Recorded On: 1/1/2012
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she works hard for the money

Enough said, right?

** The above does not pertain to those who are doing this for a hobby or charity, but for those who are trying to conduct a viable photography business.**

Yes, I remember those days when I was first starting out. They were tough. My business “wish I could do over” list contains the times I cheapened my work in order for it to sell (yuck).

And how many times way back in the day did I give images to commercial opportunities (commerical peeps should be paying!!) with the promise of “Oh, don’t worry, it’s a lot of exposure for your business, you’ll see!”

And not one call.

Getting no calls stinks. Getting no calls and no money for your hard work stinks all the more.

{And most of them forgot to credit my work. Eeep!}

Nothing hits a photographer’s confidence more than someone saying, “I don’t value your work enough to even pay you” . . . . even more detrimental when we say that to ourselves.

Think about what it really costs you to do a shoot for free. No, I’m not talking about vehicle milage, labor for loading & unloading the car, overhead, the actual shoot (though those things count!) —-> I am talking about what it costs by way of less time with your family, with your children.

I’m not even referring to “portfolio building” above. Yes, I do belive you can portfolio build without techically being “free”, however, I can understand why some photographers would do free images during their portfolio building season.

But seasons are just that, seasons. They have a set beginning and an end. Imagine perpetual summer. Sounds good in theory, but in practice you’d be over it after the 45th time the icecream man lapped around your block.

I’m referring to those varying situations (though there seems to be a common thread in most of them) in which the photographer KNOWS in their gut they are selling themselves short.

{Ever hear that sound in your head of your time being drastically sucked away? Sounds like “noo-noo” from Teletubbies only much more frightening. Maybe it’s just me.}

I want to hear from you. Do you have a story to share on this topic?

What would you tell yourself as a new photographer considering what you know now?

Until next time.

Oh yeah, if you liked this article —> share it and help your photographer friends know they don’t have to sell themselves short either.

Skye, xoxo

PS, the title “she works hard for the money” is just a song throwback. I know our guy photographers work hard for the money too baby!

75 Comments Logged

  1. Joanna penned:

    Thanks for this post! My sister has her own candle-making business, and I have a photography business. We both work part time with it. She got married a year or so ago, which is about the time I decided to venture into photography. I did her engagement pictures on my point-and-shoot since I hadn’t bought an SLR yet.
    She asked me to do her one-year-anniversary pictures, which I gladly did. She apparently wasn’t a “big fan” of most of the shots, but I said it was because she slept in and we didn’t get out until 11am, so the sun was harsh, but I got a few good ones that she used as her facebook profile picture.
    When I bought candles from her, she gave me “20% sister discount.” REALLY?? I don’t get them for free? Or even at the very least for the cost of your supplies?
    I let it go at the time since it was Christmas, but I addressed it later. She now understands that she needs to pay for my services… but she does get a “sister discount.”

    Thanks for letting me vent. :)

  2. Kristen Marie penned:

    I agree giving yourself away totally is not good for you, or your business. That being said, I personally do model searches. When I have a new idea I want to try I will run a modle search promotion. There is no session fee for models, but I do NOT give free prints. I like doing these kinds of sessions because I choose the model, and I am in complete control from location, to clothing to time of day. If the client is not agreeable, then I move on to the next who is agreeable and willing to let me go with my vision. I photograph children, so parents have to come into the shoot with no expectations and have to fully trust me. I have to tell you, some of my biggest print sales come from these promotions. I think (in part) its because I was free to be me and do what I do best. I have found that running discounted specials equals smaller print sales though. I still do them now and then because the word of mouth seems to work for me with it. All this being said…..I never give away prints, unless they have been “earned” by my referral plan.

    I still have a lot of growing to do and honestly I hope I never stop growing. I never want my ego to get in the way, I want to remain humble, not doubt myself, but be humble. Art is a gift and the moment you treat it any different is the moment you loose the special spark you have and arrogance sets in. Everyone in this field is unique and really nothing bothers me more than an arrogant photog who thinks they are so above everyone else and cuts those down who are just starting or who choose to be different. If we all would support and share what we have learned on our own journeys we all would be better off.

    Skye, you give a lot of yourself, you share, you support……and for that, this girl thanks you.

