Photograph for Free? Should I do it?
I’ve photographed hundreds of talent and in there includes Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Kanye West, etc.. also brands and new talent. I know a thing or two about when you should work for free, when you should say “No, but thank you…”
In my photography masterclass, I mentor my students to very strategically work for free and even then with a recipe in mind. Otherwise, you’re forever stuck as a photographer not able to collect a fee ever. It’s fine line that you must walk.
For those wondering about free photography, here is a basic breakdown. Lets divide it in 4 major categories.
YOU BENEFIT FIRST: You must benefit first, that’s not selfish. That’s strategic and best for the longterm of your business. The “free work” should be your idea, not an outside party. When the idea comes from an outside source, it does NOT benefit your first. That’s a big sign! An example of this type of work is a test shoot, to benefit your immediate portfolio.
THE RIGHT CHARITY BENEFITS: Here’s something unpopular, charities have lots of money. The Red Cross, AMA, etc… have massive production budgets to keep the flow of fundraising coming in. That budget includes media and the product you offer is media. They need your photographs and videos to keep fundraising, you’re providing a highly valued tool. The small charities need help. Your neighbor needing money for a medical bill, a local school raising money for supplies don’t have the budget. Help them out! That’s why I say “the right charity”
A GIFT THAT’S YOUR IDEA: Give your photography as a gift. It has to be YOUR idea, never their idea. When they ask you to bring a camera to the wedding, I would politely decline. It’s a gift when it’s my idea, not theirs. And when I gift my photographs, I give a limited supply of images and the gift certificate that I make specifies that. Specify the amount when presenting a gift.
BARTER DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR: This is the most preferred method of free work. Know your value, and then charge for your value in their commodity. If you charge $2500 for a shoot and a brand wants you to photograph for them as a trade… you establish a $2500 credit for their product. Dollar for dollar! You are worth just as much as them.
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BTS of yesterday. We just took over the sidewalk but then again nobody walks in LA. Make it work, wherever. Use the ☀️ for your light. Use only one good lens. Use public spaces to shoot. Ask the model to 100% live the role. Ignore the horns of passing by drivers. Listen to your instincts. Let the model perform within the character but give them freedom. Sometimes ignore the shotlist and have fun. / @walid.azami
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