What’s the quickest way to devalue a creative profession? Ask an artist for their time and work free of charge.

British tattoo artist Jay Hutton, of E4’s Tattoo Fixers, unintentionally accrued quite a bit of backlash for his request that a wedding photographer shoot his special day…for no payment.

A representative of Hutton’s reached out to a number of photographers looking for a “duo” to capture their wedding day. Their chosen payment method? Exposure on the tattoo artist’s social media accounts.

The message reads:

“The promotional value of social media is second to none and something we charge a great deal for. In exchange for photographing the day, Jay will credit selected photos on social media to the photographer and their website. After a short period of time after the wedding date we will also allow preselected images to be promoted by the photographer on their own website or social media platform. On top of this we would cover travel and food for the day.”

People who work in creative fields, especially those who are not well-established and constantly looking for ways to use their talents, are often plagued with the decision of whether or not to give their services for “exposure“. Of course, exposure is important when trying to make a name for yourself. But many artists find working for free devalues their entire profession, as their time and energy is worthy of payment just like any other’s.

Hutton’s request in particular hit a nerve with the photography community, where many people are appalled that, as an artist himself, Hutton would ask for their artistic services without payment.

One photographer who received the message from Hutton’s representatives posted the message to a Facebook group, “Stop Working for Free”, which has over 22,000 members. The comments ranged from offended to outraged:

“This is disgusting behavior, especially coming from someone who talks about ‘getting what you pay for’ on Tattoo Fixers.”

“His social media followers are probably spread all over the country and the world, so it won’t be much good for a wedding photographer based in Chester or North Wales.”

“How many people who follow a celebrity on Instagram or Facebook are really going to be a potential customer?”

Phil Micheu, freelance photographer, says on Hutton, “He’s a prominent businessman who is supposedly a professional. Surely he respects the professionalism of other business people?”

The fact that Hutton, as an artist, gets paid quite a bit for his services, and then asks for a fellow artist’s services free of charge is a slap in the face to the photography community, as it essentially declares that their work is somehow unworthy of proper payment.

What exactly Hutton’s intentions were with this odd payment offer is not clear, as he must have assumed some would find his request distasteful. Seeing that his proposal sparked a good amount of controversy, it’s safe to say he likely won’t find a photographer to work for free anytime soon.