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The word FREE is a very interesting one. I was thinking about this word the other day when someone asked me about FREE Photoshop Actions and FREE Web Sites. Free, by definition, means a lot of things.  For the purpose of this discussion, we will use the definition “without charge.”

free The word FREE Free Actions MCP Thoughts Polls

Here are a few of my thoughts as it pertains to Photoshop products, training and photography.

  • There are many photographers, action makers and designers who offer some FREE products.
  • Free products or information can be used as a marketing tool.
  • Free can be a great way for someone to try your service or products.  I offer some actions free so you can enjoy and see how my actions work. I know a company who offers webinars to teach you basic photography.  They have 1,000 people on at a time, and it is free.  But they want you to buy the videos.
  • I often have businesses that want to give away free things (contests or downloads to all) on my blog. Their hope, that you visit their site.
  • In the new era of blogging, for some “free” sites where everything is free, money comes from another source like advertisers.
  • Free does not always mean good or great.  Some free stuff will be amazing, but some is just free.
  • Free can be an ego thing.  I see this on certain forums where most members are very genuine in helping but others use offering free products or tutorials to boost their ego.
  • Why are all my actions and trainings not free? This is my business.  I spend hundreds of hours on development and implementation of my actions and workshops. I provide a lot of information on my blog that is free and have free actions so that you can try my product.  While there is no obligation ever to spend a dime with me, I do have products and services for sale.
  • I often see people on photography forums asking, where can I find a free action that does…  Nothing is wrong with wanting free over paid.  But what if your customer came to you and wanted a free photo session, free prints, and free canvas. How would your business do?
  • Free has its place in photography too. People LOVE the word FREE. As a photographer you can offer a free 5×7 print with a session or offer free print credit of $50 or spend $1,000 get 4×6 proofs free, etc.
  • Do you offer your photography completely free? What if someone wants FREE from you? Do you do free promotions?
  • As a buyer of productions (like photoshop actions, textures, photography workshops, etc) how do you feel about free?  Do you only download free?  Do you have a mix of free items and paid?

Comment away – I am interested to here your perspective on FREE!

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  1. Christina Dixon on September 23, 2009 at 10:01 am

    I have both free and purchased actions. I really don’t use actions that much, if I do it is usually your actions. I have found that the free actions don’t always work with my pictures or style. I want my pictures to look real not too saturated or overdone! To be honest I think you have some of the best actions out there! Keep up the good work.

  2. Paul Kremer on September 23, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I enjoy “free” as much as the next guy. I spend $25 at the grocery store and get a box of granola bars free? Absolutely! But as far as products that you want to enjoy or things for your business, sometimes you can find some great stuff that’s free; however, there’s that old adage, “You get what you pay for.” And if you spent free, well, you get the idea. As somebody that makes a part of my living off photography, I think it would be extremely unfair for someone to expect me to use my talents to give them a portrait they are thrilled with without compensation. I do think it is important to offer my clients value for their money, but that proves the point that I think my work has value. A business transaction has value for both sides. If it doesn’t, then that transaction shouldn’t take place!Your actions blow the doors off anything I have found for free. I’m willing to pay money for something that is of high quality and makes my workflow simpler. Some of the actions I understand, others I am not exactly sure how they do what they do, but I love them. I have made my own combinations of your actions to use in specific situations. To me, your price is extremely fair and the value superb. Mark them up twice as much and my mind might change a bit. However, I think it is TOTALLY fair that you get reimbursed for the time you spent making them.

  3. Adrianne on September 23, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Free is a wonderful thing if used properly. Using free to try a product and decide which are worth the time and money you spend on them is wonderful. Using free to promote a business, show the value of a product and generate more sales is wonderful.BUT there are those that will never understand the difference between free ‘to try and/or to get a bonus for something you are going to buy anyway’ and free to just have a bunch of things they can point to and say, “I NEVER paid for xyz.” Those people are the ones that will have a lot of free things but nothing of value. Nor do they truly value those things that are worth paying a price to have. They are usually the first ones to let everyone that buys anything know that *they* would never pay for xyz when you can get it free in an attempt to make someone else feel bad that they valued a product or service enough to pay for a quality item. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of valuable free things out there and yes, you can get most things free or teach them to yourself with free videos and tuts and such. But there is a point where you have to place a value on an item. No one gets a free camera, free software and free tuts and becomes a successful professional. At some point, you have to decide that if you want to put a product that has value to others, you have to invest in products that will bring value to you. You have to decide to upgrade to a better camera than the free one, that you need to have software that performs reliably and consistently and you need to learn your craft to be able to be a professional. Amy D., author of the Tightwad Gazette, once related a story in her books. She said that she and her husband hired someone to put a new roof on their house and people were outraged. Yes, they could have done it themselves and saved a lot of money but in the end, they placed more value on their time together as a family and the peace of mind of knowing it was done in such a way that it would last for many years over the cost of paying a professional to do it quickly and correctly for them. As a photographer, we have to show our clients why they should value our work over them using their camera with a timer at the local park and doing it themselves. The clients we want are those that do see the value and not the ones that are just all about getting ‘freebies’. In the end, if you are out of balance in either direction, all freebies or all spendies, you will be unhappy. Using freebies to sort through products and find the ones that work for you, is balance. Using freebies, to steer customers to a package that has more value for them and for you, is balance. Asking for or being asked to give is all away is not balanced and will leave everyone unhappy.

