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What happens when I work for "free"

Young girl with dark curls wearing a flower crown with a backdrop of vintage floral fabric

This is *not* a negative post about the thousands of times photographers are directly and indirectly asked to work for free. There are plenty of blogs about those awful win-lose situations, and frankly I haven't had to deal with that at all since I started respecting myself and my business enough to raise my prices to a sustainable level.

This post is about what happens when I create things just for me.

In 2021 I decided to do a model call for tween boys. Why? Because it was a challenge. Older kids typically aren't eager to be photographed, and styling boys and coming up with ways to capture their personalities isn't easy. Bottom line, I wanted to create something out of nothing. No client expectations, no particular marketing need. Just a slow time of year and a chance for me to see what I could come up with.

It was the best thing I ever did. I taught one boy to blow a bubble. I turned one into a Beatle. I trapped one inside a painting. I played with expressions and lighting in ways that I'm less likely to try when I'm trying to please a client who has hired me.

Some of my model families just took their #TFP (trade for print)*, and I kept the valuable experience and the art I created. Some purchased additional portraits, which I was super grateful for, as it covered my out-of-pocket expenses.

I won some awards. I discovered a passion for working with older kids. I found a way to create an open-air studio in my backyard. I continued taking risks throughout the year with my regular clients. I became a better photographer.

And I'm doing it again, now with the benefit of a huge new studio and a tamed-down pandemic. This time, it's the girls I want!

I want the anime fan who dyed her hair blue for the summer. I want the girly girl who lives for lacrosse. I want the bookworm who gets transported to another world when she reads. I want the inventor. The dancer. The lover of fashion. The girl with the unruly curls. I want to test my limits once again and do it just for me.

Click here to apply. Applications will only be accepted until the end of the month. My goal is to get these model call sessions completed during the month of July before my busy high school senior season picks up. I will work around each family's schedules and vacation plans, so don't worry about having to be available on a particular day.

*Each participant will be able to select their favorite image for a 10x10 herloom print. As always, each print comes with a corresponding digital copy. Additional images will be available for purchase.

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