Working for free Establishing yourself as a photographer or any other creative is not easy. To have any kind of credibility you need a portfolio of work but to get the portfolio you need the work - a vicious circle. In order to build your portfolio you will have to work for free and you will soon discover that there are loads of others doing exactly the same. This is the way it is and you are not going to change it. The problem is that people even large organisations know they can get content for free. Local newspapers, magazines and blogs can all get content for nothing. This is clearly not good for those of us trying to pay the bills from our work. I think the trick is to carefully select what is good for you then move on - easier said than done. Collaborating with others is not only a great way of generating portfolio content but fantastic for networking. You need to find ways of making this work for you.
Working for nothing is one thing but to do things cheaply is a completely different story. I recently did some work at cost but on visiting the organisation quickly realised that they did not value my work at all. The reason they didn't value me had nothing to do with the quality of the product it was to do with the price tag - I had cheapened myself. If you can't see the value of your own work then no one else will. This is a hard lesson to learn and I left my meeting feeling physically sick - something I will never forget.
When someone asks you to do that little job and you pluck a figure out the air then offer to give them a disk of images think again. What damage are you doing to yourself and to the industry. The images on that disk have taken years of learning and experimenting not to mention the thousands you have invested in equipment. You are devaluing yourself and the product and I have been guilty of it too. I have often worried that if I didn't offer a cheap price then someone else would get the job - this often will be the case but if it is a cheap job you don't want it anyway so move on,
I had a quick look at a camera rental company and just to rent my main camera and a couple of basic lenses it would cost you £250 for the minimum rental period. That is just for the gear - it kind of puts things in perspective.
To sum up I would say carry on collaborating and doing your TF (time for) shoots but for anything else charge your rate and stick to your guns.
Us at 'work' on our latest shoot at Debenhams