If I Were a New Photographer Again, I Would Do This

The top question that I get from new photographers is "how do I start charging?" This video tackles that!

Many new photographers hear that you must work for free, usually by photographers who are often working for free themselves. Sure, I'll admit there isn't a clear and defined path for every photographer out there, but there are probably smarter ways of making money with your camera.

In fact, here's a way that you can build your portfolio and move closer to your goal of charging. Stop photographing for free (unless there's a plan in place).

Taylor Zakhar Perez by Walid Azami

Never Work for Free?

That is incorrect. You do test shoots to build your portfolio, and those test shoots are designed to entice the type of paid clients you wish to have. A "test shoot" is usually orchestrated by the photographer, and an entire team will work for the purpose of building their portfolios. This is free work with a plan. Everyone on the team has a need for the same type of images. 

Many photographers often shoot everyone and anything for free, hoping that something sticks. This could work, but I would bet your odds of finding success are dramatically less. You'll suffer exhaustion, an enormous out-of-pocket bill, and the entire community seeing you as the free photographer. Good luck erasing that perception!

Let's work to thrive, not just survive.

Have a Plan

Here's a great rule of thumb: whoever suggests the shoot has the most to gain. If the model asks to collaborate I assure you they have the most to gain. It probably won't help your portfolio grow as strategically as it could. The free shoot, the test shoot, the collaboration, or whatever must start with the photographer. The theme of the photoshoot should benefit the direction of your career first. The photos resulting from this shoot should build upon the path you see for your business.   

Shooting anything and everything could be fun, but it won't help you reach your financial goals as quickly. My intention is to get you paid sooner than you think and better than you thought was possible.

If you want to photograph for the fun of it, go for it! This tactic is specifically for the photographer wanting to start their business. They may not know how to build the photography portfolio or how to even start charging. 

Thrive or Survive

Start looking at every opportunity to shoot as a series of questions:

  • Will this help me thrive or just survive?
  • Will this free shoot bring me closer to my goal or is it a distraction?
  • Am I doing this to pay the bills or to grow my business?
  • Will this job attract future clients I want?

It helps to walk into each possibility with the right mindset. Sometimes, we take jobs for the money, but it will never appear anywhere near your portfolio. Sometimes, you're excited about an idea, but it may distract you from the original goal. Is it worth taking this shoot on? Is there an adjustment that would help your portfolio grow and still keep the others interested? 

Honest conversations with yourself are a must! Are you moving closer to thriving or just surviving? Are you distracting from your overall goals, or do you really need to accept his job because it could help you pay off a debt? Just have an honest conversation with yourself and be forthright about your path. Free shoots with a plan are okay. Free shoots without a plan are spinning your wheels in place. 

The attached video will discuss the steps in the right order to maximize every photoshoot and get to your business goals sooner. 

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