From my blog: Debate and concern throughout the photography industry, especially true in past 4 or 5 year, has been directed towards the fact that amateur photographers are hurting the rest of the industry by shooting for low prices - not charging clients enough. I along with fellow shooter Terry Ting (, have found that the industry is as tight as ever, no surprise there! Options are sparse, although that is not to say that it is not changing. Change indeed is hitting the photography market harder than ever now - with the quickly advancing technology of today's world. Obviously we didn't have the touch, or the right words, or the right pitch - because the bottom line was, no clients = no cash flow and after 3 months of meagar opportunities we decided to branch out, to change and try something new. As much as I would like to gloat in the creation of the idea, it was Terry who suggested we take up the project of doing a "free" portrait shoot. It was a combination of not having any classes, eagerness to expand our lighting repertoire while not looking like an overly-eager eight-year old fumbling with his new toy in front of clients, and students who wouldn't regularly get their portraits taken but have a fun atmosphere in order to shake off exam stress. The cost from participants we concluded, would be simply nothing. You may notice I referred to the portraits as "free". If you have listened or read Chris Anderson's Free: The Future of a Radical Price, which fittingly can be found for free here you will understand that simply free is non-existent. In other words, there was a gain for us as photographers - the students free time helped us extend our skills in lighting and portraiture. Clearly the use of free portrait sessions can be looked at as a win-win situation. Previously mention was the hardened state of the photo industry, many preaching doom. Simply put, the influx of photographers is to large. I would detail the "finding yourself a niche shpeel" but that can be found in mass on most photo related web sites. I will say however, the ends have justified the means. It is unlikely to think many of the 20+ groups photographed would have gone out to receive portraits - in fact the strong majority had never even done a photo shoot before, and they went out on the whim as a fun thing to do with friends. The networking of friends, through which we used several different social media mediums to extend the invite, broadcasted much further than we had initially anticipated. We met many people that were YorkU students and had simply seen a status update popup in the Facebook "newsfeed" that a friend had join the "free portraits" group. Ah the wonders of social networking! It is interesting to note that while we did not charge a fee for taking these photos we did ask a few of the participants how much an hour doing a "real" photoshoot would cost in their minds. The answers echoed what we expected and already knew. People undervalue the cost of a photographer. Many photographers have probably gotten into a similar situation with clients but I recently happened upon a situation of my own with a friend of mine who was interested in doing some modeling and wanted some head shots. I told my friend the hourly rate we charge for a photo session but he was hesisitant. He respondid that if we already own all the equipment and gear, and have a room booked why the cost should be so high. High of course, being a relative term, but forget that for now. Why should we as photographers, ask of the clients wanting images a price seemingly so high? Simply put, the equipment that takes the photo is useless - a child can press a shutter button - but the thousands of hours spent methodically researching, developing and growing our eye as a photographer is why clients who want their advertisement to mean something, and have the best chance of "selling" someone on a product is the price of premium photography. But to stop this tangent in its tracks and get back to the "free" portraits sessions we held; what are the photographer's benefits of having "free" portraits? Networking plain and simple. If you have just one more person out there who had an enjoyable time at your photo shoot, you instantly have one more link in your network, and one more person that can mention to someone looking for a photographer to shoot their wedding that has a reputable photographer that a solid relationship has been built. Relationships being very key here. Although this post needn't be so long, I wanted to emphasize that poaching the market is not our initiative, but rather in the stingy times of the photography world, an optimistic approach has helped us connect, network with new people, people that we now have a relationship with. It is always a good idea to approach things with an open mind, because where you end up, or what it will lead you will to, will never be known unless you take a chance. I recently heard a quote that hit a strong key with this topic. In essence, if you make a small mistake you learn a small lesson. But if you make a big mistake, you have learned a lot. Don't sit around being worried - explore the world.ISO: 100Aperture: F2.8Shutter: 1/200Shot with D700 and two Alienbee AB800s.- Pippin LeeTwitter: here