Should a Photographer Work for Free?

Have you ever been offered a job, only to find that it’s only compensation was to “add to your portfolio” or give you “exposure” to a wider audience? Maybe you even graduated with a degree in photography or graphic design and were hoping for at least a small stipend with your internship, but everyone expected you to work for free, as if your groceries would some how pay for themselves? If this is you, then you’ll probably find this skit by the Irish comedic trio Foil, Arms, and Hog both painful and hilarious:

“This is going to be great for your portfolio”

If you’re a professional photographer, the theme of this skit is probably quite familiar to you. And while it’s doubtful that anyone has literally tried to pay you in Tweets, you’ve probably had all sorts of offers come your way, especially when you were just starting out. And while most folks know they need to pay the plumber and electrician, there’s always someone who thinks photographers and other artists should do it for their “portfolio.”

When they want to pay you in exposure

“20 Tweets. Will that cover it?”

But who knows? Maybe social media’s come so far that tweets (or rather, the exposure they promise) might actually be worth some currency. What do you think?

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3 responses to “Should a Photographer Work for Free?”

  1. Dan says:

    It’s simple supply and demand. If people are demanding your services and willing to pay you then no need to do free gigs. However if you’re a newbie and can’t get a paying gig then you may need to work for free for awhile. Same thing goes for musicians.

  2. Greg Chinn says:

    There is no such thing as WORK for free. The term is volunteer for free.

    Since most of us work in digital, delivering the final product costs time & money especially if your name is to be associated with the product. FREE means that the value of your work is exactly that unless you choose to donate all of the above.

  3. Bipin says:

    A Photographer should work for FREE for a) charitable causes, b) for the underprivileged and the poorest of the poor, c) for social or uplift of humanity causes.
    Have no doubt all ye Photographers.

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