Northumberland Camera Club

Lifeboat, Camera Club
Lifeboat, Camera Club

A photographer wrote back to a major hotel chain. It had asked him to provide images for its marketing for free as it would help raise his profile.

He asked whether, in return, it would give him a room for the week free of charge for the privilege of having him raise its profile.

It declined, as did he.

The hotel chain got a good deal of bad publicity out of that. Its offer was worthless. The photographer would have received no benefit from having his pictures decorate its wall.

Shortly afterwards a major supermarket was rebuked similarly when it tried to enlist a volunteer to paint a mural on its wall. It backed down after the story hit the press, employing a professional artist instead.

Wary of asking professionals to work for free, some businesses are now exploiting amateur photographers.

We’ve all seen photography competitions where the only ‘prize’ is to be featured in a calendar that a non-charitable organisation will sell to boost its own coffers. These businesses could afford to pay a photographer, but would rather be supplied for free.

There is no value in appearing in a business’ calendar. By giving away an image to someone who should be paying for it, you are implying it is worthless. Moreover, the work of all the other photographers must be worthless too.

Big businesses, and recently some local authorities, are destroying the livelihoods of all professional photographers and artists, perpetuating the nonsense that creativity has no value.

I know a lot of highly skilled amateur photographers who don’t want to become professional. Like all artists, they do want recognition for their art and for the hard work they put into achieving an outstanding image.

To have your fantastic work appear in a business calendar is tempting, but there is a myriad of better ways to get this recognition and help good causes at the same time.

The easiest route is to display your work online. There, it can be seen by millions.

Facebook and other forms of social media such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, WhatsApp and Messenger are all great for showing off your images. Flickr is a popular photo hosting and sharing site, and many photographers have blogs.

Just posting a positive image of a worthwhile institution and adding a few encouraging words helps it by raising its profile.

Online isn’t the only place to share your images. Have you thought about running an exhibition in your town or village hall?

Get together with other local artists and put on a display for your community. It will help community cohesion and attract visitors, bringing in revenue to the local economy. A small entrance fee could help raise funds for a good cause.

All the professional photographers I know support voluntary organisations whose aims and methods are aligned with their own beliefs. This is something an amateur photographer could do too.

Shooting images for the website of your local charity could really make a difference to it. Furthermore, your picture supporting something that you believe in makes it priceless.