Many photographers – myself included – constantly complain about being asked to shoot an event or a person for free. The usual justification for that request is, “You’ll get exposure.” Most photographers don’t need exposure. We need cash. We need to pay the rent or the credit card bills. Exposure doesn’t do that.
But every now and then you do a shoot for free because it is for a Good Cause, because your talents as a photographer will help promote that cause. I have a few Good Causes I participate with for free or for a drastically reduced rate. Help Portrait is one of them. Another is breast cancer fund raising, particularly (and almost exclusively) the Paint Georgia Pink organization.
A few years ago my baby sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy to stop the spread of that disease. Her life was saved because of early detection and rapid response by her doctors. Shortly after that event, I was asked by Jessica Hill to contribute my photography talents to shooting a promo piece for her breast cancer fund raiser, Ink 4 Pink. That shoot combined my affection for girls with tattoos with breast cancer awareness. I got to work with custom fashion designer Erin Bohanon, one of my favorite models – Kris Melton, another model I’ve wanted to photograph for a long time – Rachel Rust, and Jessica. It was a win-win for me!
Exposure? Not really, but I did get a web design client from it, and now Rachel says hello to me when I see her at a tattoo studio.
My best friend from college, Susan Oates, heads up Paint Georgia Pink, and the first weekend of May 2012 she is holding a fund raiser walk on Tybee Island outside of Savannah called Paint Tybee Pink. She asked me to come photograph the event for her, and do it for no pay. I didn’t hesitate for a minute. I told her absolutely yes.
Will I get paid? I do get a hotel room for two nights, but there is no residual income, no honorariums, no tip jar. Just me showing up for a weekend to help my friend and a cause I believe in. I have my Good Causes, and I will shoot for them. I won’t get exposure (except maybe sunburn), and the trip to Tybee will cost me more than it will make me, but it is a Good Cause. And sometimes we have to do Good Causes.