Photos belong on your real wall – Not Just Facebook

How often do you buy the professional photos from a dance event? If you’re like most people, you probably answered “never” or “rarely” – but I’m here to tell you why you should.

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Jessica Keener took 5000 photos at Lindy Focus XII, but she’ll be lucky if she makes enough money selling photos from the event to cover her plane ticket.

You might have been at Lindy Focus XII a week and a half ago – you’ll know it’s easily one of the biggest, best, most badass, and most well-attended Lindy Hop events in the world. And as a big, badass event, Lindy Focus brings in some of the best photographers around. What you might not know, though, is that the photographers don’t generally get paid for the events they work (Lindy Focus is, of course, one of the best to work with) – and, when they do get paid, it’s usually only a small amount to cover the cost of food.

While you might think that photographers make bank at a dance event, Jessica explains that event photographers tend to make their money elsewhere:

My compensation is getting into the event for free, and getting housed. I rarely have time to dance or enjoy myself though. Weddings are my main source of income and the rest of my income is made from portraits and the occasional corporate event. Lindy hop events make up 0% of my income.

Don’t get me wrong – Jessica will be the first to tell you how much she loves working for Lindy Focus, and that the organizers always make sure the photographers are taken care of – she loves coming back each year. But considering how much time photographers invest into the photos they produce after events, their dedication is pretty astounding.

Every time I saw Jessica at Lindy Focus, she was working. During the event, Jessica worked from about 1PM to as late as 4AM. During classes and the dance, she was constantly taking pictures; on her lunch break, she was backing up photos and choosing highlights for the slide show; in every free moment, she was touching up photos so that she could post a few online as the event was even happening. Since the event ended a little over a week ago, she’s been sifting through, editing, and posting the photos from the event – and all with little to no expected return from dancers.

It would be nice for people to order photos, but very few people actually do. Almost everyone just wants a profile photo for Facebook.

At a big event like Lindy Focus, she’s lucky if she sells 20 prints, and maybe 20 more hi-res digital photos (which include the copyright!). “I never sell enough to cover my flight or other expenses.”

Even more frustrating: in all five days of Lindy Focus, Jessica estimates that she danced fewer than 15 times. All things considered, I’m amazed that Jessica ever chooses to take photos at an event. There are plenty of cost-effective ways to attend events and still dance. But Jessica is more selfless than I:

I photograph lindy hop events just to be nice so that people can have quality photos of themselves dancing.

All these Facebook profile pictures – just out of the kindness of her heart. The more I spoke with Jessica, the more embarrassed I felt that I have never bought a photo from a dance event.

You may argue that photographers got into the event for free. Or maybe you justify your profile picture by crediting the photographer (which you should always do, regardless) – it’s good advertising for them and the event, right? Or, you might argue that the photographers never get a good photo of you – you’re always making some bored face in the background of some other dancer’s awesome photo. In case you’re interested, Jessica offers the following advice to combat a lack of pictures:

We take photos around the dance floor where the lighting is best. Always. Dance close to where you see the photographers roaming. If you hang out in the middle of the dance floor, or somewhere dark, it’s nearly impossible to get a good shot of you dancing. I also like to hang out where the band is because people seem to be feeling the music the most there, I know I am!

Also, I am drawn to people who are doing dynamic movements with their body, are enthralled with their partner, and look like they are enjoying their dance. If you are smiling a lot, there is a good chance I will take your photo. If you have concentration/constipation face, the chances are slim.

Regardless of how many awesome photos show up on Facebook after an event, it’s important to realize that event photographers are losing time and money by volunteering to photograph dance events. Their time dancing is severely limited by the camera in their hands, so they don’t even get to enjoy the event like we do. And we take it all for granted.

So what can we do about this as dancers? Well, I asked Jessica. Her suggestions are as follows:

  • Credit the photographer who took your photo when you’re using it online. (Jessica says: “I self-high five every time I see one [on Facebook]!”). Skip to the end for Photo credit guidelines!
  • Buy prints and/or hi-res files Jessica, for example, starts the pricing for prints at $5. Hi-res digital photos are $15 each, unless you’re buying 5 or more – then they’re just $10 (a serious bargain).
  • Hire the photographer for a portrait session or promo shoot during the event. Jessica even has discounted rates for sessions at dance events!
  • Send the photographer a thank-you message for their hard work and effort

That’s a pretty simple list. And 50% of those suggestions are free.

