotiation you will most likely have the respect of the person you were dealing with and they may eventually call you someday when they are seriously interested in purchasing an image from a professional photographer .... not some random person off the street with a camera phone. ...or they may even go get the budget to buy your image and call you right back saying they really want it and are willing to pay. Some people are uncomfortable with this type of negotiation, they think it makes them seem mean or unreasonable ... quite the contrary, you are dealing with businesspeople, they negotiate for everything ... most likely they will expect this. Think of it as a game if you want ... you've got nothing invested and nothing to loose, have fun with the negotiations ... if you end up selling the image in the end ... you won .... but not only did you win, but your client won also ... after all what did they want? your photo! They got it... they won. Everyone is happy.

There are some exceptions to the "don't give away your images" rule. I'll give images to charities that I support for use in their marketing materials, possibly non profit organizations (although sometimes they have pretty healthy budgets themselves), schools or community organizations ... you can expand this list with your own worthy recipients .... my policy of not giving anything for free applies to commercial ventures that designed to make a profit. After all if I call my local newspaper and say "I saw your paper, I really liked it, can I have a subscription?" They would promptly take all my information INCLUDING my credit card number ... I certainly would not get it for free.

To include photo business segment or not?

I got 22 responses and 21 of them said yes. Most of them offered very good advice on what to do and what not to do and I'm taking them all into consideration.

I want to thank you all for your well thought out responses to my question ... even if I did have to bribe you with a contest :)

Contest results

As I said there were 22 responses, I organized them in my mail program in alphabetical order, I want to random.org and used their random number generator to generate a number between 1 and 22 ... the number I got was 17. That number belongs to Milt Anglin. ... I'll be emailing Milt after this show to get his address so that I can get the book sent to him.

Thanks again to everyone for participating.

Based on the comments I got from everyone I've decided the following.

The "Starting a Photo Business" segments will be placed at the end of the episodes that they appear in, this way if you really don't want to hear about this topic you can stop at that point ... of if after a while it starts getting boring for you you can stop listening to that part of the podcast. I'm pretty sure that these segments will not be included every single week, but they will be at least a few times a month.

I will be staying focused on the aspects of starting a photo business that matter ... planning, marketing, equipment acquisitions, specific techniques that work and those that don't work, problems I run into and how I get past them and stuff like that. You will not have to hear about minor details of setting up an office, what color I choose to paint the bathroom walls, what sort of mailbox I decide to buy .... I'll just try to stick to things that matter and are somewhat interesting.

So, with that out of the way I'll say goodbye to those that are leaving us now and I'll get into the first episode of Starting A Photography Business.

This week I just want to fill you all in on what it is that I'm doing. In the next few weeks I'll get you all caught up with the progress up till now.

I have started an event photography business with an emphasis on youth and adult sports.

The way the business works is very simple ... I show up at a sporting event with a second shooter and an assistant. We shoot the game, the athletes and perhaps a team shot or two. Though various marketing methods that I will explain in upcoming episodes, the athletes, fans, parents, friends and relatives in attendance are made aware that they can go to our website that evening and shop for professionally lab printed photos in various sizes and any quantity they want from 1 to a zillion. The website features search capabilities, watermarked sample images and full shopping cart and secure checkout.

I am far from the first to do this type of business, people all across the US and and I assume other countries are doing it and from all reports it is a very profitable and lucrative business to be in. Parents, grandparents (in the case of youth sports) go crazy buying photos of their little angles banging heads with other kids on the field.

And spouses (in the case of adult sports) buy images of their husband or wife participating in sports. And at the college level a lot of parents and grandparents are still buying photos of their kids.

So you can see what I meant when I said that I will not be using this podcast as a marketing tool to push my services on you guys ... unless you live in my area and have friends or family members in sports. I really wanted to do this segment because a lot of what I'll talk about applies to a lot of different types of photography businesses ... or any business for that matter. I also think that a few of you might choose to follow along and copy what I do and start your own local sports photography business.

You may have noticed at the beginning of this segment I didn't say I started a Sports Photography business, but I said I started an Event Photography business ... this is because I think there are opportunities in other areas that are similar to sporting events but not really considered sports ... like community events, Car shows, Air shows, and things like that. and I did not want to limit myself to strictly sports.

Well, that's about as far as I'll go this week. You can check the progress I've made on setting up the website at www.californiasportspics.com ... you can even browse the three sample event galleries that I put online for testing purposes ... you can even go through the checkout process if you want ... but be warned, it's armed and operational ... if you check out you will be charged and you will get some prints in the mail.


Hi Allen,

I really appreciated your notes on devaluing yourown work.

2 examples from my side:
1. I was asked by an architect to make some images of a school which he had expanded with a building part. http://homepage.mac.com/masuwa/Herlikofen_1/index.html. The local Newspaper published an Intro of this building. they published an image of mine with my name but refused to pay anything. They told me we have our own photographer. In case I wanted to be paid they would send him. So I gave in and got my image published. Instead I sold the images to all the contractors who wanted to publish their work.

2. a church had asked me if I'd take pictures at the inauguration of their new assembly hall. http://homepage.mac.com/masuwa/Forum/ They did not pay me for a whole day of work. But the contractors again called me up and took my images and paid me.

So giving away images for free can help ... but I would agree the decision on giving away your images must be very well thought of and strategic.

Good light

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