Have you ever started out not charging for your photo work?

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by Dave, Apr 24, 2006.

  1. Dave

    Dave Guest


    About a month ago, I shot 5X7 digital portraits for a parent/child youth
    group event. These were done indoor with a simple backdrop (white butcher
    paper) and a few props (1950's). I used my Canon 20D on a tripod and used
    studio strobes for flash. I ended up taking 120 portraits. The woman who
    held the event thought I did really good and wanted to pay me (a pro
    photographer quoted her $6.00 per picture). The woman's budget was about
    $1.50 each. I did the picture taking for free but she paid for the printing
    and cardstock frames. She did give me a gift card as a thank you. This was
    my first real photo job.

    I ran into the woman recently at a local park. She was there with her
    8-year-old daughter. I was shooting candid pictures of my own daughter
    climbing around the play structures. The woman's daughter was making lots of
    effort to get me to take her picture as well. So I took about 50 of her and
    told the mother I would burn them to a disk and give it to her (free). Turns
    out the little girl has been trying to break into the modeling and
    commercial business. She has taken extensive classes in acting; musical
    theater etc. however, enjoys print work most. The mom has her headshots but
    no real full-length body shots. The girl did do a photo shoot for the
    Federal Government for an emergency response promo (think: FEMA victim).

    After the mom saw her daughter's pictures I took the mom wants to hire me.
    We made plans for an outdoor location and the mom wants me to take a variety
    of poses to capture her daughter's natural essence. Like character type
    shots. She wants a cute and soft girlie look, rough and tough with a
    tomboyish look, and maybe an all American look. She planned for a few
    change of clothes and hairstyles. Although I am only a serious amateur, and
    the girl seems to know how to pose I think I pull this off. The only problem
    is, I don't know if I could charge her. If things don't turn out then there
    is no financial loss for her or me, just our time.

    Has anyone ever started out doing photo shoots for free? Should I watermark
    my work regardless? I have a well paying job so this is just a hobby I
    enjoy. I could see myself doing pro work after retirement but I still need
    to build up my confidence and put together my own portfolio of my work.

    Thank you for your advice.

    Dave, Apr 24, 2006
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  2. Dave

    C J Southern Guest

    I've had many an argument over this :)

    In my opinion we as humans all have needs - the full-time job fulfils my
    need for money - and photography fulfils my need for "a nourished soul".

    Some participate in photography as a means of making money - and good on
    them - others just do it for the pleasure they get doing it, or the pleasure
    they get seeing the pleasure that others get.

    At the end of the day there are no rules. If you want to make a little money
    you could start by saying "if these turn out OK, would it be OK if I charged
    you something small like $xx.xx just to cover the wear and tear on my
    equipment (or the likes)?

    Whilst on the topic of photographing a minor with only a female parent
    present - some here may have some sensible advice to offer about chaparones
    C J Southern, Apr 24, 2006
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  3. Dave

    cjcampbell Guest

    One of the big problems many professionals have is guys who want to do
    their jobs for free.

    It does not matter whether you need the money or not, or whether it is
    just a hobby. This sounds like a professional photo shoot and it
    demands a professional fee.
    cjcampbell, Apr 24, 2006
  4. I can see why this is a problem for professionals, but nobody is going to
    tell me what I have to do in my own free time.

    If the amateurs destroy the market for professionals, then professionals
    just have to find something else to do.

    The strange is that professional photographers seem to be the only group
    that express this kind of thought regularly. I never saw a professional
    writer or a journalist complain about other people not charging for their
    work. Or professional programmers complain about open source.
    Philip Homburg, Apr 24, 2006
  5. You got it!
    Good advice.
    The crux of the problem for the "professional" is they feel threatened by
    the simple fact that there are some amateurs and occasional hobbyist
    shooters that can squeeze out a good percentage of great shots that fulfill
    the targeted need. Plus, with the influx of inexpensive digital equipment
    that gives the general public a cheap way of discovering and honing their
    talents. That said, I have, and most others in here, have seen some
    spectacular shots from amateurs using minimal equipment. This just means
    the "professional" will now have to offer a better product for the money
    they charge. A little competition is great since it keeps these guys on
    their tows.

