Professional photographers have slammed a police force’s advert for an unpaid volunteer role to take pictures of officers at community events as “inappropriate” and “disrespectful” to their profession.
Surrey Police has begun advertising for multiple volunteer photographers who would document the day-to-day work of officers and staff with images to be used in print and online.
The force’s Facebook post, published on Monday night, read: “Are you a budding photographer looking to gain some experience? We have an exciting voluntary photographer role.”
It said the photographers would be expected to “identify, capture, edit and deliver images in a timely fashion”, the full job advert said.
“Volunteer photographers will help to maintain and improve Surrey Police’s corporate photo library,” it said.
“These volunteers will help to provide a candid insight into the life of the force, while supporting our operational policing through high-quality communications and public engagement.”
The role would allow people to “gain an understanding of the policing world” and experience of event and candid portait photography, it said.
Photographers would also be credited “wherever possible” when their images are used and learn other transferable skills, according to the advert.
Volunteers need “excellent skills in photography and photo editing” and the ability to be “compassionate and discreet” when photographing members of the public involved with Surrey Police.
In a statement, Surrey Police said photographers would share their copyright with the force, restricting their own usage to their personal portfolio.
Chris Eades, chairman of the British Press Photographers Association, called on Surrey Police to withdraw the advert, saying it had offended “great many photographers” including former police staff.
He told Press Gazette: “We see more and more of these ‘photographers, would you like to work for free?’ adverts and pretty much every working photographer feels insulted by them.
“They disrespect the skills of professional photographers and ultimately make it harder for professional photographers to make a living.
“Nobody ever advertises for ‘press officers, would you like to work for free?’ but for some reason photographers, and other visual artists, seem to be regarded as fair game for exploitation. The fact it’s the press office placing the advert is even more insulting.
“Of course it’s a good thing if people want to help their local police – be a special constable or set up a neighbourhood watch by all means – but this advert is framed in the ‘have fun and get valuable experience’ tone of so many unpaid work experience roles – which any professional will tell you are just a con.
“The only thing you will learn is that you can’t buy the shopping with ‘a credit’ – you need a credit card – and by undercutting working photographers you reduce your chance of ever turning your hobby into a career.”
A former police photographer wrote in a comment under the shared post: “I’m appalled by your disrespect to my profession. I spent half my career proud of the job I did and you’ve just belittled it in one thoughtless decision.”
Philip North-Coombes, who said he was writing on behalf of a group called Photographers United, commented that the advert was inappropriate and asked for it to be removed.
He added: “As professionals we are here to support each other and our industry and when a police force tries to undermine that and expect them to work for free it is quite incredible and disrespectful to our business, our profession.”
Surrey Police digital communications manager Jay Butcher told Press Gazette that Surrey Police currently has more than 250 volunteers across many different roles, who “selflessly give their time in a variety of areas” and are not a replacement for paid staff.
He said the force was looking for “a number of individuals passionate about their local area to support their local police force” and that Surrey Police will continue to pay professional photographers for bespoke projects.
Butcher said: “All of our volunteers proactively support us to help keep Surrey safe and to provide our communities with information and updates.
“As with forces up and down the country, volunteers are a vital and welcomed part of the policing family ensuring representation and involvement of local communities and different demographics within Surrey Police.
“Their roles are not a replacement for paid staff roles or the outsourcing of services where needed, they support and complement our more community based initiatives. This photography role is no different.
“It is not to provide any evidential photography, this is still very much within the remit of our forensic and operational staff and/or officers.
“It is aimed at community-minded individuals who would like to support the work of their local police force by visualising and capturing our local policing activities and communities for communications purposes and to build to our image library.
“We have photographic and video equipment that can be used by volunteers, supplementing their own equipment that they may prefer to use; we pay travel and food expenses.
“We share the copyright of the imagery, ensuring that the photographer gains the credit for the imagery but does restrict the use of the imagery to personal portfolio use.”
In January, the National Union of Journalists launched a campaign called #useitpayforit to raise awareness that amateur photographers and videographers who give their work away for nothing are “undermining professional photographers” and the value of good images.
NUJ national organiser Pamela Morton told Press Gazette: “As the NUJ’s campaign #Useitpayforit says, if an image is good enough to be published or broadcast, it is good enough to be paid for.
“If Surrey Police is expecting someone with excellent skills and experience in photography and editing, the ability to engage with officers and staff to get the required images, strong attention to detail and to be compassionate and discreet when photographing members of the public, then they need to pay someone.
“This sounds like a professional job and should be paid as such. The police service may be facing cuts, but it shouldn’t be taking away photographers’ livelihoods to fill the gap.”