I have been reading about photographers shooting for free. They are shooting for free to build up a portfolio of work to advertise their skills. Well that’s ok if you have planned this and you have scheduled this into your work time and budget and you are not actively losing money and you are not shooting actual customers for free. The reason most new photographers will run photo sessions without charging is to build a portfolio for as little money as possible. Digital photography is great for being able to take loads and loads of images at a relatively low-cost but producing a portfolio must never been seen as cheap. Your portfolio is your way of showing the world what you can do. The general public aren’t daft and they will see right through a cheap, badly produced portfolio.
Producing a portfolio is advertising. Just take a look at magazines and the advertising in those. None of it is cheap and nasty. Advertisers use the best looking models and the best locations. You MUST do the same. Simply asking one of your customers to model is wrong. Sorry, but it is. Look at the quality of the models advertising perfumes, or hair products, they’re stunning. It’s because subconsciously the manufacturer hopes that the prospective customer will see themselves in the same light as the model on the front of the packaging. That’s how advertising works.
Great photo studios work the same way. Go for the best and it will attract the best. Simple as that. It’s the old adage: Speculate to accumulate.
As I have said if you want to do free shoots then that is up to you.
Its ok if you have planned this and you do not propose to then charge, in the future, the people who have benefitted from shoots for free.
Photographers have for years offered TFP or TFCD images in the model industry but trying to do this in the wedding, portrait or baby sector is a lot more difficult.
TFP/TFCD or “time for prints/ time for images on a cd”, was a very common way for new photographers and new models to get together to mutually benefit from a creative photo shoot. This meant that neither party needed to hand over any money and both walked away, hopefully, with a good set of images that could then be used to further the careers of the respective budding professionals.
It’s a bit different when working in the social photography genre as the only party that actually profits is the customer.
Budding professionals must do what they think best to further their careers and offering free shoots seems to be the way with some of them. All I am saying is that you are then actually working for no profit which devalues what you are actually doing.
Once you have done a FREE shoot for a customer don’t think that you can then get them back into the studio at a later date to get them to pay for another shoot. It just doesn’t happen.
In the dim and distant past I too have been guilty of giving away free images. I learnt the hard way that this is counter productive. Building a portfolio to advertise your work takes a long time which is why we tell prospective new pros to not give up the day job until you have a good portfolio. I also found that using “customers” as models really is not the way forward. If you want to create a portfolio, especially in the portrait world then you really do need to hire great looking models who know how to pose and react in front of the camera. Sounds like cheating? You bet. But I wanted to show prospective clients fantastic shots of beautiful people and get them into my studio so that I could create great images of them also, and do you know what? It worked.
Sometimes you get to shoot beautiful who are not models but it is rare. If you do get “modelesque” customers then keep hold of them and treat them like royalty. They will recommend you to all their friends. They are the best advertising that you can get.
Some new photographers who have attended one of our courses have often said, ” its easy for you to get models as you are a professional”. Well, yes I am professional and I do know how to get models to photograph for portfolio shoots, but it’s not rocket science.
I built a register of models over many years but when I started and needed to build my portfolio I took advice from an old friend who had been the chairman of qualifications with the MPA (Master Photographers Association) Derek Avery. Sadly, no longer with us he explained that the best way to find new models is to run a model competition with the local newspaper. This I did and all the images taken from about fifty models filled my portfolio for a few years until we needed new images and we repeated the whole process. With weddings it was a bit harder but we advertised for newly married couples who still had their wedding outfits and gave them the chance to have sensational images that could never have been taken during the wedding itself. You get the picture. None of our models were asking for payment or were required to pay me but they were not customers. They were ordinary people who wanted to have great images of themselves.
Later in my career I was able to hire professional models and take the photography to another level. I never shot customers for free. Why would I? My work is expensive but its work that has been honed over many years and so is the business.
If you want to shoot for free that’s fine but just remember how much you are actually giving away.
If you want to know how to get the local newspaper to run a model competition just get in touch with me and I will be more than happy to tell you.