I know, I know, as professional photographers we feel as though we shouldn’t be giving away our services for nothing. Sometime there is nothing wrong with this mindset. For a majority of my time as a portrait photographer I thought the same way. Why give away my service? I have worked so hard to get my product to where it is today and I know what it is worth. I certainly have better things to do with my time.
I was recently more or less forced into shooting for free in order to fill my portfolio with some missing pieces. I was looking for specific looking people to put in my portfolio. It became more apparent as time went on that it was pretty unlikely I was going to get these people to purchase a shoot with me, and even less likely they would do it in the time frame I was looking to get them done in.
There are many different reasons one may decide to offer a select few people free sessions for their photography business. Below is a list of some of the reasons one may decide to offer free sessions.
You are in need of some portfolio building.
This is the most obvious reason to do it. If you need people in front of your camera to help build your portfolio, there is no better reason then to offer some people (that you choose) in your area a free session.
You need to test out some new lighting setups or gear that might take time to shift and change.
One probably shouldn’t do this while a paying client is there!
You are looking to keep your photo skills sharp when you don’t have paid work scheduled.
I always feel that if I go a long time in between shoots I am not as sharp as I could be. Scheduling free shoots during times when you don’t have paid work can keep your skills sharpened and your mind engaged.
You are looking for BTS content.
It is without a doubt much easier to convince a non paying client to allow for “behind the scenes (BTS)” to be done during their shoot compared paying customers. Utilize this and maximize the gain from unpaid shoots and create social media content.
Offering free sessions is not for everyone (hence why the title of this article includes the word “sometimes”). If you are too busy with paid shoots, then obviously you shouldn’t make the time to shoot for free, but if you find yourself relating to one of the reasons above, then it could make sense for you to offer some (select few) a free shoot.
Another way to think about these types of shoots is that you are, in fact, being “paid” for them, just not with money. You are still getting something in return for doing the shoot. Whether that be more photos for your portfolio, or BTS content for social media. In time they will pay out in actual currency.
I have achieved some of my favorite and best images during unpaid shoots. I attribute this to the added level of control I have over what and how we are shooting during these sessions.
During a paid shoot, if a client wants to be photographed a certain way, I more or less do it how they want it. When an unpaid shoot is in the studio I am directing every step of the way. I may want the lighting to look a certain way or create a certain mood/vibe to the shot, I am in charge and I can make that happen during this time.
The level of freedom and creativity in these shoots is usually on a higher level than my paid shoots. It really gets my creative juices flowing and allows me to think outside the box.
So ask yourself. Do I have spare time on my hands? Do I need some special look to round out my portfolio? Do I have some ideas I want to try out in a more leisurely way? Perhaps this is the time to give out some free shoots to a few special and lucky people.
Comment below on the conditions when you offer to shoot for free.