A few weeks ago I needed a creative challenge. Winter was dragging on (and sadly it’s still going!), I’d been shooting in the studio (which I love and knowing the light in a space can be super helpful but for an artist can also get a bit boring and monotonous) a lot and just needed to break out of my comfort zone. I actually had a pretty busy January. Having a good first quarter always makes me feel better about what the year will turn into because the first quarter is usually my slowest. So I was busy shooting but still craved something outside the box.
There are a lot of big name photographers out there that teach new photographers to never shoot for free. I say this because I’ve been to workshops or read blog posts or articles, etc. where they say just that. I’ve learned though, over the years, that some people who seem to be doing everything right (and telling people how to do it all right) online maybe have a different story behind the scenes. I guess I’ve become pretty guarded about what and who I listen to online because who knows how much money those people bring in, how often they’re actually shooting or what their lives look like outside the world of social media. Social media can be deceiving. I can tell you, honestly, that I brought in about half of what a good friend and wedding photographer made last year (so I wish I was making more money like she is but can’t bring myself to offer weddings yet!), but I can also tell you that I’m making a substantial difference in our personal finances and that every year I do a little better. All that to say – I’m not a big name photographer but I’m doing well (for me) and working hard to continue to grow my business. And by growing my business I mean my shooting schedule… I only make money when I’m actually shooting a client because I don’t sell actions or teach workshops or sell design templates like a lot of photographers do to bring in extra cash. SO take this advice with a grain of salt because I might not know what I’m talking about at all! And a LOT of you might completely disagree with me but…
I like shooting for free.
There, i said it. I love bartering. I love taking on creative projects just for myself. I love shooting my family for no charge. I love gifting my friends sessions in the fall or at anytime as a way to show them how much I love them. I think shooting for free doesn’t hurt your bottom line. In fact, I think that shooting for free occasionally can help you to really grow as an artist. When there isn’t a paying client involved you have the freedom to experiment a little, to push yourself and try new things. Some of my absolute favorite sessions made me no income at all. Instead, they fed my soul. They allowed me to create images that are truly ME and help me show my clients what I’d love to be shooting. They push me as an artist, teach me new things and allow me to have fun doing what I love but that can admittedly feel a lot like work most of the time because it IS work!
So this winter I was busy but was still craving a big dose of creativity which led me to putting out a senior model call (I’d love to start shooting more seniors), finding a unique place to take photos and going out one day to play with my camera! The results are some of my all-time favorite senior images…
We took these photos at The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in downtown St. Louis. The space and the exhibit at the time was amazing. The indoor light was killer and fun to experiment with. Olivia was gorgeous and so fun to work with! It was seriously the best way to spend a cold winter morning ever! I loved every second of it and THAT is why it’s worth spending my time not making a dime!
I hope that this post in no way comes across as advice about pricing! I obviously don’t do everything for free! I believe strongly in pricing yourself based on the industry standard, your talent and what you need to make in order to run a legitimate business (meaning – paying taxes, holding insurance, etc.). My pricing is not something I guessed on. I have a business manager that has helped me fine tune my pricing so that I’m making a fair wage for my time and talent. If you are struggling with your pricing I am an open book and would love to help. I can also hook you up with my business manager (who is amazing and locally is available for hire!) because she’s considering teaching a class that just covers the basics about business – just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.