As event organizers, we can even do a little more. Consider setting aside a little extra money for photographers. Maybe we can’t fly them in, but we could certainly cut into the cost of food and travel expenses. We wouldn’t consider asking teachers to teach “for the publicity,” and we’d never ask a band to play “because of their love for jazz music.” Photographers are professionals, too.

And one final suggestion: look at your Facebook profile pictures: are they awesome?  Consider donating $5-10 through PayPal as a thank-you! While photographers don’t actually ask for this (this is entirely my late-night hair-brained scheme), you could look for it as one of those “Pay what you can” scenarios, like for Cards Against Humanity or Nirvana. It wouldn’t take much to say “Thank you for making everyone else jealous of my awesome dance profile picture!”

A few final words from Jess:

Of all of the photography I do, dance photography is easily the most challenging. Please show us your appreciation for volunteering an extensive amount of our time to document your experience in the best way we can. We are all professional photographers (at Focus) and we share our passion and talent with you for free.

And one last thing – people can ask us to dance even when we are holding our camera! If we really can’t dance, we will tell you, but often we can for a song here and there. Just ask.

Personally, I plan to start a Dance Event Keepsake – I’ll buy 1-2 photos (at minimum) from every event. As I find the opportunity (and money), I’ll go back and buy the photos from previous events, too. Eventually, I’ll have one of the best dance event souvenirs a person could ask for, because let’s be honest – photos belong in a physical space on our walls or in an album.

Whatever the reason, the photos you buy will make a lifelong memory. Frame then, hang them up, and show your children what a badass you were at Lindy Focus XII.

***

Jessica Keener Photography

Like her on Facebook! Buy prints on SmugMug. Email Jess for Hi-Res files: Jessica@jessicakeenerphotography.com. And if you loved the photos Jessica took at LF but you don’t have a lot of money, consider donating a small amount to her PayPal here: Jessicahkeener@gmail.com – note that there’s an “h” for her middle name, and don’t send it to the wrong person!

Hillary Mercer Photography

Like her on Facebook! To buy a print or hi-res digital file, go to SmugMug. If you loved the photos Hilary took at Lindy Focus, and maybe you’re using one as a profile picture, consider donating a small amount to her PayPal email: mercer.hilary@gmail.com.

Bobby Bonsey Photography

Like him on Facebook! To purchase a photo, contact Bobby through Facebook. His paypal is bbonsey@mac.com, if you would like to make a small donation as a thank-you for his awesome photos. His website is currently down, but it will hopefully be back up soon; this post will be updated when the appropriate links work!

Bobby also had a few wise words to share – read more here:

Lindy hop is not a huge industry bent on making money. Instead we put our efforts and energy into what the essence of the dance is: PURE JOY. […] They spend their time photographing you instead of dancing with you. Then they spend a week editing photos in a dark dark cave.

The beautiful side is we do it for joy and the preservation of this historical dance. Imagine 10-50 years from now (or 100!). People will look back at these well documented events and go “HOLY SMOKES! Look how much fun these people are having!” or something like that.

Why else should you pay for your photos? Because it’s a legal way to obtain creative property of yourself. People seem to be oblivious to the fact the photographers own the rights to their photos. It seems we live in an era where we assume that we own a photo if we’re in it. My short message on this to folks is please spend a little money on a nice photo of yourself and if you are broke like us photographers then just be thankful by crediting us, and you could even make us smile by sending a thanks. Thank you!

***

This piece was written without any prompting or incentive from Lindy Focus or any of the Lindy Focus photographers. I just think it’s important to support people who make their living by making me look awesome at dancing. I did not receive any free photos in exchange for writing this piece.

***

Event photographers are often happy to let you use their photos for Facebook profile and cover photos, free of charge – but make sure to credit the photographer! Jessica shares her suggestions, from best to worst:

  1. In the photo description: “Photo by the fantastically talented @Jessica Keener Photography! Boy is she the best. THE BEST.” (Make sure the link connects to her page!)
  2. In the comments: “Photo by: @Jessica Keener Photography”
  3. Anywhere: Jessica Keener Photography (without an actual link to the photographers business page)
  4. “Jess Keener took this”
  5. Crop out the photographer’s watermark, and also don’t credit them in the description or comments section.

And remember: people who do #5 are assholes.

