Giving it away

Giving your work and images away without payment can be a controversial marketing ploy.

Posted 15/Oct/2008 - 11:45PM

An image given to a charity that was subsequently used by a commercial operation. 

“The defendant, M’Lord, is accused of giving away perfectly good Images without charging for said Pictures! Defendant, what do you have to say for yourself?”
I have heard many arguments, both for and against working for nothing. The main reasons for are to get yourself known or building a portfolio of published work. The strongest one against is that of devaluing yours and others images. Both are valid arguments depending on your standpoint. The seasoned Pro will know the value of the work and effort that has gone into building whatever reputation he or she has and will show reluctance to give that hard earned away without reward, whereas the newcomer will be desperate to get even a toe in the door.
Whichever camp you are in, I would argue that there are circumstances where giving the odd image away can pay dividends in the long run.
In fact, I even advertise that some of my images are available free. But, if that raises an eyebrow, look a little further. I belong to a small group of (mainly) amateur photographers who offer their images, free of charge, to registered Wildlife Charities such as the 47 Wildlife Trusts in the UK. Charities, by their very nature, will always find a more needing cause for their limited funds than purchasing commercial images, so there is no loss to the professional photographic community.
The Charities on the other hand, often get requests for images to illustrate news items from more commercial bodies, examples being County Councils, the Environment Agency, Natural England etc.
Now these are commercial entities that are fully funded with proper budgets for their projects! However, the very people we give our images to, point them towards our little charitable project. They still want the images, and that is where the payback starts. These agencies, along with Country and County magazines, have all bought images off project members over the three years that the WildaboutKent initiative has been running. And all at commercial or near commercial rates.
I’ll put another example to you. A little over a year ago, my wife, who worked for a well known retail store, asked if I would take a few ‘snapshots’ of some colleagues during a ‘fashion show’ that was being held at the store she worked in. The weekend was promoting the wedding services of the store and a number of the staff were dressing up in wedding outfits.
Between the two ‘fashion shows’ that were being held during the day, I spoke to the store manager and asked if, after the second show, we could quickly get the dressed up staff outside the front entrance (in a pedestrian precinct) for a quick shot of them all before they changed. You can see the resultant image here.
Staff dressed up for a Wedding Fair, photographed outside their store
Two hours later, I returned to collect my wife from work and presented the Manager with an A3 print of the image, which he put up on the staff room wall.
Less than a week later I had a phone call from my wife telling me that the National Sales Manager of one of the concessions had seen the image and wanted me to do some pictures of their concession. The job earned me £700 and I have had more work from them since.
A single image from a series that was commisioned by one of the Consessions in the store after the group image above was seen by the consession's UK Sales Manager
So, I put it to you M’Lord that, under some circumstances, giving your images away can have its benefits, sometimes in ways that you cannot predict. I rest my case.


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