Why you should shoot for free… | Montreal Event Photographer

Light The Night walk

Ok… that title is a bit misleading.  Maybe it should be titled “WHAT you should shoot for free”.  Figured the Why was a bit catchier 🙂

This doesn’t come from a direct question someone asked, but more from the standard emails I received inquiring about my photography services to cover their event… that has no budget… but they want 4 hours of coverage… for free.  These emails usually include one of (and sometimes all of) the below:

  1.  There are a bunch of important people there, it’s a great networking opportunity
  2. Should we have paid work in the future, we’ll most def call you.
  3.  This will be great for your portfolio!

I’m always impressed at how events that have budgets don’t include a few hundred dollars for photography.  Sure, we’ll get monogrammed napkins, but photos?  Nah.  We’ll find someone to shoot for free and it will be fine.

To counter the three usual “benefits” of me shooting free events… important people never remember the photographer.  I’m there working and don’t have time to chat and network that much.  I prefer choosing my own networking opportunities, with influential people in the areas I am trying to grow my business.  Paid work in the future… a promise to hire is not payment and unfortunately, doesn’t work with my landlord as payment for my rent… or hydro… or my insurance company for my gear.  Once someone hires you free, all they’ll expect is free.

And my portfolio?  Interesting.  This can be the most interesting proposition.  But think about your portfolio and the type of work you want to do.  Having a series of images of a casino night fundraiser in a church basement is going to help your music photography career how?

If you are a student, this could work for skills practicing.  If you screw up, they’ll just jump to someone else next time.  If they really wanted a guaranteed professional result, they would pay for professional services.  Like they did the DJ… or the caterer… or the limo drivers… or the dancers… or the inflatable kids games.  You get the picture.  But I get the need to shoot and practice, been there.

But Pierre, you said I should shoot for free… EXPLAIN!

Help Portrait - Photo by Tim Snow
Help Portrait – Photo by Tim Snow

It’s easy.  And it’s something I do every year and when the opportunity works.  Find yourself a charity that you care for.  Most of us have been touched, near or far, by certain diseases in our families: cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, …  Pretty much every organization has fundraisers.

1- Chose the charity you care about

2- Contact the charity to offer free photo services of their events

It is an awesome feeling to give back and be involved in supporting organisations trying to better our world.  Even if they have a budget… screw that, do it for free.  Not only are you going to be in direct contact with the organizers (instead of random intern in charge of finding a free photographer), you will have also contacted them, showing great initiative.  This is how you network.  Put your foot forward and do … be involved.

Casa Cares for the Montreal Children’s Hospital
Casa Cares for the Montreal Children’s Hospital

I urge everyone to find at least 1 event, organization, family, person to help out every year.  Whether it be through photography or donating your time.  Get involved in your community.  Giving clothes and food is great and always welcome.  But giving your time and being present brings it to a whole other level.

Thanks! 🙂


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