Price, Projects & Perception

A few months ago I outlined my aims for 2012 in which I invited people to contact me with their projects, and in exchange for experience, explained that I would shoot and produce their imagery for next to nothing or where possible, for free.  In the following weeks I received lots of email taking up this offer.  I replied to every single one of them, clearly outlining the offer and everyone was happy with it.  Things were looking really good: the clients were interested and engaged; the projects were interesting.  How many of these eventually became active projects? None.

The email would bounce back and forth with lots of ideas but curiously they would stop at the same critical point – the part where effort was required on the potential client’s part, such as finding suitable locations or arranging props.  It’s easy to say they wanted to have a giant chess piece or use an Alice in Wonderland theme but when faced with the prospect of actually making this a reality, it’s a huge wake-up call. I’m just one piece of the puzzle.

It’s taken a great deal of thought to work out a rational explanation as to why it turned out this way.  Offering my services for free meant the project wasn’t always taken so seriously by the potential client. I knew I had taken it as seriously as I could, approaching each project in the same way to ensure I could make good on the offer.  The reality is that anything requiring such little investment to you personally is often matched by a similar level of attention and consideration.  If you’re buying a house for example, you really consider the consequences before agreeing with the purchase. It’s unlikely you’d put in the same consideration for a carton of milk.  A wild comparison perhaps, but the same is true for projects and having set the bar for entry too low, I had set myself up to waste a lot of time thinking about approaches to projects that were never going to see the light of day.  If the potential client didn’t have anything to lose, why should they really care about the consequences?

As a result of this, I’ve decided that I won’t be offering to work on projects for free any more. Not only will this filter out the majority of the time-wasters, but since decent photographers cost money it’ll help with people’s own perception of my professional status.

After all there’s a difference between being a ‘value for money’ photographer and simply just being ‘cheap’ one.