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  One thought on “Photos belong on your real wall – Not Just Facebook

  1. J G
    12 January 2014 at 5:31 am

    I guess I find it odd that one has an obligation to buy photos, or donate money to photographers, merely because photographers show up and take pictures of dancers. If you use those photographs (even if just on facebook), of course, you have to respect the photographers’ rights in those images, and that generally means using them only in the way that they explicitly permit you to use them. And some people might want to support the photographers, as you said, because they’re recording the event for posterity. But I don’t think we’re obligated to help out the photographers just because they’re there, even if they sacrifice a lot to be there.

    I actually wonder if the amount of photography is a distraction. Not that the photographers get in the way of dancers – I used to see this quite often but haven’t seen much of this in the past few years. But sometimes I get the impression that, for many people, being photographed at LF with other beautiful people is more important than actually dancing at LF or taking lessons at LF. People are free to like whatever they like, of course, but it seems odd to me.

    It’s also very odd to go to an event like LF, and on returning, see lots of photographs of “beautiful people” and none of myself. It’s like my very existence there is being denied. Forgive me if I don’t want to try to be one of the “beautiful people”. I’ve tried it in the past, and couldn’t stand it. I’d rather just dance and/or listen to the music, as I enjoy both of those quite a lot.

    • 12 January 2014 at 6:10 am

      Thanks for the response! I don’t think any person should feel obligated to purchase photos, as long as that person has no intention to use them for personal gain – which can be a bit difficult to monitor, since Facebook makes it so easy to tag, share, and enjoy pictures at no cost.

      I think a lot of people take for granted all the photographs that emerge from dance events – and I think a lot of people are a little fuzzy on what the photographer’s rights are in those images, which can easily lead to abuse of those photos. It’s important to recognize that when we use a photo without paying anything for that photo, we are doing a disservice to our photographers.

      I think that it’d be interesting to examine the pros and cons of photography at dance events, both from a dancer, organizer, and photographer perspective. I know a lot of people who love it, but there are a lot of challenges associated.

    • 13 January 2014 at 3:56 am

      J G,
      I try to photograph a wide mix of instructors and attendees at events. Everyone is a beautiful person if they are photographed by the right photographer. My goal with the Faces of Lindy Focus project this year was to photograph as many people as I could that wouldn’t normally make it into LF photos and document them in a beautiful way. With 1000+ attendees it is very hard to document everyone. As stated in the article, I suggest ways that you can be more likely to get photographed. That being said, you are of course not obligated to have your photograph taken and are welcome to focus on just having a good time at any event.

      Jess

  2. Anonymous
    12 January 2014 at 8:05 am

    the images I’ve seen from the various Lindy events are professional images…these photographers are artists who sacrifice their time and energies and financial resources to document thousands of images of happy dancers…if folks post their images on
    FB or on any other media, the photographers get credit…but who pays their time? It is only right to pay for images that they have captured and you post….support the artists who dedicate their time to capture your image…support the arts that ultimately support what you love to do…dance!

  3. 12 January 2014 at 8:25 am

    Lots of people volunteer to do helpful things from candystriping to firefighting to cleaning up trash at dance events. If I found that any of them were having to lose money in their charitable act — especially if that act benefited me or people I care for — I would certainly want to try to help them out. These photographers help attendees cherish their memories, and maybe even show them something amazing about their own experiences the attendees didn’t realize happened!

    I’ve made use of Bobby’s photo of me in the past, but I don’t think I was in any photos this year. HOWEVER, many of my friends were in all of their photos. Nobody’s asked me to donate and I don’t have direct benefit from the pics taken, but I still plan to. Because if these great photographers keep losing money, maybe they’ll stop doing this charitable act that I like so much.

    Great write-up, Cari!

    P.S. no paypal address for Bobby?

    • 12 January 2014 at 8:44 am

      Good points, Paul – what would happen if they stopped taking pictures at dance events? That would certainly be a sad, sad day. You are a generous person to donate to them regardless of no photos – at least there’s a video of you and I to commemorate our Lindy Focus hang out time! 😉

      Bobby’s PayPal address is bbonsey@mac.com – I got it a little late in the game. I’ve updated the post now!

      • 12 January 2014 at 9:03 am

        Ah, excellent. Three for three!

    • 13 January 2014 at 3:51 am

      Thank you again for your donation!!

