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Thread started 07 Jun 2012 (Thursday) 06:28
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Does "Pro bono" work ever payoff?

 
DanFaenza
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Jun 07, 2012 06:28 |  #1

So I'm shooting my 2nd "pro bono" wedding this weekend as a favor to my mom, not necessarily the client. My first one went alright, JUST about squeaked by since the couple actually wound up giving me some money. The one I'm shooting this weekend I've spent way more than the couple actually wound up giving me. It's a bit discouraging but I try to look at the silver lining, I'm learning more about a hobby that I love. I started out shooting airshows and now I'm getting into weddings. It's something about seeing the couples' reactions to the pictures I took. I truly do enjoy it. My question for the more seasoned veterans is, at what point did you stop accepting pro bono type work? Is it ok if it's not costing you gobs of money? What was your "silver lining" to doing the "favor".

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about helping out the little guy from time to time. I know I've only done two like this, but I know I have to get a little bit thicker skin and start asking for what I'm worth, even if I am still a budding amateur. Does any of this sound familiar to yall?


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FerozeK
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Jun 07, 2012 06:53 |  #2

If you really want to learn wedding photography get a job as a second shooter with a seasoned pro. Pro bono work is really for people who cant afford it, not for you to use as a practice session. Pro bono is not about money, but about giving someone who couldnt afford quality service a discount or freebie. You also might not be putting your best effort forth or learning much as you doing it as a "favour"

Once you earn a reputation as a free photographer you will never get rid of it, what are you going to tell mum when she asks you for a "favour" again you you have to tell you now charge for the same thing you gave away last month?




  
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etaf
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Jun 07, 2012 07:28 |  #3

also when ever, i did weddings for "free", using film, same as you, asked by realtives and close friends. I did request costs to cover the film and processing etc - but also made it clear , that if anything went wrong , then that would be tough , so they should consider that at the end of the day , they get no usable pictures
otherwise you would need insurance


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highway0691
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Jun 07, 2012 07:48 |  #4

I'd say you're on the right track here. There's so much to learn about wedding photography despite how good you are with a camera and the only way to learn is to do it. Also you can't really charge when you're learning, maybe cover costs would be good enough IMHO.


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DanFaenza
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Jun 07, 2012 11:38 as a reply to  @ highway0691's post |  #5

My costs were covered, not totally, but enough. This is a friend of my mom's and they're incredibly excited to have me. I have no problem helping them out either, but I agree with FerozeK, once you gain the reputation, it's hard to get rid of and you're looked at in a different light. Like someone that's just in it to make money. IMHO I think that's a big part, making money, but there's also a satisfaction in seeing the end result of what I did in that day, and impressing the couple with my work. I like that, taking a clean slate and creating something beautiful, all the while learning from any mistakes I make and making contacts.

I think people have no problem covering costs. They get it. It's the manpower, the hourly rate, they have a hard time dealing with. I know I'll run into that when I start asking for what my time is really worth. Yes, I'm amateur...for now. But even as an amateur I'm worth something. I will have to find a way to relate that to clients that see otherwise. That's going to be my biggest challenge moving forward.

I'll be sure to post pictures once they're done to see what everyone thinks, so keep an eye out! ;)


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gonzogolf
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Jun 07, 2012 11:43 |  #6

If you shot it as a favor for your mom, the payoff was right there. ITS YOUR MOM. The rest of it is just navel gazing. If you want to protect your image/rights/reputatio​n/ego or whatever by not working for free in the future thats fine. Go forth and conquer, but if you did it as a favor for your mom thats enough.




  
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ssim
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Jun 07, 2012 11:57 as a reply to  @ gonzogolf's post |  #7

There is a place and a time to give your work away for free, imo. Is this weddings, I don't think so. You want to give your work away when there is some potential in getting paid work because you did a gig for free (or really dirt cheap).

Most of the free work I have done have been with that train of thought or in cases where it is a charity and the cause is something that I believe in. I did some work for quite a few years for the local Alzheimer's society as my mother suffered from that horrible disease. It was something that was near and dear to me. I did some work for the local downs syndrome group for a publication that they were making and I had to go to people's home and shoot the child in their environment. I had no personal connection to this other than I felt it to be a good cause but I ended up getting a number of subsequent bookings because of it.

In a wedding you are exposed to a large number of people but choosing a photographer that they may need some time in the future is not top of mind for them. I have handed out hundreds of business cards at weddings and rarely had a call from people that attended that wedding. It is a decision that each photographer makes for themselves. I don't believe that it is a decision that one should make lightly and one should do an analysis on it based on the information that they have. The wedding in question here seems to be done for free as a favor to the OP's mother and that is a whole other dimension that sort of negates everything else, imo. Do you really say no to your mother.


