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Should you be doing Free photo shoots? Here is my Opinion...

To shoot for free or not to shoot for free is the question.

There is a longstanding debate among photographers about whether or not it’s ever appropriate to do photoshoots for free.  

Many photographers argue that doing any free photo session devalues your work and the profession. However, others say that shooting for free is necessary to build up a portfolio and get pictures for your website. 

In my opinion, you should shoot for free, but the reason why it may not be what you think.

Sure, I will agree that it’s beneficial to build up a portfolio at the beginning of your photography career by offering a few free photo sessions to friends and family. I often used my kids as models, and I still do. I’ve also asked my neighbors for permission to photograph their children for composites and provided free photos in exchange. However, this is not the only reason you should offer complimentary photography services.

As we grow as a photographer, we often forget what it was like to be curious about our camera, intrigued about capturing a creative composition, or moved by lighting. Once you figure out the basic settings, it can be easy to fall into a routine and stop practicing and trying new things.

For this reason, I do encourage you to go out and shoot for free. The only way to build your photography skill is through practice, and sometimes that means going out and photographing for the sake of your development.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to offer your photography services without paying around town. It may just mean asking people you know if they’ll let you use them as subjects to practice a particular technique or going out to shoot at different times of the day to practice with various lighting. 

Say you admire a style that you want to develop, or there is a niche you want to break into. Then it would be to your benefit to take the time to achieve your vision, even if that means not getting paid for it.

On the other hand, when should beginner photographers start charging for their work?

When it comes to photography, there is no set number of free photo shoots you should do to build up your portfolio, and no one will come and magically permit you to start charging clients.

You can gauge when it’s the right time to jump from amateur to full photographer by your level of comfort. Once you start feeling comfortable enough with your camera and equipment so that you can dedicate attention to your subjects, you are shaping up to start charging for your work.

In general, when you can deliver a good photo and are also able to engage with your clients during a shoot, then you are ready to provide a good paid photography service. 

So, don’t always be quick to turn you back on a free photography gig if it means you stand to gain either better technique, more recognition, or a more substantial portfolio. You know your value and worth means knowing when it’s necessary to charge for your services and when you can do work for free and still benefit from it. 

Happy Editing,

Tara Lesher Education

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