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Photography Marketing: Should You Give Away Your Photos?

By Bryan Esler

Every photographer, one day or another, will be asked to give away photos. This is something that most photographers either have a strict policy about or decide on a case-by-case basis. While the idea of giving away your work might be a tricky one to accept, it’s also something that might help you in your goal to become a full-time photographer.



Let me explain.



Why Would You Give Away Your Photos?


I’ve written in the past about volunteering your services for non-profit groups to get your work out there — and this is no different. If you’ve taken an awesome photo of your city’s skyline, and don’t plan on selling or doing anything commercially with it — it doesn’t hurt to share it.



The most obvious way to do this is on a service like Instagram, and tagging different government and tourism groups in your area. Ultimately, this can lead to two things. One, those groups could further share it, increasing your reach. Those groups could even see it and potentially hire you down the road for a future photoshoot. Secondly, they could also purchase the photo for usage.



But what if you’re asked to give away a photo for free, either by a random person or a small business? This is when things get a bit more cloudy.



Decide on Your Policy, and Stay Consistent


I always go back and ask myself the most important question — do I see myself using this photograph commercially? If the answer is yes, then your answer to that person is probably going to be no. But if you don’t see yourself selling the image or using it beyond your social media sharing, then it’s something that’s probably OK to give away.



For example, during my recent trip to Toronto, I was out photographing the skyline at blue hour. I was asked by a fellow tourist if he could get a copy of my photograph, as he was having trouble capturing the skyline with his phone. This was tricky for me, and I ultimately ended up apologizing and saying no to him.



Why? For me, I wanted to potentially use that photograph and upload it to a service like Adobe Stock. Looking back on it, giving a photograph to a fellow tourist probably would have been fine, but by the time I had a second thought about it, he had left. If you do choose to give away your photos, I recommend making the person do the work.



That is, hand them a business card, and tell them to e-mail you. Alternatively, if your camera can connect to your phone to download the photograph, you can send it instantly to them. But remember — you’re doing them a favor. If it’s a company rather than a person, think about whether you have the possibility to work with them down the road. If the answer here is yes, then it might help your cause to give away a single photograph to them. In this case, I always ask for credit and a link back to my website.



One photographer I know invoices for the photograph and includes the exact rights granted to display the photograph. The invoice includes a discount that shows up after the license so the person or business getting the image at no charge understands it’s value.





Should you give away your photos? Ultimately, the rule is this: stay consistent. Know first and foremost what your end goal for the photograph is. And that will help in determining what you’re comfortable giving away, and what you aren’t. Giving away your photographs is nothing to stress about. But if you’re clear what your policy is before you’re asked, it’ll help to avoid headaches down the road.



A version of this article first appeared on


Looking for other material by Bryan? He recently wrote about Instagram for Photographers!



About Bryan


Bryan is a photographer specializing in capturing events, theatre, food/drink, and corporate moments. Based in Grand Rapids, MI, he has worked with clients such as CNBC, Michigan State University, ArtPrize, Steelcase, SpartanNash and more. His work has also been featured by Delta Airlines, NBC, Microsoft, LiveStrong and Pure Michigan. Learn more about Bryan at



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This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.