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golfecho
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Jun 07, 2012 12:06 as a reply to  @ gonzogolf's post |  #8

My neice got married and asked my sister and brother-in-law to do the photography. They agreed, and at the wedding, he brought along his back-up body and lenses. He asked me if I wanted to just shoot around the edges and casual shooting with the back up. I did, and I learned a lot. They really liked my shots, and chose many of my "around the edges" shots (I stood at a distance with a 70-200 and got the shots where folks didn't know was shooting). Working with another pro is definately the way to go.


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krb
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Jun 07, 2012 12:12 |  #9

Yes, there are times when pro bono work can pay off. Weddings are not one of those times, IMO. If they see you shooting a wedding for free then they will want you to shoot their wedding for free as well. And if you insist on charging them they will simply going looking for somebody else who is will to shoot "for experience" because you've planted that seed in their mind.

The only times I have seen pro bono work pay off have been when the client was an actual charity. People see you doing 'free' work for something like a church and they will see you as a responsible member of the community but more important they will be able to clearly see that you are doing charity work for a charity and understand that it is in addition to your paid work.


The right way to gain experience is to do like everybody else is suggesting and assist an established photographer who is getting paid.


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Christopher ­ Steven ­ b
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Jun 07, 2012 12:18 |  #10

I take 'pro bono' as a term that is usually applied to situations in which someone who is a professional in their field offers free professional services. @OP: Are you a professional wedding photographer ? Are the 'little guys' you are helping out your clients, or are you also a 'little guy' in the field looking to improve ? If you aren't at least fairly confident about being able to deliver professional services (including having backup equipment), then free or low-priced is probably the way to go for the time being.

If I were in your position I'd do whatever I could to have 3 or 4 weddings in my portfolio--even if that means offering free or low-priced services. Having a solid portfolio will make you money.



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DanFaenza
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Jun 07, 2012 12:49 as a reply to  @ Christopher Steven b's post |  #11

First off, @gonzogolf & ssim, NEVER say no to the Mother! lol.

@Christopher Steven b - I'm with you when I use the term "pro bono". It implies someone who can offer professional services at cost, or lower, to help out. I admit, I am one of the "little guys" just getting started building a strong portfolio and agree with you when you say I need a few more weddings to under my belt simply for the portfolio.

With that being said, I completely see where everyone is coming from. I feel confident in my photography but know that I have more to learn. The people that are attending this wedding don't know that I'm doing this for close to nothing. What they will see is a confident photographer that is able to produce some quality images. This will be my 2nd "official" wedding. My first one was for a friend of the family, older couple, getting married just to "make it official" and asked me to take pictures. I'm still learning, and the more and more I read here, the more confident I'm becoming that I'm doing the right thing, for now.


Dan
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TooManyShots
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Jun 07, 2012 13:08 |  #12
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Charity, grass root organization promotions, and favors for your loyal customers...yes. For the learning experience, yes. For big companies with millions of dollars of budgets, no. News agencies, no. If providing free works can get you connections and a possible future gigs, you would see many photogs making it in this industry. The sad truth is that you will become just another pawn to exploit.


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mikeinctown
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Jun 07, 2012 15:15 |  #13

One thing that moms (at least my mom) are guilty of is promoting their son or daughter in whatever light AS WELL AS volunteering your services. I see nothing wrong with doing the free wedding or whatever work, but at the same time I would also have a talk with your mom that you do not wish to continue giving away your services and losing money and to please not tell others that you work for free at times. Moms are stubborn sometimes and have selective memories and want to make all their friends happy, so you'll probably have to tell her this at least one more time. LOL.




  
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FerozeK
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Jun 07, 2012 15:17 |  #14

Dan, just add to my original post....

These 2 aspects to running a successful wedding business. One is the raw talent, the skill and the want to be a damm good photographer. The other is the more important aspect, a fine sense of how a business should be run, the technical skills of accounting, costing and debt collecting is something that can be easily learnt. I see a lot of posts here asking is it ok if I charge, or how much to charge or how to collect after the job is done, you need to keep the money side of the business separate from the actual product you delivering. You are delivering a product in exchange for money, it has nothing to do with it "being the most important day of her life and all that jazz", and all about a business transaction.

And yes, never say no to your mother.....




  
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FlyingPhotog
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Jun 07, 2012 15:25 |  #15

It depends on where you draw the line between "Free" and "Has Value."

I'll be going to my 4th AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin later this summer. The first time I went, it was as just another attendee. However, I met several photographers that I knew of (and who maybe vaguely knew of me) but that I had never met face to face. Handshakes and "Hi, nice to meet you all around!"

Out of meetings during my first trip came an invite to work under an established shooter for the past two AirVentures.
(I did get some images published from last year and there was compensation involved.)

Out of the last two AirVentures comes my going this year under my own name and company banner and at least a few opportunities to draw some pay for my efforts.

Bottom Line: Yes, I went entirely out of pocket the first three times but it's going to start paying off this year. So while the first three trips may have been "for free," they certainly had value!


Jay
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Does "Pro bono" work ever payoff?
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