It's kind of risky because, obviously, you have no one negotiating for you or looking out for your interests. On the other hand, it's often quick and easy cash.
Today I did this photo shoot. I've worked with this production house before. They're good people, they've got a very nice facility downtown, totally legit and all. But I can't help feeling I was a little bit misled today.
Looking back at my notes from the phone call, I see the words "still photos." Print photo shoot, right? It was a 1-2 hour job and the pay was a little more than standard for a regular session fee (plus there was no agent taking their cut). But there was no additional "buyout," in which they pay for use of the photos in certain media (print, Internet, etc.) over a defined period of time. The buyout can often run 3, 4 or 5 times the session fee.
So for a few hundred bucks I consented to unlimited use of my images FOREVER, which is scary from the standpoint of principle, but actually not that big of a deal in practice. If I was suddenly making $20 million to star in a film, then they would be getting a very, very good bargain. Since I'm not, and not likely to, what the hell.
Anyway, the people were nice, the shoot was easy and I got out of there pretty quickly. When it was done, I asked if there was a website the photos would be on, or if it's a print thing or what. Turns out it's a TV commercial.
Whoops! They didn't tell me that. They emphasized again that these were "just stills," but that doesn't really make a difference. A commercial's a commercial. Sure, there were no lines, obviously, so I suppose you could argue that's an "extra" role, in which case the money is good. But I don't know -- my experience tells me the fee should have been at least 2 or 3 times what I got. At least it's just a little local spot. If it was airing, say, during the Superbowl, then this would be a very bad thing.
I could have raised a stink, I suppose but, you know, I shouldn't be doing this kind of stuff anyway. That's what I have agents for and this is the kind of work that people without representation do. So, lesson learned.