Why I give my photos away for free.
Patrick Tomasso

You said:

“ I wrestle with the idea of being a selfish creative quite often, because it sounds negative.”

You are correct. Many would argue it is selfish.

In giving your work away you deprive a professional creative of their income. And you can argue all you like about that, but it is a fact.

What you give away is not ‘free’ work, however many times you say that to yourself. It costs. It costs you in terms of your time, in equipment, and in travel and other expenses, such as computers, electricity and so on.

You obviously do have another income, and that is what subsidises what you do. You are paying for this supposedly ‘free’ work. Then giving it away. Basically you ‘give away’ a pile of money each time a picture is used.

Thats the difference between you and most professionals, they have no other incomes so must earn their living through their work. It has to work FOR them.

Many of the people using your work will sell it on as part of their professional work. You are subsiding them and their businesses. And in doing so hurting other working creatives struggling to make ends meet.

One of the replies to this thread nails it:

“While cool to be able to say and show that, I’d love for that to somehow translate into something that helps me upgrade my computer or add a tilt-shift lens to my gear. If not, it doesn’t mean I stop sharing some of my images.

It’s definitely easier to drop photos freely when you’ve got a steady income stream from somewhere else.”

In the gigs you say you’ve had, such as shooting a tv intro, did that involve payment in kind of any sort such as travel, accommodation etc? If so do you declare that as a taxable benefit within your tax system as a ‘benefit in kind’? Do you have liability insurance?

Do you have any ethical objections to the ways your work might be used (eg by proscribed organisations?)or by companies whose business practices are unethical and environmentally damaging?

I read an article recently by an aspiring young professional photographer who berated his fellow creatives because they would not assist him complete a for-free gig he’d taken on. These were make up artists and lighting designers, whom he criticised because when asked to assist him, they had declined and said they were concentrating on paid work. He then wrote about them critically, in the context of his for-free business model. The huge irony of all of this was he was writing this ‘Its Smart To Work For Free’ article for a magazine that was actually paying him to do it. Thats the kind of nonsense this whole business is riven with.

But that said I do work for free occasionally — but I invoice for it. A proper fully costed invoice for my time and ALL production expenses, then ‘adding’ the 100% discount.

Unless YOU put a value on your work in that way, your ‘clients’ will have no idea what you’re worth, and fact is many of these image users need educating about the true cost of ‘free’, the ‘free’ that pays THEIR wages. And at the end of the day you can be known either as ‘the free guy who does it for free’ or ‘the $5000 guy who’s really worth $5000 and generously does it for free’ ? Why does that matter?

Because when you decide to start charging, only one of those ‘might’ be a basis upon which to build a business.

Bottom line?

Know your worth and let other people know you’re worth that too.

Good luck with your ‘business’ model, really, I’m not being sarcastic — I hope it gives you a lot of fun and pleasure (and maybe eventually an income). But please don’t think that what you do is free, it is not, it costs.