Setting Expectations pt.1 – Friends and Family

Photographing Friends and Family

Prevention is the best cure! This holds true in so many aspects of our lives. It is especially important when working with friends and family. I have found some things that will help you avoid problems and complications when people you know ask you to do photography for them. Just remember, you are not obligated to say yes to anything. Period.

And I do want to preface this article by saying that your friends and family aren’t out to take advantage of you. It’s not bad if you want to help them out. And you don’t have to be rude. They probably just don’t understand what we really do and how it works.

Ways they might ask for your services:

  • Do you want to come to my show Friday? You should bring your camera!
  • Since you’re already coming to the wedding, do you want to bring your camera?
  • I’m looking to get into modeling. Do you want to hang out some time? Maybe take a few quick shots?
  • I need a new LinkedIn pic. Can I swing by for just 1 or 2 quick shots? That’s all it should take.

How you can answer:

  • Thanks for the invite! I usually like to go to shows to watch, unless I’m specifically hired to shoot it. I like to see the performers and get the full experience.
  • I love photography, but it’s still work, and it takes me out of the moment. I’d rather be there with you to celebrate at the wedding than be there working.
  • I’d be happy to give you some tips and tricks I’ve learned about the industry. If you want some portfolio images, we can talk about booking a shoot and doing it right. After all, you only want high quality photos to show off.
  • To get the right light, look, and pose for you, it will definitely take more than two shots. I only want to give the best service and take the best photos I can. If you want to book a real head shot session, let’s work out some details.


You don’t have to say no to avoid saying yes

We all want to help out our friends and family. The one way I’ve found that works best is to offer extra value in addition to the services they pay for. Rather than giving a discount, tell them you’ll throw in a little something extra for them because you are friends/family. Don’t say exactly what it is though. Let it be a surprise.

On this same note, if you are asked to do something that is outside your usual style, you absolutely must make it clear that it is outside your realm of expertise. Just because we have a camera, we’re not experts in EVERY field of photography. This is really important if they want you to shoot their wedding and you’ve never shot a wedding. They will appreciate you admitting that you’ve never done it before, instead of finding out later when the photos don’t meet their expectations.

How To Charge Friends and Family For Your Work

Do you want your loved ones to be successful in life? I thought so. They should want the same for you. They should want to pay you for your services. This is why you should charge full price. Most of us feel like we should give some big discount, or even worse, work for free. But this will always invite disaster. I promise. Here’s why.

One of the reasons professionals charge so much for what we do is because we provide a valuable service that takes great skill to execute. Clients who are willing to pay higher prices do so because they respect our craft, love our work as artists, and value the service we provide. Bargain-seekers only want to save money, even at the expense of quality. They truly only care about the cost and treat the product or service as a commodity.  So when you offer your services at a discount, even if it is to someone who has heard you talk about the value of your work, they will only respect their experience relative to their own investment.

How to deliver the photos

How do you deliver photos to your regular paying clients? This is exactly how you should deliver them to your friends and family. After all, they did pay you for your services, right? We don’t give away full-res digital images, or RAW files to clients (unless it’s a commercial gig and that’s in the contract). So don’t give them to your friends and family. You should care about how they get your photos and you should make it a point to get them printed properly. Remember, you are going above and beyond, not giving them a watered down version.

Should you use contracts or releases?

Absolutely. Nothing can ruin a friendship quite like a business transaction gone wrong. When terms are in writing and the price and deliverables are clearly stated, both parties will take things more seriously. Use the same contracts you have for your other paying clients.

Make sure you cover:

  • Date and time of the shoot (and duration if necessary)
  • How much will it cost and when are payments due
  • How the photos will be delivered
  • How many photos will be delivered
  • Specific shots your client wants
  • When the photos will be delivered
  • How the photos can be used (i.e. commercial purposes)
  • Can they edit the images in any way (including cropping and adding filters)
  • How are changes to the agreement handled? If allowed at all.

What are they really looking for?

If you have a conversation and ask them about the importance of the photography they seek, you’ll likely find that they’re really not interested in paying a professional to do it. They’re asking you because they are looking for a cheap option and it’s convenient. Don’t take offense. Remember, most people are not your ideal client. We just have to remember that just because we know someone, they might still not be a good fit for us professionally.

About the Author Mike Lloyd

Mike is the Tim Burton of photography. He tells powerful, imaginative stories with cinematic photography. He specializes in dramatic, film-noir style boudoir and epic cinematic portraits. He's also the creative force behind Photogs Unite! which focuses on learning from professionals outside the photography industry to learn marketing, sales, branding, and everything else you need to know to build a thriving photography business. And burritos are the key to his happiness.

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