There is one rule of photography: don’t photograph your friends for their professional plans or endeavors as a favor.
There are reasons for this: if you’re doing professional work, you are a professional, and should be treated like one (paid). Work is really only professional if it is couched in professionalism, otherwise, it’s probably a hobby. If you don’t ask to be paid now, you won’t be asked how much it costs in the future.
There’s another reason why you shouldn’t do professional work for people in a non-professional capacity: your real life will come back like a howling demon, and your friend will be left hanging while you deal with stuff that actually pays the bills, or keeps you in coffee, or ensures you can buy peanut-butter cups at Trader Joe’s.
I visited a friend earlier this year who is starting up an online business, and was trying to figure out a way to get photos. I volunteered when I visited her, mostly because I was interested in trying my hand at some portraiture, a more creative endeavor than the grind of photojournalism. This was two days before I went back to school.
Now, she’s taken to hounding me via text message about her photos, while I’ve been trying to juggle my reading, organizing the anchoring schedule for the radio station (which has been a nightmare and a half on it’s own), building a routine, and running from meeting to meeting, before, after, and between my classes.
Last night, I went to bed early because I had my first migraine in two weeks, and it laid me out like a blow to the skull. This was after it smacked me across the face during a recruitment meeting, and scrambled my words until I was making a fool out of myself for every person who came over to talk to us.
The problem with unpaid work, on the consumer end, is that you aren’t getting a professional job. Because the “professional” part of the job, isn’t the act, it’s carrying it through. The professional part of any work is the deadline. And really, when someone offers to take your picture, it’s because it’s something they’re interested in doing and it’s much more likely that you’re doing them a favor. Not the other way around.
But I’ve got to get those pictures up on the internet, where she can get to them, now. There’s no point in proving that one is capable of being completely unprofessional. It might give people the wrong idea.