What makes a ‘Pro’ ?

Ahh, a different type of client woe for a change this morning..

This one serves as a warning to those budding photographers who think that because they’ve bought an SLR and a ‘’ domain name they can call themselves a professional..

One of my former students is having some grief from a client who’s asking for images in certain formats etc. and it seems they have crossed wires about what had been expected/agreed upon/delivered.  The client is now demanding a full set of raw files of every image from multiple shoots etc. in return for a fee that wouldn’t hire a pro much past breakfast. Naturally said former student is in quite a tiz about it all!

Putting it bluntly folks, if you don’t know the difference between dpi & resolution, or between a raw file and a jpeg, you’re in no position to be taking on paying clients!

As a professional, your client is paying you for your knowledge and experience. You’re rightly expected to know your craft and to deliver the goods to a high standard, on time and as to do so as seamlessly as possible.  It’s down to you to understand the requirements, and to clarify anything well in advance before you take on the job.

If you subsequently find yourself well out of your depth and having to ask someone else how to do what you’re being paid for, it seems the wrong person is getting paid, eh?


Can you do me a favour ?

It obviously nice that people like what I do, but sometimes it seems they don’t appreciate what it took to get there..

Often it seems that people assume that because you’re good at something “it comes naturally” or you just have “the knack”. How often have you heard someone say something like “well it’s easy for you..” as if you just magically woke up one morning with the skill and talent to do something?  Worse still, it’s usually said in the context that they would like you to do something for them, because they can’t do it themselves (or can’t be bothered to try) and you can, so they’d like you to do it for them “as a favour”.


So, lets stop to consider for a moment just why I might be able to so something which you can’t, or don’t want to, do yourself.

I didn’t just magically figure out how to take a decent photo.  I learned how. I have invested thousands of hours of my time in reading, asking questions, practicing etc.  I’ve invested thousands of pounds in equipment and training, and I’m still continuing to do so today.

The reason I know how to use Photoshop is because I’ve spent night after night up until gone 2am learning how, reading books, trawling through website tutorials etc. and actually practising this stuff.

Why then should you get the benefit of that for nothing if you’re not prepared to do so yourself?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m  happy to help people out and will occasionally do someone a favour with some photos or help with their graphic design or web projects etc.  But when I do, it would at least be nice to feel they appreciated just what had gone into that.  Remember, what might take me two hours, would probably take you two days, or even two weeks.  Now how valuable is my time?  

So, why the rant now?

Well basically there have just been too many occasions recently when people have been taking advantage of my good nature, and I’ve been guilty of putting myself out way too much for other people who really don’t appreciate it. Yes, of course I understand that different people have different skill sets, and I’m flattered that people think enough of some of mine that they want my help or advice, but also there comes a point when I’ve got to draw a line under it as I’m spending way too much time and energy on sorting out *other peoples stuff* and not enough time on my own projects so it’s come to the point I’ve simply got to switch those priorities around.



When it comes to my to-do list my order of priorities will be:

  1. Paying clients
  2. Collaborations with mutual benefit (i.e. TF model shoots)
  3. Personal Projects
  4. Favours for other people

So, if you’re #4 on the list, please remember that I’m doing you a favour, in my own time, for nothing.  I’m afraid that means you’ll just plain have to wait.  If I can do something, I’ll do it when I’ve got the time.  That might be a few days, or it might be a few weeks. I can’t make any promises.

If your ‘favour’ is urgent then I’d argue that it’s not actually something you should be relying on favours for in the first place.  Obviously if you want me to make you a priority you have the option jump right to the top of the queue and be a #1, but otherwise you need to remember the holy trinity of getting things done:


How do you want it done? Good, Fast or Cheap?  

Back in my former life as a software developer, there was the classic ‘development trilogy’.  i.e. How do you want it done, good, fast or cheap?

You can pick any two out of three.

Diagram, the development trilogy, good, fast or cheap.

Reasons Why Professional Photographers Cannot Work for Free

Dear potential photo buyer,

If you have been directed to this page, it is likely that you have requested the use of an image or images for free or minimal compensation.

As professional photographers, we receive requests for free images on a regular basis. In a perfect world, each of us would love to be able to respond in a positive manner and assist, especially with projects or efforts related to areas such as education, social issues, and conservation of natural resources. It is fair to say that in many cases, we wish we had the time and resources to do more to assist than just send photographs.

Unfortunately, such are the practicalities of life that we are often unable to respond, or that when we do, our replies are brief and do not convey an adequate sense of the reasons underlying our response.

Circumstances vary for each situation, but we have found that there are a number of recurring themes, which we have set out below with the objective of communicating more clearly with you, and hopefully avoiding misunderstandings or unintentionally engendering ill will.

Please take the following points in the constructive manner in which they are intended. We certainly hope that after you have had a chance to read this, we will be able to talk again and establish a mutually beneficial working relationship.


Photographs Are Our Livelihood

Creating compelling images is the way we make our living. If we give away our images for free, or spend too much time responding to requests for free images, we cannot make a living.

We Do Support Worthy Causes With Images

Most of us do contribute photographs, sometimes more, to support certain causes. In many cases, we may have participated directly in projects that we support with images, or we may have a pre-existing personal relationship with key people involved with the efforts concerned. In other words, each of us can and does provide images without compensation on a selective basis.

We Have Time Constraints

Making a leap from such selective support to responding positively to every request we get for free photographs, however, is impractical, if for no other reason than the substantial amount of time required to respond to requests, exchange correspondence, prepare and send files, and then follow-up to find out how our images were used and what objectives, if any, were achieved. It takes a lot of time to respond to requests, and time is always in short supply.

