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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.