I wish I had a five cent piece for each time I’ve been asked “Was this a paid shoot?” while showing someone some photos I had just taken.
Now I know that people are just being engaging when they ask that, and are genuinely curious, but I think that the misconception out there is that if the answer is no, that somehow the photos have less value or the time you spent taking them was more disposable than if they were taken for commercial purposes.
The reality is, you should work for free, we all should a lot more.
Fellow photographer and contributor Adam Bolt recently wrote an article about his experience with an initially free shoot and how he successfully used it to get his foot in the door with a corporate client.
There’s another reason why we should work for free, and this reason brings us back to why we take photos in the first place…..creativity. In order to be successful at any level, we have to maintain our creative edge. Someone throwing a roll of hundred dollar bills in our laps is not gonna turn us into artists. We take photos and create pictures because that is the only way that our chosen artistic medium works. We have to produce and share to validate our existence.
Let me qualify this with a disclaimer, by giving it away I am not talking about someone else taking it from you. There is a huge difference between embarking on your own creative works and being taken advantage of. The way that I approach it is it has to be my idea, sometimes a result of collaborating with another creative individual, but I have to want to do it for me.
I know now more than ever that I have to set aside time for my own creative works, even if this means delaying or passing up on a paid shoot, and never regret it.
Bottom line, noone can ask me to work for nothing, but I can never give it away enough.