I know many readers are already screaming, "NO!!!" Let me start by saying that I don't believe in shooting for free and that's not what this article is about. That doesn't mean that I don't know and believe in the value of bartering your services in a mutually beneficial exchange. There's much more than just face value to be gained, if you know how and who to barter with. I'm about to give you a couple of good examples, so let's get right to it.
Hook up With a DJ
This is one of my favorite arrangements. Disc jockeys, or event hosts, if you prefer, get to go to all the cool places, have lots of fun and get paid for it. They also tend to be very busy during events and many aren't very photographically inclined. (Don't tell them I said that.)
If you can work out a barter agreement with a DJ, you could find yourself at some of the best parties, rubbing elbows with some of the coolest people, in exchange for letting the host use some of your photos of the crowd on the dance floor, and of course, the DJ and equipment. Even if you're not the dance party type, you should realize that everyone on the floor is a potential client. Party goers are often happy to have their photos taken while they're "gettin' down".
There's a new way to work that angle, too. A smart photographer can let the revelers take not just photos, but record great animations of themselves on the floor and send them directly to their smartphones. What's cool about that for you? Well, every phone number that's input is saved to a list for you and you can send your own SMS messages to them to announce the availability of photos from that night, events coming up or whatever you need to. How's that for potential business? The name of this new "booth" is Gifyyy and you should find out more about it here.
No, I'm not suggesting you go hit up one of the major airlines, although if you're really confident, I recommend applying for the job. Let's think just slightly smaller. How about a nice charter flight to Alaska? Hawaii? The Bermuda Triangle?
There are an awful lot of small charter companies out there with some beautiful aircraft that visit some incredible locations. Many of those companies love to have professional photos of their crews, aircraft and happy customers on location. By agreeing to supply them with those photos, you could find yourself visiting all those places you've wanted to and maybe even shooting famous people there.
Now, let's take it down one more notch. The really small, local charter businesses, flight schools and even sky diving clubs need those same photos. Maybe you don't want to jump out of a plane and maybe the charter flights aren't going anywhere really exciting? Think about this: Some of my favorite shots are aerial photos I took while flying no more than 60 miles from my own home, just riding with a charter pilot while he got some hours in. In exchange, he got copies of the photos and some of him with his plane.
It's About Checks and Balances
Now, if you can't see the profit in relationships like those, then the barter system probably isn't for you and that's perfectly respectable. If you're more like me and can see where a situation like one of those above might work for you, then think about what other services you might need and how you might be able to make it profitable for you and the client. Product photos in exchange for a line of store credit? Photos for a fishing guide in exchange for a trip? The possibilities are endless; it's a matter of how much the exchange is worth to you.