Disadvantages of being a Freelance Photographer in Singapore

The greatest benefit of being a photographer for all photographers is that photographers generally love phototaking (this is pretty obvious) and doing something you love or have passion in is definitely something many people are dreaming of. For me, I also love getting to know good people even though I do have very bad memory to the extent that I may not recall my clients' names clearly. Generally, most clients are kind to photographers since they need the photos from the photographers.

Since the benefits of being a photographer are pretty straightforward, what I'm listing in this write-up are the cons or problems of being a photographer, which most non-photographers and amateur photographers cannot foresee nor understand.

Imagine you are a photographer, these are likely to be the problems you will be facing...

  1. Exploitation from friends
    Some friends are more than willing to invite you to their parties because you are able to help them capture the moments, probably for free.

    The most insulting thing friends can do to you is to, out of goodwill (and/or cheapskateness), suggest you to help them with some shoots for free so that you can "build up your portfolio". They obviously belittle your existing portfolio and/or think no client is engaging your services.

    Of course, this is probably an unintentional hurt and may actually benefit you if you are really new to the trade.
  2. Exploitation from clients
    The most common thing is some clients will try to help you to determine the duration you will need to do certain photography jobs. For example, some clients may approach you to do a one-hour interior or product shoot. In fact, many things are possible, depending on the quality of work. This is the reason why many photographers will charge by the number of photos for non-event shoots, so that they are able to do their work properly without rushing to meet the (short) timeframe. There was once a staff from a big property website approached me to shoot both the interior and exterior of a condominium, given the time of half an hour - I rejected it of course.

    There are various other ways clients will try to exploit you, such as asking you to turn up early for event shoots, instead of booking your timeslot earlier.
  3. Clients and models set their own ridiculous expectation
    Clients may be on purpose or not, and not read the service agreement. They may then end up throwing ridiculous expectation during or after the shoot, which may sour the relationship.
  4. There are nasty clients
    You may be lucky most of the time but not always. Sometimes you may meet nasty clients who are ridiculous. Some of those who have low IQ or/and EQ may even try to spoil your reputation via social media even though you have clear conscience.
  5. Many clients don't know what they want
    Most event shoots are usually quite straightforward. However, for others like editorial shoots, the clients may not know what they want exactly, even though they can tell you "this and that". Eventually, you will be confused and there will be many unforeseeable problems.
  6. Some clients may have doubts in paying booking fee
    While it is essential for clients to place a booking fee (deposit) to secure the timeslot of the photographer, some of them will hesitate to pay upfront. They are afraid that you would "run away" with the money even though you have a good reputation to maintain, have spent so much time, effort and money to setup your website and social media profiles, and also have large portfolios and testimonials from previous clients. They are likely not going to think in your position that they (clients) are actually unknowns who may find another (probably cheaper?) photographer after confirmation and waste your time.
  7. Awkward relationship with clients and models
    The tone a male photographer uses with a female client and model can be very sensitive. The person may misinterpret you if you sound too flirtious or she may find you too boring, which may both affect the shoot. Staying in touch with a client as a good friend may also give other the wrong impression that you are doing it for the sake of getting more jobs.
  8. You get weird requests
    If you were to reply to all messages/emails, it will definitely drain you. Not replying is bad while replying with a short "yes/no" answer may be harmful. Somehow, you just receive too many weird requests that you are unable to reply or reply appropriately.

    You may be approached by people to ask you to retouch their photos and you will be "rewarded" by having the permission to add the final photos into your portfolio, which you do not need. Copyright of the photos obviously belongs to the photographer who has captured them and not the retoucher. It is also an indirect insult that your portfolio is not good enough.

