How much information to 'give'

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Dorothy Blum Cooper, Feb 5, 2007.

  1. Dorothy Blum Cooper

    Dorothy Blum Cooper Member

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    Just curious how you handle friends/acquaintances who ask for help with photography.

    After recently meeting people through local functions (we've only been here in this town 7 months now), we've been asked to 'help' a couple's daughter with photography.

    Each time we see the couple, they make the same statement, "I really need to get you to work with my daughter."

    I mentioned that I had no problem giving tips, advice and information occassionally and informally. But the help has now turned into, "I'd love for you to teach 'Amy' about photography."

    In the most recent encounter with the couple, the husband mentioned to my husband that his daughter needs a darkroom set up. She could 'sure use the help.' There's that word again!

    The couple that has solicted our help owns a local computer shop and we brought our son's computer there to be repaired. We didn't ask for nor suggest a discount, nor was one given. The bill was quite high and it was paid in full. That's their business and it's how they feed their family. I simply wonder why our business seems to be viewed with less value and that our information can be given away?

    On a side note...I've gotten the 'nudge' to teach but just don't have the desire at this time. However, if this couple were to request a private lesson, I'm sure it could be arranged. I don't mind sharing and giving in the least because I've been given so much information. When the term 'teach' is thrown in the mix, it changes the dynamic completely in my opinion.

    Any thoughts? How would you respond?
     
  2. wfwhitaker

    wfwhitaker Member

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    I think you've answered your own question. How much do you value your work?
     
  3. Gay Larson

    Gay Larson Member

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    Perhaps this the next time they mention it: "I have decided to teach a basic workshop on darkroom so I'll send you a brochure."
    Then make one up on your computer complete with the workshop cost and send it to them. Either they will pay the cost of a private lesson or leave you alone.
     
  4. mark

    mark Member

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    If you don't want to teach, don't. It is not something you can fake,motivation for. Just be up front and tell them you are not into teaching right now.
     
  5. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I think that's a bit disingenuous if she really doesn't want to teach but the point is right on. I'd probably just tell them that at this time, teaching isn't part of my business plan. That should give them a whack with the clue bat.

    I think the fact that Dorothy is willing to share information is great. There is nothing about what I do, think or know that I'd hesitate to share with anyone interested...but setting up darkrooms and teaching is work and should be respected as such.

    If Dorothy wanted to mentor a young woman interested in analog photography that would be wonderful and her decision. Anyone coming to her and asking her to do it should understand that they're asking someone to do a job.
     
  6. Travis Nunn

    Travis Nunn Member

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    My thought is to be straightforward with them. Tell them that you'd be happy to give some pointers to their daughter, but more involved lessons like darkroom work or formal teaching are going to cost them.
     
  7. rpsawin

    rpsawin Subscriber

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    If they are computer literate (maybe I'm assuming too much) and have the resources I would suggest websites for their daughter to peruse at her leisure.

    Bob
     
  8. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    On the flip side, perhaps they just want to reciprocate. You patronized tehir business, and they want to patronize yours. Why do you assume that they are looking for FREE help? Next time they ask, don't just blow them off make it plain to them that you either aren't taking aprentices at this time or, that your rates for private lessons are such and so much...and make an appointment.
     
  9. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Dorothy,

    Photography isn't a business. It's a hobby. Everyone knows that.

    That, in a nutshell, is the fundamental problem; people don't see it as the way you make your living, but rather, as something they do for fun. I've had the same reaction about www.rogerandfrances.com.

    When I'm faced with this sort of thing, I do help as far as I can spare the time -- but more of the time, I'm too busy, or have a prior engagement, or even, "Sorry, too busy, have to earn a living, you know."

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  10. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    They didn't ask you to take Amy's wedding photos they asked you to teach Amy how to take pictures. How about asking them to teach your son how to fix his own computer?
     
  11. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    You'll be suprised how many people simply go away as soon as you mention a fee.

    Good luck,

    Bill
     
  12. Early Riser

    Early Riser Subscriber

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    If someone is sincere about learning photography from someone there are many ways to do so besides paying for lessons. From my own experience I interned, with out pay, for 4 photographers for my last semester of high school. I learned a lot through that experience and was then able to work as a paid assistant during the summer and on the days when I didn't have college classes. Eventually assisting full time. Truly the best way I found to learn is by assisting.

    The bigger problem is that photography and the passing on of photographic knowledge just is not valued. Most people have no clue to the amount of information, technique and methods that can be learned. I am doing this full time professionally for over 30 years and still learn new things about photography on a daily basis. However with the digital capture of an image, somewhat properly exposed and nearly color correct being a "point and shoot" experience, the general public has even less respect and knowledge of the amount of photographic information that is needed to actually do photography well. We are at a point where everyone can claim to be a professional photographer, and many with even the most rudimentary skill level often do. Shoot a friend's wedding for $50 and you're now a pro. With that common experience why would anyone think that they'd need to pay someone to teach photography to their kid.

    In the case of Dorothy I think she should stick to her guns and charge for lessons, or have the kid assist her free in exchange for knowledge.
     
