Wait, am I being Larry David?
November 8, 2010 7:10 AM   Subscribe

Invited to an old friend's wedding, but not as a guest. I'm feeling guilty about how I'm feeling... Am I right to feel this way?

I got a telephone call from a friend/girlfriend from high school, who I've seen a few times since (maybe a meal together every 5 years or so). She lives on the opposite coast (USA).

She told me she was getting married and said she'd like me to photograph the wedding (she had seen some photos from a travel photo show I had and liked them).

So, while I would be at the wedding, I doesn't seem like I'd really be a guest; it feels more like I'd be an employee and busy with taking photos the whole time.
She said that they would pay for my airfare.

They are upper-middle class, while I am living pretty much hand-to-mouth as a student. I can't really afford spending money on all of the rolls of film, the developing, and 2-3 days at a hotel.

But the money aside, I guess what really gets me is the idea that... while I'm good enough to be their photographer (although I've never done a wedding, hate posed shots, and really prefer natural-light black-and-white candids), I'm apparently not good enough for them to even think about asking about paying.
I guess because of the friendship.
But apparently I'm not good enough of a friend to just be invited as a guest..?

Am I wrong to feel put-off?

See, and then I think
"Maybe I should look at this like a glorified groomsman role, where one is supposed to do heavy lifting."

Yet still I feel like a caterer who's been asked to do a wedding pro bono.

Sorry if this comes across as too ChatFiltery, really I'm looking more for a ("No, you're looking at it the wrong way because..." or "No, that was tacky for them to do that") sanity-check.

(I set up an email at askmetafilteranonymous@gmail.com, if anyone needs to send me anything)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (75 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Tacky of them.
posted by pineappleheart at 7:11 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Am I wrong to feel put-off? No, although if you want to avoid feeling put off you might come back to them and say "As your wedding gift, I'm happy to do it for cost, but I'll need the money up front." If they get huffy and offended, then you can release the bees.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:14 AM on November 8, 2010 [18 favorites]

I don't think it's wrong to feel put-off- the bride is trying to get the best of both worlds, using a friend as hired help, possibly to save cash. At your expense! If you are interested in shooting the wedding for money, you should figure out your price and tell the bride what it is.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:14 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Tacky. Send them your rates for your time and supplies (less the value of any gift that you might get them), or just decline, guilt-free.
posted by supercres at 7:15 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

You wouldn't be a guest, you'd be working. I know weddings are really expensive, but paying only for your airfare is really cheap of them. Seriously, if you are good enough to photograph their wedding, you're good enough to get paid. Check out what photogs in their area charge and make an offer.
posted by cestmoi15 at 7:15 AM on November 8, 2010 [8 favorites]

I don't think you're wrong to be put off at all. She's asking you to provide a professional service and is imposing on (what sounds like a) very casual friendship to try to get those services for free.

If I were you, I'd say "I'd be happy to photograph your wedding! Here are my rates, but since we're friends I'm giving you a ten percent discount."
posted by magstheaxe at 7:15 AM on November 8, 2010 [36 favorites]

Extremely tacky. Even if they were close friends, and you were ALSO invited as a guest, it's verboten to ask for someone to render expensive, time-consuming professional services for free....that's a gift for you to offer if so moved (they may be justifying it as, "S/he can do this in lieu of a gift!" but I doubt you would have gotten them something off the registry that is the equivalent of a $1000+ photo package). Reassure yourself that, though you may have less money, you almost certainly trump them in class.
posted by availablelight at 7:16 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yup. Tacky!

Just tell her that you don't do weddings - too stressful and not your style.
posted by missmagenta at 7:17 AM on November 8, 2010 [7 favorites]

They are being selfish and trying to get something for nothing. I would suggest that you say that in the interest of professionalism, since you are being asked to shoot the wedding in your capacity as a professional photographer, you expect to be reimbursed at your standard rate of $XXXX + airfare and hotel (even if you have never been a professional photographer, you can claim that you have a standard rate, and you can even claim that your standard rate is higher and that you are offering them a discount, but it should still be in the 4-figure range), and the reason you are suggesting this is in the interest of professionalism, to avoid any potential misunderstandings. This way you make it seem like you are doing them a favor. They might back off and try to freeload off of someone else who's more of a doormat, but then you are cut loose, maintain your integrity, and don't have to deal with their drama. If they proceed to hire you out of guilt or inertia, you get a nice financial windfall. Just make sure you get a signed contract.

TL;DR: Rise above them by being classier and more professional than they are being.
posted by matildaben at 7:17 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dude. A wedding photography package can run more than $1,000, easily. It is labor-intensive. It is not a task which will allow for simultaneous enjoyment of the event.

This is really no different than if someone bought a new home and said, "Hey, as a housewarming present, how about you completely re-landscape our backyard? You can stay in our guest bedroom, of course..."

