I’m sure most, if not all of us have been asked to shoot for free at one point or another. I still get asked even today! But is working for free necessarily a bad thing?
Unfortunately, it’s not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer as it does depend on your individual situation. But for me, it has been answered as ‘no’ a few times in my Photography life.
Working for free may seem like a waste of time, but it might be worth considering doing certain shoots without compensation. Let’s talk more about it.
Earlier this year, I was put in touch with a couple who were getting married. At that point, I was not aware of their photography needs. I just knew they were getting married, so I thought I would try my luck to see if they needed a photographer. It turned out that they had already booked their photographer for the day, but they offered to me that I could shoot for my portfolio.
Again, I’m sure most, if not all of us have been told that the shoot would be good for our portfolio. I’m also positive that often times we may have just turned our noses up at that offer as we felt they just want to get some free photos.
Regardless, I had nothing planned that day. I had no shoots booked, so I decided to go for it. The agreement I made with the couple is that I would have full rights to the images to help market myself and display wherever I needed. In return, they would receive low-res watermarked images for web use.
The bride and groom uploaded the images, and it reached out to hundreds of their Facebook friends. This in turn drew a lot of traffic to my Facebook page and generated an inquiry for another Wedding which then led onto landing a full Wedding at my full paid rate.
Four months after shooting the initial Wedding, I was also approached by the original couple as they wanted to buy the images off me at full-res un-watermarked so that they could use them for print.
Shooting for free can seem like a waste of time and if you allow it, it can make you feel undervalued. However, it is important to remember that it is a great opportunity to network, gain exposure, and hone your skills if you are at a point in your career where that is necessary.
So depending on your situation and how established you are, working for free can definitely have its benefits.
You may not see immediate returns for your investment of time, but the more people you meet, and the more people that see your work; the more likely it is for you to land paying jobs.
There is no definitive answer to this question of “Should I work for free?”, as everyone’s situation is different. The important thing to remember is to take control of the situation, don’t let anyone take advantage of you, and do place value in your abilities.
From my own personal experience, working for free has at times benefited me. I have expanded my network, gained more experience, and ended up getting a paying job. Have any of you had any experiences of working for
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