  4. Amy on September 23, 2009 at 11:21 am

    I think “free” is 2 sided. It has it’s ups and downs. As a non professional photographer, who is on the journey to learning more – I really enjoy free “samples” of things that can enhance my work/learning. I love when the creators of actions give out a few free trial actions so I can play and see if I like what they have developed and if it works for me. I loved your free samples so much that I have purchased a couple of action sets from you. I think it’s a great marketing tool as well. Now, on the other hand – free can be a major bother. Since I’m starting off in photography, I’ve offered several people “free” sessions, to get experience. Friends and family. Well, they show their friends who expect me do do things for free as well, since I did it for so-and-so. Aaaaaagh! What a pain! I’m living and learning! 🙂

  5. bdaiss on September 23, 2009 at 11:23 am

    I’ll come right out and say it: I am not a pro. I’m hardly a competent amateur. I don’t own a DSLR. I own a glorified point and shoot that I’ve learned how to manipulate in the last year. I’d love to be the owner of a DSLR sometime soon, but budget ain’t there right now. (new house, new kid on the way, blah blah woeisme blah) I will never be a pro photographer. It’s something I do for fun and hobby and to capture memories. That being said I gladly pay a pro when I want pro results. I’m not stupid either.I’m stuck with PSE 6 and am just learning the ins and outs of photo editing. So for me, free is key right now. It’s how I learn. It’s how I test my limits. And not being a pro, the freebies (especially actions, tutorials, and classes) often allow me to get a better idea of what is being offered *before* I fork over any money. Because like I said, money is tight. I’m not hesitant to pay good money for a good product, but I also don’t want to get burned. Of course free is not always essential. If I find plenty of people I trust recommending a certain product, then I’m more likely to fork over the dough even if there are no free trials.I don’t believe anyone should give the store away for free. (Hey, I don’t expect to work for free.) If someone is offering something for free, that certainly raises them a level on my radar. Just like I expect a competent professional to offer references and portfolios. But knowledge and the sharing of such is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give. That’s just one reason I keep reading MCP.

  6. Alisha Shaw on September 23, 2009 at 11:23 am

    FREE is great but it’s amazing how the perceived value goes out the window. People don’t put as much value on FREE things as they do the ones they have to work and pay for. I try to offer FREE on top of paid as a thank you so that the value is still there but I sincerely do want to say thanks.I have found that FREE on the internet (and MCP is a great example) can be a great opportunity to be sure you are getting what you think. After trying MCP’s FREE offering and loving them I can purchase with confidence and I’ve never been disappointed in MCP classes or actions!

  7. Crystal on September 23, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Well I’m not in business so this post probably doesn’t apply to me. I have a photoshop blog that I post tuts and free actions as I make them, which I also post on the photography forums that I post on. I don’t have a counter on my blog so I don’t keep track of how many people come to it, and don’t plan to. I don’t have any ads on it and don’t plan to. So for me it’s genuinely not an ego thing. Photography is expensive so I don’t charge because I like to give back. Plus, my actions proabbly aren’t that great anyway. Lol! I rarely download free actions myself tho. I’ve spent a lot of money on actions, too much probably. Lol! I know what it’s like to be just starting out and I also know what it’s like to not have a lot of money. So for me, the boost is knowing I helped someone!

  8. Marla on September 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    I have both. I LOVE the free actions, but I have also bought actions, and love those as well. I use a combo of both when I edit my pictures. I’m no pro though – just a mom with a camera who likes to use it a lot and play in photoshop.

  9. Wendi Pencille on September 23, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    I have some free stuff on my computer (virus protection AVG, and a few other things) but most of my actions are purchased. I am professional photographer but was raised to always give back where I could. I do that by donating my photos and time to Special Olympics and doing the prom photos for free for the local special education school in our area. I donate my time and photos to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) a national organization of berevement photographers for families suffering the early loss of an infant. I also donate my time to the local animal shelter photographing their pets available for adoption. But for everyone else my business is a business. I have to make money to justify the time I’m taking away from my children and the rest of my family. And I have to pay the bills just like everyone else.

  10. Barb J on September 23, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Free is okay, but purchased is almost always better. Free downloads can get overwhelming and clog things up. Free tips and tricks are always welcome. What I really value are free trials. I prefer to try a product before investing in it. However, I bought some MCP Actions based on the before and after examples, and I love them!

