Photographer Asked to Shoot 10-Hour Wedding for Free in Exchange for Exposure to Couple’s 300 Guests

Photographer Asked to Shoot 10-Hour Wedding for Free in Exchange for Exposure to Couple’s 300 Guests

As photographers, many of us have been asked to work for free, but imagine being asked to shoot a wedding not for money, but in exchange for having your work promoted to that wedding’s 300 guests.

If that sounds a little unreasonable, consider that the couple who approached the photographer made sure to mention that 117 of those 300 wedding guests are unmarried and aged between 24 and 35. Even better, 73 of the guests have unmarried children who are also aged between 24 and 35. Who could turn down that amazing offer?

In an email that has since been posted to Reddit, the couple asks the photographer to “sponsor 10 hours of continuous photography coverage” in exchange for exposure to the wedding's guests, not to mention the couple’s 3,000 followers on Facebook. A wedding brochure would be distributed to all of the guests featuring the photographer’s logo.

Screenshot from Reddit

Inevitably, the comments on Reddit are not kind, with many pointing out that once you’ve shot one wedding for free, other couples will probably expect you to do the same. Others hasten to add that even if you were willing to work in exchange for the couple “showcasing your work,” 3,000 followers on Facebook is not exactly a huge following.

How would you respond to this inquiry? Leave a comment below.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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I saw someone (also on Reddit) who had a pretty good counter offer to one like this: They'd pay full price and get a unique promo code to distribute to their followers, and the photographer would refund the shoot if they booked 5 clients using that code within a year. Of course, the customer ghosted.

Oooh that's a good one!

I had a Turkish client who tried to negotiate my rates on the basis that they had at least half a dozen other similar jobs in the UK which would be mine if this one went right. I told them I'd do the 6th one for expenses only but I wasn't discounting anything up front. I did the one job and have never heard from them again - but I know the sector (which is quite small), and many people in it (which is why they came to me in the first place), and I know they haven't done any further work in the UK, with me or anyone else. That was 2-3 years ago. People only make these offers because they can wriggle out of them with no consequences.

Very cool idea!

Thanks for posting this, Andy! I admit, I was quite harsh towards you about that Aperture Priority being dead thing you wrote, but other than that, I appreciate all of the quality content that you bring to this site.

As far as this "free wedding shoot" topic goes, first let me say that I am not a wedding photographer. But, if I was, I would take the couple's offer seriously. How I respond to them would depend on the state of my business.

If I was lacking for clients and didn't have enough bookings to stay afloat, then I would probably take them up on the offer, or try to negotiate some compromise with them.

If my business was successful and I had a steady stream of bookings and a solid client base, I would not accept the offer ... at least not in the way they presented it. I may try to negotiate with them by offering a discount, or charge full price for the shoot, but give them product (album, prints, framing) in exchange for the advertising opportunity.

In either case, I wouldn't just "shoot the wedding for free". I would have them pay me for the wedding shoot, then I would take that money and pay them for the advertising opportunity they are providing me. That way there wouldn't be the negative stigma of having others expect me to shoot for free, too.

Upon further thought, I would never shoot a 10 hour wedding for free. That's just too much time and too much work. It's preposterous, really. Take your regular price for a 10 hour wedding, determine the value of the advertising value you will receive, deduct that from your wedding price, and then that there is what one should charge. Don't just "make a deal", but rather make sure everything is precisely equitable. Do all the math (yes, it is "math", NOT "maths), and then make sure that each party is paying the precise amount of the value they are receiving. That way neither party gets the better of the other.

Is it “mathematic”? Is my friend Ann a professor of mathematic or mathematics? Are you claiming you have claimed some peculiar right to decide what people of other nations should call a thing? You discounted whatever you may have said with your priggish, unnecessary and flat-out wrong comment.

I’d say “try harder” but you didn’t try at all.

Not even just people of other nations, but the people of the nation which created the language which he now speaks. I'm pretty sure they were saying 'maths' here in England before America was even spawned as a nation.

Other than that though, I agree with the post. Value your work (it's not even shooting a 10 hour wedding for free thats the worst part, could actually be fun at points, but the editing!!!!)

