Originally published at The Hobby Photograph, this method applies for the fashion photographer also. It's not about the battle between free work or no free work. It's about getting the unpaid jobs that contribute in other ways, whether it be magazine credit, clothing boutique store credit, etc... 

Photographers (because we did it to ourselves) suffer the “Hey could you just take a few pics” syndrome. They’d never say “Could you just ____________” to a doctor, mechanic or chef. But with a photographer people do that. If you hold a camera, consider it your job to re-educate the public. 

When people ask if they should consider free work,  I remind them that everyone works for free. Every photographer ponders on this and most come to the conclusion that free work is beneficial IF it’s done correctly. That big IF is important and today you’ll learn how to properly trader services. The only free work that makes sense is the one where both parties benefit.

For example, a local restaurant may inquire about you photographing their menus. They’ll approach you and probably say something similar to “Hey we just need a few quick shots, don’t even worry about retouching it. What ever you do will be better than me”. There’s a good way to handle this, if you maneuver the correct way.

Either they are diminishing your work, and letting you know it doesn’t take much effort or they simply want a simple photograph without troubling you much. It’s generally a 3-step process to turn the situation around and put you back on top!


Politely remind them that you can’t just snap a few photographs. That’s perfectly fine if others do, but you’re an artist and everything takes time. It’s in their benefit to take a few extra moments for the perfect image. They’ll appreciate the commitment and will likely comply. You’re also politely reminding them you’re a photographer and not someone with a camera. What person wouldn’t want the best image?! 


If they ask for unedited images, please say no. You owe that to your future and the future of photography! Giving a raw photo is like the chef giving you all the food in a tupperware at a restaurant. You went in for the full experience and presentation. Why should photography be any different? Your photograph is the pre-production, it’s the production and it’s the post-production. You shoot with post-production in mind. Furthermore, you cannot trust they’ll retouch it themselves the proper way. You’ll also want to use those images for your portfolio and raw images won’t be a service to your future.


When it’s time for the actual barter and negotiation, they already know you’re not just another person with a DSLR. You’re willing to put the time & effort for the perfect photograph  They also understand you’re willing to give a perfectly edited image but they’re not acquiring the entire lot of images. The situation is ripe for the negotiation now. 

Tell them you will serve an invoice for what you would normally charge. This could be $500 or it could be $3500 for the job. And that is the amount they’d owe you in services back. Did your photographic services cost $800? Great, then they owe you $800 in services from their business. That is how you properly barter. 

Free work is a good thing, if you can set it up the right way. Now remember there are resorts who need photography, restaurants, florists, dentists, everyone…