In photography, as a pursuit people do both professionally and as a hobby, there's a wide range of skill, talent and pay. For most beginners and hobbyists, there's often a point in your photographic journey where someone will ask you to do the work of a professional photographer.
If you have never been paid as a photographer or aren't used to charging money, a natural response is to decline payment. Here's why it's the wrong one.
You're good enough right now
There's a notion, especially among newer photographers, that one has to be good enough or experienced enough to be paid for their work. This is a fallacy.
Here's the truth: You deserve to be paid when your photography does the job the client needs. Period. Never talk yourself out of being valued.
There is no magic threshold of experience or talent at which you're at one moment simply an amateur and in another a professional deserving of being paid. The difference is in acknowledging your own worth as a photographer.
More essentially, you're good enough to be paid right now.
Experience isn't value
The moment someone wants your work, that's when you're good enough to be paid. “Good enough” has nothing to do with experience, talent or creativity in this context. It has everything to do with the work your images can do for the client.
If the images weren't good enough, they wouldn't have a use. Here, the market dictates the value. Not a certain number of years of experience, not the camera you're using, not your doubts and not even imposter syndrome.
Professionals get paid
What separates professionals from amateurs? Professionals get paid. That's it. Not experience, not talent.
We all know incredible gifted photographers who are simply hobbyists that produce incredible results. And by contrast, pros who make photography a business without being artists. There's nothing wrong in the least with either of these approaches to photography.
When you're in a position to stand up for your value as a photographer, don't sell yourself short. When your images are being put to work, that work is valuable. Never forget that.
Acknowledging that you're worthy of being paid for your work is a conscious choice that you can choose.
Your investments and equipment aren't free
Anyone who has put any amount of time into their craft of photography, even if you consider yourself a beginner or still learning, knows that there's a lot that goes into making images. This is especially true beyond just “taking” the photos.
Photography requires specialized equipment, computers, software and time. At the very least, your investments and equipment aren't free — why should your time and work be?
We live in a time when every cell phone comes with a camera. Everyone is capable of making images themselves. If someone doesn't want to pay for photography, they can always make it themselves. We all know the reason they won't do this. And that's exactly the reason your work has value, regardless of experience.
When to start charging for photography
So, when is the best time to start charging for photography? The simple answer is when someone will pay you. Charge for your services as a photographer when you know that your images will meet the needs of the client.
It's fine to be nervous, but leave emotions out of it to the fullest extent you're capable. Be honest about your capabilities and what you can deliver. It can be hard, but if someone is approaching you to pay you for your work, believe in their belief in you. Try and see what they have seen in you — and trust them.
Meeting the needs of your clients and their expectations are what a professional does. When you can do that, at any level, you deserve to charge for your work.