Playboy Magazine is famous for one thing, — okay, maybe two things — but there are no nude women in any of my photos, nor do I have any shots of the late Hugh Hefner. So, how did I do it?
Back in February, I wrote an article about the benefits of doing unpaid work. In it, I list a number of things: it's good for the soul (if you choose the right project), it can get you some of that dreaded exposure that I and some of my other creative peers complain about, and it can end up getting you paid gigs. This is a common business decision that almost all photographers need to make at some stage in their careers. The pros and cons of these jobs need to be considered carefully before committing to them.
Well, I took on an unpaid gig a few months ago. I wrote an article for Fstoppers back in June detailing my experience. You can read it here. If you don't feel like reading it, let me quickly summarize.
This particular unpaid gig started with an offer to go to South Africa, which, to me, was an absolute no-brainer. My main motivation for going was to photograph an NPO known as VETPAW: a conservation organization/anti-poaching unit made up of US military veterans. Second to that was an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at a conservancy in action.
While I did have to give up my time and get there on my own dime, when I got there, room and board were taken care of in exchange for my services. It was a wild two-and-a-half weeks. I had a blast, I made some great friends, and I was able to provide VETPAW with some images that it could use for its social media.
Here Comes the Bunny
The fact that I felt I had contributed a tiny bit towards raising awareness for an iconic animal such as the rhino was fulfilling enough. I didn't expect anything after that and considered it to be money and time well spent. However, a few weeks after getting back to Terra Verde, I was contacted by Níall Beddy, the conservation ranger from the reserve. He had already told me that prior to my visit to the reserve, a journalist from Playboy had shadowed VETPAW for a week or so with the intent of writing a piece on them, because Playboy Magazine isn't just about bare-chested maidens, it's a gentlemen's interest magazine. And gentlemen are interested in conservation.
While Playboy had initially enlisted Beddy to get the shots needed, as he is an accomplished wildlife photographer himself, he is also, of course, a full-time ranger, and ain't got no time for taking pretty pictures of heroic, animal-loving veterans. I, on the other hand, spent quite a lot of time photographing these guys; in fact, we even scheduled a shoot at sunset where they donned their best camo and meanest faces. Just to reiterate, all of this was intended for their social media. You can see where I'm going with this.
I'm in Playboy Magazine (Sort of)
To cut the story short, I sent Playboy a few sample images and they ended up using some of my images and some of Beddy's in the article. I have now had my images published in the September/October issue of Playboy Magazine, and I got paid for the privilege, all because I followed my instincts and shot what I cared about. Don't get me wrong, I realize that an almost perfect storm of events had to happen for it to come to this. But, as the saying goes, you create your own luck.
Do any of our readers have any stories about how an unpaid gig led them to something interesting? Please share them in the comments.