Which is to say: grossly presumptuous, entitled and more than a little insulting. Seriously - TELLING, not ASKING, let alone HIRING a friend to do an big, laborious task for their event? WTF, couple?!
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:17 AM on November 8, 2010 [10 favorites]

Tacky. If she wanted you to photograph the wedding she should have called and asked what your rates were. She's not owed free photos because you're her friend.
posted by corey flood at 7:18 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

PS-- if you were to be their only photographer on hand, rest assured you would absolutely be treated and expected to behave as hired help instead of a guest...do you really think they'd want you eating or dancing instead of constantly poised to capture That Once In A Lifetime Moment? You can work weddings, or you can enjoy them as a guest...you can't do both.
posted by availablelight at 7:19 AM on November 8, 2010

This is totally unacceptable behaviour on their part. Wedding photography is a specialised field, and photographers charge what they do for a reason. Not only is a couple paying for a photographer's experience in posing, lighting, etc., they're also paying for bonding and insurance in case of disaster. What if your equipment malfunctions, and your photos become unusable? A pro must take this unlikely event into account, and knows that he/she will be financially responsible for recreation of the shots, to the extent possible. Thiis is just one of the many reasons that you should politely refuse.
posted by Optamystic at 7:22 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Very tacky, but personally I'd avoid some of the theoretically satisfying "send them your rates" ideas above. I'd just say you can't make it for scheduling reasons. It's not your role to try to change their characters, and I can't see any version of attending the wedding in which it's non-awkward.

how on earth was "askmetafilteranonymous@gmail.com" still available?
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:22 AM on November 8, 2010 [18 favorites]

I've feel like I've read your post three times and I can't see where she said she would only pay for your airfair... Are we sure she won't pay you for your services? Was this something that just hasn't come up yet?

Sometimes even when you're planning on paying a friend to do something for you, it can still be awkward to ask how much they want to be paid.
posted by smirkyfodder at 7:23 AM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

While I understand that maybe she's thinking of you as a useful resource, it is pretty rude to not offer you any real compensation.


My brother asked our cousin to be the photographer at his wedding (because she's a professional) and she flat-out said "No, I don't work for family". He was a little stung at first, but then realized she was right for denying the offer. There's no bad blood between them.

I realize this is a bit different, but perhaps you try something like this? "I don't work for friends & family".
posted by MustardTent at 7:25 AM on November 8, 2010

Sometimes people are just clueless, about a lot of things. People can be clueless about the time, money and effort certain things take when they don't do those things, themselves. People can be clueless that not everyone sees their Amazing Lifechanging Thing as quite so important and lifechanging. People can think they're giving you a special opportunity anyone would be grateful for, and be clueless that it's actually a huge burden.

I think it might be helpful give them the benefit of the doubt that they are just kind of clueless, rather than they are cynically trying to save a buck at your expense.

If you want to keep the (relatively low-key) friendship you have with this girl, you could just thank her for the invitation, express your well-wishes, and tell her that unfortunately, all of the supplies etc. are out of your budget range right now. Then if she's just clueless, she can take care of those things and your other concerns, and if she was being cynical, she'll back out and you'll get out of the whole thing.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:27 AM on November 8, 2010 [6 favorites]

A lot of young people getting married are not sure of the 'proper' etiquette involved in these thing. They are trying to figure out how to do things -on a budget- and may or may not have good guidance from their parents and other people helping them plan. Or maybe they haven't asked for guidance. Or maybe they're just tacky.

Say no, but put it down to their youthful ignorance and don't hold it against them.

Or let them know that you'd be happy to do it, but that there are other expenses involved that they would have to cover. "I could do it for $xxx, but I really can't afford it otherwise."
posted by SLC Mom at 7:27 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

They should pay you (and it should be enough to cover all your expenses: airfare, hotel, supplies, etc). It's up to you how much you want to charge for your labor. If it was a close friend, I would probably offer a discount, but not if it would impact you financially.

It's super tacky that they didn't send you an invitation, though. Ask them to pay you, or turn them down.
posted by bluefly at 7:31 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you were a working photographer doing a destination wedding, you would charge a fee for your services and then put airfare and hotel on top of that. It's possible that they don't know this?

Send them an estimate for the total (film, time, hotel, and airfare), and then call it a day.
posted by muddgirl at 7:32 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just as a note, I had the photographer lined up for my wedding way before the invitations were sent out. Hell, it was before the guest list was done if I remember right. The fact that you're hearing about the wedding like this doesn't necessarily mean that you wouldn't have been invited anyway.

Right now, you're being a bit unreasonable. Planning a wedding is a pain in the ass and a half. Just from reading what you've written I get the idea that she's just seeing if this is something you'd want to do. Like smirkyfodder, I don't see anywhere saying that she doesn't intend to pay you.

One thing that does jump out at me is that you use film. Does she know this? Because it's not totally unreasonable for her to assume you're using a digital camera. And that would reduce your cost since you wouldn't need to have things developed.

If it's something you'd consider then go ahead and tell her what you'd need to get paid to do it. Make sure that she knows you're charging for the work and for staying out there. It's not uncommon for photographers to charge a fee for the travel and expenses that go with it.

If you don't feel comfortable doing a wedding then don't do it. They need someone there who knows what they're doing and feel comfortable doing it.

Finally, if you're going to decline don't say that your schedule won't let you be there. If you do that then you won't be invited because as far as they know you won't be able to be there anyway.
posted by theichibun at 7:34 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's possible that she's just ignorant of what it takes to photograph weddings, and thinks airfare is enough to compensate and that you don't need a proper invite because that's just like being invited . And, you're right to feel discomfited by all of this, because if even if it's the case that she doesn't know what she's asking (and if she does, she's no friend of yours), Miss Manners would not approve.

