Articles (Blog)

Stasha's Moment - Sponsored Posts

Stasha's Moment - Sponsored Posts

My grandpa always said people are funny about money. 

I thought he meant about picking up the check or lending you some. But, apparently, it is mostly about how you make money that upsets the public in these days — especially if you are a mother with a perceived wholesome image. It seems inconceivable you would dare receiving a paycheck for what you do. 

When I first started my photography business I looked up my competition. There was a professional male photographer in our town with many years of experience who charged for wedding packages what one should in order to survive wedding off season, support his family, pay the taxes and be left with some money to buy himself a latte. There were also at least ten female photographers, none of whom referred to themselves as professional and who charged petty change, not even a quarter of what the male photographer did. In order to compete, I listed myself somewhere in the middle and waited. I did many sessions for free, I agreed to lower my price because couples were on a budget. I undersold myself and yet bookings were scarce. 

My portfolio was not impressive because there was not enough variety or destinations or in fact clients. And after I paid my dues and my taxes I actually made no money at all. When one of my friends got engaged and hired a photographer from Seattle who charged her over $4,000 for six-hour coverage, I realized that I was doing something wrong. Especially since I was going to offer to photograph her wedding for free! 

As my popularity on Instagram grew I started receiving many offers for brands to send theirproducts for me to feature on my feed. Initially flattered, I realized that I am drowning in things I don’t need. It wasn't until somebody asked me what my rate is for a sponsored post that I realized this is something that could become a source of income. I have learned from my days as a lifestyle photographer that underselling myself will cost me dearly. Although I still accept thoughtful gifts, mainly by artists or small business owners in exchange for a post on my social media, most of the product and brand placements on my account are indeed sponsored and paid for by the client. I maintain my artistic freedom at all times.

I also sign contracts, meet deadlines and pay income tax for all my work. If you ever watched “Mad Men” you know how much time and effort goes into tastefully creating ads. Now imagine doing it so that it fits into your daily life, by yourself with limited resources, without offending your followers. 

And yet, people are offended — so much so they take the time not only to share their dislike of me partnering with brands but to call me a sell-out and a disappointment to whatever image they perceived of me. Everybody likes my photography, they all agree with that but me being paid for it…that’s a different story. Apparently me spending on average four hours a day on Instagram posting photos, replying on comments and visiting my followers feeds, continuously sharing my life, my family and my thoughts on social media may only be done to please others. It should by no means be used to carefully curate products I feel my followers my benefit from. And it should definitely not be used to make money to support my family. 

Yet if I told all those who are outraged that I have taken more work this year than previous ones because we are moving to Japan to accommodate my husband’s career as a Naval Officer, that I need the money to ship my beloved dogs and keep my family together, that I had to close my photography business just as it begun thriving so I can stay with my husband and move abroad, I will be hailed as a hero. All those things are true but I don’t think I need a reason to make a paycheck. It is hard enough for women to live in the shadow of men most of our lives, we don’t need to be reminded every time we are successful that we should not have bothered. 

Before I sat down to write this article I visited some feeds of the people I follow. The male photographers are currently being paid to travel the world by brands and tourism boards, are published in magazines and on their clients’ websites and praised for their work. A few of them have written books, which they promote on their feed. Some share their professional work alone, no personal photos. Most rarely reply to comments or engage and none at all are being called frauds when they tag their sleeping bag or their coffee mugs. 

Then there are the ladies I follow. They are my age, moms, homeschoolers, house-makers.

They occasionally post photos of a snack and cleaning products around their house and get paid nothing what the male photographers do for traveling around the world. They don’t get annual supply of the products, either. Yet they are continuously attacked by their followers and the most common threat is that they will be unfollowed. 

Instagram is a free app. We have no power over who enjoys our work. There are no conditions of engagement, no subscription, no commitment. It’s not like cable or magazine where you pay for content and still have ads. And yet rarely do I hear people say they are boycotting their favorite show because they are sponsored by a brand. Or ditching their favorite football team because their players endorse a product for which mind you they get millions. So why is it so hard to swallow a mother saying that I believe this cup of coffee is indeed delicious and I truly enjoy drinking it in the morning? How have I offended anyone? I didn't say we should all go and buy it. I didn't make everyone look at my post. We are all free to scroll, unfollow, even comment. 

When I visit feeds I see selfies and babies and calls for being charitable. I see people posting about things they build, places they went, things they do and their business ventures. I see GoFundMe links and I see equal rights captions and pro-gun and anti-gun ones and a whole lot of talk about the worship and faith. I see people sharing their day, their life, the things they like and ranting about things they don’t. I see all of you, your passions and what matters to you in life. Sometimes I see your professions, too, and I don’t say mean things to you because you are a plumber who charges double for a Sunday call out to a mother of five with a blocked sink whose husband is deployed. Because that’s real life. We all have bills to pay and I pay mine with my photography. As an art form it might deserve criticism.. But we can all agree that saying you hate the fact that I got paid for it is far from constructive? 

Perhaps writing this article is a bad idea. By justifying my work and life decisions, I opened them for further discussions and admitted that I feel bad about not being generally liked by all. My grandfather also said you cannot please everyone. In the end, I believe that of all the men, he would have been proud of the woman I became.

Words and Photos by Stasha Becker

Kevin De Los Santos