One trick I have learned over the years is how to know when opportunity is knocking. There are many photographers out there who say they “don’t shoot for free” but if you’re gaining something from it, you’re not shooting for free. I have worked with many people where money has not been exchanged and it has helped me out in other ways, including financially!
Here is a small example of what I mean. I was shooting for a local (very small) clothing company for very little money, but the gig was weekly. That company found me because of a trade shoot I did that ended up getting published. From that small company I put up a casting for models for her shoot and wound up getting noticed by a slightly larger clothing company who had a slightly bigger budget. They liked my work, hired me several times and also referred me to another paid gig. I then booked two more shoots with a third company who knew of my work with the 2nd company. So directly from this one “free” shoot I got published, booked thousands of dollars of work and made more connections in the industry.
My point is that you should always look at the big picture and not just look at it as “free”. I have had my photos run in magazines that I didn’t even know were publishing them. But I got credit, and I put it on my list of credits which can lead to more work. Just because you do not get paid immediately does not mean you won’t get paid eventually. Of course I am selective and won’t just shoot to shoot, well okay, sometimes I just shoot to shoot. But I look for opportunity, I try to create opportunity. The biggest secret to my success, I am just an opportunist! I take it and run.
I’ve posted this image before, but this is proof that sometimes you just have to take the unpaid work and make something out of it! 😉