That said, here's a really great series of articles that both of you should read, and supplying her with the link might be a neutral way of informing her of your feelings and illuminating expectations on both your parts.
posted by peagood at 7:36 AM on November 8, 2010

Are you sure they aren't assuming they'll pay you?

Talk to them about rates. They may have been assuming they'd pay full price all along.

If not, tacksville.
posted by tel3path at 7:36 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

"Thanks for thinking of me. My standard fee for shooting a wedding is $1,000, plus travel and lodging expenses if applicable. It sounds like that might not work for you, so I'll let you know if I can think of someone in your area. Congratulations!"
posted by bingo at 7:37 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Since you've never done a wedding before, I'd demur by saying that you really don't feel you could do their big day justice, and thanks for the offer anyway. And if she pushes, tell her that you really can't afford it, sorry, tough times and all.
posted by RedEmma at 7:38 AM on November 8, 2010 [6 favorites]

Also: you're not wrong to feel that way.
posted by RedEmma at 7:39 AM on November 8, 2010

If you don't feel right about it, you don't feel right about it. If you're going to feel put upon, you probably won't do your best work anyway (and wedding photos are a LOT of work). I say you'd be doing everyone, including yourself, a favor by backing out gracefully. Your easy out is anything from "sorry, prior commitments" to "I love you, but you need a professional for this; I really don't feel I'm qualified.
posted by Ys at 7:39 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can understand where she's coming from to a very small extent -- if she was hiring a local photographer, she would only be paying them for their services, not for transportation. However, assuming she gets a decent rate for your airfare, it would still cost her less to fly you across the country than it would cost to hire a professional wedding photographer.

If she wants you as a guest who would incidentally be taking photos as well, then she should outright say so. Otherwise, this is pretty tacky, as others have pointed out. You don't save money on your wedding by taking advantage of your casual acquaintances.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:43 AM on November 8, 2010

You need to accept that you've not been invited to the wedding as a guest, you've been invited to the wedding as a cheap wedding photographer.

Once you get that out of the way then you realise that the only response is the one you would offer someone who doesn't know you, that is your standard rate (plus whatever costs) or politely decline.
posted by mr_silver at 7:44 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's another vote for "clueless." I still cringe when I think how little I paid the band at my wedding, many years ago. It wasn't tackiness on my part, just a lack of thought. I'd never been married before, never been interested in weddings, and just had no clue.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:49 AM on November 8, 2010

To defend your friends slightly.

The couple may be so caught up in all the arrangements of the wedding that they haven't thought through how much of expense and effort it'll entail on your part.

She may believe that 'taking a few photos' isn't hard work - after all plenty of people take snaps at weddings and those people don't consider it hard work.

But saying all that if it we me in your position I'd decline saying 'I don't have the budget for the airfare and hotel bills let alone all the rolls of film and processing'. But I'd try not to feel too badly towards your soon to be wedded friend.
posted by selton at 7:50 AM on November 8, 2010

It was tacky. Also as student photographer who's never done a wedding, do you really want to take the risk of doing this wedding? Seriously, I had a friend, she had an MFA in photography, did portraits, but like you she preferred black and white, more natural shots, done with available light. She was asked to be the photographer at a friends wedding. Well, since she'd only previously worked with available light, she didn't sync the flash and most of the photographs didn't come out. Seriously, totally unsalvageable. Luckily the bride and the groom were low key and they had another art photographer friend who'd been taking pictures just for fun, so they just got prints from him. Something tells me that this is a more traditional wedding and the bride wouldn't be so easy going if the photographs did not meet her expectations.

At the very least I would want to hear a detailed explanation as to what it was about your travel photographs that resonated with her, and how she thought that you could apply your unique style to her wedding photographs. Did she want posed shots? A mix of posed and candids? What moments HAD to be captured? What had to be posed? etc. etc. I would want a very clear idea of her expectations (and then be honest about your ability and/or desire to meet them) before accepting.

Honestly, if it were me, I'd write off a "friend" on the opposite coast that I only saw once every 5 years before I'd go into debt for going to their wedding, even as a guest, let alone to provide free labor (if that's what they're expecting). Seriously, once this person is married, you'll never hear from her again. Until she has kids and wants free portraits...
posted by kaybdc at 7:51 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

You have had a meal with her once every five years or so. It is not at all unreasonable for them not to include you on their guest list, and you shouldn't be hurt by that -- after all, no matter how well-off they might be, weddings are expensive and they likely have a lot of see-every-five-years friends that weren't invited.

At the same time, you are being invited to take photographs, because apparently they're not well-off enough to hire a wedding photographer. If they're expecting you to show up on your own dime and take pictures despite being a guest, that's totally tacky. If, however, they're expecting you to show up as a guest, but want to encourage you to take pictures because they like the pictures you take (expecting you to spend most of your time just being a guest), then that's cool and you're under no obligation to do so unless you want to.

