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I WORK FOR FREE!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Hello! 

Thank you so much for stoping by! Let me introduce myself. 

My name is Hope Kauffman. I am a freelance photographer and brand consultant. My most well known social platform is Instagram (@hkcameraface) where I post daily content consisting of my photography, travels, and brand partnerships. I have a loyal and growing following of over 100,000 engaged followers. 

I earned my Bachelor's degree from Emerson College in Marketing and Communications. I run my business remotely spending my time between Los Angeles and Whitefish, Montana while traveling anywhere from 6-8 months per year. I primarily shoot portraits, weddings, travel related photography, behind the scenes, and product photography. You can see my work and learn more about me on my portfolio website: 

I do not define myself as a commercial photographer, a wedding photographer, or a fine art photographer. I am a hybrid: part marketer, part creative director, part stylist, part influencer, part photographer -- which has made me a member of the rapidly growing community of influencer photographers who are popping up all over! 

With the recent rise of Instagram as an extremely important marketing tool, influencers who can create beautiful content AND have the social audience to generate awareness are a very valuable new group in this industry. Maybe you define yourself similarly, its a very new place to fit within this industry. 

Being a photographer is, for me, truly a privilege. Getting to do what I love every single day is a huge point of pride for me. I have worked very hard and continue to work very hard every single day to be able to live as freelance artist in a very saturated market. I have no guarantee where my next paycheck is coming from which is something I have talked about extensively on this blog.This drives me to create the best content I can, challenge myself, network and collaborate with others, and think outside traditional methods of earning income through photography. 

Yesterday, I posted a job on my alumni network via Facebook offering an opportunity to shoot for a very well known blogger with over 400K followers. The job was not paid, it was a chance to gain social promotion in exchange for images. I often post both paid and "unpaid" work on this group but the response to this post was monumental!

 Here is the original listing: 

As you can see, I said the job was "unpaid" which I see now was a huge mistake on my part. I should have said this job was for "trade" because the exposure from doing a job like this would be worth a large sum of money. 

One could calculate this sum by going to www.socialbluebook.com - this website uses analytics to calculate the approximate value of posts from any individual with a social account based on the users following and engagement levels. When I said unpaid, I wanted to make it clear that there would be no monetary compensation for this shoot to avoid confusion. I did not want to upset any member of this group or the creative community as a whole. I urge artist and influencers looking for collaboration to word things very carefully and specifically to avoid any negative backlash.

After the social storm of negativity I received to my post, I replied to the group with the following message: 

This is clearly an extremely emotional subject with very strong opinions surrounding both sides of the issue. I was so glad to see the out-pouring of passion on the subject whether the poster agreed with me or not, clearly they cared about this issue. However, I was really disappointed to see so many negative comments and personal attacks to not only me but to other people responding. 




(and many many MANY many more...)

No matter who you are in relation to this issue: a creative, who as worked long and hard to be able to do make valuable content, an influencer who has worked to build personal brand and massive network, brands who are just starting or are already established, and as creative/influencer hybrids who both create, position, and expose others; OUR (meaning ALL of us) work isn't just "work" -- it's our ART, it's our BUSINESS, and it's a little piece of us which should be treated with the upmost dignity and respect. 

Our work should ABSOLUTELY be valued, but VALUE does not just mean a check or a monetary sum. Value can be measured in many different ways -- exposure being one of them. We all have something to offer, so, to me, "trade," "exposure," or "unpaid" work is just as valuable as a paying jobMany times much MORE valuable because of the long-term reward it creates.

That being said, it would be unwise to not be wary for those who DO want to take advantage. Not EVERY "opportunity" is worth your time or your service, but that is for you to decide on a case by case basis. Some basic things I think about when deciding whether or not to collaborate with a brand or individual without monetary compensation is: 

1. Does this person or brand align with my personal brand and my values as an artist and professional?

2. Do I like working with this person or brand? Sometimes it's just not worth it if you don't enjoy collaborating with the other party. My most creative successful work has come from brands and people I truly feel inspired by and connected to. Creativity and positivity feeds itself!

3. Will I gain something? Exposure, followers, referrals, networking,  portfolio work etc.

4. Is it worth my time? How much time am I going to spend traveling, shooting, editing etc. This is different every time. Maybe its a lot of work but a big reward. Maybe you just care a lot about the product, the issue, the individual you are working with -- then that is worth it -- speaking out about what you believe it worth it!

