There has been lots of buzz about a platform called Unsplash. In fact, the idea has become so controversial that the one-and-only Zack Arias took it upon himself to tackle the issue. I don’t want to repeat all the arguments so please watch these two videos and make up your own mind about it. I did!
Over the years, I have been one of the biggest cheerleaders of innovation. It is natural that while some industries die something new is created; it’s never an easy process.
But there’s another side. As you know, every business cycle has its ups and downs. On the edges of real innovation there will be some companies and individuals who hitch on to the innovation and disruption bandwagon and try to make a buck or two. These companies often wave popular flags: community, collaboration, exposure, success, change, etc. No wonder many people jump on, afraid of being left behind, without doing any due diligence.
Some of the “innovations” are based on very clever ideas. Everyone wants to be associated with the novelty and reap the allocated fifteen minutes of fame. From FREE reporting, FREE news and FREE assisting to FREE images – industry after industry has learnt that there is no longer any need to pay for others’ work. FREE has become a buzzword wrapped up in, quoting Zack Arias, “Warm fuzzy feelings of contributing and giving back and inspiring others.”
Here is an example close to home. A local university used to hire a photographer to shoot imagery for their brochures (no, it wasn’t me). However, they figured out that instead of paying professionals to do that they could organize a submission process along the lines of “show us your best images from the university” and you will be featured and get $100. Of course, such a contest looks friendly, harmless and fun. But once you read the disclaimer (who reads those nowadays?) you quickly find out that they require a model release with each image and ask you to give up your rights to the submitted images. In other words, they can use your images for commercial purposes. Of course, they have the right to do so and I don’t blame them. It’s your choice to submit or not.
Let me divert again. Have you complained lately about fake news? If you are one of those who drink “FREE is great” Kool-Aid, then don’t be surprised that news and reporting is now done by inexperienced people who are paid 1/5 or less than full-fledged reporters or journalists. Those reporters who remain are working under the enormous stress of being cut next. Why bother with professionals if there is a line-up of volunteers who will provide reporting for free!
And why do they do that? For the sake of exposure and fame! Many organizations just cannot compete with the torrent of FREE, fast-food news stories, which often mingle complex problems, which really require investigative journalism, with flashy headlines. Think long and hard. You don’t want fake news so maybe it’s time to consider paying for your news and supporting professional journalists! You wanted FREE – you have it! But look at the outcome.
Let’s go back to photography. I have recently talked to some photographers who have reached a point in this FREE FOR ALL economy when they feel ashamed to charge substantial amounts for their services. They shouldn’t. When I go to my car mechanic, I don’t see him being ashamed for charging me for his services. Neither should you, my photographic friends. You deserve to be paid and you need to find clients who value your work. From my personal experience, I can say that if you pour your soul into your product (whatever it is) and deliver it honestly, your clients will be happy to support you! Many of us still value craftsmanship and want to pay for quality and individual experience!
Here’s the key point of today’s ramblings. You must own your work, believe in it and stand behind it! Stop giving away your hard work for free! You, as an individual, as a human being and artist, create one-of-a-kind “handmade products and experiences” – something no corporation can ever do. This is your advantage!
You can still give back to your local photographic community! Charging adequately for your services, knowledge and products doesn’t clash with being involved in the community! I could even argue that those who value their work are often those who contribute to the community the most (Zack Arias, Tomash of FujiLove, the founders of Creative Live and so on). The idea that one excludes the other is one of the greatest fallacies pushed on us today!
In summary, don’t let bullies corner you with sugar-sweet propaganda especially if it is sprinkled with “free exposure” confectionary. If you don’t stand by your own work then who will?
Accept real innovation which improves our lives but always, always be wary of FREE. The price you eventually pay is much higher than you imagine. I don’t know about you but I certainly cannot afford FREE.
Here are my visual explorations for today. Enjoy.
2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved