In a creative industry like photography, we all have to, unfortunately, start from somewhere. This starting point can yield many rewards and lessons as you go along. Experience is something money cannot buy and take the time out to volunteer your skills for free as a photographer can be both beneficial and an issue in your career in the field of photography. The experience you will gain from working on some projects or with others for free will eventually come in handy in the long-run and be an asset to some of your future high paying jobs. In this article, I will be listing some of the pros and cons that you might encounter as a beginner or even a professional when volunteering your services for free. Let’s get into it.
Through volunteering your skills or gift for free you will eventually end up meeting and interacting with new people and seeing a lot of new faces. Many of these people will appreciate and compliment your creative gift and even encourage you to continue on the path you’re on. Through these interactions, you will see personal growth in how you communicate and treat others in many different settings. You will also develop a better relationship with your passion for photography as you begin to see how it can benefit others and put a smile on the face of people you’re meeting for the first time.
With doing free work, comes self-recognition. You begin to consider your skills as a gift and not just something to make some money. Don’t get me wrong, the money that can be made from offering photography services is indeed great but through working for free you will realize that there is more to the craft than just the financial rewards. When working for free, it shouldn’t feel like you’re actually working but rather just enjoying what your passion is.
As a photographer, you have a gift of capturing moments at the right second so these moments can then be shared with others as a memory of the time spent or rather just a memory of that moment in time. Your gift is a gift to others and through volunteering your services, you will begin to notice that as well.
Offering free work can sometimes bring about some new experiences. Many individuals may not particularly have actual money to pay you but they can offer you things that money won’t necessarily be able to buy. Exploring and having these new experiences can be a huge asset to you as a photographer as you are now capable of documenting that may never happen again. Through shooting with some selective people for free during my photography career, I can honestly say that I have met and worked with individuals that I never thought I would actually have the chance to meet. I have also been in places that I have never even dreamed about visiting as well just through my work and having a passion for the art of photography.
In most cases, shooting for free can lead to you gaining more clients who will actually pay you for the work you’ve done. Many times, people like to see a sample of what it is you can actually produce before they decide to pay you for your work. This can be very discouraging at times but this is how it often goes especially when you’re a beginner. As a beginner, not many people will have faith in what you’re capable of because they still think you have so much to learn. In most cases this is true, however, don’t let this thought get into your head and lead to self-doubt. Take this chance to prove yourself and show what it is exactly you can do with your gift.
This is probably one of the worse cons once you’ve done a few shoots for free. Sadly, people tend to get pretty spoilt and assume that because you did a few shoots for free, that means you’ll shoot for anyone free who can give you some exposure. I urge you to not fall for this trap as the exposure being offered to you, won’t always help you. Choose very wisely who it is you except exposure from as payment. Many people will come to you offering things such as the huge fan base they have or what they are capable of. During my years of doing photography, I can honestly say that exposure has never paid for my equipment but rather gained me a few new followers on Instagram or my other social media platforms.
Your work will sometime be devalued by those who you’ve worked with for free. Because they have already gotten accustomed to getting their photos taken at no cost at all, they will be shocked and probably even disappointed when you quote them a price for what they want to get done. This can sometimes be complicated and even awkward especially if the person is a friend or family member. However, it does open your eyes a bit as you begin to see who values your work enough to pay for it as opposed to those who think your work should be free for them and them alone.
You will encounter individuals who will take you for advantage and not consider that you’re providing a free service. You may find yourself being treated by someone as if they’re paying you through giving you orders and making demands from you as the photographer. This can also be awkward as well because you don’t want to be rude but at the same time you’re burning yourself out not only creatively but also physically for something you might not see any rewards from. Use your creative and physical energy very wisely and try not to burn yourself out too much if you notice that it is not worth it or you are not pleased with the treatment received.
I hope these points have been a great help in having you see both sides as it regards to providing your services for free. It’s always a pleasure sharing with you and I look forward to seeing you again very soon.