Whether you are being paid or working for exposure - PROTECT YOURSELF! I use contracts even with "unpaid" or "exposure" jobs. Even for volunteer work! I make sure to cover my bases by stating that I maintain full creative control, which means I do not release RAW or unedited versions of my photos to anyone. I do not allow my images to be manipulated or filtered and distributed without my explicit permission. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen- sometimes it does! But I try to do everything I can to make sure I am protected. 

This is not how every photographer has gone about running his or her business, which is OK! I am sharing that working with creatives, especially those with larger followings than myself is how I have grown MY business. This is how I have chosen to network and it has absolutely worked for ME in my personal experience. This is the only area I am an expert in- what I have experienced. This is the business model I follow and continue to redefine every single day. 


I get so many emails and messages asking me for tips or how to make the leap from being someone who loves photography to a photography professional. I want SUCCESS for every person who takes the time to reach out to me and ask these great questions. I have and will continue to contact photographers who I want to emulate both creatively or from a business perspective and see what they do, what they believe, and what has worked for them. I take bits and pieces and tailor them to what works for me. I urge you to do the same! 

I want to foster an open dialogue between creatives, influencers, industry professionals, and really anyone with an opinion on this subject. Everyone has a right to their thoughts on this matter and the right to share them, but I urge you to share and respond respectfully, even if you disagree! I ask for you to be kind when commenting to each other -- we are all artists, let's lift one another up not tear each other down! 

3 comments:

  1. http://shouldiworkforfree.com/

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  2. Hello, thanks for the interesting read :). I am not a professional photographer, but this is something I deal with everyday. I am a graphic designer, and pretty much deal with the same situation every time I pick up a project. I do have a main job as an in-house designer, but I choose to also do freelance in the evenings (also because after college, I needed work to help find my current job) so that I can flush out my portfolio and have it really represent my brand and show what I am capable of. Its hard and very tiring( I also need to find time to fix my own branding XD), but I love doing it.

    A lot of my clients have started off being a free contract. I tend to work with people that are starting out or wanting to rebrand their business or product. That has evolved into either a paying long-term contract, referrals and followers, or even just great content for my portfolio.

    Sometimes its hard to do free work and I have had those moments where I have to sit down and think about if its worth it. Especially when paying off student debt and working my way into getting in a better position in life. I can see how someone would get a bit up in arms when asked to do "Free" work when you are in a desperate situation and this is your means of making a living. It may help you on the long term goal, but you are more focused on the short term reality, like bills and other stressful situations. It's at that point, where I agree with you, that you need to sit down and think about if this could possible benefit you in the future through networking & increased followers, are you willing to take a risk that this will pan out, and can you set time aside to continue looking for other job possibilities while working on this project? This is not the case for everyone, but if its not, all they need to do is politely decline, give a possible referral to someone that would be interested if they want to, and move onto the next opportunity. There is no need to blow up at the client and that person is just wasting time for both people.

    At the end of the day, I choose to do projects that I will enjoy. Sometimes that is projects that are right up my alley and sometimes it's projects that are out of my comfort zone, but will show my versatility in my portfolio. One of my current client, a wedding website with a huge following, started out as free work for a year. I now get paid for it due to their success and the great relationship we have formed.

    Some jobs are free and some are paid. Honestly, most clients I have worked with don't understand the amount of work that I put in, but I am willing to sit down and show them the process of my work, and its great when they finally understand that it is a lot of work. Sometimes I get paid for that, and sometimes I get paid by exposure and the fact that they now understand how my job field works and maybe that will help another designer down the road. I also just love the "Oh this is exactly what I was thinking" or "I absolutely love it" moments as well. They make me feel great about myself and sometimes that is payment enough.

    So, don't let people get you down about this. Everyone is in a different part in their life and that affects their current views. I am sorry some of them where a bit hot-headed and not very civil in their discussions. Debate is about respecting each other and coming to a compromise not continuously beating down your opponent just to be right for a moment. You always seem to be willing to help others and answer any questions. Just keep being you, and their will be people that will appreciate the help and support.

    Sorry for the ridiculously long post, but I just wanted to say that it happens in every field and that some of us are ok with the free work, in hopes of a brighter future. Keep up the great work and have a good day! Thanks! :)

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  3. I want to be like you when I get older! I also met you at vidcon this year! By wigsworth

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