Why Photographers Should Work For Free

Photo by Victoria Bedingfield

For free or not for free? That is a question we get a lot in our H community, especially for those at the beginning of their photography career. While some creators believe you should never do any work for free, we think it can be a great way to get your foot in the door to start working with clients or brands. Whether it’s through reposts or building a relationship, it never hurts to spend a little time giving more than you take.

BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP

Relationships are KEY in this industry. Sure it’s great to land a job and make a quick $500, but what you really want is to build a lasting relationship with someone – whether that’s a brand, influencer or company. This will often lead to a long-lasting partnership with several jobs down the line and not just a quickie. The easiest option is to offer a test shoot where you can grab some photos for the brand and show them what you can do for them. This can be a deciding factor if they like your work so be sure to be creative, professional and only send them your best content.

We recommend always over delivering on your original agreement. For example, if you agreed on 15 edited photos, send them the final copies and post a few on your account while tagging them. Or throw in an extra Instagram story or quick video. This is not to be confused with letting them take advantage of your work, but a brand will remember the extra effort and want to continue a relationship if they see you are going above and beyond to create amazing content for them. It can also be a great way to land yourself a paid job as well.

PITCH YOURSELF   

Reaching out to brands when you’re first starting out can be intimidating. But even the biggest photographers started somewhere! One of the best ways to pitch a brand when you’re still small is to offer photos in exchange for product. When writing your pitch, be direct, specific and stay away from “copy and paste” messages. Brands can easily tell if you’re sending a generic bulk email with no thought or research. Here’s a quick example:

“Hi, @puravidabracelets team! I’m an up and coming photographer based out of San Diego. I’ll be traveling to Hawaii next month and would love to grab some photos of your new beaded necklaces and bracelets while I’m there!”

Brands are almost always looking for more content, especially in exchange for product. This can also lead to big brands posting your photos onto their own large accounts.

REPOSTING

Whether it’s a feature account like @portraitgames or a large brand like @puravidabracelets, reposting is a great way to gain more exposure for your account. These reposts can often be worth more than advertising because it puts your content in front of a whole new audience. It can also sometimes lead to a snowball effect – you get reposted on an account with 100k followers, another feature account sees your photo and reposts to their audience of 70k followers and so on.

How do you get reposted? We recommend making a hit list of brands or accounts you’d love to get featured on. Once you have your list, add their IG handles and any hashtags they use so they can easily find your content. It’s easy to go overboard when tagging your images so remember to only tag an account in a relevant image. For example, you wouldn’t want to tag @puravidabracelets in a picture of your cat, but they might repost an awesome beach photo you took! And don’t get discouraged if they don’t repost immediately – brands can repost an image even months after you originally posted!

Caution: be wary of accounts that charge for features. Oftentimes these accounts will reach out to you via DM asking if you’d be interested in a feature on their page. It may sound appealing at first and they might have a lot of followers, but they also usually have very poor engagement. This can mean a lot of their followers are fake and you’re paying to be promoted to a bunch of bots – not good.

What are some cool accounts that you guys have been featured on? Did you work on any free projects when you were starting out? Let us know in the comments!

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