Can’t Give Away Everything for Free

A hot topic for photographers is the “free conundrum”.  Many amateur photographers are as good as professionals.  They take as much time in learning the craft and in planning a shoot; they just don’t do it for a living.  They’ll post their images on websites, forums, Flickr, and so on.  At some point a good photographer is contacted and asked if an image can be used for something.  For example, I’ve been asked by a Scandinavian tourist board if one of my White-Tailed Sea Eagle photos could be used in a brochure.  I enquired to find out what they were willing to pay.  They wanted me to do it for free.  Free sounded like a rip-off to me because I used expensive equipment and paid a lot of money to go on the trip.  I also took great care in processing the photo in question.  That said to me that my time, effort, and skill were worth €0 to this government organisation.  There was no way that I would accept that.

On the other hand, I’ve allowed a local start-up business use some of my photos (for web usage) in return for access to their birds of prey and for photo credits on their site.  It was a fair trade: they didn’t have any budget but they have something of value to me.  I’ve also contributed photos to a not-for-profit nature website who happily credit the contributors.  We both win.

Why am I blogging about this on an IT site?  Let me explain …

I was listening to “They Photography Show” podcast this morning and they talked about how photographers shouldn’t give away their wares for nothing.  It says that your value is €0 and that you’ll always be there to be taken advantage of.  That struck a chord.

Back in 2006, I set about trying to raise my profile in the business.  I started blogging.  Part of that was writing guides and whitepapers.  I then started getting asked to present.  All cool.  That lead to community opportunities, writing books, networking with local IT people, and joining the MVP community.

But there are those who want to push too far and take too much.  One huge corporation wanted to take one of my ConfigMgr 2007 guides, and republish it internally for commercial usage without paying me.  There’s lots more like that which is unacceptable.  And there are those who assume my time, skill, and effort can be taken for granted without any consequences.  Uh uh! In the immortal words of Damon Wayans: Homey don’t play that.

Questions through my blog, presenting at community events where expenses are covered, helping out that isn’t free consulting are all good.  That’s just being a helpful part of the community.  But assuming that I am (or, anyone for that matter, is) a free support service that you can call upon to sort out your commercial problems instead of hiring a professional is plain greedy.

People like myself put a lot of time and effort learning about this things we work with.  We put in that extra effort after we have “clocked out”, unlike many others.  If you have a quick question or a community request, then cool, we can help out.  But if you’re looking for a free commercial solution then you need to get your wallet out or put in the extra work for yourself.

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One Reply to “Can’t Give Away Everything for Free”

  1. Well said!

    That of course was the original purpose of Patents and Copyrights, to make sure the authors and inventors could be protected from unfair use and properly compensated.

    We all know how well that works!

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