Why serious photographers don’t shoot for free

When i am shooting portraiture for models and friends as models, i usually do it for fun or portfolio usage.
For models, its rarely free since i am using her professional time and i have to provide transport, theme and props for the shoot.
For friends, its just a way for them to have a taste of modelling :-).

Now, there are many invites for me to shoot for events and portraiture for family, babies, children etc. I never do these for free.
And neither should any serious photographers. I am writing this article to share and educate sincere friends and others who have increasingly asked
me for a “free” shoot.

Here are 5 reasons why, you should never ask for a free shoot and if your a seasoned photographers, never provide one, unless its charity or
its part of your passion genre, in my case, models.

1. Photography requires skills.
An average tom, jane and harry can just buy dslr cameras and shoot. These are the people that are on a learning curve and provides free shooting, why?
Because they are learning and their results hardly goes without tons of mistakes. Should u pay these people, well maybe, but don’t expect anything spectacular.
I have seen even studios employing “cheap” editing such as -clarity bar on the LightRoom software, producing plastic skins that makes the model looks nice only to people who are clueless on the importance of skin tones. Expect to see lots of these being done on your portraits by new comers, i was once one.
Skills can only come by lots of practice, learning and usage of gears. That takes up tons of my time and effort and $$$ in investing.
I have paid up to RM 1000 for few hours of 1:1 sessions and other costs in 1:x workshops. Why? Because i believe if these teachers are good, they deserve pay and
its my part to appreciate their tutorial by paying.
In fact, i would now rather invest in mentorship rather than gears. One would make a differences to my photography eye, the other are just GAS (gear acquisition syndrome)
Skills are expensive to acquire. That is why i only shoot models for free if the condition is correct, because its never free, its part of my skills development and its within my interest to do it.

2. Editing takes LOTS of time
Most people have no idea that today’s digital photography, requires some editing workflow. Editing a photo takes a lot of time. Most folks that loves photography
will cross the line of being complacent with what the camera produce and study digital editing, aka Lightroom/Photoshop. Taking a picture might take up say, 20% of the time compared to editing them. Some setup of course takes much more time so as to cut down on editing, but the point is, if you want beautiful photographs, you need to be spend time editing them. Now, its sad that most of our friends thinks that you just need to click on the button and tada! an image comes out. So they think this dont used up most of your time.
In reality, good photographers have a reputation to maintain. They can’t just do casual shots on important photos like graduation, children portraiture or product shoot for “fun” unless its their own family or product. Anybody else asking for a photography service, be it friend or strangers, is a task that should be taken seriously and thus takes up serious time.

What a normal photos without editing looks like :

Here is what a photo with some editing looks like :

If you cannot spot the differences, that demonstrate the point exactly. There are subtle important edit in these two photos that enhances the pictures and takes times.

3. Gears are not cheap
An average good dSLR cost between USD 500 and good lens can go up to USD 5000. Common folks are not aware that these gears have a “limited lifetime”. Each click that a photographer takes, will eat up its “shutter count”, flash count or even ticks the rangefinder alignment. What folks would consider as a “free shoot” actually cost a photographer $$$ in lost everytime he uses his gears.
I use a table WACOM instead of a mouse. And I use original Adobe CC and Lightroom which i pay on a monthy basis (cc).
In a period of 2 years, sometimes a photographer invest as much or more than a degree course would have cost.

4. I want commitment
This is one of the reason i dont shoot anyone else or requests such as events for free. I am not interested in the other party taking my skills and time lightly. If they are not committing monetary, i find no reason to shoot and produce images. I can shoot for fun during friends gathering etc, but not when i am asked to do graduation, family portraiture, product shoot and events.
Often i get invitation for events with reasons like “you get to have official pass to the models backstage”. Seriously? I am not a peeping Tom pervert. No thanks.
“Its a grand event, your portfolio will need it, so its kinda FOC”. Thank you, i’ll pass. I don’t mind going there to shoot for fun, but don’t ask for images.
When a party is committed, i appreciate their value for art and i will do my best to perform. In fact i think i am the only joker in town that
offer “Satisfaction guaranteed results”. Clients only pay me a deposit for the shoot, after the shoot i deliver small size images of selected photos and if they are not happy with the shoot, i do a full refund (except for costs paid to Make up artist).

5. I never ask my lawyer friends or doctors for free documents and free tablets.
Like any other profession, even if they are my friends, i do expect discount, but i never ask for free service.
Just because its not my field, i do understand they spent a lot of time and money in whatever they are doing.
I am quite sympathetic with those working in I.T field too ;-), neighbours always asking for “fix this pc” and expect free service.

So if you are a photographer and you are reading this, please respect yourself and your passion. Do free only for charity or when its part of your passion genre to practice and improve. You can share this article to your friends and hope they would sincerely understand your situation.

– Marcus.

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