David Hobby, a.k.a. The Strobist, posted a timely article on his blog about Four Reasons to Consider Working for Free, and it is resonating through the photography community. He links to opinions from other notable photographers whose opinions vary from cautioning against the idea to strongly supporting the idea. The post resonates with me, too, so I thought I would note my opinion on it.
As a strong proponent of the Open Source software arena, I understand and endorse the idea of removing cost barriers to foster healthy and collaborative communities. If a free software product can do the same job as a commercial product, and do it just as well or better, then the main consideration of which to choose is based on how much you’re willing to pay to have someone to blame when things go wrong. Usually, there are means of getting satisfaction with an Open Source software product which require more involvement than just pointing fingers and expecting change, but proponents such as I usually feel this is part of building a healthy community. Now as the Open Source community matures, valid business models are emerging where companies license their product for free *AND* have commercial products and services – a big win for all, at least in the world of software.
David’s example of shooting (with a camera!) animals for the local animal shelter really makes a good example. Maybe it’s a Zen thing, call it Karma or good will, but this can really be a good type of project to put energy into, especially for the photographer who is not a top-dollar superstar. For the pro, I like Chase Jarvis’s idea of choosing one “cool” project to do for free – he gets to do a project that he wants to do, rather than being told what to do by the folks with the checkbook. Vincent Laforet’s perspective is good as well. Yes, this “free” thing can be a loaded topic at times and can be troublesome if handled poorly. I fall somewhere in-between David’s animal shelter idea, Chase’s “one cool project” idea, and Vincent’s caution for pro photographers.
Given that I’m a rank amateur who takes at least his fair share of crappy photos, I’d like to announce that I would do up to TWO (2) free projects between now and the end of 2009 – any subject, any place. My travel would have to be paid if travel is needed, but I would expect no other compensation. The subject could be anything – event coverage, animal shelter photos, calendar shots, product/brand shots, even senior portraits and wedding photos. You would be licensed to use the final image(s) however you wish, and I would be indemnified from liability if the project doesn’t work out.
I’m not a pro, in fact far from it, so my choice to do two projects reflects the fact that I still have a day job (so far!) which makes up a majority of my time, yet I would like to work on some real projects to grow as a photographer and build up a portfolio of work that I can be proud of. So, send your best ideas to kevwil at gmail dot com and I will pick two.