Pleas of “We Have No Money” Are Often Difficult to Fathom

The primary rationale provided in nearly all requests for free photographs is budgetary constraint, meaning that the requestor pleads a lack of funds.

Such requests frequently originate from organisations with a lot of cash on hand, whether they be publicly listed companies, government or quasi-government agencies, or even NGOs. Often, it is a simple matter of taking a look at a public filing or other similar disclosure document to see that the entity concerned has access to significant funding, certainly more than enough to pay photographers a reasonable fee should they choose to do so.

To make matters worse, it is apparent that all too often, of all the parties involved in a project or particular effort, photographers are the only ones being asked to work for free. Everyone else gets paid.

Given considerations like this, you can perhaps understand why we frequently feel slighted when we are told that: “We have no money.” Such claims can come across as a cynical ploy intended to take advantage of gullible individuals.

We Have Real Budget Constraints

With some exceptions, photography is not a highly remunerative profession. We have chosen this path in large part due to the passion we have for visual communication, visual art, and the subject matters in which we specialise.

The substantial increase in photographs available via the internet in recent years, coupled with reduced budgets of many photo buyers, means that our already meager incomes have come under additional strain.

Moreover, being a professional photographer involves significant monetary investment.

Our profession is by nature equipment-intensive. We need to buy cameras, lenses, computers, software, storage devices, and more on a regular basis. Things break and need to be repaired. We need back-ups of all our data, as one ill-placed cup of coffee could literally erase years of work. For all of us, investment in essential hardware and software entails thousands of dollars a year, as we need to stay current with new technology and best practices.

In addition, travel is a big part of many of our businesses. We must spend a lot of money on transportation, lodging and other travel-related costs.

And of course, perhaps most importantly, there is a substantial sum associated with the time and experience we have invested to become proficient at what we do, as well as the personal risks we often take. Taking snapshots may only involve pressing the camera shutter release, but creating images requires skill, experience and judgement.

So the bottom line is that although we certainly understand and can sympathise with budget constraints, from a practical point of view, we simply cannot afford to subsidise everyone who asks.

Getting “Credit” Doesn’t Mean Much

Part and parcel with requests for free images premised on budgetary constraints is often the promise of providing “credit” and “exposure”, in the form or a watermark, link, or perhaps even a specific mention, as a form of compensation in lieu of commercial remuneration.

There are two major problems with this:

First, getting credit isn’t compensation. We did, after all, create the images concerned, so credit is automatic. It is not something that we hope a third party will be kind enough to grant us.

Second, credit doesn’t pay bills. As we hopefully made clear above, we work hard to make the money required to reinvest in our photographic equipment and to cover related business expenses. On top of that, we need to make enough to pay for basic necessities like food, housing, transportation, etc.

In short, receiving credit for an image we created is a given, not compensation, and credit is not a substitute for payment.

“You Are The Only Photographer Being Unreasonable”

When we do have time to engage in correspondence with people and entities who request free photos, the dialogue sometimes degenerates into an agitated statement directed toward us, asserting in essence that all other photographers the person or entity has contacted are more than delighted to provide photos for free, and that somehow, we are “the only photographer being unreasonable”.

We know that is not true.

We also know that no reasonable and competent photographer would agree to unreasonable conditions. We do allow for the fact that some inexperienced photographers or people who happen to own cameras may indeed agree to work for free, but as the folk wisdom goes: “You get what you pay for.”

Please Follow-Up

One other experience we have in common is that when we do provide photographs for free, we often do not receive updates, feedback or any other form of follow-up letting us know how the event or project unfolded, what goals (if any) were achieved, and what good (if any) our photos did.

All too often, we don’t even get responses to emails we send to follow-up, until, of course, the next time that someone wants free photographs.

In instances where we do agree to work for free, please have the courtesy to follow-up and let us know how things went. A little consideration will go a long way in making us feel more inclined to take time to provide additional images in the future.


Wrap Up

We hope that the above points help elucidate why the relevant photographer listed below has sent you to this link. All of us are dedicated professionals, and we would be happy to work with you to move forward in a mutually beneficial manner.

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This text was written by Tony Wu. He has kindly allowed others to use the text under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

If you do, please provide take a moment to visit and provide a link to his page:[/iconbox]


I don’t do ‘snaps’..

Normally an invitation to a party or other such event is something to look forward to, but sadly as a photographer it’s becoming all too regular to receive an invite, often out of the blue and from someone you wouldn’t normally expect to receive one from that’s worded something like:

“Hey Rich, hope you’re well. We’re having a party on such and such a day, hope you can make it!”

Great! I think, that’ll be fun. Then you see the next bit..

“Don’t forget to bring your camera, we’d love to get some good snaps!”

Ahh, so that’s why you’re inviting me then. Because you actually want a professional photographer, but you just don’t want to pay for one.!

Well thanks for the invite, but the only time I take ‘snaps’ is when I’m on holiday, or I happen to spot something that I’d like to remember for later.  If you want me to take photos for your event then that’s a job, not a invitation to a party.


There’s an old tale about Picasso that goes something like this:

Picasso was in a park when a woman approached him and asked him to draw a portrait of her. Picasso agreed and quickly sketches her. After handing the sketch to her, she is pleased with the likeness and asks how much she owed to him. Picasso replied £5,000.

The woman screamed, “but it took you only five minutes”.

“No, madam, it took me all my life,” replied Picasso.

I wonder what sort of reaction you’d get if you invited your friend the electrician to your birthday and said “oh, don’t forget your tools, my shower is on the frizz”. Perhaps next time you have a barbecue you could invite a friend who’s a mechanic and ask them to service your car for free while they’re there too?

So yeah thanks for the invite, I’d love to come, but I’ll leave the camera at home thanks :)