Should you shoot for free?

February 6, 20150 Comments

Should you shoot for free?Would you expect to call a plumber to fix your kitchen sink for free?

I’ve been into photography for quite a few years now as I’m sure many of you are. It started out as a hobby and a way to capture images of family and vacations. Then as it happens I got the equipment bug and started buying more expensive cameras and lenses and took the craft of photography more seriously. I started taking photography workshops, reading, taking online courses and learning from experienced photographers. Over the course of time, I’ve become what I consider a semi-professional. I post images across the web, people pay me for photo-shoots and I sell stock images.

Recently, I became interested in videography since my DSLR does video. I wanted to learn how to make great videos, so I learned from reading books, online and talking to people about the craft. Eventually, I wanted to shoot a few videos for a website I have and found someone I know that was an expert in the skill I needed, so I asked and he agreed to spend a couple of hours with me shooting the video. Well it didn’t turn out that well, but I learned a lot from the experience. In this instance, I felt I owed this person for his time since I was benefitting and I guess I still owe him lunch.

A couple of months later, another opportunity popped up to shoot more videos. I wanted to learn and improve my skills, so I agreed to shoot the videos for free. This turned into a 5 month gig shooting a few videos a week for FREE. I didn’t mind it for a while, I was getting some good exposure and learning, so I felt it was an investment. Soon I started to resent shooting the videos without any compensation. This was absolutely my fault for not stopping or asking for money. This person is someone I consider a friend, so I really didn’t want much, anything would have been okay, say $50 a video, which is a steal. Again, I take responsibility. Lesson learned.

During this time, I was asked by another videographer to help him shoot a day long video of a local fitness celebrity. I thought it would be a good experience, something different, so I agreed. He also asked me to bring along my video lights. It was a really good experience and I learned a lot, but again, no payment, again, my fault for assuming people will do that right thing and pay me out of the goodness of their heart. Just a token, minimum wage would have been fine. Again, my fault. Sometimes it takes me a while to learn from my mistakes.

Recently, I was asked to be a second shooter that involved travel for a friend. I thought it would be fun to get away to a warmer climate so I agreed if he paid my expenses. Again, I perpetuated the issue of non-payment for my time. I ended up staying in a bunk bed in a closet, but the weather was nice and I continued to learn.

Well we did finally come to an agreement on a per video basis, it isn’t much, but I’m still learning and he is a friend.

That’s my story and my lesson. Will I shoot for free moving forward? No! Absolutely not, even if it’s for just a minimum amount of money. Should you ever shoot for free? Sure, I think there are cases where it’s justified, for example, if you’re building a portfolio or shooting for family, but set limits and it’s better to charge something rather than nothing. When you charge nothing the person you’re shooting for doesn’t value your work, plus it hurts the photography and videography industry.

If someone asks you to shoot photography or video, they obviously think you’re good enough to do the work, so they should expect to pay something in return. Honor yourself by asking for payment; clearly you’re worth it!

Share Button

Filed in: Photography

Leave a Reply

Back to Top

×