David Hobby over at Strobist today wrote a post advocating reasons why photographers – especially in our current period of economic downturn – should start doing some assignments for free.
To me it has an almost manifesto quality to it, in the vain of the “Less Clients, Less Money, More Personal Service” memo circulated among sports agents by Jerry Maguire in the film of the same name.
Hobby is asking photogs to consider seeking out portrait subjects that inspire them and offering to shoot them for free, and offer free usage in return for their time and an addition to one’s portfolio.
The pros over at SportsShooter have been mostly all rigidly against the notion of giving away work for free, which I can empathize with having been taught that in school and also having lost business in the past because of semi-pros and hobbyists who are willing to work for cheap or free.
I must say, however, he’s swayed me in everything except for the free usage deal. I have no problem, generally, with providing subjects with prints or even low-quality digital files for their own use. Even when I shoot weddings I tell my clients they can make copies of their DVD slideshows, etc. to give to friends and family because I think it’s worth the investment of getting future clients out of it. But what I’d be against doing is giving someone carte blanche to use it for whatever they want.
Vincent Laforet had a very good perspective about this on his blog in which he talked about producing the short film ‘Reverie’ all on his own dime for Canon to promote the new 5D mk II and its video capabilities. The key thing here is, however, that Laforet did not grant them any usage of it and made sure he kept full copyright of it. So when the film became immensely popular and the demand grew, Canon paid him in full for it – even more, he suspects, than he would have otherwise made in commission if he had made them pay him upfront.
The reason I felt compelled to write about this is because it got the wheels turning in my head about possible portrait subjects that would make for great pictures, but whom I may never get the chance to shoot because the opportunity of a paid assignment may never come up. I think there is definitely a potential for professional growth there and I think it would be well worth the investment to do something for free every once in a while…