How to work for free
I’d like to put in my .02 on this set of posts from strobist, chase jarvis and john harrington (1, 2 and 3, you gotta watch that video). Strobist and Jarvis seem to think that as long as you get SOMETHING for your time, like unique access or circumstances, working for free can be a good deal. By the same logic, if you find a fist-sized diamond on the sidewalk, and sell it for a $1, that is also a good deal.
You’ve got to be able to monetize those images somehow. Think like shareware software. The best shareware is useful enough to hook you, but make you want to buy the full version. If it’s commercial work, slash the licensing rights. If a customer wants some shots for their website and can’t pay much, that’s fine. But if they need it for their brochures, print ads, display materials, that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax. If you want to give a free portrait session, fine, but sell the prints.
There will always be free work available. Don’t take any of it. If you want to work for free, do it on your terms. Decide what you want to do, find the people you want to do it with, and don’t make any compromises. I’ve wasted plenty of time shooting other people’s events for nothing, doing tfp shoots with models and such. You know how much real business that stuff led to?
All of my paying clients, however, have come by way of referral from other paying clients. Imagine that.