  13. Jonathan Brewer

    Jonathan Brewer Member

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    These folks are users, who mistake kindness for weakness, they know exactly what they're doing, seeing if they can make you feel awkward as a negotiationg ploy to pay nothing/very little for your services. They've already 'told' you by their actions what they think of you, .............'pay us when you want something from us, we think we can 'game' you on the other hand'.

    They're NOT your friends. Say nothing when they attempt to manipulate you for favors, eventually they'll get an 'attitude'/blame you for not letting yourself be used, and they'll go away. Or as an alternative, be direct/honest, tell them that their request would involve time and money regardless of friendship, and that would need to be discussed before teaching/mentoring their daughter, the result will be the same, being users, they'll blame you for sticking up for yourself and will go away.

    My wife has friends and relatives who are always hitting on her to get me to give up 'freebees', or the famous sob-story #109,............'listen, she says they don't have a lot of money'.

    Years ago, I had a lady approach me for portraits, the first meeting was one long sob story, at that time, I was dumb enough to cut my sitting fee, she then shows up for the portrait in a different more expensive car(BMW), sharp dress, shoes, and tries to work me to death w/additional requests for shots we hadn't agreed to.

    When I mentioned that I was doing her a favor by doing the job for what we agreed to, she said nobody put a gun to my head to do the job, ...........so I'm telling you that there are plenty of people out there that will use you, that will want your services, don't want to pay/pay much, and will work you to death, promising that they'll recommend you to everybody else in return. Work for what you think you are worth, if you want to do a favor, do it for nothing, don't mix up business with friendship, both will suffer.
     
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  15. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    My wife came to me the other day and told me that her nephew would like me to design a website for his new business. After I wasted my breath on the five minute speach about how I have enough on my plate and working long distance with a client I can't sit down with is cumbersome and that if they're not web-saavy I'd be taking on a long term commitment for updates and maintainance...she indicated that they were looking for a favor...not to hire me.

    I just told her to tell them whatever she wanted but that I'm not interested and that frankly, I found the implicit assumptions insulting.
     
  16. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Well, it does occur to me that it the daughter is interested enough to consider a darkroom, she may very well find her way to this very forum...

    Bottom line is to always be up-front and straightforward. If you do not want to do it, say so: explain that you are a professional, not a hobbyist, and the fees you charge and the amount of time it would take to teach their daughter anything useful would add up to a sizable bill. Direct them to any local photo courses and clubs (if they are not all-digital theses days) and leave it at that.

    If you have the itch to teach then you could try the local colleges to see if they are interested in your teaching evening classes etc. She can then attend those.

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  17. DBP

    DBP Member

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    The other option is to consider whether you have a use for a part-time apprentice.

    The tendency to be asked for favors in your field is universal. Fortunately, in my particular case, I get very few requests because no one understands what I do for a living. But every doctor has been asked for advice at a party, and I would bet that most lawyers and other professionals have as well. My observation of doctors over the years is that most draw the line at anything beyond pointing the person at the appropriate resources, or giving a short answer to a particular question. So, following that model, a list of suggested books and websites is a reasonable response, as are recommendations of schools and teachers, and of sources for equipment.
     
  18. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    There's a distinction you sometime blur in your post between training and handing out knowledge. Of course, in a practical endeavour like photo, not all knowledge is theoretical, and therefore is equivalent to training. But if the person who wants to learn just wants to talk about photo, and get some insights from a more experienced practicioner, it's a little different than having her as a pupil.

    Personally, I think knowledge should be free as possible, but that you should also charge whatever you want for the effort involved in getting it across. If someone can make do with as little of your efforts (e.g. you loan a few books, suggest exercises and best practices then let them go), then there shouldn't be a reason for withholding knowledge to them. On the other hand, if you are spending your evenings and your afternoons showing someone how to develop film, then you're entitled to a paycheck.

    At a university, the course in fundamental physics costs as much as the course in american literature. The knowledge in the first one may have involved more millions for its discovery than the latter, but the fact remains that for the professor and the institution involved, the effort to get the knowledge across is similar enough.

    EDIT: I do however agree with some of the other posters, that according to your description, these folks seem to be interested in getting a free lunch from you. If they are, then I wouldn't even consider engaging in any form of knowledge exchange because they'll use that as a gateway. But you're the one who knows.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2007
  19. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    I think I agree with most previous posters! As a professional photographer and writer with 40+ years experience, I feel some obligation to share my experience with the young. BUT - I am very careful how much time I commit. I am happy to talk to anyone for a few minutes, if it looks like getting serious, I would have no problem inviting people to my house, where I can refer to my library and other material, and talking with them for an hour or so. Occasionally students do contact me and they get a considered reply, if necessary going to a full page of A4. This, however, would be the absolute limit of what I would do for free - any question of giving a series of formal or semi-formal lessons, and I would ask for money without hesitation!
     
  20. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    I don't know how much of your photography requires an unpaid assistant but if you do your own processing then there may be a quid pro quo whereby she earns her keep by assisting and learning at the same time.

    The key is how much does she want to learn and how much is she prepared to give in order to learn as opposed to how much her parents want her to learn. It sounds as if you haven't had the chance to learn of her feelings as opposed to her parents.