Sigh.... A tempest in a teapot.
Both "math" and "maths" are correct, although the former is favored in the US and the latter in Europe.

Also, both are abbreviations. The term is indeed mathematics (plural) or mathematic (singular). A professor of mathematics can produce a single mathematic or algebraic answer to a problem.

It's also possible to argue whether it is correct to make a plural of an abbreviation by adding an "s" (although I take no position.)

Again, much ado about nothing.

No matter how a customer spins a request like this, the base premise is… "You are a commodity and your work has no proprietary value."

For the absolute life of me I can't imagine why anyone wants to do weddings.Too much emotion, too many stressed people & stretched budgets, Bridezilla & her mother, ya-de-ya. But over the years I've had softer versions of this in corporate life. At one time, if I got any hint that a client's attitude was like this, & I hadn't yet quoted a price, I jacked the price up massively & asked for 50% up front (if they took it, & occasionally they did, it was compensation for the hassle, because clients who are trouble are trouble over the longer term; if they didn't, who cares?) But I don't tolerate them at all, now - I just don't want their business. Last time it happened was a couple of years ago & I just dropped-them-and-blocked-them, no further communication, & concentrated on actual clients. Didn't even reply to the offending email. As a photographer what you sell is skilled time; time is your 'product'; when people waste it, like this couple, it's an 'opportunity loss', because you can't use that time on securing or servicing proper clients. The take-away analysis from this is were there any signs that these people were time-wasters? Is there anything in your business communications that encouraged them to take this approach? Businesslike emails, system-led, & a polite but professionally assertive discussion about money, should make it clear from the get-go that you didn't breeze-in on the last turnip cart. If they still come up with crap like this, drop-and-block.

Someone said, “A sucker is born every 30 minutes” I think it was PT Barnum

I'm thinking, hey why not have the DJ announce commercials during the entire wedding. For example, when it's time to put the ring on her finger, the DJ interrupt - her beautiful ring provided by John's Jewelry on main street. Then his turn comes and again the DJ announce - his ring sponsored by Walmart!

Oh Benoit, you joke... But I guarantee you this has already happened... more than once!!

If I was available and not doing anything, I would agree and then show up with a dozen or so disposable film cameras and take photos for the event and at the end of the night I would hand over a bag of the disposable film cameras and say goodnight. Might get a meal and some drinks and enjoy the evening.

MIGHT get a meal?? I'm filling up while there and taking some home for the fridge. Lets be honest, the food is the only REAL compensation on offer lol

I have seen this approach taken in a different regard.
A photographer had it written in their contract that there be a "no cell-phone" policy. Not just to cut down on the amount of photo's everyone would be taking (bombing), but to also cut out all of the interrupted moments that the photographer was hired to capture. After all, what bride wants a photo of her father escorting her down the isle with all of these cell phones showing up in the background of the pictures?

On the other hand, during the reception, the photographer did place disposable cameras on each dining table so that the guest could capture a few of those moments that the photographer (or potential assistants) were not there to capture. After all, we can't be at all of those places at the same time.

No one should work for free no matter how the job is spun.

They make a compelling case, but no thanks. You're always going to find people that want something for nothing but their proposition will not pay my bills unless you can convince my landlord to forego this months rent for potential additional future revenue.

Translation: You are batsh!z crazy!

This kind of "advertising" would only serve to devalue your work. Some if the suggestions in t he other comments are very good ways of dealing with this. I just wanted to point out that giving away your work for free is likely not only cust you income now, but also to cost you future income.

It unfortunately also cuts into the over-all market price and effects other photographers as well.

Any time a prospective client introduces the notion that their event is an opportunity for me I run. A good client relationship benefits both sides in a roughly equivalent measure with relative certainty.

But think of it.

You get exposure to 300 people

Maybe you get the same deal and do 10 more weddings for exposure to 3000 people

And then you do 50 more wedding for exposure to 15000 people

The possibilities are limitless.

Think about those limitless possibilities and how limited they actually become.
The "exposure" doesn't guarantee obtaining any other clients. Paying clients.
"Maybe you get the same deal and do 10 more..."
By that point, you're going to be known as the photographer who works for free. All that type of exposure does is cost a photographer money. Time costs money. Equipment costs money. NEVER photograph (or work at all) for free. When you do you become a volunteer.

