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Would You Work For Free As A Photographer For Friends & Family?

As a photographer, what do you say when someone asks you to take some photos of them for free?

|  Photographers
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So, you enjoy photography and do it for fun which is great but what happens when, after time, you realise you're actually quite good at what you do, you start to build momentum and people (family, friends and friends of friends) start to ask you to take some photos for them. At first, the odd favour may seem like a nice thing to do and you're also gaining experience but at what point do you politely say: 'I'm sorry, I can't do that for free?'

Let's start by looking at how much photography costs you:

  • Photo equipment - camera(s) and lenses, tripod(s), bags, spare batteries... etc. (wear and tear after initial cost) - Anywhere from £500 to over £3000
  • Memory card(s) - Anywhere from £5 to over £100
  • Lighting kit (if required) - Anywhere from £50 to over £500
  • Petrol/travel expenses (plus transport upkeep) - Could be anything! 
  • Computer/laptop/editing equipment (hard drive space - how long are you planning on keeping the images/videos?) - Anywhere from £200 plus. 

You'll also need to spend time editing photos and doing admin which includes talking to friends/family about what they want so a quick, 1-2 hour shoot can easily end up being 4 hours of work. Would you work in an office doing admin for 4 hours for free (if a friend of a friend asked you)? 

If it's an event such as a wedding (although, we'd recommend giving these a really wide-berth as they're incredibly stressful and you really need to know what you're doing) or a birthday, will they want video capturing too? If so, this involves additional costs, more editing time, you'll need more storage space and potentially, a second camera so you can capture stills on one and video on another. 

Costs can soon rack up and that's before you've taken into account the stresses and awkwardness that will prevail if they aren't completely happy with what you've produced. Plus, do you really want to be spending your free time working for free when you can be spending the same time enjoying the company of the friends and family who are asking you to do these 'little favours'. 

There's also the chance that said friend may ring you up and say: 'O, actually, I don't need you to take the photos anymore - cheers, though' when you've already invested in new memory cards etc. which will not only annoy you and could change your relationship with your friend, you'll be out of pocket. 

If you're such a good photographer that friends and family have taken note then you should believe in yourself, value your work and tell them: 'sorry, but no, I won't work for free.' 

Sure, it's great to work with other people if you're enjoying it, learning, and improving your skills but once this starts feeling like work and it starts taking up your time, it's quite likely you'll regret offering 'free photography', particularly if you continue to do it! At some point, you're going to need to work out how much your time is worth to you, and how much you should be paid. Then when you do get paid, you can spend it on new camera gear if you want. Who knows, if you're good and word spreads you might be able to make a living out of it. But doing photography for free definitely won't pay the mortgage. 

What do you think? Do you take photographs for free?


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