  3. anniemouse penned:

    My friend always says, “You can die from exposure.” ;)

    I recently defended my pricing to a potential client who was taken aback by what I charge. Needless to say, she is now trying to figure out how to afford me.

    We work hard. Get paid for it, people!!

  4. Ricci penned:

    Hi! I just read your “She works hard for the money” post. I do a TON of work for free, in fact I’ve only charged for about 3 sessions. The only problem is, the times I’ve charged have been my worst sessions, period. I also have an issue with charging people and I worry that they won’t come back to me because they don’t like my work. I am also paranoid that they will tell me that I’m not worth it. Do you have any suggestions for me?

  5. Melinda Guy penned:

    I am so glad I read this. So right, so true….

  6. Della penned:

    I, too, have wasted way too much time and money giving my work away. I have learned so much from the other photographers in my life who helped me realize that all those actions accomplish is to cheapen the craft as a whole. We must, like in all areas of our lives, remember to think of others and not just ourselves.

  7. alana penned:

    I have had many ‘blessing sessions’ in my years of photography, but it took God moving me to use my photography full time to support our family, to realize that I had to be a better steward of my time, money, and business.

    At the beginning of the year, I sent a letter out to my ‘blessing’ clients and it was not easy. I was sick to my stomach about it. But I knew them well enough to know they’d understand. Many had offered time and time again to pay me, and I just would not let them. But what made sending the letter a little easier on me was something I discovered a few days after sending it….

    A client of mine who enjoyed many sessions with me – from maternity to toddler years, and a 2nd maternity – had images of photo sessions with another photographer. I was super hurt. Not b/c she went to another photographer, but b/c she was willing to PAY another photographer, but obviously did not feel the need to support me, a friend and a single mother for my time, hard work, and beautiful images. That was a slap of reality right there. It’s not her fault though – it’s mine. I ‘taught’ her how she could treat me.

    I have learned the hard way how to teach my clients how to treat me. I may have lost some clients, but fully believe that God brings my clients to me to bless me and for me to bless in return. I don’t mind Him removing the weeds in my garden of clients.
    thanks for this article!

  8. jennifer penned:

    Thanks SO much for this! This has been the hardest part of getting my business off the ground. I LOVE to make people happy, I LOVE taking pictures…but I love my family more and I’m realizing that my time is worth it. For me, I have to be in the moment when I’m behind the camera and having resentment as my diffusing lens…makes for lousy pictures. It’s a process but that’s ok, that’s how we learn. Thanks for putting it out there :)

  9. Carolyn Matteo penned:

    WOW! What a great article and wonderful discussion thread that resulted from the article! I found myself nodding in agreement with each sentence written. I just got my DBA for my photography business and I admit that I had an initial struggle but I am finding that if I don’t value myself (and my photography), then how on earth can I expect people to to value my photography and me when I give it all away for free? My only and truly complimentary client is my pastor, Robert Fry, who believed in me and my gift from the beginning. Thank You, GOD, for providing such an encourager! Keep up the wonderful blog, Skye!

  10. brianna penned:

    i have steadily raised my prices year after year….but mostly after hard, ugly lessons and feeling taken advantage of. i recently had a client call and ‘talk me down’ from my regular prices. we referred to this ‘new’ deal as “mini shoots”. well, they were anything BUT mini shoots. they were the standard 1 to 2 hours of shooting time and the 4 to 5 hours of editing. i was SO MAD at myself for letting this happen. i am tired of learning the lesson of SAYING NO! well, fast forward to a convo that me and this client are having a few weeks later and she tells me that i “really need to raise my prices.” she just had a shoot with ‘so and so’ and she “spent over a thousand dollars with her for only a few poses.” WOW!!!! REALLY??!!! again, LESSON LEARNED THE HARD WAY. people will take advantage if you let them, insult you if you let them and the only one to blame is myself. seriously. i can always hear my dad’s voice in my head “if you pay nothin’, it’s worth nothin’”…ain’t that the truth.

  11. Blair penned:

    I totally feel exactly where this article is coming from. I just started my own photography business around October 2010, and I can sympathize with how difficult it is to get everything off the ground. I’m in school for graphic design, and my professor is a photographer too. When I told her I was doing free shoots for exposure, she snatched some of my prints up and threw them at me, saying “These are excellent shots people should be paying you for. Don’t you dare do another free shoot.”

