If you follow Craig’s List in the DC area, the list of folks in need of a photographer to do a wedding or head shot for free is a constant fixture in the Creative category.  They are often met with a response from the “Angry Photographer” (not me, I promise) detailing how insulting it is to expect something for nothing.

I guess there is a a huge misconception that there are tons of photographers just starting out looking to build their portfolio.  But the truth is, this is the best way to build your portfolio.  As you start out in your small business, you will have silent phones, no e-mail, and a lot of free time.  And as always there is the Catch-22, trying to convince clients you are worth hiring, but nothing to show of your work.

Our best move was to find a model home of a small Luxury Home Builder in the area and ask if we could come in and photograph.  In turn we would pass them the photographs and full usage rights.  Turns out this was our best move ever.  The builder called on us to photograph a new model shortly after and has been a devoted client ever since.  He also referred us to other builders, who in turn gave us referrals.

We ended up doing this several times to build our portfolio.  We found the larger the business, the less interested they were.  Small businesses love to save money, but more importantly, have less management and red tape to clear to get the go-ahead.

People always are open to free things, as long as you present it properly.  Make sure you are clear on what is expected from them and what you will provide in turn.  Have paperwork ready for them to read and sign.  If you are providing them usage rights, they should have it in writing that they can use the photos in promotional and print advertisement along with any details on how credit should be given.  Most people will be wary of the offer and think it is a gimmick…DON’T MAKE IT ONE!  You are there at their grace.

But most importantly, treat it like a paying job.  Present yourself professionally, promote your business, and act like it is your 100th job, not your first.  And follow up with a thank you gift, after all, they did help you out.

Thanks for reading 😉