Should You Do Shoot For Trade Photography?


asian woman with shoulder length dark hair wearing a lacey spaghetti strap sundress dramatically dances on the edge of a pool next to the ocean in this shoot for trade image

Talking about Shoot for Trade with your fellow photographers can bring up a lot of emotions. Some may share stories of frustration, humor, or encouragement. While shooting for trade may not always be the best option for you, in some situations it may be. We’re sharing our best practice tips about Shoot for Trade photography so you can make an educated decision on if it's right, and worth it, for you.


How to Decide If You Should Shoot For Trade

Shooting for Trade works really well for some people, but it can also depend on the situation. The most important thing to remember when making this decision is that it should always be beneficial for both parties, BUT the value exchange doesn't necessarily have to be monetary for it to be worth your while.



Shooting for Trade may make sense if:

  • you are adding a new service, product, or niche to your business

  • you need to build up your portfolio

  • you have a gap in your portfolio that needs to be filled by a new genre

  • it’s with a person you see yourself growing alongside


asian woman wearing a lacey cream dress dances on the edge of a pool with the wind whipping her hair in this shoot for trade image

Setting Expectations When Shooting For Trade

When you’re shooting for free or for trade, it's essential to have both parties sign a contract to protect both of you. Make sure the contract has defined terms and deadlines, and that it communicates the expectations of both parties clearly. This is something that will also make you feel more confident when giving your time to a project that doesn't have a monetary gain.


If a brand wants to Shoot for Trade (or for free), you still have the option to ask them to cover your overhead costs. That way you can at least break even instead of losing money.


If you’re Shooting for Trade (or for free) with a brand you’re passionate about working with (and want to work with, long term), create for them as if they are paying you a million dollars. You want to make sure that this project is a positive and memorable experience so they keep coming back to you for their creative needs.

Make Shoot For Trade Work for You

If you decide to work for trade, remember that this is also a fantastic opportunity to flex your customer service muscles. When you show up for a free brand shoot or a trade client in the same way that you would show up for a paying client, you'll convey the true value of what they would get from hiring you and that just may lead to referrals to paying clients.


If you DO decide to Shoot for Trade, make sure that the exchange brings value to you, and don’t forget to set clear expectations with that contract.


Still worried you won’t show what you’re worth in a Shoot for Trade? Here's some good intel on Communicating Your Value as a Creative.

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