    I’m now booking weddings and engagement shoots. Business isn’t steady (yet) but it’s there. You just gotta know how to market yourself and convince people you are worth it.

  12. Amy Leigh penned:

    This may be one of the most poignant pieces I’ve seen in quite sometime. So well said. Thank you such lovey, power packed words of wisdom.

  13. "Tammy" penned:

    Thanks for this article although it has approached my knowledge a little bit late. I began my photography business last fall. I called myself portfolio building when I offered free sessions but I now realize that was a big mistake. I should of had a price list set and offered the cost at reduced prices. Because when I stopped portfolio building and adjusted my price list( special thanks to Easy As Pie e-books) and presented them to my “free” clients I got absurd looks and straight forward replies “I am not paying for those prices, ummm…is it too late to get the prices offered on your old list?” Then I didn’t hear from them again. It was almost like I did them an awful wrong! Well, I guess my wrong was offering free sessions in the first place. Also, I began to notice that I was gaining new friends who would invite me to their social events only to find out that they wanted my camera to tag along.
    Just last week I was invited to a civil ceremony and was asked how much would I charge. I thought, ” Fifteen minutes in front of the judge – nothing” BIG MISTAKE!! AND I BLAME MYSELF” because I was unaware that when they heard free they included a trip to the park for portraits. From that mistake I have learned to include a price behind everything that I photograph. I’ve recently made another BIG MISTAKE that I am ashamed to share. Let’s just say it involves being invited to a good friends wedding, plane tickets, and no dough in return. I feel so stupid!! But I swear this is the LAST TIME I am ever offering my photography for free or offer to shoot a friends wedding because all they hear is FREE! Like the saying goes “You live you learn” I have diffidently learned a valuable lesson and unfortunately it included a hefty price tag – on me of course(sigh). Ugh!!!

  14. Juanita penned:

    All I can say is wow!!! This article was a slap in my face! I have been feeling like people wouldn’t want to pay any special price for my service. And ironically, family has done it the worst to me! I charged a cousin way less then I should have to do her wedding. Another cousin wanted me to do her senior pictures for free but I finally stood my ground. I am still learning and I worry my work is not good enough for full pricing. But its just as much my time away from my family as it is my work! Thank you for reminding me of this!

  15. Jay Warren penned:

    Well first off , good article. I would say most of what you are saying is true, but there has been some charity cases and free fashion shoot I have done that has given me a ton of exposure. This exposure has turned into a lot of work which grew into word of mouth and to this day have not had to spend a dime in marketing. I personally feel that when choosen correctly, a free shoot or promo event can increase traffic to you business. The fact that there is such a water down product currently out there, along side a ton of stay at home moms with expensive point and shoot cameras claiming to have a company, ( most of the time they don’t even have a licence or business plan ) they propell this monster of accessible mediocrity. That in it self makes keeping your prices at a level to stay a float. All n all , I agree working for free is an oxymoron, but if choosen correctly can turn into amazing jobs and “free advertisement”. Just always consider your time valuable, not dissbendalble, and don’t consider your work professhional untill it is that.

  16. Missy penned:

    Yup, I totally get it. I have done a TON of free shoots. Beyond Facebook, Twitter, and some amount of word of mouth, I find myself giving away sessions just to appear “busy”! Anyway, this was a good post to read, as I am frustrated with the lack of work right now.

  17. Carrie penned:

    The only things I ever shoot for free are my concept shoots. But the prints associated with these sessions are never free, they are full price. Years ago when I first started out, I took some great advice from my businessman hubby. He said, “You need to start out at the price you think you deserve, and then you can give discounts if you want”. I did just that, and I am still the most expensive children’s photographer in town. I view this as a good thing. People perceive that my work is worth more money because I value my work and my time! Once, when business was slow, I even raised my prices instead of lowering them. And you know what? I got more clients! Look at it this way: you do not expect that a doctor would see you for free. Even if you go to the doc for a common cold and know there is not much they can do, you still pay for those services. You are not paying for that one bit of advice. You are paying for that doctor’s years of training and knowledge.I never apologize for my prices, because I know that I can do what the average person cannot do. If you are a real photographer, you have invested countless hours of time and energy to gain that knowledge. My prints are worth much more than the low cost of the paper they are printed on. Thanks for the great article!

