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.
The fallacy of experience
There's a notion, especially among newer photographers, that one has to be good enough or experienced enough to be paid for their work. 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.
Photography is a service
Photography is a service. Being paid for a service is a pretty standard expectation.
Just like there are fast food restaurants and fine dining, there is photography of all levels. But you wouldn't enter even the most humble restaurant and demand free food. Photography is no different.
So long as you can meet the expectations of a client, that's all that matters.
The moment someone wants your work, that's when you're good enough to be paid. 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
Getting paid is what separates professionals from amateurs. That's it.
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.
But when your images are being put to work, that work is valuable. Never forget that.
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.