When I first starting doing photography and graphic design, I was more than happy to get any work possible. That meant putting in a lot of hours for free and hopefully getting a good recommendation and a decent new piece for my portfolio.
I did that for at least 4 years and I even still do it a little to this day. It’s not that I don’t appreciate people coming to me for a project but at this point in my life, I have more than enough experience, knowledge, and skills to consider myself a professional.
Reasons Why I Won’t Work For Free
Professional photography isn’t just picking up a camera and shooting a few photos. There’s a huge misconception that anyone with a camera is a professional. I have spent hours training and practicing my craft and I prepare before every shoot. I love the work I do but it becomes a hassle when I get asked to do a project for free.
1. I Value My Time
Just because we do an hour photography session doesn’t mean the work ends there. I now have to go back home and load all of the photos into Lightroom, then spend hours sorting through them choosing the ones I am going to use and then more hours editing them. Typically an hour shoot actually takes about 3–5 hours in total work time. Plus the time I just spent in doing a free project just took away time I could have used on a paying client.
2. Equipment Cost A Ton
I have invested a lot of money in my equipment to have the resources I need to take different types of photos. The body of the camera is already a big chunk of change but then you add multiple different lenses so you can get different depth of fields. This also doesn’t include the SD cards I have to purchase, on camera flashes, reflectors, umbrellas…and if we get into studio lighting well there’s another chunk of change gone.
I don’t just charge for my services because I think it’s a good way to make some extra cash, I charge to cover the expenses so I have the tools and resources to produce stellar work.
3. Software Is Expensive Too
Once upon a time, Adobe Creative Suite was a flat charge. I could get the whole suite for a one time charge. Then they decided to have the grand idea of making it a monthly fee…which may not cost as much upfront but in the long run it cost me a lot more then what it once did.
4. Marketing Expenses
Yes, this is counts too. Hosting a domain and running a website cost money. Business cards and leave behinds cost money. If I didn’t have any of this…my client base would be stuck to friends and family and word of mouth. Sorry but a Facebook Business page just doesn’t give me the professional look I want.
5. I Actually Have A Degree In This
Unlike many freelancers I know, I actually went and got a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design. I put in that extra effort to go study new trades and new techniques. And we all know, college is not cheap.
Sure I may not have needed to do this, I could have self-taught myself everything. But there is also no way I could walk outside and calculate my aperture and shutter speed I needed based on the location of the sun and the time of day.
So please stop and consider these things next time you are about to ask a friend to do a project for you. We love our trade and we love doing the work, but honestly, we can’t keep doing what we love if we don’t get paid. And sometimes freelancers will give their friends and family a discount…please just appreciate the work they are doing for you and know there’s a lot a time and effort that goes into it.
Thanks for reading!