Cameradventures: Shooting For Free

Once upon a time, there was an up and coming photographer named Kenny. He’d been providing services for about 3 years, building a name for himself gradually, but continuously.

One day, Kenny received a call from a woman who said that his name came to her attention with great praise. He was flattered to know that someone thought highly enough of his work to speak of him that way and equally grateful that she decided to look into him.

The woman told Kenny that she had an event coming up in a few days and was wondering if he was interested in some “free advertising”. When he asked what she meant, she answered that she wanted him to photograph an awards banquet for about 2-3 hours, provide her with upwards of 100 photos and have them ready the following morning.

After further discussion, he quoted a price for her, to which she answered she was hoping he would shoot the event at “no cost” (also known as FREE, once known as “slave labor”). She added that since she had already printed the programs she couldn’t add his name. But she promised she would give him a “shout out” at the end of the event, which would undoubtedly result in more business.

…a “shout out”.

Ok, enough of that tale. It’s a true story, but I know you don’t need to ask how it ended. She wasn’t willing to pay and thought she was doing me a favor.

Let me just share what I wrote on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter a few weeks ago…

ZootShoot Photography is an LLC. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when people ask me to shoot for free or ask for a “look out for a brotha” half-off hookup. If you didn’t ask that of other photography studios, please don’t ask that of me. I can’t be competitive and survive in the business world, giving you for little-to-nothing, what you’d gladly pay full price with others. I don’t expect you to do business with me exclusively, but when you do, please respect it and me AS a business.

Sometimes I can give you a deal, but for the most part, I already offer competitive pricing and usually a little better. And I’m setting up new incentives for referrals and repeat customers.

In the beginning, I did shoot various events for free, mainly because I was learning “the business” and needed the experience. You know… a few parties, some salsa dancing, etc. Some would offer a tip or small payment of gratitude, but in the end, it was nowhere near what the average photographer would charge. Still, it didn’t take long for me to figure out just how much it was costing ME money: Gas, wear-and-tear on my aging car, parking fees, travel and shoot time, photo editing time, use of editing software, use of my camera and risk of damage. These and other items don’t seem like much, but they do add up. Especially when you’re not being paid, all the while (and I stress) providing a product they can use for business promotion, memories and other things.

Anyone on the entrepreneur track should be able to relate, understanding the importance of fair treatment when it comes to providing a product or service for money. More often than not, we have taken a leap of faith (with the apprehensive support of our significant others) into the land of “sing for your supper”. Income is no longer guaranteed as it was in the work force. Everything we bring in is the result of our ability to meet or beat the next man with what we have to offer. Oftentimes, what we do has its seasonal ups and downs as well. There is a wedding season. A senior photo season. Sports season. Family reunion season. You get the drift…

I, myself, have decided to hang up my hard hat and steel-toed boots, ending a 25-year career as an Environmental, Health & Safety Director. Mostly for health reasons. And believe me, nothing stings more than the loss of a corporate salary. Now I have to rely on my own ability to seek out customers, mainly through advertisement and word of mouth. At times I even have to bid on a job or project, especially if it’s for an organization. I’m far from having such an established name and reputation that things just “fall into my lap”.

But one thing’s for certain – I’m dedicated to my craft and am not satisfied until you are beaming with joy. Because it’s YOU who desires to preserve these memories for all time.

In the end, all I ask is that you pay me what I’m worth.

…and I promise, I’ll give you what you ask and more.


  1. I can appreciate this entry classmate! I started my business over 20 years ago and I fully understand the hustle of the early days but I commend you for your professionalism, this person sounds like they were just being cheap. Shamefully sad. By the way nice work! Praying that God will continue to prosper your business!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you very much. Unfortunately for me, I’m in the infancy stages, so I’m going through what you already survived. I just wish I’d started 20 years ago as well!

    Thanks for the love and thank you for reading…


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