  11. Natalie on September 23, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Wow, really relative questions! Free is a hard catch 22. On the one hand, Free can be used as a really effective marketing tool. On the other hand, Everybody wants something for Free and it can lead to both ruin and the complete devaluation of your work. I can’t tell you how many times a potential client has passed me up and come back with, ‘sorry I have a friend of a friend willing to shoot our family for free’. You just get to a point where you can’t compete with the guy on craigslist willing to shoot a wedding for $250 if you are going to run a legitimate and sustainable business. However, I have found there’s a difference between Free and a Deal. Getting a few ‘free’ prints with the price of a session is simply smart business sense- it appeals to the fact we all want to feel like we are getting a deal. We feel like there is more in it for us, especially when we actually value the product/service to begin with. Either way you slice it, Free and Deals should be strategic in that they promote your business or make it seem more accessible, but not at the expense of the worth of your work. Just my $0.02 as I am just about a year into navigating this photog biz thing with me, myself and I.

  12. Patti on September 23, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I guess I look at it as “worth”. If everything were free it would essentially have no worth, would it? We wouldn’t value the items because they literally would have no value monetarily. I have this odd ideal in my head that if I am going to pay someone to teach me something, the value or worth of that education goes up. Maybe I am weird. So far most of what I have learned has been free from hours of searching on different forums. Something that takes a lot of time to do. I went to a weekend workshop and though it was expensive, I value that experience more than anything i had learned before. Because of that experience, I really do feel that it is worth my time and money to pay for certain things. Like photo sessions that I gave away when I first started photographing, those people didn’t value my time or talent. Now when they come back and see my regular pricing, they are floored that I have the nerve to charge that much (which isn’t any more than any other photographer). But that is because they don’t value my time or talent. You can use that same idea with the actions you and others create or templates or websites or anything for that matter… If they *expect* it for free they aren’t valuing your time or talent that it took to create those items. Sometimes we have to turn it back around on them and pick something they are passionate about and ask what if you were to take that time and talent from them and expect not to pay (in some form) how would that make them feel? Great topic

  13. Ashley Larsen on September 23, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I get that for some photography is a business and for others a hobby. Either way, what I don’t like is when asked a question, some photographers refuse to answer or give you the run around. Regardless of the action or technique used, a picture is going to look different. I don’t see harm in revealing what you did to a picture. I am in awe of local photographers having seminars that cost $1000 just so they can tell you what actions they use. That is why I love MCP Actions and Pioneer Woman… she is the reason I linked over to MCP Blog.

  14. Deirdre Malfatto on September 23, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I’m not a professional, at least yet, and I’m on a serious budget. I have a barebones photography kit. For me, actions like yours are luxuries that I can’t justify right now. If I were pro, I would see them as investments, and if I had a little more money, I would see them as a well-deserved gift to myself. Despite not being able to afford them right now, between your free actions and your blog, I keep coming back here and drooling over your actions, and I know that the minute I CAN find a way to justify spending some money on them and/or your courses, I will. I have recommended them to people who were in a position to buy. If you didn’t have this fantastic blog full of great information and didn’t offer the free actions, I might forget about you. Because you keep me coming back, I am a potential future customer. I do use some free actions and textures from other sites, and if they end up being actions I use a LOT, I will donate what I can via paypal (if they have that option), but that right now is precious little.Maybe you need to do a post on how the non-pro photographers on here who are on budgets can make just enough money from our photography to keep us supplied with MCP actions. 🙂

  15. Andie on September 23, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Hi Jodi – I like the word “complimentary” vs. “free”. 🙂 However, I own both free, I mean complimentary and paid. I’m a big believer in you get what you paid for. If I really like something and want more of that I will ALWAYS seek and pay for services and products. For instance, I will continue to purchase my fabulous MCP Actions and trainings, but they are worth every penny!

  16. Kattrina on September 23, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Oh I love this!!!! I have heard so many photographers claim that they will NEVER pay for actions! I simply laugh and go on my own way. 95% of all the actions I used were bought and paid for, why? Because the are so much better quality for one and they are just flat out better made than the freebies! I love actions that give me options to adjust and play with layer masks and so on. All the free ones seem to be just a harsh one time deal! I’d much rather pay for quality 🙂

  17. Loren on September 23, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    I am part of an Australian Charity organisation that offers completely free sessions and set of prints/hi-res images to families with terminlly sick children and to those who have also experienced a stillbirth. Its a rewarding gesture for me as a photographer to supply often cherished memories when many families dont even think about photographing their precious ones at these times. Parents often are snowed under with stress/grief at these times, yet find their images becomes an important part of thier healing process down the line.A.C.O.C.P.(australian community of child photographers )

