Freelance Photographers: Do You Deserve Credit?
When a job calls for a lot of photographers, we here at Spectacle Photo sometimes hire freelance photographers. It’s a good way to get the job done without having to hire an entire army of full-time photographers who’s certain skill types are only needed by us a few times out of the year. The freelancers we bring on to shoots are usually people with strong portfolios who rely on other photographers to hire them, or sometimes they’ll have their own photo business and work it all by themselves. However, during our shoots, they’re there working for us. They are a part of our team. Sometimes we even have them hand out our company business cards when they’re asked. When we hire a freelancer it’s always on a shoot-and-burn basis. At the end of the shoot they just hand us the photos and we do all of the post-work on them ourselves. They don’t have to find the job, bid on it, market for it, or have any interaction with the client whatsoever. After the shoot is done, there’s no more work to be done on their end, and they’ve been paid for their work.
This is all covered under the day rate that we pay, and all of these terms are agreed upon by them before the shoot, which is why it stokes a slow burning hatred within me when freelancers that we’ve hired go on Facebook and other social media sites, find photos from our event they took that we posted up online, and tag their company name on them. There’s been countless times where one of us full time Spectacle employees have heard freelancers be asked what company they’re with, and the freelancer tells them their own company name. Usually we just roll our eyes and move on, but we’ve been seeing things like this happen more and more. Sometimes we even get emails and messages from our freelance photographers asking why they’re not tagged individually in the photos, and they start demanding personal credit. We’ve also had them post up photos (photos from events that we hired them for) on their company websites claiming that they photographed/video’d the entire event themselves. Lol that last one doesn’t matter to us much, but it’s usually done by the ones whining about all the credit they’re due, and the hypocrisy is real.
We’ve been seeing these nasty little credit-demanding trends more and more out of the freelancers that we’ve been hiring, and it needs to stop. If you’re a freelance photographer and a company pays you an agreed upon amount of cold hard cash to take photos for them, that company is no longer obligated to give you any kind of credit. On that day, you worked for them. You do not own those photos. You relinquished the right to be personally recognized when you agreed to it. Also, this credit-mongering is almost always done on the sly. Subtle tagging, cautious looks over the shoulder before they mumble their company name to our clients, passing out their own business cards during events we’ve hired them to be at; recently we’ve seen all manner of sneakery. Trying to hide it just makes it more aggravating, and even though you think we don’t notice, you’re wrong. We do notice, and when a freelance photographer is found out we never hire them again.
Demanding personal and professional credit after-the-fact undermines a companies ability to get you more jobs in the future, and in some cases it can cause some real brand confusion. If you’re a photographer who’s taken on a one day job from another photographer or photography company, be happy to work with them. Be all in with them, just for that day, and walk away with their money in your pocket and a smile on your face. As someone who frequently hires out, I can tell you it’s a relief to work with someone who isn’t maniacally wringing their hands over recognition. When I find a photographer who knows how to set aside their personal hangups, and realizes how important it is to look out for the people who hired them, I almost always hire them back.
This article/rant is also coming from a personal place. I learned a long time ago that having my name slathered all over everything isn’t important. I’ve written countless articles that’ve been published on Fstoppers, PetaPixel, various news outlets like CBS and Fox, etc. with my name nowhere to be found. I’ve created a ton of photos and videos that have gone viral online while under the name of someone else. And know what? When it comes to the bigger picture, it doesn’t matter. Especially when you’re working freelance. I’m always paid for my work in some way, and I’ve come to realize that, at the end of the day, it’s more than enough just to get paid and see my creations being enjoyed by others. I have no qualms whatsoever with calling out this issue, because I practice what I preach on a daily basis. If you don’t, and you’re one of those people desperately trying to hoard recognition from those who pay you, it might be the reason you don’t get work in the future.