“Hey, you’re coming to our event, why don’t you bring your camera and snap a few photos?”

  • 30 September 2010

I get this all the time, and I thought, for the benefit of those who ask, I’d go into some detail about why I rarely do this, and under what conditions I have and/or might consider doing this in the future.

First, let me separate things into two types of events: Business events and Social events. I’ll further divide Business events into Networking and Corporate, and Social into Public and Private. I’ll define these, for my purposes, in greater detail as I go along.

Let’s start with a Business Networking event. I have, and in some cases will continue, to work some of these events without charge – as long as I’m not paying to be there. It’s a plus, to me, to be able to demonstrate my work and how I work to people who will then either use my services themselves or refer me to others that will. I’m there to market myself, and naturally showing my services is better than telling people about them.

This also includes charity events or similar events, where I have something to gain for my business OR it happens to be a cause I STRONGLY support – like the Humane Society, which I’ve done work for many times. I also do some work for organizations like this at extremely reduced fees if my costs are more than I can absorb. It should not be assumed that I’ll work the events for free, for networking events it’s an investment for which I expect some return, and I can’t afford to donate to every charity – I’d have no time for paid work – so I limit my involvement lest I need to become someone relying on said services myself.

Corporate events are those where there is no significant networking reason for me to be here. It would include a trade expo for most industries, or a company party. Standard rates vary depending on date, day of the week, hours to be worked, use of the photos, need for post-editing, etc. Free dinner is not a factor, you might have paid $60 a plate but I would likely be just as happy – or happier – with $5 of fast food.

Public social events are those I would attend for non-business purposes, like a singles dance or picnic. In some cases I am specifically banned from promoting my business, in other cases I’m simply not promoting my business because it’s not what I consider an appropriate venue. Private social events would be the birthday party of a friend or wedding of a relative, for example. So why not just bring along a camera and take photos?

Let’s ignore the business reasons, those have been discussed ad infinitum on posts like this one: http://rising.blackstar.com/photographers-excuses.html I’m not going to reinvent the wheel and duplicate that post.

But there are also personal reasons. I’m there to enjoy myself, not work. If I bring a camera along, I’m going to fall into work mode. If it’s a singles event, I’m there hoping to meet someone, not spend time taking photos – that’s work, not play for me. I’m not going to be participating as fully as I would, and I’m likely to not be in the photos myself. It’s also a matter of equipment. Yes, I do have a pocketable point-and-shoot camera that has its uses, but it’s nothing I’m going to use if there’s any possibility that others seeing the photos might think they are my professional work. So I’ll more likely be lugging around an outfit that looks like this:

Fido is a sizeable cat...not usually brought to events.

That’s a DSLR with an expensive, fast lens, a dual battery pack, and a pro-level on-camera flash unit with a diffuser. Weighs about 10-12 pounds. Does not fit into my pocket. Cost me considerably more than my point and shoot. I get nervous leaving it with other people or sticking it in my trunk because, just like a mechanic, it’s the toolkit I use to make my living with, and if it gets stolen or damaged it could cost me more than just replacing it. So I usually don’t take it anywhere unless I’m planning on using it the entire time I’m there.

If I show up at a private event with my camera without being paid, it’s a gift that I’ve chosen to give to the person who invited me. So if I don’t bring my camera to yours, don’t be surprised!

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