  4. agm
    12 January 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Cari,

    I have to disagree with your argument. Right from the start, you did not restrict the scope to people who use or abuse a photographer’s photos, you aimed the post at all dancers attending an event where someone is taking pictures:

    “How often do you buy the professional photos from a dance event? If you’re like most people, you probably answered “never” or “rarely” – but I’m here to tell you why you should.”

    Your argument boils down to two parts:
    1. “Someone did something and should get money for it.”
    2. “You should give these people money, whether or not you asked them to do that.”

    An economic transaction, i.e., the exchanging money for goods or services, requires two participants to agree to the transaction ahead of time. As an event attendee, I have forked over cash for a pass, any swag I wanted, possibly hotel, definitely gas or airfare – all things I asked for and consented to pay for *in advance*. What your post is doing is attempting to guilt-trip people into giving someone money for something they chose to do on their own (or contracted with *the event organizers* to do in your example of reduced/waived admission costs).

    If you walk around an event taking photos, and I did not explicitly ask you to take the photos, I owe you nothing. Even if I benefit directly from the hard work of someone taking photos at an event I attend, no obligation to fork over cash is not created by me potentially benefitting from a photographer’s work. Something that must be arranged explicitly and ahead of time. Attempting to violate this rule is why it’s so obnoxious to have someone walk up to you at a light, start cleaning the windshield, and then demand money – I never asked for it, I don’t owe the person squat. They chose to do the photography, I did not ask them for it. Tipping the band is an act of respect and gratitude, not an economic transaction – they were hired by the house, not by me.

    Moreover, as the person being photographed, why am I not being asked for consent in the use of my image? As with facebook, I am not the customer, I am the product. Enough people are not happy with that arrangement that DFX is using a purple wristband to indicate that a person has explicitly disallowed any photos of them to be taken. Not counting Chik-fil-A advertising, it’s not often that the cow can dispute being turned into a hamburger. One should not try to guilt-trip the cow into jumping into the meat grinder.

    • 13 January 2014 at 2:15 am

      Agm,

      It is true that I did not clarify that this post is directed at those who abuse photographers work – but I also never specifically spoke to those who don’t want, need, or benefit from the photos. I never once say that “you should buy a photo regardless of whether or not you like it.” In fact, the only people I speak about specifically are those who use the photos as profile pictures or cover photos on Facebook – a use which inherently implies the user likes the photo.

      As you point out, an economic transaction requires two participants: but what happens when one participant uses the photo, but the photographer does not get paid for that transaction? In the case of events, the only person who has any legal right to use the photos is the event organizer, who arranged that transaction; the photographer’s pay in that case is not something I’m arguing for or against. This post addresses what comes after – when those photos are available for purchase, yet few people ever do.

      You compare this article to a window washer who demands money, but that’s as inaccurate a comparison as you could have imagined. The photographers are not sending you a message saying, “You tagged yourself in that photo, so you totally owe me money.” I am arguing this article as someone who benefits from the photos – at no point did a photographer email me and ask me to post this in an attempt to solicit money from Lindy Focus attendees, so your comparison is inaccurate at best.

      As you point out, tipping the band is an action of gratitude and respect; in this article, I am pointing out that we often benefit from photographer’s work (like we benefit from a band playing), yet we often fail to express our gratitude or respect – whether verbally or financially.

      You say I argue two things, but you aren’t actually summarizing the article at all. This is a more accurate representation of the article:

      1) Photographers volunteer a good amount of their time and experience at events
      2) They generally don’t expect any return on this time and experience, but rather choose to continue photographing because they are kind, generous, and awesome
      3) We often benefit from photographers’ generosity without thought to the photographer’s work
      4) If you benefited from that work, suggested that you buy the photos, and I encourage you to buy a photo you love. You are in no way obligated to pay for a photo.

      And before you argue that I should have clarified that you have no obligation, please refer to the following definition:

      “Suggest (verb): put forward for consideration.”

      And in case that’s not clear enough:

      “Consider (verb): think carefully about (something), typically before making a decision”

    • 13 January 2014 at 3:50 am

      Cari is not just saying you should buy photos. She is also pointing out that it is nice to thank the photographers and credit them when using their photos online. I find it disrespectful when people crop out my watermark AND don’t tell anyone that I as a professional took their photo, especially when we are providing them for free.

      After Lindy Focus this year there were endless complaints about the photography and photographers not having photos up the very next day after the event and people complaining about their experience waiting in the photo booth line etc. The point is that we volunteer basically all of our time for events as well as the weeks following so that people can have their experience beautifully and professionally documented and it is nice to show your appreciation whether that is through money or kind words.

