Rant: You Get What You Pay For / by LD

Open question to The Internets: Since when has it become okay to require a person to posses vast amounts of knowledge and skill in a particular field and yet pay them a barista's salary? Nothing against our lovely friends at the local Starbucks & Tea Leaf, but you don't drop a hundred K on a Bachelor (and perhaps another hundo on a Masters) to serve coffee.

And yet this is what I find time and time again in my field - and I'm guessing other related fields (to those in said related fields: Can I hear an "Amen"?): a job listing requiring years of experience and thousands of dollars in education only to offer a compensation that is vastly inferior. 

Case in point? Let's have a look at our friend Craig's List for examples*, shall we?

A company called Fashionphile is looking for a photo editor/post-production wiz. The job description requires "Raw images [to be] prepared and optimized for web-based viewing. This includes...white balance, levels, contrast, resizing, adding watermarks, and uploading to our server." Expected shot count is 20 - 50 items per day. They even included examples of what is undoubtedly a crash-bang job of photo editing but nonetheless requires skill, time, knowledge, and energy.

The wage?

$9 per hour with no benefits. Appalling. What Photoshop monkey in their right mind would accept compensation so insulting? 

Another company, SECO-LARM (the self-described "world-wide importer/exporter/distributor of access control, burglar security, commercial security, CCTV, and vehicle security systems." Thrilling.) Is looking for a photographer who owns their own equipment, computer and software to:
"take product photos or product application photos. Once the final photo is selected, you would need to clean photos for production.

Requirements for photos:
End result will be 4 photos.
A) Original: ~3000 x ~2000, 48-Bit, tiff
B) COREL DRAW file with original image and mask object curve – think ruby cut – precisely cutting photo from background to 1 or 2 pixel accuracy.
C) ~2000 x ~1500, 32-Bit, tiff, no background, no shadows, precise edges lightly feathered to smooth appearance
D) Large photo for website: (varies with product) typically ~300 x ~200, medium-res jpeg"
So if you're keeping track, that's all the product photography, image correction, and multiple outputs (using Corel Draw, no less; I think my horse and buggy just keeled over and DIED). What SECO-LARM feels is fair to offer as compensation for what would undoubtedly be a full day's work (at least) is $100. A $100 day rate. My horse and buggy just rose from the dead only to DIE. AGAIN.

If that hasn't ruffled your feathers, yet another e-commerce company in Rancho Dominguez is also offering a whopping $10/hour for photography and post production skillz. A high-end furniture company was offering a similar wage to shoot their pieces for their retail stores and website. 

It's unbelievable to me that companies would even consider paying so little for a skill in such high demand, but what's more unbelievable is that there are photographers out there who will willingly subject themselves to this kind of treatment. 

As a young photographer and businessperson, the principle I've encountered most is that you are responsible for how you are treated. If you agree to do jobs whose compensation is vastly below your skill level, you are doing a grave disservice not only to yourself but to the business community at large. Those of us who work hard to make our dreams and careers profitable are certainly impacted when there are photographers out there offering their time and skills for so little cost. 

Granted, I understand the commerce is commerce, and especially in today's economy, it's de rigueur to offer the best price for the most service, but you get what you pay for. And children, you get in return what you require of your clients/employers. If you offer hundreds of dollars in skill, talent, knowledge and time and require pennies in return, you will continue to be mistreated in your business, and it will be nobody's fault but your own.

I know times are tough right now. But now is when we as businesspeople need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and adhere to a sentiment known by many as the motto of a certain L'Oreal Cosmetics:  You're worth it.

Seriously. You are. And $10 is most definitely not worth it.



*I know Craig's List is not the Biblical Standard in job postings. I know it's full of a lot of crap, but as someone who has actually acquired a well-paying and legitimate job from CL, I will also point out that many of the prospective employers who post on that site are dead serious.