To, or to not, shoot for free?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by keith204, Sep 13, 2008.

  1. keith204

    keith204 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I read in a design forum about a movement of designers who pledge to never do any design work for free.

    When it comes to photography...where do you draw the line?
     
  2. saltface

    saltface TPF Noob!

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    I usually man the first ditch as firmly as possible. The enemy attacks and and I fall back. Eventually I end up in situations where my boss offers my photography services for the cost of film and development.
     
  3. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    As a professional, if your work is good enough, there is no limit to what you can charge. So... the question is... how good are you, and how much do you want to charge?

    I feel that if you are doing it as a hobby, there is no real reason to charge, however, if photography is putting bread on your table, why aren't you charging as much as your market can bear?

    I see and talk to professional wedding photographers that charge $10,000.00 and more per day... and getting it (*AND* are booked months and often years in advance!). They are masters of their BUSINESS moresp than photography, and then I see some good photographers out there giving it away.

    In the end, I think it falls down to self-esteem and business savvy. How good do you think you are? What are you doing to augment your business skills? These areas area what will define how much you, as a professional, will get based on YOUR OWN (and not anyone else's) gauge.

    When I started my company, I was glad to get $25/hour. Today, I won't lift a pen for anything under $250.00/hour. That is what I see my time as being worth, and I charge often 2 times that amount becuase I know I am worth it becuase I can do things the competitors will never do as well. My clients all agree and do not hesitate to pay my rates.

    Funniest thing... I was struggling like an idiot until I raised prices over the $100.00/hour rate, thats when I started getting so busy it was nuts. When I went over $200/hour, in the space of 4 months... business doubled. I hear about this all the time in the photography field from many professionals, so it is not just limited to my business. I do throw in the odd free hour here or there, but thats just good customer service, and a wise business practice... but trust me, I've more than made up for that lost hour on that particular job in the end.

    Keith, you are a GOOD photographer... but how good of a businessman are you? This is where I feel most budding "pros" are potentially holding themselves back.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2008
  4. manaheim

    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member Supporting Member

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    The biggest struggling point with this is when you don't have a portfolio to pull from. It makes it hard to sell business when you can't show you can do the job. In these cases I like to try to find people who I know would be in a position to use my services for free (family, friends) and ask them if I can do X or Y for them, then use those images to build my portfolio. It seems to work pretty well.

    It sounds like your situation isn't the same though- you have a boss who dictates your rates and such. If that is the case, there's not much you can do about it except make suggestions to him about when such a thing may or may not be inappropriate. (careful with that- don't want to step on his toes, and as Jerry said it's about knowing the business, and there is a chance he may know the business better than you)
     
  5. keith204

    keith204 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Personally, I try hard to not shoot for free. Right after immediate family is where I draw the line....with the mentioned exception of building a portfolio. I just invested in some alienbees and backdrops, and plan on doing 3 shoots for free in the next 2 weeks (people of my choosings) to build the portfolio. After that, if they're not family (or a super close friend), no free pictures :).

    Even if it's strictly a hobby, if somebody calls you for photos they need/want, charge!
     
  6. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    I love shooting for free. Shooting for free means I get to do what I want, shoot what I want, take a break when I want, do the processing when I want, wait as long to deliver it as I want, etc... ;) Shooting for money = work. Shooting for free = fun. I've been working hard; it's refreshing to take on some projects that aren't about a paycheck. If I'm excited about the subject/project (and it's not a profit making venture) then I'm willing to work for free.

    I do a lot of free photography for bands that I like. I enjoy doing it, and I know they aren't making any money. They buy me a few beers, put me on the guest list, and promise that if a big label budget ever comes their way they'll throw me a bone. :)
     
  7. Bifurcator

    Bifurcator TPF Noob!

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    I draw the line at possession and usage. If they want to posses it they need to pay. If they want to use it they need to pay. If it's something like a catalogue of photographers and portfolios that is being sold as a coffee-table piece then I consider as I can the potential benefits.

    If you're doing favors for friends like bands and etc like in Matt Fish's example then there's no expectations on either side and it's more like charity or something. As soon as expectations form it becomes a professional relationship and my rules up thumb (above) come into play.
     
  8. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    I try hard to shoot for free whenever possible. Bear in mind I shoot MF and LF film these days so my overhead is high. I don't care. I'd be shooting anyway.

    When renting studio time is involved for trade work, I try to go 50/50 with model, makeup, and hair when I can but don't sweat it too much if that doesn't work.
     
  9. Yemme

    Yemme No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Interesting.. well said.
     
  10. Yemme

    Yemme No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    And you act like your not nice.
     
  11. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    Correction:

    Other people act like I'm not nice.
     
  12. Yemme

    Yemme No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    :lol: Good one.
     

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