Photography for Free

I’ve only been in the photo industry for about 6 or 7 years, but it’s really interesting to reflect back on the changes that have happened, even though nothing technologically revolutionary has happened (such as historically significant shift from film to digital).

One thing that is particularly interesting is the effect that market pressures have had on the industry; faster, cheaper, easier. In NYC, one of the fashion and art capitals of the world, I regularly see requests for free/”exposure” photography where the artists already-existing copyrights are offered back to photographer as compensation for the work.  Harlan Ellison has some very well-put thoughts on the subject:

“Pay me.”
“By what right would you call me and ask me to work for nothing?”
“How dare you call me and ask me to work for free?”
“The only value for me is if you put money in my hand.  Cross my palm with silver, you can use my essay.”
“I sell my soul, but at the highest rates.”

I have to believe that some of these requests get some poor photographer to do the work, because they are so pervasive and recurrent and offer such a high value to the person receiving the work for free.

Tell me, friends, have you ever performed a professional service for free?

Note: The rules and realities are different for some charities and benefits. A gig for a friends non-profit charity is completely different than commercial product photography.