Say Cheese on the Cheap

I’ve officially been asked enough times about photographs that it seems high time I put down my thoughts on the subject so I can answer the question once and for all. In short, yes, I’ll be happy to take your picture, but there are a few provisos.

The first question people ask is, “how much do you charge?” The surprising answer to this is, simply, that I do not charge. I have a job already so the last thing I need is a side business to worry about. I enjoy photographing just about everything so if you want your picture taken, then just tell me and we’ll make arrangements. Quite honestly, to me, photography is *almost* art and I have a fundamental problem with being paid for the creative process. One might as well ask me to accept money for writing something or painting a picture. The mere thought of it makes my skin crawl. When you introduce financial considerations into artistic endeavor then they cease to be art but instead become mechanical and rote. So to be succinct, I’d love to take photos of whatever you might want photographed, but don’t try to pay me.

Now that that unpleasantness is out of the way, let’s move on to the second proviso. As I said, I’ll happily take your picture or a picture of whatever it is that you find important whether it be your house or your dogs or your family. I’m infinitely flexible in that regard. However, one thing I do demand is that you DO NOT POSE. Photography should be about things and events that actually happened and existed. Having your picture taken sitting on a plastic log in a photography studio is a travesty against all that is right and good in the world. In fact, it’s a bit self-insulting. Is real life so drab and dull that the most interesting and attractive situation you could think to put yourself in was posing in front of a painting of a beach? We can do much better than that. Real photos that mean something and that you remember will be about real things that you really DO. I’d much rather spend 4 hours trying to get a few good shots of someone doing something real than get a thousand shots of someone staring into the camera. Real life is good. Let’s capture that.

Alright, ready for the next thing? Typically when a photographer takes your picture those photos are the property of the photographer. You can get all the copies printed up that you want but you have to pay them $20 each for the right to do so. If I take your picture, however, those photos become part of the public domain for all the world, including you, to see, download, make copies of, send to people, whatever you want. All I ask is that if you get something back that you really like, just tell me about it. I’m not naturally a people-photographer so I appreciate the feedback. Aside from that, you can do whatever you like with them. Also, in the interest of your privacy, I don’t post any identifying information with your photos. You’ll get a link and they’ll go into my Picasa albums but it’s not like I’m going to post your name and address or anything. Your anonymity is safe as long as you don’t break it yourself by uploading photos to Facebook or something of the sort.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I don’t actually guarantee any results. You might absolutely hate everything I take. I don’t tend to expect that you will, but it’s a distinct possibility. My view on most things is a bit skewed when compared with the average person so it is likely that in some cases you will look at least a few of the results and say, simply and politely, “huh?” I accept that completely and appreciate it if you’ll tell me if you see a “huh?” I can often explain them in one way or another. One thing I can tell you is that if you do ask me to take photos for you that you’ll have my utmost and undivided attention and determination to get you a result that you like. Don’t let the price point fool you. Despite the fact that I don’t charge for my services I take this VERY seriously and have no desire to waste either your time or my own. If you peruse my gallery and like the general sense for what you see then drop me a line.

Postscript: Readers of this blog post should also reference Can’t Even Give it Away. To date I’ve had no takers on this offer and this post attempts to explore why that’s the case.



  1. Great post Rob! Glad to hear about the public domain bit, as several of your photos have ended up in my screen saver… I’ve mentioned that before didn’t I? Yes, I like many of them that much. 🙂

    I thought my views on art and money were kind of ‘out there’ but you’ve staked out a claim about 10 times further out, along the same direction. Personally, each painting I do is a unique creation and just don’t want to be in a situation where I would be unable to see any of them in detail again. I like money as much as anyone, but selling would separate me from my paintings. My wife thinks I should sell them on ebay. Obviously I can’t do that. I did think of painting something specifically with selling it in mind, and I think I could do that and sell it, but you’re right, that would render it not art, to me.

    • Yup; you’ve mentioned the screensaver before so I’m happy that you found soemthing you liked THAT much. Of course now I want to know exactly which ones so I can work that back into my algorithms for which pictures I take next. 😉

      As for the overall view on art… yeah well, I dare say that if you can rely in anyone to be “10 times further out” on any topic it would be me. I often wonder what profanities professional photographers spout when they read a post like this. It’s funny because I was actually asked to shoot someone’s wedding in a few months and my first response was, “I’d be happy to, but you’ll need to hire someone to do all the cliche wedding shots” to which they said, “yes, we have someone for that but we trust your artistic vision much more”. I was… well, flattered to no end. Point is though that I’m not putting anyone out of business.

      As for selling art…. yes, you’re in a bit of a quandary since you just can’t copy yours ad inifinitum as I can. The few times I’ve delved into the non-computational arts, I’ve given them away. I just took good photos and then gave them to interested people with the admonishment that, “If you EVER decide you don’t like this, then for the love of GOD give it back to me.” As far as I know, they all still exist. And, like any children, I occasionally think about them and what they’re doing.

      • Probably the easiest way to do that would be to send you a zip. A zip of your own photos. Seems a little ironic.

        Anyway keep in mind that you are so prolific behind the camera, that my viewing of your work is guaranteed to be spotty. Sampling even more so…

      • I went to a friends wedding, very nice wedding, nice function room at a very good restaurant a professional wedding photographer attending.
        I had brought my gear and asked the couple if they wanted or minded my shooting some pictures, OK. Had fun, skipped the “cliche” shots and I think I documented the difference between “smile for the photographer” and smile for a friend.
        The best fun was working on the computer all night so that I could get my photos into their hands the next morning before they left on the honeymoon. Which beat the pro by two months.

      • Wow…. two months?!?!?! That makes me think there may JUST be room for photographers who still really care about what they’re taking a photo of. Thx for sharing that.

  2. The few times I’m nudged in the direction of portraits it is always excrutiating to charge — or to get folks to pay what your time and energy are worth. I have started just going the flat fee/here’s the disk route.

    • Yeah, I guess for me part of the joy is just getting to take pictures of someone. I rather enjoy doing it so it seems a bit of a cheat to ask them to pay for it too! I’d say too that with the improvements in equipment, the photography industry is undergoing some change. Camera’s are just so blasted smart that you don’t need a professional to get great shots. It will be interesting to see where things move over the next 10 years.

  3. I enjoy your philosophy 🙂
    Some colleagues and I work at an urban high school and were commenting that senior portraits are so expensive that most of our kiddos don’t get to have them. We talked about doing free ones for them next year, as several of us are amateur photographers. You’ve just convinced me to make it happen!

  4. You’ve defined the difference between art and business and it is nice to see you land on the side of art. But I appreciate the comment about portraits being staged and all… the best portraits are the ones that look spontaneous (even if there is a bit of knowledge that your picture is being taken!)…

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