My Dried Grape for Existence (Raisin d’être)

People get into photography for all kinds of reasons and I don’t need to list them here, but since the early days of my career my motivation has been that I wanted to take pictures which were of a high enough standard that I would get commissioned (paid) to take pictures which would be published.

This started with newspapers and magazines, but since my business focuses so much more on commercial and corporate photography now, I get the same thrill by being commissioned by business clients to take photos for their websites, brochures and press releases.

If I’m honest with myself, it’s always been the endorsement of being asked to take pictures in exchange for filthy lucre which has been my motivational drug, which leads me neatly to the argument about taking pictures for money as somehow demeaning photography.

Millions of people take pictures for fun, many thousands take pictures for artistic reasons, but amongst true artists there are vanishingly few who pursue their passion with a view to never making money from it. Money, whatever we think of it, is the ultimate endorsement of what we create.

Cover of University of Bath's Donor Report

Making pictures for publication is what motivates me

For me, though I don’t put my work under the heading of art, the opposite of my principle motivation would be to take photos just so people could tell me how great they are, without anyone telling me in cash terms whether or not my work is up to snuff. Likes and shares on Facebook and Instagram are all very well, but it’s too easy for someone to endorse a photo on the web with pretty much zero commitment or investment in that photo. A Like might not even mean they like the photo and you may never know what motivated someone to  give it a click. It’s possible they made a slip of the finger which they couldn’t be bothered to reverse.

No, for me the joy of photography, my reason to strive and improve in it, is to see it used, published and put to work in return for the thing (the ONLY thing) which allows me to carry on doing it; money.

Charging money for photography doesn’t diminish it, doesn’t decrease its value. If you want to decrease the value of your photography, all you have to do is give it away, whereupon it becomes either worthless or impossible to value. If anything, giving photography away diminishes photography as a whole, a consequence which I believe has done much harm to the industry and resulted in a great deal of very poor work being used where it should never have seen light of day.

Taking pictures for money doesn’t weaken my wish to be the best I can be, it enhances my motivation. Nor does it stop me banging the drum for photography worth paying for. My raison d’être may be filthy lucre, but around that sits a joy in my work, a joy in giving my clients what they want and need and ultimately being able to say I’ve stayed true to my principles for 25 years.*

*I haven’t the slightest idea where this article came from. It just sort of wrote itself. Thank you for reading.

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8 comments

  • Paul Groom December 2, 2014   Reply →

    Interesting blog post. I love taking pictures of all kinds of subjects and I also love providing a service which (I like to think) people appreciate enough to pay for.

    I think we’re extremely lucky to be able to make a living from photography, sometimes I turn around and look from the outside in and pinch myself that this is actually my job – which is a lovely realisation.

    I’m drifting off the subject, but anyhow, nice blog post!

    • Tim Gander December 2, 2014   Reply →

      Hi Paul, thanks for your comments and I agree, we are very lucky to be doing what we do. The article is a response to those who think that it is in some way wrong to be motivated by money as a photographer. It’s not, as I hope I explained, that money is the direct or only motivation, but that being paid to be a photographer is a good way of knowing your work has a more tangible value than just social media likes and shares. The sub-text is that sometimes I get the impression that we’re meant to be ashamed for charging to do what we enjoy doing, which suggests that everyone should hate their job, or if they love it they should work for free.

      • Paul Groom December 2, 2014   Reply →

        Yes absolutely, I see this a lot with my friend who is a journalist, he has a really difficult time getting a proper living wage from writing superb articles etc. In the case of journalists the newspapers and magazines have a huge stock of writers all too ready to step in if he argues too much on price. Thankfully this isn’t the case (at the moment) with us photographers.

        • Tim Gander December 2, 2014   Reply →

          The one point I would have to disagree with is when you say photographers aren’t being replaced on newspapers and magazines by those willing to supply pictures cheap or free. All my former colleagues on The Portsmouth News are being made redundant by the end of this year. Local and regional newspapers have pretty much given up on hard news coverage and most rely on old library photos or pictures supplied by readers, with the odd smattering of professionally-taken PR photos. Does The Bristol Post have any staffers left? Or even freelancers on decent rates?

          It’s certainly true though that proper grown up businesses are ready to use people like us for their photography and I don’t see that changing because all businesses have to compete hard for their clients and have to look professional too.

          • Paul Groom December 2, 2014  

            Ahh yes, I don’t do much newspaper work, it’s mostly corporate clients… sorry to hear about your former colleagues, that’s awful.

          • Tim Gander December 2, 2014  

            It’s a crazy situation. The buzz is all around content marketing, so the newspaper industry’s strategy is to use rubbish content. Quite incredible.

  • Laura December 3, 2014   Reply →

    I like this post. So much to say about it. Maybe material for a blog post in itself.

    • Tim Gander December 3, 2014   Reply →

      I’m glad you like it, I’ll be interested to read your blog response.

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