may 21, 2013 from Lloyd Erlick,
Originally Posted by mr rusty
One of the things that caused me to take up photography was looking at
my folks' family photos, which in those days were all black and white prints. As a kid I noticed many of them had the word 'proof' rubber stamped on them. None of them was larger than 3x5. One or two had perforations arranged to spell 'proof'.
Of course, now I know that photographers of the day were used to clients keeping the proofs and ordering little or nothing. My parents were classic; they were content with the free pictures, even if they had a rubber stamp.
Now that I've spent the best years of my life trying to sell people that which they least desire - pictures of themselves - I can see that my parents were legion. People will content themselves with whatever comes for free or is cheap, or at least cheapest. No surprise, of course. Television instead of movies, 35mm instead of 4x5, you name it. So nothing in this story is unheard of; on the contrary, the surprise would be if these 'clients' behaved differently.
I'm afraid the only solution I ever found for the 'working for friends syndrome' was to work for friends for free.
One of the most powerful rules I ever learned was - if you don't take money, no one can tell you what to do.
Then do the job the best way you possibly can. When others look at the work they will see what you'd like potential clients to see. Plus - and this is the big advantage - you can take the position that you are a professional, like a doctor or dentist, and you know better than the client what the client wants and needs. The work you give them is by definition right, and legitimately bears your name. This is why it should be the best you can do.
If you work for free, it's a chance to do the work as you know it should be done.
I think it was William Mortensen who commented that doing work for 'cost' or for very cheap is a mug's game. That approach merely guarantees you are poorly paid at best, and at worst that you get into a situation such as we are discussing - and are poorly paid.
Much better to choose carefully who you will provide free work - in other words, give a gift. A gift is something you specify; there is no 'client'.
If you are not giving a gift, the price should be a legitimate reflection of your skills and costs. We all know photography is not cheap, and we shouldn't sell our work as if it is.