Is a tricky question many of us have been faced with. In answering Ted makes a few valid points to consider.
Ted Forbes from The Art of Photography answered a very important question yesterday, “Should I work for free?”. Anyone who’s worked in visual art has at some point been faced with this question and it’s a difficult one to answer. Needless to say, it depends very much on each individual. Some decide to go for it and others simply say, “No way!”. For me, personally – yes, I worked for free when I started out as a photographer. My reasoning at the time was that I wanted to build a portfolio and gain some real experience. It worked, and it didn’t.
Take weddings for example…
I did a few free weddings, and as Ted rightly points out “question the quality of the project you are about to do”. Generally someone who is keen to have a pro bono photographer also has a small budget to work with. So visually for my portfolio, it didn’t help that much.
On the other hand, I did gain plenty of experience and it made a huge difference in my confidence. So for me, there were two sides to the coin. Would I do it again? Probably not. Instead, I’ll do more assisting. This again opens a whole world of questions. If you haven’t worked in a field before and you’re looking to gain some experience – assist. This could be one example of “trade” as Ted mentioned. You need some experience and a photographer needs someone to help out at a shoot. You both win. You add value by being a helping hand and in return you have an opportunity to learn and gain experience.
Again, it depends on each individual’s path and what your goal is.