Dear Diary: #1

Chris Lonsberry Media Chris Lonsberry Media

The CLM Blog: Photography, Business and Meanderings

Since I love photography, like to write and am actively engaged in growing a business, a blog seems like it should be a thing.

Dear Diary: #1 - Jun 18, 2021
Dear Diary: #1 - Jun 18, 2021
No Free Ride: Chris Lonsberry Media is growing up.

I noticed how long it has been since I created a blog entry. That's almost criminal. But I tend to wait until I have something profound and useful to say. The truth is that profound and useful happens all the time. So, to change the way I approach blogging, I've decided to start "Dear Diary". I'm just going to talk about stuff. What happened that day. What I think. What I like. It's probably not going to change your life. But I hope you come along for the ride.

Often, when a photographer is just starting out, they'll shoot for free. But you generally do get what you paid for. I'm grateful for some of the people who have worked with me even when I was just learning. In appreciation of them, there are some I will always shoot for free. It's what I have to offer for their patience and it's really about our relationship.

Anytime I would talk to another photographer about shooting for free, I always felt a little judged. Photographers.. good photographers.. put in a lot of time, effort and money into honing their skills. Equipment. Education. More education. Tools. Software. Studio costs. Legal stuff. Time. Effort. Concern. And the list goes on. At some point, almost everyone comes to terms with the idea that their work has value. That they want to get paid. People who shoot for free make it harder for them to make money. But.. then again, you get what you pay for.

For months, I had been trolling for faces to practice headshots. I believe that to get really good at something, you have to do it... a LOT. I especially believe that's the key to great photography. Not everyone is jumping at headshots. So I needed faces. But it's not really a "business" if you're doing it for free and I believe my work product is worth money. I've reached that level (probably some time ago). You'd think it would matter to people if they could get something of value for free. If Taylor Swift offered to sing at your birthday party, would be any less valuable if she did it for free? But fellow working photographers will tell you all the time that, if you underprice your work, people will assume it's not worth anything. I guess we all have this idea that price equates worth. You'd think that wouldn't be as much the case in a situation where you can go LOOK at someone's product and see the value. But.. alas. Here we are.

Two weeks ago, I was sitting in the studio waiting for someone to show up for a free, scheduled headshot session. After freeing up my time from other things I had to do, leaving my house, going to the studio and setting up lights.. I was stood up.. again. I think it was the third time that week. Fellow photographers shook their heads knowingly. We've all been through it, especially on free shoots. The truth is that people aren't invested in it if they don't have money in the game. Showing up doesn't cost them anything. They apparently don't see it from the standpoint that not showing up costs them something with value.

As you start out in business, you know the day will eventually come but I decided then that I wasn't doing any more free shoots. If I wasn't going to shoot, I could just as easily do it from the comfort of my home. By the time I got over my initial frustration, I dialed it in a little more. I'm not putting free shoots on blast anymore. I'll still shoot some people for free. If they have a particularly interesting look. If we have history. If I get some other benefit out of it.. like exposure to a particular audience. But.. nope. The good ship Groveling For Faces has sailed. If I shoot anyone for free, it's by invitation.

The second part of my new resolution is that, if I offer someone a free shoot and they stand me up without a believable reason or with no notice, they can pay full price if/when they decide they want to shoot.

I have to admit, I feel kinda good about it. It feels like a next step. There is the nagging fear that I'm suddenly never going to use my camera again. But.. real business has been picking up. I need to spend more time finding and connecting with my real clients. The people who really value what I do. I love the people I get to work with. But I'm not going to let myself be abused.

Stay tuned. I've got some very cool news for tomorrow!

- Chris

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