    Rita Ä Berkowitz, Apr 24, 2006
    Pete Mitchell, Apr 24, 2006
  7. Dave

    Joan Guest

    I remember my hairdresser saying, quite seriously, that perming rods
    should not be available for purchase by other than professional


    : The strange is that professional photographers seem to be the only
    : that express this kind of thought regularly. I never saw a
    : writer or a journalist complain about other people not charging for
    : work. Or professional programmers complain about open source.
    Joan, Apr 24, 2006
  8. Dave

    J. Clarke Guest

    Whether you charge or not and what to charge is up to you. The downside on
    doing things for free is that it becomes expected that you will and if
    you're good you may eventually get enough work that it becomes a burden to
    you--at that point it's difficult to start charging people who you weren't
    charging before.

    A more important issue IMO is rights to the images--if she's looking to be a
    professional model and she becomes successful those images are going to
    have significant value, not only to you but to her--if the rights are
    clouded then you could both end up in a legal mess that neither of you
    wants. It doesn't really matter who has rights to do what with which,
    what's important is that you have it spelled out.
    J. Clarke, Apr 24, 2006
  9. I never felt threatened by amateurs...annoyed would be a better word.
    It pissed me off to see amateurs photographing weddings poorly and
    charging people money for it. Just like everybody is a computer expert
    these days, so it is with photography. And the inborn cheapskate in all
    of us gravitates to the guy who charges the least. The sad thing is
    that after years of doing amateur photography and charging people money
    for it, most of these people never learn how to do it right.
    Randall Ainsworth, Apr 24, 2006
  10. Dave

    Roy Smith Guest

    The difference between a professional and a non-professional is more than
    just the quality of the pictures. It's also all the other stuff that goes
    into running a business like it's a business.

    If I hire a professional photographer to shoot an event, I'm not just
    paying for the pix, I'm paying for the peace of mind that the job will get
    done. If he's not feeling great that day, he'll drag himself in anyway (or
    get somebody to cover for him). If some piece of essential gear breaks,
    he's got a spare (probably several). If it's an outdoor event and it
    rains, he's got equipment that can work in the rain (or umbrellas to keep
    it dry). If there's beaurocracy to be dealt with (anything from from
    police to the father of the bride), he's got the credentials and
    personality to deal with it and still get the shots I'm paying him to get.

    None of that has anything to do with looking through a viewfinder and
    pushing a button.
    Roy Smith, Apr 24, 2006
  11. I assume that the photographers who complain about amateurs have to
    operate in a different market. A market where potential customers demand
    prices that simply cannot be met by somebody who has to make a living
    of photography.
    Philip Homburg, Apr 24, 2006
  12. Dave

    Randy Howard Guest

    Philip Homburg wrote
    (in article
    I agree. There are a lot of parallels between this and the open
    source software movement. The real pros will (in any market)
    will stay employed, and those that are calling themselves a pro
    but not really at that level will get run out by the "amateurs"
    or those willing to do it for free.
    I have definitely heard pro programmers complain about open
    source. Same is true with the current media people whining
    incessantly about "citizen journalism". They disguise it as
    being "bad for society" instead of "bad for my wallet", but its
    Randy Howard, Apr 24, 2006
  13. Dave

    Randy Howard Guest

    Pete Mitchell wrote
    There is some truth in this, a few years back my wife hired a
    local "pro" photographer to shoot family pictures of us
    (outdoors), so we could all be in them, and I wouldn't be
    running back and forth from the camera to pose. It seemed like
    a good idea at the time. He showed up with a Nikon D70, a
    platic-barreled kit lens, no flash, no tripod, no nothing.

    There, sit on that rock. Smile.

    There, stand over by that tree. Smile.

    etc., etc.

