The other day I was out for breakfast with a friend, and the topic of contests came up. Both sharing our own version of how we never win anything, and eventually talk got around to a contest at the Whirylbird Factory.
At my place of employment we are having a photo contest. For the best photo of one of our whirlybirds in action. The winner gets a swanky brand new iPad 2, and despite having some photographs I think might be winners I won't enter the contest. Why? The fine print.
“Consent – Photographer retains title to photos submitted – but any and all entries may be used by Whirlybird Factory for publication and/or promotion of Whirlybird business.”
I'm sorry I don't just give away things. Well not like that. Not when someone is going to be using my photographs to make money, and publish them without my consent. Yes, I have had my photos published before without being paid, but that was with my consent.
As someone who is trying to make somewhat of a living at doing what I love sometimes you have to choose between exposure and getting paid. It's not a hard decision for the most part. In the past I've chosen exposure over getting paid, and that has worked to my benefit. It has gotten me jobs that I've been paid for. Crazy, right?
A designer friend of mine once told me that you shouldn't work for free. It's always stuck in the back of my head whenever I work on anything these days.
I personally don't mind doing some stuff for free. You don't start off getting paid. A prime example of a mutually beneficial “free thing” was when I did some promotional photographs for my friend singer/songwriters Jason Walsh. He needed some promo shots, and I needed to expand my portfolio. Plus sometimes working with friends is fun. You can check out the my photos here and buy his EP here.
When it comes to giving away what I've worked hard on I get a little leery. Especially when I know what it's going to be used for. It isn't just going to go in the company newsletter some month down the road. It's going to be used in a marketing campaign that could bring in more money then I could count, but that's not the point.
The point is that too often companies think that this is an okay thing to do. To many people aren't aware of the inherent value in something they create, and are too willing to give up something for a nifty gadget or a crisp fifty dollar bill. This is the artists struggle in a sense I guess. Deciding if you want to sell out or holding onto your art and possibly not seeing any eventual rewards.
Maybe I'm cynical from having my own work stolen often, and used without credit on blogs, websites, and newspapers. Or maybe I'm looking at this the way I should have years ago.
Personally I don't blame companies for doing stuff like this, and honestly I think they don't even know that they are doing it. I think it is part of a corporate mentality that is all too common these days. That they have an inherent right to your art, time, and work.
We live in the age of living and breathing for your company, but what we should really be doing is living and breathing for ourselves.