It’s called “testing”. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on testing to build my portfolio. And that testing lead to paying gigs that more than covered those expenses and provides me with a living. So basically, when you take test photos, you enter into an agreement where they get something out of you taking photos that may or may not be good photos or what they desired. Since no money changes hands it makes things far less complicated. And the photographer gets a little bit of relief knowing that if fuck it up, it’s not the end of the world. But it also gives everyone the ability to play, create, learn and perhaps make some good pictures.
She certainly deserves to make a living, but it also behooves her to be honest about it.
The advice you were given is great advice. The idea comes from the idea that if you are charging $1000 for something and they come back and say how about $500 and you say yes, you will probably never make anymore than $500 with that person again. There are ways to negotiate that don’t involve you making all the compromise. So basically you say. well for $1000 you get this, that and the other thing. But for $500, you are only going to get this and half of that but not the other thing. For $750 you can get this and all of that but not the other thing. You give the client options, but you make sure that you still get compensated well.
But all that really isn’t important until you get to a point where you should be charging.