      What it comes down to is that photographers should be paid by the events, but it is nice when attendees are willing to show they are thankful.

  5. 12 January 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Having been a dance photographer in my past life I have to say thank you for speaking up. But having spent my time traveling and shooting and editing for years I have to say it is a thankless job, but that is not why we choose to photograph Lindy Hop.
    When I look back at my images from places like Harrang, Lindy shock, sweet swing, London Lindy exchange, and studio hop summer camp I remember the overall feeling we all enjoyed. Photography and video allow us to remember these feelings.
    I’m thankful to so many great dancers who afforded me the luxury of being able to travel and document Lindy Hop for as long as I did. That being said I think it should not be the job of the photographer to hustle their wares to everyone and scrape pennies just to afford to make it to an event that gives them FREE entry. How many of these great dance instructors would come to an event where they only made money doing private lessons??… The events I attended where the event promoters paid me, covered my travel or at least did the selling of my photos for me made the greatest difference.
    But to pay for a photographer or three to attend your event is not at the top of the budget list for events, especially when in the digital world so many people have the ability to get a lucky shot even if it’s with a small point n shoot or an iPhone, and post them without asking for anything. So the event promoters need to recognise the value of these individuals and create the funds to hire them.
    Photographers take my advice and follow in my foot steps. Find another way to afford this life of traveling and shooting dance. Publish a book! Sell large framed prints or do promotional shoots.
    Having moved on to the next chapter in my life I love seeing so many great dance photographers emerging. Keep it up, like Bobby said we are documenting history.

  6. 13 January 2014 at 1:12 am

    Businesses that expect photographers to promote them for nothing, not even paying their air fares simply show how little they value the huge amount of time, effort and cost that hard working photographers such as say Jess and Bobby put in to doing their job. Lindy Focus has had a huge amount of publicity on the interwebs over the last week or so via the photographers involved. They should be rewarded for that.

    I find it rather annoying that some jobs are simply deemed not worth paying for, particularly when things like photography or film making is such a costly and time consuming exercise. Yet other people who may be involved and working way fewer hours are getting paid and the organisers are making money. I should say that there’s nothing wrong with event organisers making money for all their hard work, but exploiting others to do so is really not cool.
    But sadly asking creative folks to work for free seems to be the default approach these days. And until plumbers, supermarkets or banks accept mortgage payment with photo credits, don’t insult us by offering to give us a credit. It’s simply rude and ignorant.

    Usually if volunteering, you get something for your efforts in return. So in the case of a dance event if you work so many hours you get free entry/classes and the time to take advantage of that reward. Those documenting an event rarely even get time to get any sleep, let alone participate, not to mention the days/weeks of work after the event has finished.
    There’s a Facebook page called ‘stop working for free’ which discusses this sort of exploitation and talks about how this is destroying future work prospects.

    /jez

    • 13 January 2014 at 3:07 am

      Imajez,

      Thank you for your response! I would like to address the fact that while this article mentions that photographers often get paid very little for their work at events, it is not the focus of this post.

      What I do know, though, is that Lindy Focus treats their photographers better than any dance event I know of; other events should be following its lead. I cannot speak for the Lindy Focus organizers, but as someone who has been on the Lindy Focus staff, I know first hand that the organizers truly value each and every person who volunteers their time and effort for the event. I can’t speak for the photographers, but I would say they feel far from “exploited.”

      This post is specifically intended to encourage those who benefit from the photos on Facebook to show their appreciation – whether verbally, financially, or both. A post addressing how photographers should be compensated by events is an entirely different beast, and it is not something I am equipped to fully address at this time.

      If I have an opportunity to do a follow-up post addressing how photographers are compensated by events, I will make sure to take these points you bring up. Thank you for reading and taking the time to respond!

      • 14 January 2014 at 6:54 am

        Cari, just because someone doesn’t feel they are being exploited, doesn’t mean that is not the case. The best way to exploit someone is to not let the realise it is happening.
        Now if Lindy Focus treats photographers really well, how come they have to pay their own way. And what do the bad ones do, ask for a kidney! 😉
        I should mention that I’ve run National Sport’s events as well as being involved in dance organising, so am aware of the time, effort and cost of putting on a big event.
        I’ve also been burned by people who want the Earth and if you have the temerity to ask for something in return [not necessarily money] for a lot of hard work, time and costs, you often find they rapidly lose interest. This sucks away any joy of doing it.

