Why we say ‘NO’ to unpaid or underpaid Photography Jobs!

Published byDEU: Content Team at February 27, 2017

Over the years, we have had the privilege to emerge as a creative business venture that successfully places some of the finest visual artists across the world to script spectacular visuals for various editorial and commercial enterprises. They, in the process, have also become some of our most loyal clients. However, there are times we have stumbled upon clients who expected free or low paid professional services for high quality work such as ours. Since we are clear about where we are heading and what we are set about to do, we had to politely refuse such requests even from some of the elites in the industry. But it’s about time someone spoke about this trend of unfair expectation in this industry, hence the following.

Commodity Culture versus Barter Culture: Our culture, for more than a thousand years, has been adhering to barter system, a well-oiled method, which made sure that all the sellers and buyers get something in return for their services and goods. In this modern era, barter system has given way to a commodity driven system that rates every good available in the market according to their value, quality, usage and man labour. Everything ranging from newspaper, milk, water, accommodation, electricity, transportation, fuel, coffee, healthy food and fast food has been priced according to the market standards. Then, how is photography any different from it all? We believe that a good photo, which requires skill, passion, equipments and man labour, is also one such commodity. It doesn’t come for free or cheap, in fact, if it’s high quality results you are hoping for, you need to invest your heart and soul into it along with a hefty deserving price.

Cheaper Options versus Standard Pricing: Ever since we have entered this market, we have been dealing with a certain segment of people who seem to think that photography requires no particular skill or effort, but a good camera. We wouldn’t blame them because we are sure they have seen photographers who have made them believe that. We are aware that there are photographers who work free of cost or charge much lesser than we do, but then why come to us if such services satisfies your requirement. Our agency rides on integrity, unmatched skill and professionalism, which in turn results in exceptional outcome, hence, we are sorry to say, we are don’t come for free or cheap. We are unapologetic to say that we are expensive because we believe in what we do.

It is no secret that Indian market has no dearth of fashion photographers, but, are they time-tested professionals, is the question we most often overlook. The sad truth is that the ratio of good photographers versus amateurs is even less than 10:1000. Along with the market boom, we have been witnessing amateurs and photo enthusiasts turning full time photographers and in the process taking up majority of the professional market space. An easy method for them to survive in this extremely competitive space is to offer services free of cost or for relatively cheaper rates. This ‘disruptive marketing step’ is heartily welcomed by the elite segment, who is empowered by the fact that photography is available for free or cheaper prices.

Rather than being deceived by the illusion of ‘opportunity’ or ‘the big break’, our standard pricing is finalised based on numerous factors (a few are listed below):

  • The value of skill sets/experience and time of the artist
  • Annual living expenses (artists need money as all other people)
  • Professional expenses (equipments, softwares, updating gears, marketing etc)


There are quite a lot of components that dictate the standard pricing. However, for us , there surely is an applicable pricing which might seem like a higher or expensive side but is nevertheless worth every penny.

Undermining Self Worth and Professional Worth: When a particular segment’ demand free or cheap work from us, it is evident that they are undermining our artist’s skill and professional worth. This for us is a big let-down. We expect our clients to understand the effort involved in the process.  We’ve listed down some of the most common excuses we listen to on a daily basis ever since we have entered this business below.

  • “There are numerous other photographers, who are willing to do this job free of cost or at relatively lower rates. Hence, please reconsider your quote this one time.”


  • “Let’s do a test shoot first. If we like the work, we will definitely line up more future work for you.”


  • “By doing this job you will get great ‘exposure’, the works we do are viewed by thousands of people. Imagine the limelight! You should definitely grab this opportunity.”


  • “Usually photographers do this kind of work free of cost for us. But since it is you, we are willing to pay you something as a token of appreciation.”


  • Hundreds of others are dying to get this opportunity to work with us. You should be grateful that you are being considered for this job.”


  • “I’ve a huge fan following in the social media. I will post the pictures in Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and credit your name as the photographer. It will give you great mileage. Let’s do this.”


  • “Since we are working with you for the first time, we are not willing to pay your full fees this time as we are not sure about how the final outcome would be.”


  • “Let’s collaborate and promote each other. It will be a win-win situation for us.”


  • “Our budgets are really squeezed on this project hence; let’s work on a realistic minimum fees.”


We may come across many other persuasive or innovative approaches in the future, but our response will remain ‘NO’.

Summary: The creative work we do is exhausting; it requires our time, creativity and energy in abundance. Every shoot is much more than just picking up the camera and clicking a few pictures. If anyone out there thinks otherwise, we only have a few words to them “You are mistaken”. This work when brandished as ‘freebie’ cannot be considered as a good reward at all. We are highly passionate about our work, but it should also benefit us financially in order for us to continue doing great work and set new standards in our line of work. We believe that by saying YES to unpaid or underpaid jobs, we are undermining the visual industry and are further degrading photography as a cheap profession to be in.  We are in a professional business and it is not just a ‘glorified hobby’ as some tend to look at it.

Here are a few funny videos that show how to tackle clients who demand free or cheap services.

HITMAN Being asked to work for Free

Plumber: Exposure in Exchange for Free Work

Client-Vendor Relationship in Real World Situations


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