Are You Doing It for the Money?

Two months ago I was contacted by an agency who asked me if I was interested to shoot landscapes for them, and in those landscapes, there would be some influencers and luxury watches. They wanted me to shoot beautiful landscapes like they saw on my Instagram and would inspire people to travel.

Great, I thought, it was the first time someone wanted to hire me because of landscapes, of course, I was willing to do that.

The photographer who did their last campaign is quite a well-established world-known photographer, and they didn’t forget to remind me of that on every possible occasion.

The initial plan was ambitious including travelling to foreign countries (nearby foreign, but still abroad), but then the budget was cut and the shoot was to take place within the country.

The initial plan was to shoot throughout the month of September with the final images to be delivered by the end of the month, the reality was that we were shooting Monday to Thursday and the final 16 images were to be retouched and delivered by end of the Thursday.

The last shot was done at sunset on Thursday followed by the trip to the luxury watches office that I only left by midnight. The number of images they selected was 50. The delivery time was Friday end of the day. The luxury watches were to be retouched to the “studio-shot” quality. They were shot in the desert, on the beach and in a mountain village. You can imagine…


When I agreed to do this project, it sounded exciting, inspiring, well-paid and ego-boosting.

By the end of that week, I felt emotionally drained, I didn’t sleep more than 4 hours per night, and I felt like I was trying to sell my soul to a devil with all the requests from 5 people who were around me at all times trying to direct the shoot; I felt like there was no money in the world that would cover the emotional damage that shoot left me with. And they didn’t even put my name next to my images when they printed them and exhibited them in the biggest mall in the world.

So what is the positive takeaway from this experience?

For me, it is to shoot what I don’t care about for the money and spend money on travelling shooting whatever I want, how ever I want.

Don’t sell your art for nothing.

Don’t let other people sell your art for nothing. If people want your art to promote their brand, they better have the means to pay for that. The only exception to that would be giving your art away for charity purposes – if it can save someone’s life, don’t hesitate.

Two days after I sent all the pictures to the client, they called me up and asked if I was willing to give them two more images of mine for free provided they quote “make sure to include me in their next project”.


Absolutely not, you want the pictures, they have their price.

Have a lovely day everyone.

Stay strong and live with passion.



9 thoughts on “Are You Doing It for the Money?

  1. Very well written post. I Feel very much the same about paid jobs… we have all been there when they say, “we don’t pay but we will give you the exposure”.

    Occasionally I will do a free shoot if there is something unique in it for me. Getting your name out there and “getting the exposure” is not part of that.

    Trying to get great outdoor images over the Summer months in our region, (also live in Dubai) is very hard and a client often doesn’t see that challenge.

    Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. At least they were willing to pay you to begin with. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked to use my images, the payment being the infamous “photo credit.” I have both politely, and not so politely, turned them down every time. Quite often telling them that when the bank starts accepting “photo credit” for my mortgage payment, or when I can buy a new camera or lens with “photo credit,” then we can talk about their use of my photographs.

    My art, for lack of a better word has a price.

    What truly amazes me is everyone else involved in the project is being paid yet conveniently there’s no budget for artwork, they expect us to work for free. Sadly there are many hobby photographers out their that fall for this and are more than willing to give away their photos.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have mixed feelings about the particular situation you mention. Part of me is thinking that if they payed me well enough for the project I think “what’s the harm in giving them two more images for free?” The bigger part of me realizes that could lead to a slippery slope, one where there asking for more and more free images with every job.

        One thing that would really bother me about your situation on this particular job is the way you write about it makes it sound like they expected you to provide the free images if you wanted to be considered for future projects with them. Maybe I read that wrong, or read too much into it, but that would have been the deal breaker for me right there.


      2. I can’t describe the whole situation fully online, since who knows I might work with them again, but the fact that it was this kind of relationship to get to the client – me -> my photo agency -> media agency -> pr agency -> client can give you a hint how much I was paid in the end, and how much levels of approvals and requests I needed to go through.
        The fact that I was to deliver 16 images that I needed to SHOOT for them, and in the end I had to give them 32 images extra from my portfolio that was not even priced by me, but by my agency and I only got 30% out of it… out of my own personal photography that I sadly had agreed for other people to decide how much to pay. Again it’s more complicated than that cause I couldn’t just sell my images directly to the client and I was already upset at how low my employer decided to sell my personal work.
        In the end yeah, there would be no harm to give some images to the client for free if you trust them and have a long relationship with them, but these guys they tried to turn me around their finger so many times in this week we had to work together that I just couldn’t help it any more.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That sounds like a mess all the way around. Assuming photography is what keeps the roof over your head makes it even more difficult. For me it’s (not for a lack of trying) not my full time job. The upside is that I’m able to walk away from deals that I don’t feel work for me because I have the income from my day job to pay the bills. It really is kind of sad how the artist is taken advantage of so often and if we really want to stay in the game we have to play by their rules.


    1. Another issue is that online magazines these days simply would take an image from your instagram, embed it in their story – and don’t own you anything! I’m happy I get at least some exposure, but that’s not how it supposed to work….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They can always claim “editorial use” to get out of paying you. That’s assuming you even know that they’re using one of your images without your permission in the first place.

        The pervasive mentality that “if it’s on the internet it must be free,” definitely hurts the artist. I don’t see it changing any time soon either. Add to that the talented amateur, the photographer who only does it as a hobby and enjoys the bit of ego boost when someone offers photo credit for the use of their photos, and those of us who are doing it more professionally have a harder and harder time doing so, and getting a fair price for our efforts.


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