Freebies Freebies and More Freebies

by | Jun 12, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

One of my most pirated books is Better Available Light Digital Photography that I coauthored with Barry Staver. When Barry discovered it was available as an illegal download, we informed the publisher who acted as if they could care less.

These days it seems like people expect to get everything for free, and to hell with the people who actually create something. Some people seem somehow feel affronted at being expected to actually pay for things.

There is no more powerful word in the English language than free but while everyone knows free stuff is good, photographers have to realize there’s no free lunch. If you get something for free, somebody somewhere has to pay for it.

One question I often hear from photographers competing against studios using freebies as inducements to new sales is “how can I compete with this?” You have two choices and I prefer the second:

  • First, you can cave in and offer similar or better freebies to potential clients. This is a bad, bad idea because it starts an arms race with your competition that can only end after one of you goes broke.
  • Second, you can emphasize that your rates are lower because you don’t offer “free gifts,” an oxymoron as incongruous as “congressional ethics.”

It’s a business fact of life that clients like to feel appreciated and it doesn’t cost a lot of money to say “thanks” to them from time to time so don’t confuse freebies with expressions of appreciation to existing, supportive clients especially during the holidays. That’s why an important part of competing is knowing the costs of doing business.

When I hear photographers moaning about profitability, I’m reminded of an encounter between photographer, Charles Lewis and someone attending one of his seminars. The gentleman tells Mr. Lewis, “I’m loosing $50 for every wedding I shoot.” Mr. Lewis looks him in the eye and replies, “You know what you need to do, don’t you?” Excitedly, the man replies, “Yes, I need to do more of them.”

Most of the time, “free” doesn’t work as part of a business plan, and using freebies to get new customers breaks the most important of Farace’s Laws: It’s hard to make money when you give stuff away.


Barry Staver and Joe Farace are co-authors of Better Available Light Digital Photography that may be an oldie but, I think anyway, that it’s a goodie. New copies are $21.49 with used copies starting for less than nine bucks from Amazon. No Kindle version is available, sorry.