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Taking free headshot or family photos for friends can lead to more paid assignmentsHas this happened to you, yet?

Your friends hear you talking about photography… they “like” your photos on Facebook… and suddenly you’re the “friend with a camera.”
Which inevitably leads to… “Can you take photos of my wedding/family reunion/house for sale/dog/high school grad?”

I like to call it the “Friend with a Camera” phenomenon that will segue nicely into Opportunity #5 this week on Turning Your Hometown into $$…

Some photographers say, “Never shoot for free!” And, I agree because, let’s face it, that’s what some of these friends are expecting.
But compensation isn’t always money. Your reward can come in the form of experience, learning, referrals, and building your portfolio.

And shooting for free can lead to money if you do it right. Taking headshot photos on a pro-bono basis for well-connected friends has resulted in thousands of dollars of referrals for me.  And building my portfolio has allowed me to shoot a $1,500 gig for a law firm, multiple $3,000+ weekend family photo fundraisers, $3,000+ weekend headshot sessions, and more.

To turn those “free” shoots into $3,000 sessions, follow these 6 steps:

1. Think about which of your friends/family are well-connected and offer to take some headshots or family photos for them. If you’re just beginning, it helps to start with someone you trust who doesn’t mind if you make a few mistakes while you’re learning. (Here are some tips for making anybody look photogenic.)

2. Only show this person the very best photos from your shoot. Maybe 10 max and be VERY selective.  If you both like the results, encourage them to share the images on Facebook and credit you as the photographer. I charge $350 for an hour’s photo shoot and you will too soon.  The least they can do in exchange for this $350 gift you’ve just given them is spread the word. If you’re not satisfied with the images, try again.  You’ll get it, I promise.

3. Come up with a fee for your work and make sure your friend knows what you’re going to charge others for your time.  Use what comparable photographers are charging in your area as a guide and weigh what you’re going to get against what they’ll get out of the shoot.  If you need the portfolio and the practice, charge less.  If your skills are already fine-tuned, charge more.

4. When people start to approach you—which they most likely will!—start by building a rapport. Ask them questions about what they’re looking for and have them clip images they like and send them to you before the shoot.   Be realistic, honest, and genuine but not self-deprecating.  If you’ve been reading this newsletter for any amount of time or you own one of our programs, you’re already better than the majority out there.  Hold your head up high and jump.

5. If you’re like me, you might be a little scared at first, but preparation helps. Spend some time scouting a location according to my map in the recordings. Take test shots if you need to.  Google any problems you have.  Be clear before you begin the shoot about what’s included—one location, two outfit changes, 10 headshots on a CD or USB drive. The better prepared you are from the beginning, the better the shoot will go.

6. This is it! You’re shooting a professional gig for money! Just like before, make sure to only show them the very best images from the shoot. I like to offer 10 photos from an hour-long session. That way, I limit myself to picking only the best and reduce my editing time.

Shooting headshots can be a fun and very lucrative way to turn your hometown into $$. As you get up and running, you’ll find that referrals start rolling in left and right. How far you take it is really up to you.

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