        Sadly, some teachers will also help themselves to photographs without asking permission or crediting, then use them to publicise themselves in their own money making ventures. Not sure what sort of response a photographer would get in they asked for some private lessons to the equivalent of their work prices. The thing is they probably do not think they are even doing anything wrong, as photographs are rarely valued anymore. Which this article illuminates quite nicely.

        Anyway here’s a photo of Bobby in front of the camera! 🙂
        http://imajez.com/#id=album-14&num=content-1980
        [Direct link may not work with phones/tablets, but the photo is first shot in the people folio and unsurprisingly he’s also in the dance section.]

  7. 13 January 2014 at 5:38 am

    A few comments here.

    We should all stop talking about “all other events i know of” because we don’t know how 99% of other events are. Have you seen danceCal and SwingPlanIt? There are hundreds of events every year! We cannot generalize from our experiences, there’s just too much out there.

    As an organizer who either pays his Photographers, I always offer what I can, or foregoes hired photography, I’m quite put off by the attitude in the article and the comments. Organizer’s don’t really make money. If you want to talk about voluntary donations for voluntary work, consider donating a buck to the organizers.

    I wish I could put in only 3-5 weeks of effort for an event. I am not able to participate in the event, I don’t really get paid, I work my ass off during the event (Sleep? ha! cat naps if I’m having a good weekend), I have a complete year of prep, I have a full month or two of follow up and yet I still have all the responsibility for and liability of the event as bedding for all the things mentioned before. (Tens of thousands of dollars in outlays, legal ramifications, safety concerns, tax issues, etc.) Talk about a thankless, unpaid, and risky job.

    So, when you talk about photographers not getting credit for their work… I truly get it. I don’t hire talent I can’t pay. They are professionals and they deserve to be paid professional wages for the work they’re hired to do.

    It’s not about the money. But it is. Or we wouldn’t be here.

    —–

    I view it a little different, and I don’t know what types of photographers you’re referring to in the above piece, hired (which includes sanctioned volunteers acting as photographers) or voluntary (unsanctioned by the event).

    My view is that I’ve hired a photographer to capture my event. Other photographers then crash my hired Photog’s gig. These folks release their photos to FB and diminish the value of my hired Photog. My hired Photog got paid, his photos get released with full credit, purchased copyright, and they’re in association with the event they worked. I’m not especially sympathetic to those who were crashing the gig. (Imagine if this happened at a wedding!)

    Leaving the photography of an event to the event’s hired photographer(s) might be one important part of the solution photographers should consider. Photographers should, in turn, include all the parts of their job. Bobby White did a great piece for instructors called, “Implied in the contract”. Photographers should give it a read and apply it accordingly.

    (Side Bar: Yes, events can have photography/videography rules — and many used to — but they’re ultimately nearly unenforceable and it behooves events today to have as much photo and video material out there as possible, professional or not.)

    ~ Shawn

    • 13 January 2014 at 6:20 am

      Shawn – I think you have a great attitude on how to treat photographers. I also think you speak wisely about encouraging photogs to look at Bobby’s post “Implied in the Contract.”

      I will say, though, that I am speaking from the experience of having many photog friends. They love working events, but there is a harsh reality that they work most events at a loss. Organizers with your attitude tend to be rare – though, considering the tight budget most events run on, it’s not surprising!

      Like I said in a comment above, it is not my goal here to address the relationship between photographers and event organizers. If that had been my intention, it would have been a longer post, and I would have sought both sides of that story. It is definitely a subject worth looking at, though I am not sure I’m the best to do so.

      I also know firsthand that event organizers don’t generally make money off the events they run. I am well aware that events run on a right budget, and you can’t always pay what you’d like. There are some events that I know which try their best, and there are others I know which could try harder. I respect you for making the effort to treat your photographers well, and I’m sorry if I said something to offend you in that regard.

      I’m intrigued by the point you bring up of photographers who “crash” an event where they are not officially hired. As someone who is usually an attendee, I’ve never been bothered – but I’m curious how professional photographers and outer event organizers feel. I certainly don’t believe those photographers should be compensated by the event (unless the event would like to purchase the rights to a photo or two afterwards); I’m not sure about the attendees.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Shawn!

