We as photographers all start at the beginning. We all start off shooting events, people and anything that we can at a very cheap price or we shoot it for free. The exposure and experience gained from shooting is what makes us better as photographers, constant shooting helps to develop your style.
I can’t begin to count the number of free jobs that I have shot over the years and by no means am I saying that you should not shoot for free from time to time. Let me go on the record as saying that we as photographers should be wise about what we shoot for free. There comes a time in your career as a professional when you must say no to free, you must have your time and talent respected. The term that we use for free shoots is usually TF which is an acronym for TIME FOR. We can shoot TIME FOR PRINT or TIME FOR CD etc. I usually shoot TF if I know the concept will benefit my portfolio or create a great networking relationship, if the project does not meet this criteria then I charge for it. When you are about to take on a free project I suggest you think along similar lines in order to prevent your work from diluting its value.
I will advise all photographers to keep alert when major events come to your area; this is the perfect time for the FREE shoot shoppers to hit you up. Major events need photography coverage so event planners will try to get the job done for next to nothing if they can. You will be asked to cut a deal and they will point out benefits that you may get like autographs and free food. I pass on all events unless I am getting paid my asking price as the images taken at these events are usually snap shots. My portfolio does not benefit from a snap shot, people will like it on Face Book and that’s about it. I will also point out that hundreds of people will be at the same event with their camera phones so your snap shot will not be very unique. I am hired by my clients based on my shooting style and creativity so snap shots are not of interest to me for building my portfolio. I also keep in mind that the planner is usually trying to pocket as much money as they can so good photography is not on the list, they know that someone will shoot it free of charge. Please understand that events are held on a budget and we as photographers should be in that budget if the event is to be covered properly. I have shot for many great event planners who respect my profession and then I have run into the ones that try to nickel and dime so they can line their own pockets.
I wish all of my fellow photographers the best when making the decision to shoot free and I hope that my article prevents you from being taken advantage of. We all need to give back as we have been blessed with a talent but we should also take a stand against the FREE shopper when possible. Thanks for stopping by my friends and have a great day!