Raise your hand if you have a friend who is a photographer. Now, raise your hand if you’ve ever asked that friend to do their job for free. No seriously. RAISE YOUR HAND. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU. Because you’ve all done it. How do I know? Because I have a lot of friends and way too many of you have invited me to parties and told me to bring my camera or told me about this cool project idea you have that you’re certain I would love to be a part of.
Here’s the deal. I MIGHT love to be a part of it. AND, if I would, I’ll volunteer. BUT STOP ASKING ME TO DO IT FOR FREE! Ask to hire me. THIS IS MY JOB!
Stay tuned long enough and I’ll give you the script for exactly how TO get us to do our job for free, because it IS possible.
Do you invite your accountant to the party and ask him to do your taxes in the corner? Do you tell your dentist you have this bad ass cavity he should practice drilling for his portfolio and then tell him if he does a great job cleaning your teeth you’ll tell all your friends about him? (You know, all your other friends who also don’t want to pay him to clean their teeth.)
Regardless of what you may feel about about the investment level of entering into the field of photography vs. becoming a dentist, paying back student loans and business expenses aren’t the only thing that go into setting my prices. Here’s a basic rule of thumb:
Scenario ONE: Your friend has a great new camera and she loves taking pictures of her kids on the weekends. She also has a full time job and her husband is a doctor and when she takes on clients she gives them all of their digital files for $75. She doesn’t mind making $2.50 an hour. Ask HER to take pictures for free for you.
Scenario TWO: Your friend is a full time photographer. This is their job. They don’t make money any other way. Their spouse is their partner in their photography business. They have children. They have a mortgage. DO NOT ASK THEM TO DO THEIR JOB FOR FREE!!!!
I’m not going to list all of the many things that go into the job that you all think is so easy and that just takes a couple of hours…mostly because I don’t ask my electrician why he charges $95 an hour to fix a .50 cent wire. I can figure out on my own that his son might want to be on the soccer team and he might want to eat dinner 7 nights a week.
Remove the following sentences from your vocabulary:
It’ll just be a quick shoot. (Let me assure you, the time you and I are together with my camera in my hand is NOTHING compared to the time I will then have to spend in post removing the chicken pieces off of party goer’s chins from the party your paying job allowed you to throw.)
It’s going to be such an easy shoot. (Perfect! Here’s a link to a fantastic self timer remote. You can do the easy shoot yourself.)
You can just take the pictures. You don’t have to edit them. If I’m going to spend my time doing your job for the “EXPOSURE” do you honestly think I would put out half ass work? When you ask me to do a free job, I LOVE what I do. I take so much pride in every photograph that comes from my company. I will NEVER let you post a photograph that I’m not proud of.
No Pressure. I’d just love to have you do it for us. Most of the photographers I know will feel pressure even if there is no pressure. We are for the most part PEOPLE people. Which means we hate to have to say no. So we say yes. Then we do your free shoot and sometimes we even love doing it. But even when we love doing it, we’re cursing behind your back about how you’re taking advantage of us. Then we avoid you for the rest of our friendship because we don’t want to have to say no or yes again next year when you invite us to keep building our already well built portfolios.
This will be great exposure for you. Exposure is an exciting concept. I’ve done plenty of things for exposure. Magazine covers, networking events, you name it. Guess how many paying jobs come after exposure jobs? ZERO. Exposure jobs get you more exposure jobs. They get you other magazine covers who now value you as someone who will give them killer magazine covers for free. People don’t inquire about who did that magazine cover because I simply must have them shoot my family portraits! They assume instead that since you’re on the cover of a magazine, you couldn’t be bothered to photograph their precious memories. A great example of GOOD exposure is: You hired me to do your family portraits and you realized right away that despite my higher prices, every second of the experience was worth it. You then told your friends that although my work was an investment, you now have photographs to capture your memories that no other photographer on the planet could have provided you. You saw that I didn’t just pop off some pictures and dump them on a cd for you. You saw that I spent time and energy planning for your shoot and that I put as much into your portraits as I would have into my own. That even though you may have to go to the mall for your photos for the in between years, you’re looking forward to having me photograph you all again in five years as another investment in your family’s memories. THAT’s when exposure is good exposure.
Here’s the thing. I volunteer for a TON of free shoots. TONS! I do free shoots when I have time, energy and when I feel overwhelmingly inspired by something you’re doing. But more often, I am INCREDIBLY INSPIRED by what you’re doing but I can’t do it because I can’t afford to pay my electricity on inspiration alone.
Do you see how you’ve gone and gotten me all worked up? Now I’m hungry. I’m going to go ask the grocery store if I can have this week’s groceries for free. I’ll give them tons of exposure by posting on Facebook about how awesome HEB apples are. I’m sure they’ll say yes.
Look, I love taking pictures and I love taking pictures for my friends. When it’s MY idea. When I’m able. If I offer it’s because everything in my life says its a good idea. I have money in the bank and I’m in the mood to spend some extra time playing with my camera. Chances are I’m also going to send you an invoice that lets you know how much this SHOULD have cost so that I can keep my volunteer hours recorded for tax purposes/let you know what you’re getting for free has a value. Plus most of the time the people I offer free pictures to have actually asked to hire me. But it’s time people stopped assuming that just because my job is a service and they don’t have any iota about what actually goes into producing this service that it’s something easy to just quickly give away.
Now, as I promised before, here is your word for word script for how you can get us to do our jobs for free.
Hey my favorite photographer! I have this great project I’m dying to do (you can also replace this part with “party for my 2 year old’s birthday”). Since I don’t have a budget, I need to find people who would also love to get on board to help me make this dream a reality. Here’s the details. I know that photography is your bread and butter so I would never ask you to donate your services for free so if I could hire someone for this job, you would be my choice in a heart beat. But since I can’t, do you know any photographers that are starting out and portfolio building that might like to contribute to my project/small party of 900 guests that won’t last more than a couple hours?
Guess what this does? It gives me the chance to:
A. Refer you to a local photography forum where I can be upfront with aspiring photographers with this awesome opportunity to portfolio build without having to offend anyone.
B. To say, “Hey, ya know what? I like your project a lot. I’d love to volunteer to get on board.”
Friendship saved! And now I don’t have to think you’re a total tool who devalues my service. Who knows, I may even just show up at your kid’s birthday party with my camera.
Last week I did a free shoot for a friend. Here’s the actual message she sent me that got me to WANT to do it for free.
So, also…I want some pics of Sawyer. And I know I’m a friend, but you are a business and I want to know what it would REALLY cost to do some shots of him before he loses his teeth and gets awkward. Preferably fun and outside.
Not only did I offer to do it for free, I WANTED to. It was a great opportunity for me. Not for exposure. But for capturing some great memories of our kids playing together while also getting some adorable pictures of her son’s baby teeth. I had the day to spare AND I knew that she was grateful because she knew the value of what I was doing. Kirsten Oliphant‘s “eclectic celebration of chaos” blog gives great advice on just about every subject, not just how to get a photographer to do their job for free. You should definitely follow her.
Hey Photographers, guess who DOES value your work? Image Brief. Check them out. They’re a great stock website that offers you everywhere from $250-$5000 per image. They TOTALLY understand your work is worth paying for and they help connect you with clients that get it too.
Bonnie and Gabe Two Creative Birds are a husband and wife photography/videography team who enjoy working their asses off to give their clients the best experience possible…..and then they use their hard earned money to pay bills and live life.
Heck Yeah Topaz Clarity Discount Code! Topaz=my favorite softwares out there. Hands. Down.