Cost of DSLR camera and accessories: Rs. 1.5 lacs.
Cost of travel: Rs 10,000/- per month.
Cost of imaging software: Rs. 1700/- per month.
Cost of home PC: Rs. 50,000/-
Costs of labor, photographic expertise, injuries, and the like: Can’t be counted.
Remuneration received per photo: NIL.
Professional photographers and freelance writers in India are the most exploited people in the land. We get looted, scammed, intimidated by security personnel and cops, chased and bitten by dogs, hounded, beaten, and generally treated like concentrated crap.
To some extent, we are ourselves to blame. Here are some of the scams that photographers keep falling for:
1) The Happy Couple Scam: Best friend or relative is getting married. You are expected to shoot hundreds of photos, edit them overnight and deliver high quality prints to the happy couple – in exchange for a meal at the wedding. How can you ask for money? He’s your best friend, after all. And you have to buy him an expensive wedding present as well.
No matter how nice and loving your relatives and dearest friends claim to be, this is a scam. If they can spend a ton of money on the wedding hall, the priests, the caterers, jewellery, Kanchivaram silk sarees, and everything else, why can’t they spend a few thousand rupees on the photographer?
Flatly refuse. If these people are really your family and friends, they ought to help you in your business, instead of screwing it up.
2) The Anthology scam: You receive an email congratulating you on being selected for an anthology curated by a famous photographer. All you need to do is to submit your best photos for selection. If you are lucky enough to be selected (and you will), you will be asked to pay a “nominal” fee for the privilege of being published. And you are told to buy the published anthology, at a “special” price, if you want to show off your work.
In other words, the publisher not only gets free photos, he also gets the photographers to pay his publication costs. In exchange, you get “exposure”.
There are moronic photographers who fall for this vicious scam.
3) The Cleavage Scam: This happened to me recently. Hot young thing wearing a plunging neckline (and tight jeans) comes up to me at a dog show, bats her eyelids, and tells me that for a small fee, they will permit me to shoot photos of their dogs. They will then print these photos (at my expense), and then display said photos at their exhibition. Those photos will be sold and the entire proceeds will be donated to their dog charity. Everything goes to the dogs. Not a penny to me. All I get is a glimpse of cleavage and a dazzling smile. “Empowerment of Indian women”, you see.
Men will be men. Especially single, middle-aged farts like myself. I almost fell for it. Many male photographers at that dog show did. I didn’t. But almost did.
This is one of the most common scams in Bangalore. There are different variants, but the basic idea is the same. Seduce, entice, deceive, get free photographs from you. And in exchange, you get a mind-job.
4) The Noble Cause Scam: A subtle variant of the above. If you really want to donate free photographs to some cause or the other, that’s your funeral. But use some discretion and common sense. Yes, there are some genuine NGO’s that do good work. These are few and far in between. Do some digging before you give away your work to them.
Remember, once you become known as a “noble” photographer, NGO’s will flock to you for free photographs. And thanks to them, you will get “exposure” – as a free photographer. “Exposure” won’t pay your bills. Nor will Facebook likes.
5) Where-no-man-has-gone-before Scam: This is my favorite. I have to admire the people that can pull off a smooth scam like this.
Renowned scientist and his students undertake a scientific expedition to an exotic location.
You are cordially invited to volunteer for this expedition, as a research assistant. For this exceptional privilege, you have to pay your way through. Not just yourself. But pay for the scientists as well. There will be other volunteers like yourself, who will also have to pay for the entire expedition.
The minimum amount each volunteer will have to pay is Rs. 2 lacs, for a week’s expedition. And this does not include air fare and travel. That you pay on your own. You will work 14 hours a day in hostile conditions. Sleep on the ground. Crap in the open. You don’t get to choose your food. You are a vegetarian who can’t eat the half-cooked meat they serve, too bad.
If you think you can shoot photographs at will, you’re wrong. They will tell you what to shoot. If you think you can sell your photos, you’re mad.
Your photos will be used for research, not for your crass purposes, you greedy thug. But don’t worry, your name will be mentioned – as a footnote somewhere.
Mind you, this scam is quite legit. It is legit, because they will actually tell you all this well in advance. The beauty of this scam is, you will still fall for it.
Poorer by Rs. 2 lacs, you get back home with gastroentiritis, mites, bites, welts and perhaps dengue fever. You pat yourself on the back for your selfless contribution to Science. While the scientist you sponsored gets research publications, awards, press conferences, and other academic honors, at your expense.
What’s scary is how successful this particular scam is.
6) The Contest Scam: Most photo contests are scams. Except for a select few that are run by reputed brands, the rest are scams. They will steal your work, period.
Don’t ever believe that your business will dramatically improve by winning a contest or two. And don’t ever believe that your customers will be impressed by a long list of “awards” that you may have won. Unless it’s a NatGeo contest or some such, don’t waste your resources on any photo contests. I speak from harsh experience.
Don’t brag. Your work will speak for itself. So will your happy customers. Even in this day and age, word-of-mouth still sells best.
This is a short listing of the scams out there. There are always media houses that download your images from Facebook. Scamsters who will screen-print your images on Instagram and sell them. And other sharks who will steal your images on-line.
I have had so many of my images stolen by local newspapers, that I stopped posting images on FB and Instagram altogether. Do the same, if you value yourself as a photographer.
If you consider yourself a professional, there’s a simple rule for you – No money, no photo. You shoot. You get paid.
If it’s below your dignity to ask for money, then think about all those photographers (like myself) whose living depends on their cameras. When you give away your photographs, you are killing the rest of us. Your nobility doesn’t pay our bills.
Professional photography, like any other business, is a business, first and foremost. A business runs on profit. Bills, travel, service charges, printing, taxes, computers, software, and most of all, camera equipment. These things cost real money. Not to speak of your family and dependents.
Don’t get scammed. It’s your photo. It’s your money.
Stay safe. Click happy. Make money!
Cheers … Srini.