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I approached a yoga teacher advertising his search for a photographer with an interest in yoga. I meet both criteria so I dropped him a note. He responded by offering complimentary access to his events and workshops. My schedule and mobility do not allow me to attend them. I responded mentioning this and said I would like to work with him but for my usual fee (which honestly is extremely reasonable). I now feel guilty that I may have missed an opportunity especially as I want to grow my expertise in yoga photography. What are your thoughts? Should I have just let this one slide and given him an exchange?

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We use money as a medium because barter simply doesn't always work. Imagine you try to barter your photography services to a photographer...not very valuable, eh?

But, when you think of your services, I'd encourage you to think of them in terms of dollars. What is an hour of your time as a photographer worth? Let's put a number on it - say $100/hour.

If you would have spent 4 hours doing this shoot, then that would be equal to $400 worth of services.

Is Yoga Guru offering something that valuable in return? And when I say "that valuable" I don't simply mean the retail value. In a barter system - the value of an object or service is its value to you, not to anyone else.

Even though Guru may have offered you $400 in workshop attendance, if you cannot actually attend them, they're value is nil to you and this becomes a one-sided trade. I wouldn't feel guilty at all turning this down.

It is very easy for new artists to be suckered into barter deals that are very one sided - especially the trade for "exposure" as mattdm points out. Be very, very careful about trades. Make sure that you always look at your services in terms of dollars and convert their offer back into dollars worth it to you. Make sure you only trade evenly, less you have a ton of "exposure" and workshops and an empty bank account at the end of the day.


Additional point on guilt: You don't owe anything to anyone, except the ones you've promised work. Someone can ask you to do a shoot and you can explore the idea/subject/work. But, if you're not interested in the gig at the end of the day, you don't have to take it. Photography is your skill - it has value - and you get to pick where you apply that skill. Don't feel guilty about this, ever.

  • Thank you! Very clear and fair feedback. – Mandy Sep 7 at 15:34
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This is fine. You have a usual fee for a reason. It's also okay to barter your services (ideally for something else of value, not "exposure"!), but there's no reason to feel guilty.

  • Thanks Matt. So hard when you’re trying to grow a business and also want to create a good impression! Also want to make sure it’s fair for both parties – Mandy Sep 6 at 10:24
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You can feel guilty about not keeping up your part of a deal. But for negotiating your part? Not really. As long as you have correctly presented what you are able to do, there is no reason for guilt before or after concluding the deal.

The best that can happen is that the teacher shops around and finds someone who is a better match, no hard feelings. The worst is that he gives you the job in spite or because of your asking price (which may trigger high expectations) and ends up being a bad reference afterwards, possibly because he finds someone willing to invest a whole lot more time than they are paid for.

  • Thank you! Yes he actually had messaged me his offer after he saw my portfolio and said it’s what he’s looking for. I had the same thought about what could be the worst case scenario and that’s either he doesn’t want to go ahead or he will have high expectations. Either I can live with – Mandy Sep 6 at 10:23

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