  8. 14 January 2014 at 3:13 am

    I’ve been the official photographer for a few blues events over the past few years. Yes, I would love to see more photographers hired for events, but I don’t blame the organizers. With so many photographers willing to volunteer their time and talent, it can be hard to justify spending money on this service.

    I’ve recently make my own policy on shooting dance events: all travel must be covered, and a small stipend per dance. I didn’t make this policy out of anger toward anyone; I made it to respect my own time and boundaries. I’m perfectly aware that this will probably be the end of shooting these events, but that’s fine by me. Dancers are not my target market, and I never got any jobs as a result of the events I photographed.

  9. 14 January 2014 at 1:10 pm

    I am primarily a Balboa dancer, so I bring my camera with me to the national Bal events. I usually shoot when I need a break, or during comps, as a hobby. At some events, I find that I’m the only photographer so I get asked to take photos and I just at the opportunity. I always found indoor photography to be a challenge, and improving my technique and equipment has been a primary focus to becoming a better hobby photographer. That means I’m mirroring what the pro photographers are doing, or buying the same stuff they are using, in order to get the same quality shots. Over the years, I’ve learned a whole lot and the best thanks I can get is seeing one of my shots end up on someone’s Facebook profile.

    However, after reading this article, I feel that I’m actually causing problems for the pros who do attend the events I’ve been shooting. I get no compensation, nor do I want any, for the photography I perform at dance events. I spend at least twice the amount of time away from the event post-processing thousands of photos and uploading to my FB group. If there are photos I particularly like, I may enhance them as well. But, I never watermark anything. In addition, I quickly provide full-res images to those that want them at no cost. I don’t want compensation because this is a hobby, a labor of love, if you will. But, after reading this article, I feel that I’m clearly conflicting with the pros, if not putting a sour taste in their mouths. What advice would you give a hobby photographer in my shoes?

    Thanks – Pat Freeman, McFreebird Photography on FB.

    • 14 January 2014 at 9:39 pm

      Hi Pat,
      I appreciate your concern. if you aren’t hired for the event, I really don’t feel like we can have any say on your actions, or what you do with your own photos. The only thing I recommend is that when you are photographing an event (for fun), if there are hired professionals there shooting too, just be aware of where they are shooting and respect their space. With so many prosumers out there now, it is getting harder and harder to get the shots I need for events because people are blocking my view with their camera, or standing where we need to be to get “the” shot for an event.

      As far as payment, I can’t think of any industries where hobbyists charge for their work like a professional would, so I don’t see this case as any different.

      Congrats on people using your photos for things!

    • 14 January 2014 at 10:36 pm

      I’d also like to add, that if an instructor uses your photo for self promotion, I think that is a point where you should charge something.

    • 14 January 2014 at 10:56 pm

      “I always found indoor photography to be a challenge, and improving my technique and equipment has been a primary focus to becoming a better hobby photographer. That means I’m mirroring what the pro photographers are doing, or buying the same stuff they are using, in order to get the same quality shots.”

      Some of the most popular shots in my print portfolio were taken on a early digital 2.1MP point and shoot. Some shots from that crappy camera, I prefer to the images shot at same time on film.
      Don’t get too hung up on techy stuff, some of the greatest photos were/are ‘bad’ quality. By all means learn the technical aspects but it’s the content that really matters. Not saying equipment doesn’t matter, the right tool always helps, but more importantly knowing which tool to use is key.

      Pat, as for your concerns re conflict with pros, yes anybody doing any kind of work for free in areas where people try and make a living will have an effect. The main problem areas are when some jobs are ones people like to do for a hobby.
      Photography being a prime example. Currently photography is being completely devalued in two ways, people mistakenly think it’s dead easy and everyone has a camera. Add to this the fact that there is an unending supply of people willing to do things for nothing/be exploited and it completely undermines the business. Doing a freebie to get a foot in used to be effective 10 or so years back as there was a limited no. of photographers. Now potential employers know they can keep asking new people to work unpaid as long as they want. Shortsighted in the long term, but very fews people ever consider that.
      I’m not saying you shouldn’t take photos at events or anything like that BTW, but don’t get in the way of those who are working the event. Excessive flash usage particularly during performances also spoils things for everyone But also do not undervalue your own work and time by giving your work away.
      The main difference between a hobby photographer and a pro and one that is usually completely overlooked, is that it don’t matter if you do not get a good shot/series of images if doing it for fun, whereas the pro has to get the shot every time.

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