Over the last few days, myself and Tim Easton have managed to kick up a bit of a fuss online. We shoot weddings together (eophoto.co), and enquired about photographing the wedding of somebody who appears on the Channel 4 show ‘Tattoo Fixers’. The response we (and others in the industry - this isn’t a personal thing) received was, to say the least, insulting. The long and short of it was that the individual in question would not be paying for his wedding photographs, instead he would be ‘crediting select images’ on his social media, thus offering us a massive, brilliant career opportunity as we would be shown off to his many followers. I’m not gunna lie, we were both pretty pissed off, and took to social media for a grumble.
The response we received is pretty poor practice in and of itself. Even if we ignore the fact that, in this individual case, the person in question is also a ‘creative’, and goes on TV regularly to tell us to spend good money in order to get a quality tattoo, is hypocritical at best, and at worst shows a horrible disregard for other creatives, and a disrespectful attitude towards people’s work, careers and, you know, need to pay for stuff, the whole ethos of what was being suggested in the email we got is, frankly, bullshit. Let’s break this whole thing down.
On working for credit.
This is also bullshit. Wedding photography, actually no, all photography requires some degree of skill, practice, equipment, etc etc etc. I don’t want this to turn into one of those really tragic posts that jaded people put on Facebook where they try and break down the price you pay for a service like it doesn’t apply to absolutely every thing you would purchase in our lovely consumerist society, but it does apply here. More than my own sense of self importance though, is the fact that taking photos is my job. And when one does a job, one should be paid for it. Now, I’ll be honest here, sometimes I will take photos, of my friend’s bands if they’re in town for example, and not take any money from them for it. I’m sure we all do it to some extent. The difference here is that I am taking photos then for fun, not for work. Shooting someone’s wedding is a long, hard day. It’s stressful. It’s tiring. It is not something that I would do for a laugh, and no friend who respected me as a human being would ask for free wedding photography because, as normal people in the real world, they realise that it is a hard job. It often is fun, just in case I sound really miserable, I love shooting weddings, but it is my job.
On the “second to none promotional value of social media”.
This right here. This is the problem with the time we live in. ‘Influencers’ as they like to be known as, are a brands best friend. Trust me, I work in a flagship retail store as my 9-5. I’ve run my own store with a VIP client backing it. I know that people who work in PR are desperate to get these kind of ‘celebrity’ (cringe) endorsements of their products, or services, as their followers on social media will see these great things that they’re posting about, and want them too. This is really basic advertising and proper year 10 socialism on display, but, we all fall for it. That’s fine, it’s the world we live in. Like we haven’t all seen our favourite sports person wearing some cool trainers and thought ‘oh yeah, I’d like those’. We’re meant to think that. It’s all deliberate. There is obviously, undeniably value in promotion via social media. This is probably the biggest ‘no shit, Sherlock’ thing going. The fact is though, that this value is subjective. It needs context. For a fashion brand to give some jeans to someone with 100,000 followers on Instagram is nothing. Those jeans cost next to nothing to manufacture, and the kickback they receive is that they will hope to sell 100 pairs of the jeans to people who have seen said person promoting them. It’s an investment, yeah? However, for a business such as E&O, which is basically just two hairy dudes trying to make a living and who just want to take photos, giving away a full day wedding package in exchange for an undisclosed amount of promotion on social media is not feasible. Sure we might get a few followers on instagram, but are they going to book in with us? We don’t offer a disposable service or something purchased on impulse, so the effects for us are very diminished.
More than this though is the culture that this behaviour is breeding. My fear with this whole situation is that somebody is going to take this offer up, and the gentleman in question will win. He’s getting his wedding photographed for free. The loser though, is the person who is perhaps new to the business, and naive enough to believe that this is a really great opportunity. We’ve all been there when we start out. The claims that there is no budget for photos, but the exposure will be great for your career. Spoiler alert; It almost never is. The issue is, as I see it, that there is a whole generation of people who’s ambition is to be famous. This is a wider problem which is cultivated by the general obsession with celebrity culture and getting followers and likes on instagram, facebook and twitter, snapchat streaks (I don’t know either), and things like that. It’s all just fairy dust. It means nothing, but people are so preoccupied with looking successful that it’s taking the place of wanting to create something great. I’m getting a bit deep now, so I’m gunna wrap this up soon.
My point is, that as creative people we all need to start saying no to people who don’t want to pay us for our work. We might be impressed by their follower count, and think that if they’re sharing our work with our name on it, we’ll be reaping the rewards, but that is besides the point. You’re doing a job, and you should be paid for it. With big companies asking you to shoot things, guess what? There is a budget, they’re just trying to save money. Sometimes it pays to just say no. We need everybody to say no though. If people start doing these things for free, it undermines everyone, and we all suffer. The creative industry (industries) are cut throat and competitive enough as it is, we shouldn’t be looking to screw each other over.
In a nutshell, don’t be afraid to call bullshit bullshit. Sometimes people need to hear it.
Oh, and while you’re here, do check out our wedding stuff; eophoto.co
Right, I think that’s enough hippy shit from me.
Cheers for reading all the way down to here.