    The worst was he wanted me to come to his HOUSE to help him
    decide on photoshop edits to the photos. His "office" was a
    computer nook with a computer and monitor. I wound up doing
    some of the image sorting and editing myself because I didn't
    have time to watch him try and figure out how to use his tools,
    and then he sent them off to some internet print company and we
    waited weeks for them, when I happen to know one of the finest
    pro printing and film processing facilities is less than 30
    miles away.

    So, just because someone charges for their work doesn't mean
    ANYTHING unless you've heard of them or seen their work in print
    Randy Howard, Apr 24, 2006
  14. Dave

    Roy Smith Guest

    I make my living writing software. I don't have any problem with open
    source software. A lot of OSS is crap, but then again, so is a lot of
    very expensive commercial software.

    What you get when you buy commercial software is an 800 number that's
    staffed 24 hours a day, guaranteed response time on problems, bug
    fixes, upgrades, fancy documentation, etc. Some people find that
    necessary and are willing to pay the price. That's the only thing
    that keeps some really crappy commercial software products alive in
    the face of superior OSS alternatives.

    What I really fear is "offshoring", which is a polite way of saying
    that there are people in Bangalore who can do my job at a fraction of
    the salary I demand. But, such is life. Competition is what keeps us
    Roy Smith, Apr 24, 2006
  15. Dave

    Randy Howard Guest

    Roy Smith wrote
    As did I for almost 20 years, until, thanks to the 'dot com'
    insanity, I retired early and have time to focus on things more
    exciting, like photography. I still write software some for my
    own amusement, which is more fun than any commercial products I
    worked on.
    Exactly right.
    Except that technical support is frequently NOT available 24
    hours, is often now on a non-800 number, (email is free, but
    never answered), and the documentation is increasingly bad. The
    commercial software companies (apart from a very few exceptions)
    are actually providing worse service today than they were in the
    1980s, but at higher prices.
    Obviously true, or there would be zero commercial software out
    there right now.
    Must be how MS is surviving.
    Yes. Of course, the latest word is that India can't fill all
    the jobs. Yes, they have zillions of people, but they aren't
    all trained for the work, and they are actually recruiting
    programmers from other parts of the world (including the US) to
    move to Bangalore and work there. Talk about irony.
    Randy Howard, Apr 24, 2006
  16. Natch. It also begs the question: What were you thinking when you
    engaged him?
    John McWilliams, Apr 24, 2006
  17. Ah, I've heard some moaning from those groups, but I'm not about to
    Yes, it's hard to charge even $10.00 for a small print of someone
    sliding into home when Aunt Jean provides it for free, albeit it at a
    much lower quality. '
    That said, I have, and most others in here, have seen some

    I say: Mules of the world, horses, oxen and jackasses: Untether
    thyselves! Unshackle, and throw down the harnesses of oppression. Barges
    are mostly self-propelled now anyway.
    John McWilliams, Apr 24, 2006
  18. Dave

    Randy Howard Guest

    John McWilliams wrote
    As I said before, I didn't. I just showed up as a result of the
    wife nagging... she learned her lesson, so mission accomplished.
    Randy Howard, Apr 24, 2006
  19. Dave

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    The thing is, she'll be using the pictures professionally. You're doing
    work that is meant to result in her getting paid. If you do it for free,
    you're kind of being taken advantage of, there.

    Think of it in the other direction. If you were being well-paid for the
    pictures, would you ask her to model for you for free, same as if you were
    all doing it "just for fun"? I wouldn't, even if I were merely *planning*
    on selling the pictures and it might not end up working out.
    Jeremy Nixon, Apr 24, 2006
  20. There are plenty of bad "professional" photographers charging too much.
    I you are building a portfolio then it makes sence to do a few free
    shoots. But maybe a trade would make sense as well. There is nothing
    wrong with shooting for free. I just hope the free client and parent
    are easy to work with! (reshoots, etc) For headshots $150 is cheap,
    $300 is bearable, and $400+ had better be super-pro!...having
    experience on both sides of the camera on this issue. If you are still
    learning how to take great shots or only do it for fun then by all
    means, do it for free!

    orangeyellowdog, Apr 24, 2006
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