Have you been asked to shoot for free? Are you outraged that potential clients ask you to help them in return for exposure? I regularly read social media ‘rants’ from photographers who are livid that a potential client doesn’t want to pay them. Being asked to shoot for free does happen, and I challenge you to find a positive in this experience. Having any client approach you is an opportunity. Here are 5 opportunities when you are asked to shoot for free.
Opportunity #1 – Expand your photography business. The opportunity to shoot without payment is potentially an opportunity to expand your business into a new field. For example, if you’ve built your business on shooting family portraits and weddings, doing a product shoot for a local business is an opportunity to showcase your skills to a new market. An unpaid job comes with less pressure than a highly paid one, and gives you the chance to explore whether you like a different type of work and to see if you are good at it. Opportunity #1 – consider whether an unpaid job has the potential to help you expand your business.
Opportunity #2 – Build great contacts. Any client represents one immediate job and a potential pipeline of future work. Before you feel your blood pressure rise and unleash a tantrum on social media, consider whether an unpaid job will benefit your business through the contacts you can make. I have found this can be beneficial when shooting for charities. Charities have people who support them. Often the key supporters are influential business people who have future photography needs. Opportunity #2 – consider whether an unpaid job has the potential to build valuable contacts.
Opportunity #3 – Get paid in kind. The reality is some clients really need and want professional images but just don’t have the immediate cash flow to pay the photographer’s normal day rates. If you are inundated with work, you might let this job pass. But if you’re not, have you considered other ways to get paid? Does the client have goods or services that you would be happy to accept instead of cash payment? Does a new accommodation provider want you to shoot for them? Would you accept free accommodation instead of cash payment? Opportunity #3 – consider whether payment could be made in goods or services instead of cash.
Opportunity #4 – Use the images in your stock photography portfolio. Clients that are not in a position to pay cash may be prepared to sign a model release or property release to let you use the images in your stock portfolio. While the job itself would be unpaid, you have the potential to generate an income years into the future by making the images available through a stock photo library. I have written extensively about stock photography for Beyond Here (see Why I Shoot Stock and other posts) and always consider this option with cash strapped clients. Opportunity #4 – shoot the job unpaid, and use the images in your stock photography portfolio.
Opportunity #5 – Say no, and still help the client. After you have explored all options, sometimes there will be jobs you don’t want to do on an unpaid basis. In this case, there is an opportunity to still be helpful to the client. Firstly, say no promptly. Don’t drag it out. Give the client time to make alternative arrangements. And secondly, suggest a way to meet the clients needs. Do you know an emerging photographer who would happily shoot the job unpaid? Is there an opportunity to help the client and the emerging photographer? Opportunity #5 – say no, and still be helpful to the client.
Thanks for reading 5 opportunities when you are asked to shoot for free. I hope this has encouraged you to think differently and find a positive out of this experience.