Cheapo the Photography Story

Photography is one of the most highly abused professional, especially in Singapore where the leaders of the country focus on the motto of "cheaper, faster, better". Without doubt, in order to get very good products (photographs), you certainly have to come up with a good budget and not expecting to pay peanuts.

Photographs are essential for marketing purposes, whether to advertise for a product, service or even freelance model. We cannot shadow the importance of visualization for the target audience.

Despite being highly demanded, photographers do not have an easy career path. The ease of owning a DSLR camera starts a price war gradually among photographers (and camera owners). In order to secure more projects, many photographers have resort to lowering their fees. When amateur photographers start pricing themselves lower than their already low values, the market takes a bigger blow. One big problem is not all clients know how to differentiate between good and excellent work (photographs), while some do not have much expectation. Thus, their priority is to clinch the cheapest deal possible. Those photographers who undercut the market may not sustain for long, but new ones will emerge before they give up. The market is in a mess.

A new bad trend begins with people who own bullet-proof skin start asking for free photography services from photographers. It is an insult to the photographers, undermining their values and quality of work. The usual baits are "exposure" (to more viewers) and "portfolio", which usually amount to nothing but the fantasy of the predators.

Photographers are not the only talents who are being badly abused. I have come across a story of an ex model with looks, figure and height who had taken up countless unpaid commercial jobs just to gain exposure. By the time her contract with the modelling agency ended, she had not made any cent. If she had rejected the "free" (unpaid) jobs, other models would have rushed to take up her roles in the same hope of gaining a foot in the cruel commercial world.

Building portfolios and gaining exposure are essential for trades of all kind. However, there is no end to it.

I have my fair share of random "heroes" who have tried to abuse my photography services. They are strangers to me. Occasionally, such people will still bother me when I'm already running short of time to entertain my clients.

  1. Celebrity family not
    Someone did ask for a free family shoot from me. No, they are not Christopher Lee and Fann Wong with their cute child. Of course, they are also not Jay Chou and his pretty young wife. I was hoping for Andy Lau or David Beckham but no.
  2. Singing competition
    The organizer of a singing contest's Singapore selection contacted me for event (audition) photography after being recommended by a model friend of mine who was told that it was a paid job. He emphasized on helping (pro bono) our local talents to realise their dream even though one of them would represent Singapore regardless of having any photograph taken. He claimed that it was a good portfolio for me without looking at the size of my existing portfolio (I didn't even have the time to upload all my work), and that any photograph with the company's logo couldn't be used by me when the highlights would be on the stage with banner (basically, most of the important photographs couldn't be used). No, he didn't bargain for any discount but he was asking me for free services. I was told that he was given a sum of money by the China company but he told me he was earning nothing. Perhaps, some bosses are able to make a windfall by taking advantage of people's kindness.
  3. Bikini babes
    A Caucasian girl approached me to do bikini shoot for her hot friends and her. It was a rare opportunity for most male camera owners who wished to get into good books of babes, or even get in between their legs. No, it was never my goal. The girl then admitted the photographs were meant for showcasing her company's products. It was obviously a commercial shoot kind of catalogue shoot that the company would be making profits and yet she was expecting free photography services from me. A few months later, she approached me again through the same forum - she probably had forgotten about the previous rejection.
  4. Models of all shapes and looks
    No matter how skilful a photographer is and how much he charges his clients, he would be open to do TFCD shoot when the "right" model approaches him. "Right" model, in my perspective, means the model has outstanding looks, suits the theme that the photographer wishes to create or is very famous who can increase a lot of exposure. This is because most clients are not model-material while clients would be seeking for the usual "boring" kind of shoot. However, some people who are obviously not model-quality would also try their luck and some would even make demands.
  5. Charity event
    There was once when a sweet looking lady approached me for event photography for a charity event. It seemed to be well organised with the guest appearance of many local celebrities. I wouldn't doubt their funding. She didn't mention about the budget for photography even though I tried to sound her out a few times. She threw in the advantages of having the celebrities around, hinting it was good for my portfolio. Eventually, she went missing after I was more direct by asking her for the budget. I supposed she was looking for a free photographer but was too embarrassed to say out.

    Many friends know I would do voluntary shoot for charity event for small self initiative groups when I'm available. A poor photographer certainly has to be very selective in contributing his time and effort.
  6. Slave photographer
    "Looking for a freelance photographer to help me on a long-term basis.
    Requirements:
    - resides in the west and knows areas in the west for good outdoor backdrops
    - able to do it last-minute, when time permits
    - able to edit photos within 2-3 days
    Do take note that this is a non-paid assignment but your work will be posted on my social media. Email me at ***@outlook.com (PMs will not be entertained) with the subject header of "Long-term Photographer" with the following:
    1. Name
    2. Age / DOB
    3. Address (street name at least)
    4. Some of your works / links to your portfolio
    Only the shortlisted will be notified! Thanks!"


    This advertisement posted by an amateur "model" in various Facebook groups, looking for a free slave, was bombarded by many photographers. Professional photographers do charge clients for advices, such as suggestion of locations; at least the charges are already included in the hourly rate. There would be extra charges for last minute job requests and express delivery of photographers. This seeexy babe was likely looking at a thousand bucks worth of free shoot with such demand. Nobody knew if she was offering what special services to repay her slave.
  7. Model for free pre-wedding shoot
    I saw an advertisement from a self proclaimed model who was seeking for a photographer to do her pre-wedding shoot for free in the name of building portfolio. Putting aside the fact that any couple shouldn't have saved on their pre-wedding shoot, any such shoot from a professional photographer would cost over a thousand bucks at least. Isn't it too much to ask for a free pre-wedding shoot?

Learn to respect photography.



If this page has helped you in any way,
please show some appreciation by following me in Facebook and Instagram.

Do check out my other useful photography tips!