  18. Alexandra penned:

    I SO made a similar mistake once. One time, a couple that I was acquainted with(but not TOO close friends) asked if my boyfriend and I would do their wedding. We happily agreed. They asked for prices, and we knew their budget was tight, so we figured we would give them a discounted price to act as a wedding gift. It was all fine, they even referred a few other couples to us! The bad part? When those other couples started completely low-balling us on the pricing! We were offended, and had to say no to a couple opportunities due to our friends telling everyone what price we gave them. It was frustrating to say the least, especially when even your friends do not see the value in your time and hard work. Shame shame! Never again though :)

  19. Beja penned:

    I am a hobbyist photographer, but I am a professional digital/print designer, and I have taken the leap to launch my business. It’s easy to have cold feet with pricing when you feel like you owe someone a discount for exposure. The thing is, if they wanted it as cheap as possible, then they would sacrifice THEIR time, energy, and resources and do it for themselves. I am preaching to myself right now. Perfect timing as I find myself struggling to share my price sheet. I’m hoping to convert myself and repent ;D.

  20. Amanda penned:

    Being a “part time” photographer I wanted to research how to get started before I started it was a good thing I did – I learned through community boards that pro photogs regretted the way they started up and they have be “re-born” once they felt their portfolio was good enough to raise prices everyone went away and they had to start all over. So I took that information and decided I wasn’t going to work for free and I would set my prices to what I want when im “good” and ready to charge some money and the cut it 50% and call it a “Portfolio Building Discount” that way my prices are already out there and people will know when they come back it won’t be as “cheap” as last time and they will have already went through all my “regular pricing info” I would suggest to anyone starting out to stop working for free – come up with pricing you want to make when your work is fine tuned and treat it like a goal!

  21. Sandy penned:

    Le sigh. Oh yes. I was too afraid to charge for my first wedding because I didn’t want to disappoint. I didn’t feel qualified. I was extremely happy with the results and excited to send the images off to the couple and what did I get back? Barely a thank you! It was literally in the first half of the sentence that asked if they could have the unedited images so they could “play with them.” I was so disappointed and felt so taken advantage of. I wanted to ask her why she would hire a professional photographer if she just wanted to ‘play’ with the images… then I remembered she didn’t ‘hire’ me.

    I was very professional in my response (which was a NO! lol) and never treated them any differently than I would have a paying customer and after I dropped the SECOND disc off (because I was also asked if there were any more of so and so) I never heard from them again. No thank you. No thank you card. Not a mention.

    I must say though, I hope that they don’t send any business my way. Good riddance and lesson learned!

  22. Cheryl Hurt penned:

    Great advice for any business!
    I have given away and discounted far too much work just to build a client base in the beginning, no more, now I make a more conscious effort to determine who gets my pro bono work. I still do some, but now it’s a choice to help someone else out, and always someone who offers to pay first.
    We absolutely have to value our own work before someone else will.

  23. Brenna penned:

    Thank you for sharing this post with us. It’s all too true! It was very difficult to charge my normal rate while building the portfolio, and that is something I have struggled with for a long time. Now that my portfolio is full, I still find myself shelling out ridiculous deals… It is a punch to the gut, but I have been lucky to get credits and referrals in exchange…for the most part.
    I think part of this whole selling ourselves short thing is a lack of confidence. Am I worth it? Is my equipment good enough? Am I experienced enough? And so on… We’ve got to get out of that mindset! Glad to see others struggle with the same thing, I believe the answer is, YES, YOUR ARE WORTH EVERY PENNY!

  24. boowwet penned:

    Just want to say I couldn’t agree more! I just hope I could bring back time, grow a very thick skin, and charge my services with all the confidence I could muster. Anyway, I just charge it to experience. Hope I could rant beautifully like you did. LOL!

  25. Kung'u Kiuna penned:

    Great post!

    I recently met a client to discuss a corporate event shoot and she really insisted that I should consider doing for free or at a discounted rate since she knows many other photographers who are way more advanced than I am and that her company had several events lined up and they would definitely give me the work if I went down on price. As calmly as I could, I suggested to her that if we signed contracts for the next three events on that particular meeting, then I would give her a 50% discount on all of them.

    The look on her face clearly showed that she didn’t have other events coming up.
    She was lying about it to get a bargain so I stuck to my estimate and surprisingly she agreed, perhaps out of embarrassment.
    But at least she called to say she loved the photos.

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