    Random strangers may approach you for advices or even doing surveys regarding photography. You may want to help but you are often overstretched.
  9. Many models/clients cannot handle truth
    As a photographer, your job is to make sure the models look nice in the photos. One way to make the models look nice is to rectify their flaws. However, not everyone is open to unflattering comments no matter how harmless you have tried to phrase your sentences. The worst scenario is to work without a makeup artist and yet the model is too full of herself to fix her flaws.
  10. Models may doubt your judgments in their looks because you are not a HMUA
    No matter how experienced you are, models may not believe your judgment in their looks as long as you are not a renowned hair and makeup artist (HMUA). Not being able to draw their faces does not mean you cannot point out flaws on their faces and it can be quite insulting to doubt you after you have worked with various makeup artists.
  11. Many models and HMUAs don't cooperate fully
    There are chances that you are going to work with inexperienced models and HMUAs and some will definitely be full of themselves. Some of them may have done a few photoshoots with random photographers who usually don't care much about planning as long as the models can show some cleavages during the shoot. Eventually, the newbies are being led to think that photoshoots can be done easily without much planning. The most common problem from models is that they don't think it's necessary to show the outfits to be used for the shooting when they are supposed to provide the outfits. Whereas, new HMUAs may have their preferred good environments of doing their work, even for outdoor shoots.
  12. Many models/clients waste your time
    Many models and clients who approach you to collaborate or engage your services are actually much less enthusiastic than they sound initially. Most people will eventually change their minds soon. Some people may suddenly realise they are too shy for portraiture shoot while some think they do not need to spend the money to get photos taken for their events. When the person asks you for ideas and somehow don't go ahead with the shoot, you certainly wasting your time and effort. Moreover, your ideas may be stolen, such that the person can use it with other "cheap" photographers.
  13. Most people think photographers make a lot of money easily
    Most people think paying photographers hundreds of bucks per hour is ridiculously expensive. They don't know the cost of the equipment and their lifespan, the effort to carry the heavy and bulky equipment for shoot... and they choose not to know that for every shoot, it may take days to edit the photographs. They just don't know the actual cost of photography.
  14. Being undercut
    There are many new or inexperienced photographers out in the market who are charging very little amount for their work. Most clients do look at prices rather than quality of work and will skip you if they happen to come across such photographers.

    Of course, photographers who undercut the market are usually being hated by other professional photographers while they are likely not able to sustain their photography business for long, unless they have other full time jobs.

    I have witnessed a photographer, with at least a year of experience, charging my friend less than half of my rate, which was even lower than my starting rate.
  15. Black sheep have spoiled the market
    There are quite a number of blacklisted photographers who have spoiled the reputation of all photographers. Potential models and clients are quite wary of being taken advantage of. There are also many types of photography and modelling scams that are scaring people.
  16. Excess useless enquiries
    Most people who approach you are mostly interested in finding out your charging rate. These people are likely to be sourcing around only for cheap packages. Therefore, you will get lots of enquiries that waste your time replying, unless you are going to undercut the market too.

    Even when I stated my minimum charges on my website and that I did not list my number to reduce people from casually approaching me for price-checking, I was still bothered by people every now and then.
  17. You are targeted by spammers
    Having your contact details on the web means you are very vulnerable to being spammed. You will get all sorts of spams for SEO services, printing, stock image and directory companies.
  18. Not everyone appreciates your photography skill
    Most people are looking only at prices and not the personal touch of the photographer. Many people also think photography is solely about clicking of the shutter button. Most people cannot tell quality of photos and they only want photos to be taken. Eventually, you have to get used to the fact that your work is not being appreciated.
  19. Some people think photos don't need to be edited
    Since not everyone can tell the quality of photos, some people are clueless about post-production work. They may suggest that you do not have to edit the photos before sending them the photos. DSLRs are really powerful tools but they are not smart enough to know what setting the photographers want. Even the auto flash (TTL) may fail to produce the "correct" exposure. Therefore, most photographers' work will need to be processed before sending to the clients.
  20. Many people think post-production work is easy
    They expect you to return them the photos soon after the actual shoot. They do not understand that you have tried to take duplicated photos sometimes for backup and thus will need extra effort to choose the best out of the photos taken. They also do not know that you will need time to do other adjustments like cropping, colour adjustments and exposure adjustments.

