I consider myself a photography hobbyist, a very passionate one. I spend a lot of time shooting photographs as well as blogging about it here. And even though I’m not a professional, I do license and sell my photographs from time to time.
When I started, I had an amateur mindset. I thought it was cool if a magazine, especially a glossy one, wanted to publish my photo. I didn’t seriously consider the issue of payment. And this is exactly what the publishers are hoping for. They frequently lure amateur photographers to offer their photos for free, with the promise of a photo credit.
I’m here to tell you, don’t fall for this trick. These guys usually troll through Flickr and other photo sharing sites in the hopes of getting something, something valuable, for nothing.
Things are different now. My expectation is that people need to pay. I price my work like it has value. And this goes for non-profits too. Some groups use “the non-profit card” to get stuff for free. Do these groups expect painters, electricians and accountants to offer their services for free?
Some of you might say, “I can’t do that, I’m not a business person”. I understand. I’ve been there myself. My perspective back then was,”well this is a hobby, any little bit of money I get is just icing on the cake”. One day, I completely changed my perspective. It made all the difference. Now I say, “Well this is hobby and if I don’t make the sale, that’s OK, but I refuse to under price my photos”.
On Smugmug, for example, where you can purchase my photos, my sales didn’t change when I raised my prices. Honestly, sales weren’t great anyway, even with rock bottom prices. When I raised my prices, I still ended up getting the sale. The difference, of course, is that I now make a whole lot more profit. My rate of sale didn’t change but each sale means a lot more, both financially and psychologically. By the way, low sales on sites like SmugMug aren’t unusual. Some of my friends, who have much bigger sites, say the same thing. Unless you are doing event photography, commercially licensing photos are more lucrative than some random sales through the website.
The bottom line is, if you don’t take yourself seriously, who else will? Certainly not a stranger. Don’t give your photos away. Put a price on them and raise your prices as you become more confident. It will help the industry, the professional photographers and it will benefit you. You will value your work more, project more confidence and start to think more like an entrepreneur.
UPDATE: Read my followup post: Paying for my photograph with a hamburger.