    The first ten to fifteen minute talk with her about photography will probably tell you all you need to know. It could be the only talk you ever have with her or the start of a mutually beneficial relationship.

    pentaxuser
     
  21. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    I was recently asked to 'help out' a young violinist/teacher whose job also included teaching cello which was not a skill she had yet acquired. I realized, from the way the request was posed, that the expectation was for free lessons although that wasn't expressly stated at that point. I've been doing this long enough to know I needed to just state my fee directly and not wait to even hear an excuse for a lower 'professional courtesy' rate let alone a freebie. After politely doing so, I am happy to report that I have never heard another word about it.

    Many years ago I was asked to play in the cello section of a 'Doctor's Orchestra' in Queens. I asked what the fee was and was told, "No. There's no fee", to which I less than politely asked what free medical services I could then expect to receive. Again, I never heard from the person who asked me after that.

    I wonder what possesses anyone to assume that people in 'the arts' just do it for the love of doing it. Try getting someone to repair your car 'just for the love of it'.......yeah.....right!
     
  22. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    The next time you see them, why don't you just ask them what they have in mind? Words like "help" and "teach" are ambiguous enough that they may be using them with out even thinking. With out knowing what they are thinking, we can come up with all sorts of scenarios, from they want you to give a few pointers to these people are blood sucking creatures who should be sent to hell without stopping at go and collecting $200. Find out what they want, if they even know, and then discuss it. Communicate.
     
  23. wfe

    wfe Member

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    I suspect that they will go away if you mention a fee. Your time is valuable and should not be given away for free. I do a lot of bartering but also ask for fees. Sometimes I get the fees and sometimes they go away. If I don't care to do it for free or a barter than I ask for a fee.

    Good Luck!!!

    Bill
     
  24. Jonathan Brewer

    Jonathan Brewer Member

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    I agree with Allen in the sense that communication eliminates BS, but I've found plenty communicated by the way people first come at you, in terms of their being honest and upfront as opposed to hiding behind a fog.

    I find that when people are on the 'up and up', regarding what they want from me as a photographer, they tend to address.................'what will that cost?............Would you be interested in that, and for how much? By the same token, the manipulative and the devious hide behind the vague.

    ..............................When I first saw this post, I read it with an open mind, but I have trouble with this, if it truly represents what was said, and said within context.............

    .....................'Each time we see the couple, they make the same statement, "I really need to get you to work with my daughter."

    I mentioned that I had no problem giving tips, advice and information occassionally and informally. But the help has now turned into, "I'd love for you to teach 'Amy' about photography."

    In the most recent encounter with the couple, the husband mentioned to my husband that his daughter needs a darkroom set up. She could 'sure use the help.' There's that word again!'..................

    Of course I may be mistaken, but characterizing what you say with............'I really need'..............and 'I'd love for you to'..................are the way people who like to use people use these terms to push buttons.

    When someone brings up a suggestion to me like this, I can depend on true friends to KNOW that my non-response/non answer to a proposition made like it's been made here, means I'm trying to be diplimatic about the fact that I'm not interested.

    To keep 'hitting on somebody' to do something like this from people who you really don't know, and who really don't know you, to me, again and again, I wouldn't trust, also, again, I may be wrong, but this sounds like the 'come on' of folks who confuse kindness for weakness.

    I've been doing this for 40yrs and now don't have the slightest problem with being very direct in order to cut through any awkwardness that comes along with a sitiuation like this. Because I can reverse the situation by turning this into a good test of friendship in the sense that when I tell someone what I need to do whatever I do for them, their reaction tells me whether I've got a true friend or a snake.

    I'll get slightly off topic and say that if I've found out anything about life, is that you can lead a fairly simple and carefree life if you understand that most of life's complications come from how you deal/fail to deal w/people you KNOW, not people you don't know, .........it's the people you know/friends/relatives who can hurt you most when they turn out to be 'snakes'.

    A stranger may ask a favor of you, you say yes or no without any stress at all, of course the asking of a favor from a friend or relative is DIFFERENT, some folks KNOW that when they ask,..................Good luck.
     
  25. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    Very good advice, Jonathan. It bears repeating.
     
  26. mark

    mark Member

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    I've been giving it some thought. SOme folks talk about free health care free auto work etc...

    I have received all of the above and throw in free law advice. Some favors were from friends and others-the doctoring was from a perfect stranger. He hauled me into the ER fixed my bicycle wreck wounds handed me some pain meds and sent me on my way. Another doc put stitches in my head when I was little and had a run in with ice. people offer their time to help others for free all the time. Both docs called it good Karma-and I was able to partly pay it back when i found one of the docs stranded on the side of the road and gave him a ride to a phone then back to his car to wait.

    So, helping out a friend or someone in need is great. I also look at my start with watercolor painting. I never would have even started if it was not for the niceness of the the art teacher here at the school. his time is way more than I could spend and he went insane helping me. I asked one simple question and the next thing I knew I was handed watercolor paints, paper, a how too book and he spet several hours showing me how to get started and we had a great time.

    No real point aside from, not everything is about money all the time. SOme times it is about being nice.

    Too each their own I guess.