    Many people think that skin touch-up is simple, probably due to the availability of many phone applications. They don't know the differences between working with high and low resolution photos. They also don't know how to appreciate the quality (natural and detailed) of photos just like how they know nothing about professional skin retouching.
  21. People think photographers can do wonders
    Some people think photographers can turn black duckie into a swan without engaging the help of a hair and makeup artist. Many others, including some models, may think photographers can get nice photos for outdoor shoot under bad conditions like shooting near noon time. You will get lots of unreasonable demands that will land you with bad quality photos.
  22. Irregular meal time
    As most of the event shoots, such as gala dinner or wedding, are held during normal meal time, you are likely to take your meals at weird timing (early or late) on days with on site jobs.

    Even though many clients are very nice and would want the photographers to take some food during the shoot, most responsible photographers would not want to miss any good moment/shot during the event. Will you sit down comfortably and enjoy the food together with the guests when you are paid to capture more good photos?

    Of course, in special situations that the corporate clients have, without your knowledge, caterred food for you and when all the guests (no kids) are busy eating (you know you definitely can't snap any photo), it will be a different story. Then, you may be busy throwing food inside your mouth and risk having indigestion.
  23. Photography equipment are expensive
    Camera bodies are expensive but many lenses are even more expensive. Even the lens filters to protect the lenses cost over a hundred bucks. "Good things do not come cheap" usually does apply to photography gears. Other than straightforward items such as rechargeable batteries, there are many equipment that are required to be purchased in order to produce better photos like light modifiers. To sum up, you need to spend a lot of money before you can get good photos.
  24. Photography equipment will wear and tear
    Equipment easily get worn off over time or can be dropped accidentally. Even the shutter button of a DSLR has a lifespan. Replacements of parts may not worth the money and thus photographers may need to get a new set. It's about money again.
  25. Photography equipment are heavy
    The most basic set up for event shoot like a Canon 6D with Canon 24-70mm F2.8 II lens and a Canon 600 EX-RT speedlite can weigh near 2kg. Imagine you have to hold it up for long duration and even on a single hand when you need to change the direction of light to produce better looking photos. At times, when the venue is too crowded, you have to keep the camera by your side and thus, you will be supporting it with a single hand. You may not be able to leave the camera hanging over your neck in case anyone hit it accidentally and thus your hand will be holding it most of the time in such situation. I have injured my right hand from bisect to wrist for a few times.

    For portraiture shoot, basic setup will require a few light modifiers such as umbrella, softbox and light stand. There are also smaller items such as adapters and triggers. The total weight of equipment can easier hit over 10kg.

    Moreover, for paid shoots, many photographers will bring an extra camera body along.
  26. Marketing and PR work requires more time
    Obviously, most photographers love photography. However, marketing work actually takes up more time. If you do not market yourself, such as posting your work online, nobody will know about how good you are. You also need to talk and discuss with clients and models before the shoot and often, you will not get the business somehow.
  27. You appear to be very free
    A photographer's time can be flexible but busy. Other than going out for the actual shooting, the photographer actual spends a lot of time doing post-production work. The editing work will usually take longer time than the actual shooting, depending on the effort spent. When you are deem as available, people will try to push things to you or simply approach you for help even without trying on their own. Most of all, it is very annoying to be viewed as free when you are actually very busy.
  28. Distraction from work at home
    Most freelance photographers are working from home when they are not out for shooting. Their working hours may be very flexible that they can stay up late at night to do their work, such as post production of photos and marketing. However, working from home means there are endless troubles. Neighbours can be assholes to start making noises in the early morning, salesmen or scammers may knock the door and family members may take you as their receptionist. Most of all, you are required to run errands since you are "free and has nothing to do" at home.
  29. Refrain from personal photography
    When you are "owing" your clients photos, sometimes, you may refrain from taking out your camera during your personal outing with family or friends because you don't want it to become part of your burden.
  30. Passion gets killed
    If you have to keep rushing work, you may not enjoy the process. After all the encounters above for a prolonged time, there may be one day that you get sick of photography.

If you know of more disadvantages of being a freelance photographer, do contact me!

You may be interested in:
- Advantages of being a freelance photographer
- Clients from hell (photography services)
- Ways to insult a professional photographer
- What makes a photographer professional
- How to judge a photographer
- Misconceptions and myths in professional photography

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