So: did you receive a wedding invitation in the mail? No? Then you're not a guest, at least not yet. I would reply thusly: "I'm so glad to hear you're getting married, and hearing that you like my pictures is pretty cool, too. Just clear one thing up for me: are you asking me to be the photographer at your wedding, or to be a guest and take a few pictures here and there if the mood strikes me? I ask, because as much as I'd like to be there to see you two tie the knot, and as much as I appreciate your offer to pay my airfare, there are a lot of other costs associated with shooting the way I do -- for instance, I shoot on film, not digital -- and being a wedding photographer is a full-attention job that I've never been keen on doing. So if you're asking me to attend as a guest, I'm grateful and will keep an eye out for my invitation -- but if you're asking me to be your wedding photographer, I have to pass." Having to pass, by the way, is based on my assumption that you wouldn't do it for any amount of money (which is the impression I got from your phrasing, and as someone who feels the same way, I support you wholeheartedly.)

I mean, ultimately, you see her once every five years. If she's tacky enough to be indignant about this question, and decides not to be your friend, she's the one in the wrong and your life will be impacted almost not at all. Hopefully she'll just confirm you as a friend, or tell you she understands about you being unwilling to shoot weddings, and that she can't invite you as a guest because their budget doesn't allow it. And that you shouldn't take offense at, at all.
posted by davejay at 7:53 AM on November 8, 2010 [8 favorites]

show up on your own dime and take pictures despite being a guest

Quoting myself above; should have been "show up and take pictures on your own dime despite not being a guest"
posted by davejay at 7:55 AM on November 8, 2010

While they might not have any idea of how much work it is, you should clue them in and politely tell them you can't afford to do it pro bono. Offer a reasonable price if they ask for a quote and leave it at that. They can decide if they want to pay you and if they don't, stick to your guns that you just can't afford to do it. Taking wedding photos for free is totally having your friends take advantage of you, and from my POV, that's worse for the friendship in the long run than politely bowing out.

I'm getting married in June and asked a friend to photograph the wedding because I legitimately like his work and like the idea of the photos coming from someone who knows us... at the same time, I made sure he knew that I am going to pay him for it. As an artist myself, I know that the time and energy is considerable and absolutely worth compensating.
posted by sonika at 7:56 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Please be generous in your interpretation. It's completely reasonable for your feelings to be hurt, but it's also completely reasonable for them to be clueless people stumbling around an emotional minefield and unintentionally hurting every other person's feelings.

Do what you feel is right, protect your feelings and time and money, but there's no reason to think of ways to punish them or to assume it's "not your job" to gently let them know how they could better treat you and others.
posted by amtho at 7:57 AM on November 8, 2010

Here are some options:
Wow, I'm flattered that you would ask me to photograph your wedding.
Yes, I'd love to photograph your wedding. I'd need travel, film and processing costs. And, since I'm not a professional wedding photographer, I need to state some pretty big disclaimers.
Thanks, but I don't want to accept the responsibility of taking your wedding pictures.

Try to assume the best possible motives, and respond as graciously as possible.
posted by theora55 at 8:01 AM on November 8, 2010

Not much to add, but it's totally tacky if they're not going to pay you for your services.
posted by usonian at 8:01 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

She didn't even offer to pay for the hotel...? On the other hand, great exercise for the business part of your photography education!

Imagine that this is a practical exercise--an assignment for a class.

Do plenty of research on wedding photos and figure out what your costs really would be for this kind of assignment. Remember that your time is valuable too, including retouching, scanning, printing, etc. and and come up with an adequate price per hour.

Some costs will be fixed, like hotels and meals. Some--like the amount of film you use; the number of proofs; or the number of prints will vary. Given that, would it be better to charge a flat rate for an inclusive service and then monitor your own usage? Or would it make more sense to offer multiple, tiered packages? Should the prints be included ahead of time, or can you afford to let them decide how many to purchase after they see the proofs? If you offer packages, how will you price additional prints?

Then there are intangibles--what would be the value of having wedding photos in your portfolio? Time- and effort-wise, would it be something you could do as a sideline while you're in school? Because you don't have experience, can you charge as much as someone else?

What would you do if they hated the pictures? How would you respond if they sued you?

Given those factors, determine a rate to charge them, and be professional about it.

If they respond by being thrilled to hire you, then no, you don't have to be offended. If they respond in a snotty way, then you have my permission to be offended--but you also have a lot of research under your belt and a head start on similar ventures.

(Forgive me if these are skills you already have--I don't mean to condescend--I have a few close friends who went to school for photography. They got burned multiple times on money-losing jobs because they had no practice with the business side of things.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:01 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some people were raised by wolves. They usually don't mean any harm by their cluelessness. But in this case, the solution to your problem is right there in your post:

I've never done a wedding, hate posed shots, and really prefer natural-light black-and-white candids

Tell them that, and say that you appreciate being asked, but weddings aren't your thing.

Perhaps you'll get invited to the wedding anyway, or perhaps not. Either way, in the end you'll get the true answer to your question about whether they wanted you as a guest or an employee.
posted by spilon at 8:06 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't see how the lack-of-invite, in itself, is tacky at all. Someone I see every 5 years is NOT someone who would be on my wedding guest invite list. It's not that I don't value that person, it's just that you have to draw the line somewhere. You can't invite every old friend! Weddings would all have 1000+ guests!

But I'm guessing that your problem is that she seems to be asking you to do this for free? (Except for airfare.) THAT'S ridiculous. Yes, you'll do it, for money. You'll do it for airfare plus hotel plus all costs, and then you can just turn over the negatives, or you can develop the film and then she can pay you for that, too. Just the thought of donating any of those services is unthinkable to me. She pays for your work, and you can give them a wedding gift. If you want. But yes, photographers usually are hired help, not guests. Emphasis on "hired".

