Can’t remember exactly where I found this link, but it’s a useful motto. Replace “writer” with “photographer” or any other creative professional, and repeat it to yourself. Then repeat it again. When a new contest you’ve never heard of asks for a big fee, say it to yourself. When an art gallery asks for an exhibition fee, say it to yourself. When a magazine or organization asks for free pictures or, worse, asks you to pay, say it to yourself. “Money flows toward the photographer.”
No, that doesn’t mean that the author should get paper and ink for free, or that he won’t pay for postage. It does mean that when someone comes along and says, “Sure, kid, you can be a Published Author! It’ll only cost you $300!” the writer will know that something’s wrong. A fee is a fee is a fee, whether they call it a reading fee, a marketing fee, a promotion fee, or a cheese-and-crackers fee.
Is this perfect? No. Scammers have come up with some elaborate ways to avoid activating it. But it’s still a good and useful tool, and will save a lot of grief. Any time an agent or publisher asks for money, the answer should be “No!”
Yes, there are exceptions. You’ve got to pay for marketing, and you’ve got to get your name out there, and there are, sometimes, reasonable fees associated with worthwhile contests. But, in general, money flows toward the photographer. And get yourself over to the NPPA’s cost of doing business calculator and make sure that you aren’t paying more to take pictures than you’re making with your licensing and assignment fees.