When should Photographers work for free? Ask yourself, what would Picasso do...

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.

"It's you -- Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must draw my portrait! I insist."

So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.

"It's perfect!" she gushed. "You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?"

"Five thousand dollars," the artist replied. 

"B-b-but, what?" the woman sputtered. "How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!"

To which Picasso responded, "Madame, it took me my entire life."

Pablo Picasso takes a stand

Pablo Picasso takes a stand

Many photographers will nod their heads wistfully when reading this excerpt. Well done Picasso for taking a stance on his creative value! But he was a world renown artist, how applicable is this to photographers, you ask. More than you might think, we reply...

- "I know this might take us a little longer than we thought, but can we squeeze in a couple more looks?"

- "If you'll swing us this favor, then I'm sure there will be paid work for you down the line."

- "So it looks like there will be a few more people at our wedding than we first thought - and we'd like everyone shot - we can still keep the same price though, right?"

Photographers and freebies... Do you swallow the bitter pill and do the extra work, with the hope that the good karma will lead to more jobs? Or do you stand firm and ask to be compensated, at the risk of losing the opportunity altogether?

More photos take more time; but is it right to nickel and dime when it comes to creativity? 

At the end of the day, every photo you take is a cumulation of your life's experience. As you know, it's not just pushing the button. It's knowing how and when to capture a moment so that it can live independent of its subject, captivating and engaging its audience through your creative ability. This takes technical savvy, creative instincts and experience.

Creativity is of course subjective, meaning that its value is hard to quantify. There is no gold standard to be measured against.  But you have bills to pay too. And if you don't give yourself a market value, then nobody else will. 

You might find yourself in a position where you need to educate the client on the value you provide, as this excellent (and funny) video depicts - 

Ultimately, you may decide taking on a spec job will be worth the investment many times over. But this is probably only going to be at the beginning of your career. We would argue that giving your time away for nothing risks devaluing your skills. The woman in the park that asked Picasso to draw her was probably hoping he would just give her a freebie. But she was dead wrong. And rightly so.

What do you think? Has there ever been a time that it was worth you doing shooting for free? Or conversely, have you ever regretted not charging a client for taking on extra work.