So, yeah, feel put-off. Future lesson: as soon as someone asks for something that's going to cost you money, accept, for the amount of money it's going to cost you. :) Unless we're talking about some kind of hardship help, which is just a different question and discussion.
posted by iguanapolitico at 8:12 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would just contact her again and say, "I've been thinking about it, but I really don't think I can afford the costs of hotel room, equipment and developing the film. I appreciate you thinking about me, though."

And see where it goes from there. Maybe she'll offer to pay... maybe she'll say "I understand. But you should come to the wedding as a guest" or maybe she'll just say, "Okay. I understand" and leave it that.
posted by KogeLiz at 8:13 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

A few years back, I did a couple of weddings for friends to build up my portfolio. One couple, in particular, I knew couldn't afford a professional and they were good friends. I wanted to get into the wedding market and, not to put too fine a point on it, both couples were very good looking made for great subjects.

I paid my own personal liability/indemnity insurance and insurance for my equipment, the couples paid for everything else: travel, accommodation, lighting hire, any other extra equipment and, critically, all the prints (except for one small proof book). My partner came along as my assistant - we both received an 'invitation' in addition to providing photography services (i.e. got to eat with the guests during the meal) and it was made very clear that the camera was going to get put away after the first dance.

Weddings are enormously hard work. Beforehand you need to plan out your formal shots, liaise with the couple on the timetable, scout the location (planning for good and bad weather). During, you will be trying to cram a lot of 'must have' shots into a very short amount of time, wrangle large numbers of people into the right places at the right time, maintain a cheery demeanour. After, you'll need to spend a good few days trawling through all the shots to produce proofs.

Short version, if you were considering using this as a stepping stone to future wedding work, it might be worth considering, but only if the couple can ensure that you won't be out of pocket.
posted by dogsbody at 8:16 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

...I really don't think I can afford the costs of hotel room, equipment and developing the film

Plus lost income opportunity, either from missing work or not being available for other potential paying gigs. Don't underestimate your worth.
posted by amtho at 8:17 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think your feelings are pretty accurate here.

It's exactly like "Oh you're such a great waiter. I'd love for you to come work my wedding. I'll pay airfare!"

Working photography for a wedding is not at all like being a guest and having fun at a wedding. When that drunk uncle grabs you over to get photos for his christmas card, or the real estate agent cousin needs a new head shot for her business card, you are not a guest, you are cheap hired labor. And you have to do it all in a skirt/suit and heels/dress shoes?

I only see one alternative pretense for asking you. If she really would like you to come, knows you wouldn't otherwise be able to afford the flight, it might be possible that she cooked up a dumb idea (with her fiancé?) to finance your flight if you'd do the photography as well.

I'd like to think that my brain usually processes things in a logical order: A to B to C. Under stress, some times it goes more like A to B to #%Z— some jumbled monster of a stupid idea. I'd give her the benefit of the doubt here. Either call to discuss rates and expenses, or politely decline with a "weddings are too stressful" or "No friends and family".
posted by fontophilic at 8:17 AM on November 8, 2010

Not tacky. They're trying to pitch some business your way while potentially keeping their costs down. Nothing you've said here indicates to me that they are asking you to do it for free; is it possible that they just expect you to tell them how much you'll charge? If there's something they've said to the contrary, then it'd make for a helpful followup. From what I can tell, they like your work, they likely don't know the nuances of wedding vs. fine art photography that make it an undesirable thing for you, and they figure you might charge less -- but not nothing -- because you're a student. This is a contract negotiation and they want you to be the first one to name a price. Flag it (in your date book) or (politely) move on.
posted by JohnFredra at 8:20 AM on November 8, 2010

There's a couple things that I see here.

First off, do you even want to shoot the wedding? You say you shoot film... wow. Expensive. And far more easy to screw up if you don't have a lot of experience shooting an intensive event like a wedding. That sounds very stressful to me and I certainly wouldn't want to shoot a wedding on film.

This is like that ask vs. guess culture question. They have asked. You can say no. Now, if you really want to shoot their wedding (you adore them, you love people, you've been looking for just such an opportunity to expand your portfolio), you can ask for what it would take to enable you to shoot the wedding -- cost of supplies, etc. However, once they pay you what you're worth or at least more than they are offering (what? $300 for airfare?) then you have to cough up the goods, you know? If you can't deliver what they want, it's really best to decline. That's the problem working for friends/family -- you're giving them a deal and they think they're getting a steal but if everyone isn't very clear up front, you can get a lot of hurt feelings.

Then you'll see a question like: we paid our photographer friend their costs/expenses to do our wedding but our photos are not at all what we wanted -- what should we do? Ugh.

They have asked. You should answer. You are not obligated and I understand feeling hurt that they haven't invited you to the event. Try to put that aside and just deal with the question as it stands. Separate it from the question of being invited to the event and stick up for yourself. Just because they asked doesn't mean you have to accept.
posted by amanda at 8:20 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

It is amazing how many people seem to think, "Oh, my friend/relative/dinner party acquaintance does so-and-so professionally; they will be thrilled to do it for me for free!" I think you can assume they mean no harm.

