Photography For Free Is Bad

Photographing for free was never an option. In 2009, I was a young photographer, barely a month had passed since I began earning money from my photographs. My biggest accomplishment in photography was that I got to follow superstar, Usher, around the world. I charged for my work, and I charged an amount that made me nervous. Looking back at that time it was foolish of me to be giving photography services away for free.


Yes, it’s Usher but it’s also Walid Azami. And Walid isn’t giving his art away for free. I want you to have this level of cockiness. I don’t regret my decision because it enabled me to get where I am today.

5 Ways To Answer The Call For Free Photography

They’re asking for you to support a cause that’s close to them:

I appreciate the enthusiasm about my work. My business model does include free product at this time. My time + my talent is my product. However, I am very supportive of ___________, and with clients like yourself, I’m able to donate to _____________. (but actually donate!)


What It Means: This kindly reminds them that you are a business who supports the community but you need the help of the community to continue operating your business. It’s firm but polite. You are not photographing for free.


Influencer Is Asking For Free Photography or a “Collab”

We love photographing for free, don’t we!? When an influencer says: I’d love to work with you and my mind is already coming up with concepts that will be incredible to capture. Would you mind if we regroup in a couple of days? That way I can share my ideas with you and you might be able to compile a list of photographers who’s career changed because they photographed you for free.


What It Means: If you’re truly influential and your promise has market value, it shouldn’t be a big chore to create this list.


The Client Who Is Disrespectful To You, Your Time And Your Talent.


For the rude client who diminishes your work: NO. That’s it. NO.


What It Means: Not everyone deserves your time, energy or an explanation. We are not photographing for free, especially for jerks.


For the client looking for a simple handout before they establish a relationship with you:

For the polite person looking for a handout: I love that you reached out to me and it’s not lost on me that you appreciate my work. I love to reward my loyal clients with free gifts here and there whenever I can! But those gifts are generally reserved for paid clients who continue to support my business. I’d love to be able to add you to that list in the near future!


What It Means: Be a paid client first and then I might help you after but I’m not a 501 charity. I’m a for profit business but thanks for the compliment


For The Client Who Suggests You Work For Free Because Other Photographers Have Done it And They’ve Gotten Many Clients:


I love that you were able to support some of my peers in the community! May I ask why you’re not reaching out to those people you’ve already established a relationship with? I think it’s only fair they get the job, because they’ve earned It with their loyalty. I hope you have the best shoot!


What It Means: If you’re so loyal then why aren’t you practicing right now and seeking out a new photographer instead? Sir, Ma’am you must think I’m dumb.


Anyone who wants to get into photography, has to start somewhere but never photographing for free. However, there is a very strong difference between paying your dues and just offering your services for free. When you photograph for free, you devalue your work and you will never be paid as much as your skills are worth. We have to stand up for our own creations and stop giving them away for free when we can actually charge people for it or use them in a site that benefits us.


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Thank you for reading,