Why hiring volunteer or student photographers doesn't help your business

Hiring a student or someone for cheap for your business instead of a professional costs you more in the long run. It costs you more money when you have to pay a professional to rush your project, which will cost more than if you hired them with enough lead time and planning. It also costs you time wasted have to have your “intern” reshoot something multiple times to your liking only to end up turning to a professional to clean up the mess.

I understand that when you’re just starting out good photography can be hard to come by but just like you invest in that graphic designer to brand your business, quality images are also integral to that branding. First impressions are everything so why not invest in what is going to be the cornerstone of your business?

A little anecdote about me: as a former student I had to field requests from companies that wanted me to do free work for them. Even know as a college graduate trying to find my way in the freelance photography world I still get people wanting to get free photos of their events or photos anywhere I go when I merely mention that I know how to work a camera. Don’t get me wrong, portfolio work is a great experience for beginner photographers but should be used for beginner work such as simple headshots and portraits or events not shooting your entire company’s product range, advertising and headshots because you want to be cheap. I’ve done many a “internship” where I was really just there for free photos. Then the person in charge would complain that the photos didn’t look a certain way. At the end of the day you get what you pay for. If you don't offer compensation you can’t complain that the work isn’t professional or up to par, especially when soliciting a student who is essentially still learning how the client world works or even just how their camera works on manual mode.

On the other hand, once I was able to produce the same level work as working professionals towards my junior and senior years companies would comment on how amazing my work was and how professional looking it appeared but still balked at any mention of compensation even when I was grossly underselling myself.

Oftentimes I want to tell companies to learn the difference between an intern and a volunteer. Interns are there to work and learn and volunteers work for free. I’ve seen so many postings on my alma mater’s job board listing opportunities as an “internship” and the posting is all about what the company wants you to do for them instead of what you will be learning along side doing this work for them. Freelance also does not mean work for free. It’s actually the furthest thing from free. Freelance just means a worker is not on your payroll and is not contractually obligated to just one employer. The real kicker for me is when they list jobs as freelance but act confused when invoices and payment are brought. The “free” in freelance refers to the freedom from an employer not free from payment.

At the end of the day visuals are what attracts potential customers to your business so why not invest in what will make your business successful?

If you’re looking for a guide on what type of photos you need sign up for this free pdf of the 5 types of photos your brand needs. It caters to fashion and beauty brands but is also relevant for any ecommerce or physical business.

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If you’re finally up to the task of hiring a photographer and are based in Atlanta, feel free to inquire here.

Let me know in the comments what's stopping you from hiring a professional photographer.