Still, I wouldn't do this, for reasons amanda and others have outlined. An awful lot of people seem to end up unhappy with their wedding photos for some reason. You don't want to be on the receiving end of that,, especially since your friend may already be a bit clueless and entitles. They need to go to the professionals.
posted by BibiRose at 8:29 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Send her an estimate. A really high estimate.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:32 AM on November 8, 2010

It's doubtful she realizes you would take it this way. She likes the idea of cool artsy photographs for her wedding, and liked the idea of including another friend in the day's activities, probably thought it was a good way to get you out there and be at her wedding. She was probably thinking you'd be willing to do it as your wedding gift to her, since it's a hefty ticket price to get you out there, and that they'd be done digitally so they could just get the pics printed off somewhere on their own, "relatively minimal effort on your part". Forgive a bride for thinking selfishly and not knowing what she's really asking of you.

Like the others have said, you can negotiate or decline. What would make you happy at minimum? If she agreed to cover airfare plus enough for your expenses while being there (meals, hotel, supplies)? Would you want to be paid above and beyond that? Are you comfortable asking? Are you willing to determine her expectations and negotiate only specific times during which you'll take pictures, so you have time to enjoy the wedding too? (like the meal, some of the dance)?

Determine what your terms are, call her and politely probe whether she's open to making proper arrangements with you. If she is, great. If not, then say due to financial reasons, it won't be possible for you to be her photographer. Nothing personal, you are just a poor student and have to be very careful with your money, won't be able to afford that trip in good conscience even with the airfare paid. Sincerest apologies, you wish her the best of luck and all that.
posted by lizbunny at 8:34 AM on November 8, 2010

No, it's tacky. Wedding photography is made expensive and time consuming, and yeah, there's no way you'd be able to enjoy the event. But you can say no (and in my opinion not that it matters, you should, because you feel crappy about it, PLUS you mention never having done weddings and that's a huge can of worms--they are extremely difficult and a lot can be riding on the results emotionally and it's just ugh, you don't want to go there I think). Just tell them it's too overwhelming, you don't really have the funds right now for such a thing (a slight nod to their rudeness I guess, but maybe it'll make them realize the error of their ways--they're probably just not thinking it through, not trying to be dicks just didn't think of what they were really asking for), you don't want to mess up something that'd be so important to them, but you're very happy about their big day and leave it at that.
posted by ifjuly at 8:34 AM on November 8, 2010

This much is clear- you are not invited as a guest.

Are you justified in being annoyed?- Absolutely.

So what's one way to go about it?
Think of it as a business deal.
What are you getting out of it (financially)?
Is it worth the effort?
Decide what you want to do.

You could let her know your decision without giving reasons. Or, since you are such dear friends, you could not respond at all and let her figure it out (and find a photographer she pays for).
posted by xm at 8:35 AM on November 8, 2010

I agree with everyone else, that this isn't a good offer and it's appropriate for you to not like it. But:

Is it possible she's doing this as a favor, because she knows you wouldn't be able to afford to come to the wedding, otherwise? She might be thinking, "Gee, it'd be great if Anonymous could be here, but I know he's just a struggling student... I can't afford to just fly him out for the heck of it, and I also wouldn't want to insult him with that offer.... Ooh, I know! He could take photos, and then I'd pay for the airfare! Win!"

Most people don't realize there are any costs to modern photography, because it's all digital. She may very well be offering this to you specifically to help you. This may be her attempt to get you out to the wedding at all, given that you probably wouldn't be able to afford it on your own. So, she may not deserve you responding to her offer with rudeness or condescension.

I agree with those who have suggested you should respond, saying you wouldn't be able to afford it, along with an explanation of why not. But, since there's at least some way to read her intentions as good, you may want to be kind about it.
posted by meese at 8:37 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

The couple's offer is annoying and it sounds like you're right not to accept it.
In your response to them, though, it might be good to remember that:

(1) They might not have put a lot of thought into how labour-intensive wedding photography is, so they might honestly think they're doing YOU a favour. Obviously that's stupid, but really, it's much more likely that they have good intentions and genuinely not realize that they're out of line. Many people are a bit clueless about the logistics of other people's professions; not many people go out of their way to scam and insult old friends.

I have a pal who's a professional illustrator and people are always saying "oh, can you do this random drawing for my album cover (etc etc)". They think they're flattering her with the offer; they genuinely do not realize that it's a full day of boring work that will take her away from the real, paid work that she wants to do. I bet this couple thinks, "Oh, OP would probably love to be at the wedding, how fun for him/her to shoot old friends, and some nice pieces for his/her portfolio!" Maybe even, "We wanted to invite her but the guest list had to be pared down; here's a way that she can come, hurray!"

(2) There may be other attendees at the wedding who would also like you to shoot for them some time, and if you spank the couple with a snarky response ,or a high price quote, or a blanket response like "I don't shoot friends", etc, remember that word will get out and you may later miss out on freelance work. It's probably better just to say you had a scheduling conflict and thank them for their offer and wish them the best.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:44 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

She is being extremely rude and tacky and disrespectful of both your time and the time (and effort) of photographers. That said, she's probably blissfully ignorant that there's anything wrong with what she's doing. Say it's a scheduling conflict.