3000+ combined Facebook followers
300 total wedding guests
So each guest have only 10 friends that are not already on the 300 one?

There is a lot of r/swoosh going on here

One of these days a photographer will take a Choosy Beggar on their "offer". And shoot their wedding without a contract, knowing full well that they own the copyright of the all the photos...

I would love to see the couple's faces when you tell them, "yeah, I shot your wedding for free and now you need to pay me to release the photos", unless they fork out for another wedding they'll have to stump up! haha

Do the wedding for free but charge an hourly rate to view the images from the wedding. Let's see what the couple thinks of that.

"How would you respond to this inquiry?"

I wouldn't respond to it.

You can always "give them 10 hours of continuous photography" for free and Monday morning ask them if they want to purchase photographs of their wedding.

Like those scammy photostudios that advertise on Facebook. I might actually try this on the next 'exposure' offer I get!

Are you referring to the "studios" that ask you to be a part of their team? The catch being that they will only provide the photographer the clients and that for a flat rate the photographer has to use their own gear, transportation to and from, etc?

Oh no, I've never encountered them as a photographer, I mean the type that recruit clients in shopping malls etc, and get them in for a 'free' shoot (usually includes one free watermarked image), then try to charge them an arm and a leg for the rest of them.

The photography is free, but I'll have to charge you for the images

I would do the wedding at my usual fee, then when the first referral booked for an equal or greater fee I would refund the fee

So working half price for two weddings in a row? Might as well just work one wedding and take the rest of the time off.

Anything for a free ride.

My favorite one like that was the guy who knew everybody, was just so well connected, blah blah blah and if I shot his event I'd meet so many people and have so many opportunities and he'd tell everybody he knew about get the idea.

I countered with the following: My price for the event was X, which he'd pay. I told him that I would draw up a binding contract that would guarantee him a 20% commission on the gross revenue of any job that came my way through any of his referrals as long as they mentioned his name (I forgot his name so we'll just call I'm "Lying, scamming douchebag) and would continue to pay him that commission even after he had already made the money back that he initially paid me.

Great deal, right? Locked down with a contract, even.

The jerkwad got angry and told me I'd never get any work from him. I told him that I already knew that, which was why I offered the better deal because only a liar wouldn't go for it.

Simple... you agree to it and not show up.

LOL. Harsh but effective.

The couple probably wouldn't really mind very much. Most people don't care much about professional wedding pictures anymore. They are usually find with just having the pics that their guests take with their cell phones. I mean, do you know anyone who actually cares about having good quality photos of their wedding anymore?

"asked to shoot a wedding not for money, but in exchange for having your work promoted to that wedding’s 300 guests"

The only thing you are telling the 300 guests is that you are gullible enough to work for free.

I wouldn’t reply..

This nonsense is so common that it shouldn't even be brought up as news anymore... Just ignore and move on.

Sadly some newbie will do this for free.

Exactly. There is always some inexperienced weasel who doesn't have to be concerned about income due to their day job which more than likely has nothing to do with photography.

Somehow I feel original article is a click bait. Nobody is that stupid. Spending money to have 300 people wedding and try to save few thousand on photographer. Doesn't make sense.

From a pure business pov, you don't do any deliverable work for free, upfront, without guarantee of payment, whatever that may be.
In this case, just like the Reddit idea, I would do a quick ad spend math ($ spent / clients acquired) to figure out how many weddings that could bring if I'd spend it on ads and marketing, and offer them a referral fee that would add up to the full cost of their wedding once they refer that many. Any more, and it's more money in their pocket than they spent on the wedding.
Or heck, tell them you'll shoot it, but they'll only get their pictures as they refer clients. All pictures delivered once X clients referred ;).

If the bride is cute, I'd tell them I'd accept the offer as long as I can have sex with the bride before the wedding, and after they get back from their honeymoon. If they find that offensive, I'd inform them that's exactly how I feel about their offer.

I wonder how many of those 300 were told by the bride/groom that the photographer worked for free? (Probably most?) Not a good deal.

The couples referral includes the word "free" and suddenly the photographer becomes Bernie Sanders.

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