Monthly Archives March 2021

Rob, shooting for Pemberton Music Festival

Maybe It’s OK To Work For Free After All?

“Never work for free!” says the established creative who long forgot the joy of creating or collaborating. They know relationships are what drives business. But that sentiment is not as cool as talking down to you. So I’m here to tell you, it is okay. In fact, I’m demanding you. Go work for free!

When I started my career, I was a college graduate with one undergrad photo class under my belt. I abruptly quit my tech job and decided, yea, I’ll be a photographer. With limited knowledge and less experience, I took on an internship. Three, in fact. One paid, two were for college credit. And let me remind you, at this point, I was already a college grad. And just as you can’t pay rent with photo credits, you can’t pay rent with college credits, either. But I was determined to learn the ropes. And I was investing in my future. Which had a nice ring to it. Soon I met a few people and got a few breaks. And soon I was earning my living with my photos. 

While I’m giving you my unauthorized stamp of approval to take work for free, understand there are some stipulations.

My first rule of thumb is if I’m asked to shoot it, you’ve got to pay me. I work for free all the time, but I ask myself a few questions first – Do you believe in the person/band/brand? Will you professionally gain something from taking on this project? Will it give you access to something that you otherwise would not have access to or would normally have to pay for?

Maybe a model is building her portfolio. You give them the photos they need. But in return, they agree to participate in a concept you’ve been developing. Now you’re collaborating, not just “working for free.” If you have the bandwidth, what is more valuable to you? Binge-watching another Netflix show? Or upgrading your portfolio? It’s what you feel comfortable with while not sacrificing your skills. Or more importantly, your dignity.

So the headline is about working for free. But the underlying idea here is building relationships. And it’s been the bedrock of my career. I love live music. And I love photography. I was shooting a few concerts a month for agencies and magazines, but usually in a “first 3” capacity, which is industry standard. Basically, unless you’ve been given prior clearance, you can expect to be escorted out of the photo pit in various forms of politeness after the third song. But I wanted to shoot more shows. And the whole show. Then get on the bus with the band. I wanted to document the in-between moments. And let’s be honest, those are the most interesting.

Between gigs with The Killers

I grew up playing soccer and had a teammate that scored a ton of goals. He was a pretty good player. But his real skill was being in the right place at the right time. Sure, even a blind squirrel finds a nut eventually. But consistently being in the right place at the right time. Now that’s a skill. So while I was stoked to shoot Beyonce for 50 seconds (literally) from the soundboard with a 300mm lens, it was (literally) keeping me from where I wanted to be. Close to the action.

Close to the action, Glastonbury Festival, 2019.

So applying what I’d learned at the start of my career – creating my own opportunities – I went to the source. Small shows, meeting bands, and managers, meeting their bosses. Moving up the chain. Starting to collaborate. Building a network. Taking chances. Putting myself in a position to score. Music festivals became my networking events. I’d go on my own dime, I’d shoot as many bands as I could, license the photos through Getty Images to make some money, but more importantly, build my network. These relationships have brought me all of my music industry work, not to mention some of my best friends.

Backstage at Bonnaroo in 2018.

Maybe you don’t want to be a music photographer. But if you want to be a working photographer, you need clients. If said clients don’t know you exist, you can be the greatest photographer that has ever walked this earth, you won’t get hired. And while social media and online portfolios and mailers are all a great way to get your work out there, you’re just screaming into a very crowded space. But the beauty is, now people are more accessible than ever. So start there. Nothing will ever replace real-life connections and relationships. It’s not totally what you know, it’s who you know. So get out there and get to knowing. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither was anyone’s career.

You can see more of Rob’s work at, check out his photography collective at, and keep up with him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

I’m Dave Williams and I’m here for #TravelTuesday to talk a little about websites and why it’s important to get it right.

Our website and our social media presence are our shop window as photographers. Much more often than not we are found on social media and anyone we have captivated through there will explore us through our website. With this in mind, it’s crucial we engage our target audience on our website and have everything laid out just right to show off who we are and what we’re capable of doing, and providing the pathway to be contacted.

Step one is absolutely nailing our landing page. There isn’t one single correct way to do this, but there are certainly ways to not do it. What’s definitely one of the right things to do is to have an easily accessible menu with clear options. For example, a button to lead to our portfolio, a button to lead to our experience, and a button to lead to our contact page should be clear and easy to find. These are, after all, the most important things to somebody considering booking us.

So, our portfolio. This should have enough images, but not too many images. Vague, I know, but you’ll know when it’s right! If we have just a few images people may not be satisfied and will get to the last image too soon, but on the other hand if there are too many images we lose the sense of leaving people wanting more. It’s as if we need a clear, definable set of images to reflect our clear, definable style. On that note, it’s very important that our portfolio is a true reflection of our style of photography. I mean that in two senses: firstly, we need to have a clear style laid out so that somebody booking us knows the style of image we will create for them. Secondly, we need to be able to recreate that style time after time, and that means not adding images in a style we can’t reproduce. Our portfolio is an advert, and it’s a reflection of our creative skill and ability. It deserves a lot of our time and attention to create it and get it just right. Here’s a top tip – if an image you’re considering putting in is ‘good enough,’ it probably isn’t good enough! Only the best go in our portfolio.

Our ‘About Us’ or our experience page needs to be a place where we show off. Don’t hold back here! People browsing our website are looking to see what we can do and what we’ve done in the past. This is our ‘no holds barred’ space to sing our praises, plug our awesome reviews, show behind the scenes images, and get that prospective client to move on to the contact page!

Contact is the first step to securing the booking, so making ourself contactable is important. Personally I like to give options. Flip things on their head and turn yourself into a consumer – imagine you’re on the Amazon contact page. What do you want to see? You want options, right? Depending on the problem or my mood I’d want to choose between email, phone or whatever else. If we incorporate this thinking into our own website we afford people options and therefore we don’t close down channels of communication. A contact form is a standard feature on many website design platforms, but also include an email address and a phone number, or even point out that your phone number is available for WhatsApp or you have a Facebook page with Messenger. The more options people have to contact us, the more chance we have of satisfying our client with a communication medium they’re happy with.

This week, or even this month, take the time to critique your website and make it work for you to reach and attract more clients. It can also be a good idea to ask others in the community to critique it for you. Just don’t ask your family – they’ll always say it’s amazing!

Much love


Hi, gang, and happy Monday! The awesome team at B&H Photo asked me to share some flash tips for portrait photographers, and I thought I’d share them here with you fine folks, so here we go:

Hope you found those helpful, handy, etc.

Hey, if you’re really into learning Flash, I know a book that might help. :)

Here’s the link to it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or direct from the Publisher, Rocky Nook publishing.

Here’s to a kick butt week — hope yours will be happy, healthy, and full of opportunity! :0