Many people do not understand the time, labor, and expertise required for technological/artistic projects, especially very intense projects like shooting a wedding. There's a reason why wedding photographers charge $1,000+, and it's not because they're jerks.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:03 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

maybe a meal together every 5 years or so

It might be difficult, but my inclination would be to resist any negotiations/discourse with this crazy person (beyond wishing her well).
posted by sockpup at 9:04 AM on November 8, 2010

Treat her well, assume best intentions, but say no.
Even if you wanted this job, dealing with acquaintances is tricky and often leads to squabbles later. Somehow, if friends or family hire your services, they think it's ok to be the most difficult, asshole-ish clients ever, something they'd never do to a "real" professional or someone they paid the full price for. They often convince themselves they are doing you a favour by letting you "practice" on them.

These people have not behaved very professinally from the get go. It can only get worse.

And lastly, I think your question is more about asking permission to feel disgruntled. By all means, do. It was tacky of them. Just don't let it colour your answer.
posted by Omnomnom at 9:14 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

On review, I think amanda might have it right. Ask Culture vs. Guess Culture.
posted by JohnFredra at 9:16 AM on November 8, 2010

It may be a way of trying to help you out by making it cheaper for you to attend the wedding, while they get pictures. Win / Win. In fact, they're probably patting themselves on the back. Just saying - they're intentions probably aren't bad.
posted by xammerboy at 9:19 AM on November 8, 2010

Write back thusly: "I must unfortunately decline your offer, as I am not a wedding photographer. I would be honored to attend your wedding, if your guest list permits."
posted by Ironmouth at 9:22 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I remember planning my wedding. My philosophy was: "if a decision is stressful, it doesn't get made, even if it means we're missing some huge chunk of traditional weddings." I was going way, way out of my way to keep it low key, and just make it happen as it happened. I still remember doing some bizarre and illogical and occasionally thoughtless things, 'cause I was in the middle of planning this big thing where trying to keep track of it all was Eating My Brain.

So I tend to try to be understanding of bizarre or thoughtless things that someone planning a wedding might say. I'd suggest taking that into account as you think about how to respond.
posted by galadriel at 9:34 AM on November 8, 2010

It doesn't matter what her intentions are; you don't feel good about the offer.

She may have a formal photographer and is just asking you to be there and shoot candids. She may be planning to pay you and pick up your airfare. You don't know, because you didn't ask. Now you're wasting time and mental energy trying to parse her intentions.

Call her and reject the offer. Do it today. You can stop stewing and she'll have time to find an alternate.
posted by 26.2 at 9:36 AM on November 8, 2010

Yes, I think you are looking at this the wrong way.

It's not possible to invite every old friend/old boyfriend/girlfriend from high school/people you see every couple of years. At least it's not possible to do that and keep any reasonable type of budget, no matter how much you like each person. And who would expect someone else to fly across the country to go to a wedding under those circumstances? Your own statement of facts makes it sound like the two of you are not very close, which is not necessarily a judgment about you.

If someone liked my photos enough and thought of me to suggest that I photograph their wedding, I would think that would be a huge compliment - that's a serious responsibility and one you do not want messed up.

Either way, you've got separate issues.

Do you want to photograph the wedding? I'd say no - nothing here suggests that would be a good idea. I suggest politely declining, and a good reason would be that you haven't done weddings and just don't feel up to it.

If this is a friend of yours that you want to keep, I would look at this from the more generous point of view that she didn't mean to offend you or cause a problem.
posted by mrs. taters at 9:59 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I work as a wedding photographer, but I don't run my own business.

You are absolutely right to feel used by this person, because you are going to be this person's employee, not her guest. Would you give this person a $1,000+ wedding gift if you were invited as a guest? Taking photos of the bride/groom getting ready through the cake cutting can easily be a 10-12 hour day's worth of work, plus the time you'll spend editing and developing film, if you use film. They are asking you to do potentially 18-27+ hours of work for them.

If you decide that you are going to shoot this wedding, i would show them your work, explain how exactly how much time you will need to spend working on their photos that you DO NOT do formals or posed photos (although expect all day for guests at the wedding to ask you to take them), and insist at the minimum that they cover all expenses associated with shooting their wedding, including film, insurance, equipment rental, hotel, food, etc.
posted by inertia at 10:49 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would say something like "If I were to go to your wedding it would be either as an employee or guest. If I come as a guest I don't want to be burdened with the photography so I can enjoy the wedding on a personal level. But if I'm going as an employee I'm afraid the best I can do is offer the following discounted rate for an old friend..."

I think this shows your preferences in the most gracious way possible.
posted by Green With You at 10:59 AM on November 8, 2010

I think it would be just as/more tacky of you to turn around and tell her that you'd rather get a wedding invitation to be a guest than have to take her wedding pictures. Please don't give her an either/or response along those veins as some above have suggested.
posted by kirstk at 11:40 AM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yes, this is completely out of order and you should not stand for it. Firstly, "A meal together every five years or so" does not constitute a friendship. Secondly, they recognise that, which is why you have not been invited as a guest. Thirdly, you say to them "I'd be happy to be the photographer for your wedding. My rates are as follows: travel expenses plus blah blah."

