As a photographer I often work for free.
Never for companies or individuals that will benefit from my images. No, they can pay the industry price and get the best images that I can deliver. My clients, however, shouldn't be paying me to practice and make mistakes. They are paying for my knowledge, consistency and ability to deliver.
I work for free by taking advantage of TFP (Time For Portfolio) shoots. These are non paid collaberations with other creative types, generally models, make up artists and stylists.
Here's 5 reasons why I love TFP shoots.
1- It's a wonderful way of practicing new techniques and finding flaws.
Its important for me that I can use this time to make my mistakes and work on my inadequecies (which are plentiful!). If i buy new gear I can see how it will behave and can try new ideas, finding out what works and crucially, what doesn't.
2- It's a great way to network and build 'brand awareness'.
It's true! TFP opens up a world of people, ultimately that want to promote themselves. If your social media skills aren't all that, your counterpart's may be and it will get your name and work out there! If the shoot is fun and fruitful then people will want to talk about it.
It's well worth learning how to use social media effectively so that you can be a better platform for other talented people!
It's really important to help to showcase the talents of those you admire.
3- It allows for face to face critique.
A big part of improving is to take constructive criticism and use the information to learn. this is true for most things in life and it's certainly true for photography. TFP offers a great platform for taking advice. I have listened to the people I work with and have taken on board any advice they may have.
Hopefully I'll continue to do so.
4- I get incredible value out of this time.
Even though I am working for free, the value that comes from a good TFP shoot is priceless. I get to hone my craft a little more while meeting incredibly talented people. Forever creating a larger collective to call upon. Then, when the companies and clients that I work with ask for very specific things I can be ready, with newfound knowledge and a great team at my side.
5- Finally, it's fun!
Well, it should be. A group of people, each doing what they love to do with other interesting people. At the end of which lessons have been learned and hopefully some incredible images made.
That's it! I love TFP shoots and I will always try and make time for them around shooting for paying clients. They are invaluable things if you're willing to collaborate and push your limits. So be you photographer, MUA, Hairdresser, stylist etc. I recommend you join a local group and do TFP shoots. Especially if you want to try new things in an environment without commercial pressure and with generally awesome people.