New Workshop! Lighting 3 | Advanced Off Camera Flash

Tips & Tricks

Don’t Sell Yourself Short: Stop Giving Away Your Work For Free

By Justin Heyes on October 11th 2014

I think we all have been in a situation where someone wants to use your image, but they cannot pay you. Instead they offer you a credit or experience or something great for your portfolio.

In the following video, Matt Granger suggests that you stop giving out your work for free.

[Rewind: Does Working For Free Ever Pay Off?]

The question you need to ask yourself is “Should I Work For Free?” I volunteer my skill to a veterinary hospital and to a local music school and I do not demand any sort of compensation for the work. This is not the type of situation that Ganger talks about; it is where well-to-do companies ask for your work for free when they can easily pay for it. If a company values your work enough to use it as part of their advertising campaigns and/or promotions, a monetary compensation should be able to back that value.


There are photographers who will easily give their work away for credit or exposure, but is it worth it? Exposure is good in the beginning, but when do you draw the line? Does any other professional give out their work for credit/free? Can you go to a restaurant and tell the chef that you cannot pay them, but you will tell all your friends how good the food was? You would either be kicked out or laughed at and sent to the back to wash dishes.


Giving out your work to be published is okay once and awhile and you may even see some-sort of compensation from it. There is a flip side of the coin however, giving away work to established organizations then demanding reimbursement after the fact can come back to bite you. You should know how your work will be used beforehand and set your compensation accordingly.

[Via Matt Granger YouTube / Images Screen captures]

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. J D

    It’s difficult when you are starting out and getting established. Some people are happy to see their name in print next to their photos and that’s all they need. Others are told that basically if you don’t give them for free then they will just find someone else who will.

    You just need to pick and choose what, who and when if you give you photos away. Does it benefit you in any way, both short term or long term? In my case, giving a couple free photos landed me paid shoots once every couple months.

    | |
  2. Mary Hurlbut

    For 5 years I administered a non-profit’s Facebook page plus took all the pictures displayed there. It was a great learning experience and helped me fine tune my craft. I came to the realization, the work I was doing had value. I took them from 50 fans to over 20,000! But it was beginning to cut into my own work, so I finally asked for a small, monthly stipend. Well they also needed a new secretary, so instead they hired someone for that position and to to take over the Social Media. Shocked, I moved on to better, paying jobs, yet sad as I watch the Page I had worked so hard on now display inconsistent and poor quality images. They are getting what they didn’t pay for.

    | |
    • Jim Johnson

      I’ve been there. You can’t help but shake your head when you show your value, but they still decide they don’t need you.

      Often, it’s someone’s power trip, or they feel threatened by you abilities. Or it’s a case of “we feel well, so we don’t need the medicine any longer.”

      | |
  3. Mircea Blanaru

    Great article!!! I totally agree with the author!!! If this is your main occupation, you just can’t afford to work for free!!

    | |
  4. Jeff Morrison

    Thanks for the info

    | |
  5. Phillip Jones

    When contacted with a request for usage of photo(s), most of the time the requester utilizes the “we’ll give you credit” line, while never mentioning compensation. I always respond with an expression of gratitude for taking interest in my work, followed by this question: “What is your usual pay rate for photo usage?” One of three things happens: a) they respond with the rate; b) they claim they don’t have the budget for paying; c) I never hear from them again.

    When it is B, I take into consideration the source. A non-profit operating on a tight budget is usually going to win me over. However, when one of the wealthiest television networks in the world gave me that line, I called their bluff and quoted a price, along with a comment that my camera gear was not “donated” in exchange for credits/mentions. For magazines and books, I am willing to negotiate as I’d rather have some money, plus the enjoyment of being published, than not.

    I have ran into a few situations where my donated photos actually attracted requests that involved compensation. Only a few.

    | |
    • Jim Johnson

      I’m so with you. I don’t give away my work…. except when I want to. Causes I support can count on that support, but businesses don’t get that consideration.

      | |
  6. Peter McWade

    Kudos for standing up for your business. I fully agree and would not want to get caught in that situation. I’d rather not be published if I’m not going to get paid. I have not yet done any work where anyone was wanting to use it but when the time comes I will stand for my rightful compensation.

    Thanks a bunch for this.
    Pete :)

    | |
  7. Chuck Eggen

    Outstanding! I agree with Matt completely however, we as a group have to come together on this to make it work. My guess is it’s amatures like me that further this problem. Any one of us have a moment when a photo stands out. I believe that we are the target more often than well known pro’s, I’m a nobody photographer but I’m inundated with requests to do this or that for free. We also need to reevaluate who our friends are. I’ve recently been befriended by many people whom only want some of my work, not my friendship. It’s difficult I know but I’ve finally realized my time is as valuable as anyone else’s and will start asking the hard question, “What’s in it for me.” I’m not advertising for work. They are asking me. My two cents worth.

    | |