  18. Loren on September 23, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    I am part of an Australian Charity organisation that offers completely free sessions and set of prints/hi-res images to families with terminally sick children and to those who have also experienced a stillbirth. Its a rewarding gesture for me as a photographer to supply often cherished memories when many families dont even think about photographing their precious ones at these times. Parents often are snowed under with stress/grief at these times, yet find their images becomes an important part of thier healing process down the line.A.C.O.C.P.(australian community of child photographers )

  19. Pam on September 24, 2009 at 1:19 am

    I like FREE to try out a product or vendor. Having been in business for many years I find that samples sell product.When looking for a new print lab, I went with one who gave me Free test prints from my downloads. I’ve been happy with them from my first order and still use them.If I like it and it’s something I would use then I would buy it over one that I am unable to try first. I’ve tried your free actions, like them and purchased them. I’ve also tried others. Some I liked and some I didn’t. I always give a client a “free” gift of my choice with any order. They are always happily surprised. Your education here, which is free, has prompted me many times to look into more of your actions and has me seriously considering a couple of your workshops.FREE is a drawing card. It gets most people in the door. So, Jodi, what prompted this?

  20. Andrea Halsey on September 24, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Being an established photographer, I don’t purchase a lot of products from other places. I personally tend to do things my own way. However, when I buy something from anyone, online or even a service locally… I pay. Because I understand Jody, and trade services, and other photographers. There is so much blood, sweat, and tears that go into being where we are today.Someone mentioned they can’t believe photographers don’t just give everything they’ve learned and earned away for free… but I think that misses the entire point that Jody is sharing. I have never asked a photographer to divulge anything to me, and I have happily paid for the seminars and retreats I’ve done in the past. I never planned to get where I am today by taking from someone else, without giving in return. And sometimes that return is monetary.Jody, I am right there with you girl!!!

  21. Stacey Rainer on September 24, 2009 at 11:34 am

    I have some free stuff, but I have more stuff I bought. I don’t use a lot of actions, but I do use LR presets and textures. I’m really loving the included textures with my Dirty Pictures (purchase) and have a very favorite texture that I got from the Pay It Forward blog (free). My favorite LR presets came from Matt K (Free – Killer Lightroom Tips – can’t spell his last name and don’t want to butcher it so it’s just K). But mostly, I just do my own stuff. I used to use them more, but as I’ve become more comfortable with using LR, I use them less and less. I think my most favorite “free” item is the free graphic design I get from hubby. :o) Of course, that isn’t really all that free, now is it? He gets “free” photography from me for his projects in return.

  22. honey on September 27, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    I love the free trials. I used your for awhile and since have bought almost all of your actions. I also had TR actions and Pioneer womans free actions. PW’s actions are fun and quick for snap shots … I appreciate that she made hem for free but that is not her bread and butter and just another fun part to her website. Your actions are the real deal and I use them every day. They were well worth the money and have saved me tons of time and I am in love with them. With TR you can download free ones and they are good. I bought the packages because so many photogs say they use them. So far, I don’t see what the big deal is. They can’t hold a candle to what you offer. So- I have a mix but rely very heavily on yours for my work flow.

  23. Sandy on September 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Hi there,I’m brand new to “actions.” I’ve got Photoshop 3. I downloaded the Free Pioneer Actions and today found your Blog and your request for people to download your “free” actions. I was hesitant, Don’t know why but then read this blog and thought I’d give it a try. Wow, loved your video tutorial and experimented using your “Cancer action” I will now try the rest. I will also suggest this site to photographers and novices alike. A couple of things I don’t get. If you select the golden color, can you only have it apply to part of the picture? I think your video tutorials make all the difference. As a beginner I am skeptical of Free yet I do have a budget and want to make the best use of my money. How does one know which paid for Actions are the best? I want to spend my money and get the most use and best quality for my money. What makes your actions superior to others? I’m not being flippant, I just don’t know how to judge.

  24. Vicki Madden on October 17, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    In your case I would say FREE would be like baiting the hook. If you offered a free action with the baiting of other actions are offered. Maybe this free action, give example of what it can do and then show what it COULD look like with the other actions that can be purchased….. =)I used your free action and that is what hooked me, and then chica you just reeled me in! =)

  25. Cheryle on January 19, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Free,A marketing tool which provides consumers with the opportunity to display their work. I find this a good thing if I am going to invest in products. The sample work usually comes from people or companies that stand behind their products. There are always people who want something for nothing…if you give away your product you will not be in business long. I find it is better to turn down those people who want something for nothing (free). You are not losing business you never had with this consumer. Business is a tough world and when you have a quality product you set a price to keep the business going. Free, as a comsumer means just that. I pay for what I want. Free to some means steal it. This has driven up the cost of every product and service. Everyone pays the price for this; consumer and seller. I am both a business person and a consumer.

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