Lately I’ve been hearing the phrase, Charge for Everything, and I couldn’t agree more. If your friend owns a sandwich shop, that doesn’t mean every time you are hungry that she should whip you up a sandwich and feed you right? Therefore, turning the table around, just because you are a photographer, that doesn’t mean you are anyone’s personal photographer or life documenter. There is a reason why entry level DSLRs are affordable, so every one can do it themselves, also why tripods and camera remotes exist too!
Here’s what I think when it comes to discounting, or donating my talents:
Consider shooting for FREE:
- Portfolio Builder. You need to get into a new market – such as high school seniors or babies. When you’re a new photographer, the experience is worth giving it a go.
- Pretty. When I first started, I shot my pretty model friends to build my portfolio. Of course it doesn’t mean I should/need to continually shoot everyone who is pretty for free.
- Donation. It’s rewarding to give your God given talents back to your community if you have time.
- Collaboration. Like a concept shoot where lots of other business owners and creatives donate their time in hopes that they get publicity.
Where, when and how to draw the line:
- First, start by NOT bringing your camera every where you go. I know it’s hard when you first start out, and that’s fine if you want to, but there will come a day when soon your friends will say, “Where’s your camera?” when you arrive and you’ll be sad and angry thinking they invited you to take pics, not to be there. It’s not their fault if you make it a habit. Instagram is a great way to still capture moments! *wink*
- I have a handful of best friends, a bunch of really good friends, and in all honesty, they all group into this precious family that’s away from my family if you know what I mean. I don’t like to draw circles in circles but you have to figure out the few you are willing to shoot occasionally for free (be careful because you do not want them to assume you can or are willing to be on call to document every single life event or monthly baby documentation). If you’re going to be a professional, time is money and you can’t shoot every one or else you’ll go broke and become frustrated and burnt out real soon. Your complimentary shoots should really be offered by you, not the other way around.
- You do not have to continue to shoot someone for free just because you did it once. Your talent is not an ongoing never ending service so don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of.
If you’re wondering whether you should give a vendor or magazines an image for free, please refer to this post.
Note: It is your time. Your talent. Your love. You decide when, where and who to share it with. There are no “rules” and if you make them, you are always free to break them.
Diana Elizabeth says be careful about the freebies because that could be the primary cause of the burn-out symptom. Try really hard to narrow down your energy and time on projects you really need to further your creativity. Your true friends will still be your friends even if you don’t photograph them for free.