That will let them know that they aren't going to be able to use you like they hoped they could. They will probably say "forget it" and hire a local photographer. This will be a good result for you and a valuable educational experience for them.
posted by Decani at 11:44 AM on November 8, 2010

When faced with a situation that makes me wonder if the other party is A. clueless, B. demanding, C. entitled, or D. an asshole, my inclination is to choose option A, cut them some slack, and work from there. Regardless, you're not obligated to do this job, nor to educate your friend about the business of photography.

I suggest telling her No in a way that expresses that you're glad she likes your work, but you don't do weddings/don't mix business and friendship/have something else going on then/whatever is truest to your situation. Just remain firm and polite, and avoid piling on excuses if you feel pressure or guilt-tripping from her. If it turns out she is well-intentioned and clueless, then maybe you tell her that for this important an event in her life, she should go with someone who has plenty of wedding experience.

Absolutely do not tell her "My rates are $X" or "I'd be happy to do it for $Y," - for any values of $X or $Y - unless you actually want to be the photographer at her wedding, which it sounds like you don't.
posted by expialidocious at 12:17 PM on November 8, 2010

Oh HELL NO she does not ask you to do it basically pro bono! You absolutely pay the person who photographs your wedding. Even if it's your sister or cousin. This is a thing you pay people for. It's how people make their living and you do NOT just get to be all "I'll pay your air fare! That totally counts, right?" about it.

You're right to be miffed. The answer is NO unless she wants to pay you like a professional. Including your hotel room.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:18 PM on November 8, 2010

RedEmma totally has my answer!

Furthermore, please imagine what happens after the event when the bride asks you to photoshop and re-photoshop until the pics look just the way she wants...

Or what if you lose the data/negatives while traveling....?

Or what if they hate the photos...?

Plus, I bet you don't have any kind of business insurance, do you?

This is a "favor" that could really really blow up in your face, it's ten-foot pole territory.


(Decline The M*ther F%cking Favor Already!)
posted by jbenben at 2:05 PM on November 8, 2010

Could this be your friends actually being considerate of your financial situation by thinking you can't afford to fly out there as a guest?

I agree with all the comments above saying it would be extremely fair for you to offer to do it at cost but explain that you need them covering all your expenses. If they're just thinking they'll buy your plain ticket but you're on the hook for lodging and photo-production expenses, (a) that's not cool of them and (b) explain you can't afford to do that but wish them the best. Hopefully the offer was just communicated poorly; otherwise, treat it as a business transaction and either negotiate terms that are fair to you or bow out gracefully.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:09 PM on November 8, 2010

I asked a photographer friend to do this too. She, like you, was a poor student, and I didn't think she'd be able to afford to travel to the wedding otherwise. I also really love her photos, and she had taken beautiful ones (with no reimbursements or payment) at another friend's wedding the previous year. It never occurred to me that I was offering anything offensive.

But she was really very upset, and said that my offer had shown a lack of respect for her photography skills (she was an art photographer, not a wedding photographer, and why shouldn't I offer to pay her market price for wedding photos anyway?) and a lack of respect for her friendship (she would rather be a guest). She also explained how much work wedding photos are, which I hadn't really realised. I was really sad that I had hurt her feelings so thoughtlessly. (Although I was also sad that she had taken those lovely photos for our mutual friend, but didn't take any for me).

We've made up, since, but it was a hurtful situation for both of us.

I recommend you explain how much work it would be, and how you wouldn't be able to really enjoy and appreciate the wedding and celebrate with them properly while doing all that work. But if you want to spare her feelings, don't say that it was an offensive offer.
posted by lollusc at 3:25 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, with the "I'm apparently not even good enough for them to think about paying", in my case, I had already priced wedding photographers, and found one who would do the wedding for a price that was slightly lower than the cost of flying my friend to the wedding and paying for her accommodation (which was what I was offering). So I hadn't thought of it as "not paying her", although of course it came across that way. (I'm not defending myself, but rather saying that your friends might also have thought of the cost of the airfare as equivalent to what they would pay another photographer, especially if they haven't started costing it out properly yet.)
posted by lollusc at 3:28 PM on November 8, 2010

It could be sheer tackiness but I think this is more likely cluelessness on the bride and groom's part about the expense and skill you'll need to employ. They may well, as others have suggested, think they're doing you a favour.

Even if they are just clueless, this has big potential to turn into a huge mess, because:

1. You'll be working, for free, and you won't be able to just relax and go silly with champagne like everyone else.
2. You've never done a wedding, prefer black-and-white film, and hate posed shots.

So even if you front up with a cheerful attitude and determined to do your best, you'll probably feel a bit resentful. Added to that, you are not a professional wedding photographer. You don't have experience with wedding shots, and you don't like this type of photography anyway, so you'll be stressed out trying to deliver what they want. That's a big potential for disaster right there.

I would contact them and explain that you've thought about it and you're really not comfortable with the idea of being their photographer, because you have no experience in wedding photography or posed shots and you don't think you could do absolute justice to their special day.
posted by andraste at 3:34 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Send them a proposal for what it would cost for you to photograph their wedding, airfare + travel + film developing (seriously film?!?!) + your time.

Seems like they didnt want to invite you, but hey we need a photographer on the cheap and you know that guy right? call him up I bet he would do it for free!
posted by outsider at 6:11 PM on November 8, 2010

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