I wanted to reach out to photographers both professional and aspiring to be so…and everyone in between. I have been contacted recently, by more than a few entities regarding “participation” in social media campaigns for products, services and branding efforts. These requests have taken many forms but there is one particular type of request that really got me thinking.
I know we all have very complex relationships with social media and for many of us it is a way to not only interact with friends and colleagues but to also use as an online platform for our work. For photographers, the use of social media, Instagram & Twitter in particular, are in a some areas, replacing our portfolios. This makes for an even more careful approach to how our work is perceived in these spaces.
One of the other balancing acts photographers face, is the idea that as your following grows so does the marketability of your feed. This is what I believe I am experiencing as marketers look to access the people who follow me. This gets tricky as you need to weigh the benefits of monetizing your feeds or keeping them pure to your vision as an artist. I have chosen the latter. I truly see my feeds as extensions of my work and as an extension of my own “brand”. Truthfully, this terminology turns my stomach but it is part of the reality of our business these days.
So, this latest, most disturbing turn involves a PR company calling me to ask if I would do a “takeover” of their Instagram feed for an event that they are promoting. They reference “terms & conditions” when making the request but it seemed pretty clear to me that these did not include any fees. When I requested clarification of what these “terms” were I got radio silence. I think people in many businesses that need visuals are finding that appealing to an artist’s vanity is an effective way to get free professionally made content. The use of the word “takeover” is a not so veiled reference to when TV music channels and radio stations have Lady Gaga “take over” the channel and play her music and a few of her favorite songs for a few hours….this is NOT the same thing.
I have been on record as saying that money is not the only compensation that artist can take in trade for their work. Exposure is clearly a good form of payment but I feel like the publicity monster really needs to be left a little hungry. Many entities…even ones without the platform to offer artists real publicity are acting as if this is an appropriate trade for services. Case in point…this Instagram “takeover”…the company in question phrased to me as an “opportunity” had 1/3 of the followers I have on Instagram. So…let me get this straight…you want me to come to your event…photograph it for free…and…post it on your social media accounts…What do I get out of this, exactly?
Here is an except of the response I sent this PR company:
It sounds interesting but unless “terms & conditions” means there is a day rate attached to this, then it still seems to me to be a photo assignment. It is an interesting model if it is and I’d be willing to discuss but if there is no compensation involved I’m afraid that as a professional photographer I’d have to decline. Please let me know because looking at social media as a platform for professional photo assignments seems very smart to me…assuming it’s not an end around on what we do to make a living. Thanks.
To this I got no response. I think that social media is a very legitimate way for photographers to earn money with their talents. It is ever more important that a company’s connection to their audience has a social media component. Good imagery and video can be essential to how successful that effort can be. We, as photographers, need to be mindful that our skills are very valuable in this marketplace and not to be sold cheaply. Flattery is not adequate payment. If you want professional imagery on your Facebook Page…then pay for it. If we as the professionals in this industry start giving away our wares for free, then nobody in the future will expect to have to pay for it.
If someone…anyone…wants you, professional or not to provide content….for a newspaper, magazine, website, publishing house or Instagram account…there is only one answer you must give….SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!