Monday, August 3, 2009

To Pay or Not To Pay

Before I had invited anybody to join this blog, I got an interesting question sent to me through email. The question basically put was should this photographer spend $69.00 on one of those books that claims to have selected one of her photos as "The best photography of 2009"? Sometimes things like this come from photo contests; sometimes they approach you totally at random and state they are part of some national or international photography organization you may or may not have ever heard of. Here was my response:

Having gone through something similar in 2007, I will gladly share my opinion. This is very similar "xxxxxx" International Photo Contest. They will send you many ads that make it sound like it is such an honor to be chosen as part of this select group of photographers. All ads are created to appeal to your own self confidence and self esteem, but the bottom line is this . . . you pay them, not the other way around. Look at it this way, 300 pages x 6 photos per page = 1800 photographers paying them $69.00 each. That's $124,200 if each photographer only buys one copy. Make no mistake about it, if you are not willing to buy the book, you will NOT be included. The only way your family and friends are going to know about it is if you buy them copies too!

There are several thousand REAL photo contests on the internet, that if you win, they pay you (or at the very least they acknowledge you without you having to pay anything.) Is the book real? YES Is it a really good quality? YES Will it really help promote you as a photographer? NO. Most of those who got the book, got it to see their own work.

I'll be right up front with you. Yes, I got the book. But no one has EVER commented about seeing my work in it. I personally will never pay someone else to say my work is good enough to publish again. The longer I thought about it, the more upset I got with myself for doing it the first time. If it's that good, then the publisher should be paying me. I know it's not all about the money. But if they are willing to pay me for my work (regardless of how much), it sure feels like much more of an honor than if I have pay them.

One Last thought, for $69.00 you could print your own book with nothing but your photography in it. You can then use that as a very professional looking portfolio to show as many people as you want. There are several good print on demand publishers out there including either "" or "" that will print simply wonderful looking books about whatever subject you decide.


  1. I agree if you have to pay to get into a contest it is usually more about the money than your art. I plan on creating several portfolio books through of various types of subjects (portraits, just creative, abstract, book covers,etc...) and for just over $60 I could have an 8.5 x 11 in - 161 page - hardcover book with wrapped image to show people and they would all be my images (no sharing the lime light) Then if my family wanted some of my work they can order theirs as well. or I could give them one for Christmas. or I could actually sell them as coffee table books. or I could give some away at local places (doctors offices etc) where they might bring me in more customers. far more options with better outcomes for me and my business than 1 picture in a book that no one will see but a bunch of other photographers who don't need my services.

  2. Thank You, Thank You! I learned a lot from this little experience.
    I did want to ask about which contest are safe and worth while.
    I will look into printing my own portfolios.