Category Archives: business

Unpaid internships are exploitation. Period.

I had to write a post, seeing a tweet for Walrus magazine for an unpaid internship. 6 months, 30 hours a week and no pay what so ever. This pisses me off. Big time. I’ve written about working for free before and I’ll say it again. Don’t. Period.

Why? How about the lovely term exploitation? Ring any bells? Yeah, I feel very strongly about this. Working for free does NOT benefit you. Yes, you’ll get on the job learning, but guess what, most business pay YOU to learn how to do your damn job. Your time is valuable, worth money and should be compensated. You aren’t going to an internship, I hope, knowing nothing at all about the job. Chances are, you are fresh out of school and have several years of education to back you up. When you take a job for free, it says very clearly that you put no value on all that time you spent learning how to do something. It also says, you are OK with an employer placing no value on your time either.

Unpaid internships should be banned. Since that is impossible to do, make a point of never accepting one, encourage everyone else not to accept one, rat out the shameful behaviour of these companies who demand one, and stand up and say NO!

Don’t buy any of that bullshit about how it’s an honour to study under a big name professional. Or that what you learn will be worth it, no matter what. They are making money from your labour. They are getting paid. So should you.

Insist on it. Don’t know how to say it? Watch this video. Mike Monteiro will tell you how, in clear plain english.
2011/03 Mike Monteiro | F*ck You. Pay Me. from SanFrancisco/CreativeMornings on Vimeo.

Stand up for yourself, have some self respect, value yourself and your time and demand that they pay you, damn it. Even minimum wage is better by far than free. After all, if someone doing a brain dead minimum wage job actually takes home money, why the hell shouldn’t you?

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How is working on spec any different than working for free?

Or in other words, how else can a small business owner save money while supporting other creative professionals?

Where is this coming from you might ask? Well, I saw a tweet posted by a very influential photographer encouraging other photographers to use www.99designs.com. He advocates a service that unfortunately is part of the ongoing problem with low pay for creatives based on people being willing to work for free. That’s what spec work is. In particular, with a site like this, and it’s not the only one by far, they hold “contests” for design work such as a logo, and if your design is chosen by the person wanting a logo, then and only then, will you get paid for your work. And to top it all off, “prizes” are generally less than industry rates.

I find it very ironic that a photographer or other creative professional would support such shenanigans given the same problems in the photographic industry. How often do you see posts and articles bemoaning the ongoing lowering of the bar for rates due to all the would be photographers who will work for free or very little pay for “experience” or “exposure”? Its a problem that has become even more pervasive with the easy access to professional level gear.

The only way out though is education. We need to teach photographers and other creative professionals to value their time and each others’. We need to teach our clients to value our work and pay what we’re worth. And those clients may be us! That means charge industry rates yourself. And pay each other industry rates. Find someone who will do the work you need and skip the spec stuff. There is a range of prices in every industry that hovers around an average. You should be able to find someone you can afford. If you think you can’t have you looked at other options than straight cash? Contra deals, or barter of services in other words. Saving up a little longer to afford the one you really want to work with. Will your designer or whatever take multiple payments? How about some creative fund raising like www.kickstarter.com? After all, the money you spend on marketing your business is the best money you’ll spend and why would you cheap out? You wouldn’t on your gear when it counts.

And don’t forget, if you don’t want to work for free, why should anyone else?

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1st Steps

So I’ve been researching and reading tons of material on photography and business. I have a lot of preparation to do before I can get the business side of things started. My 1st step, before I apply to the small business program is to get my portfolio in order. I need a lot more portraits and the easiest way to do this is get my friends and associates to sit for portraits. Or stand, or whatever. Heck, they can balance on their heads if they like, as long as they let me take their picture.

Since I’m choosing to specialise in natural light fine art portraiture, this will involve a lot of traditional portraiture as well as environmental portraiture. I’m studying up on my lighting, looking at portraits by the masters, both photographers and painters, working on getting my exposures bang on. When you are shooting film, you don’t have the luxury of fixing it in post. Then again, you really should get it right in the camera in the first place regardless of whether you are shooting digital or film. I also have to work on my presentation, making a portrait session a wonderful experience for the sitter, not just a shoot. It’s a collaborative process that ideally ends with great images and was wonderful to participate in for both of us.

And of course, I simply need to shoot, a lot, and make a lot of prints. Standard black and white prints, lith prints, bromoil prints. Whatever suits the mood of the image and highlights best the nature of the person in the portrait.

My goal is to try and get as much complete on my portfolio over the next two months. Then start on the business side of things with getting the business plan in order.

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Getting laid off isn’t the end of the world

Out of the blue last week, I got laid off. There may be signs of economic recovery out there, but we’re not seeing much on the ground here in BC. I was the sixth person at my company since Feb. this year to get laid off. I know several other people who’ve also been downsized this year, so it’s still pretty common for this recession.

Now when I tell people I got laid off, the first thing they say is “sorry to hear that”. Well, I’m not sorry at all. I didn’t exactly love my last job and rather than looking at this as something terrible, I see an opportunity. It didn’t exactly fit my plans, but I’m nothing if not adaptable.

I’d been looking a lot at how to move my photography to the next level and segue over time into turning it into a profession. I’ve been doing a lot of research and trying to figure out how to focus down on what I really wanted to do with it. The idea was work full time for a few more years, develop my portfolio and get some paid photo jobs over time, get out of debt etc.

Instead, since I qualified for employment insurance, I’ve decided to embrace this chance to go pro now. I plan on applying to the small business entrepreneur program funded by EI and starting my own photography business. It’ll be a lot of hard work but I am relishing the challenge. I am finding myself obsessed at the moment with further research to fine down what I want for my business model and locating resources to help with that.

As I go, I’ll be posting these resources here and using my blog to collate information and give myself a visual progress record I can refer back to. The information may even be of use to other photographers since there isn’t much out there that really draws this together.

For this week’s links, here’s a few I’ve found that are very helpful and others that look like they may be.

Professional organizations
CAPIC – The Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications
PPA – The Professional Photographers of America

Business/Photography Consultants

Photo learning sites

And for a little inspiration or a kick in the pants as required

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