Should my friend ask for compensation for an amateur photo shoot?
October 22, 2014 3:52 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine was recently contacted by one of her friends, a bit of a cheapskate, to take some family photos. She is kind of upset that this is all happening without any offer of recompense. I have been encouraging her to ask for some, but she's not really sure she should ask, and she doesn't know how to ask (or what to ask--if not money, something else?).

More information:

- She took photos for this friend's sister's wedding at no charge. She was going to be there anyway, and she decided to offer it to the new couple as a kind of replacement for a gift.
- She is a pretty talented photographer and will probably take good photos; her friends know how talented she is. This is not her main job, though.
- Her husband volunteered her to take the photos for this family when they asked him for a local photographer referral. She was irritated at being volunteered and then he got embarrassed and requested that the friend to contact his wife directly if they were interested.
- A day and time for the shoot has been set up at this point.
- She said she is wondering if this counts as some sort of unspoken favor between families that have a good relationship, and this is her main worry about asking for money--hurting that relationship.
- She told me she is a perfectionist and would be buying a new flash for the photo shoot and was thinking of asking the friend to help pay for it. But she also thinks she'll use the flash for hundreds of shoots, not just this one.

Should she ask for money? Something else? How to ask? I don't like that she feels like she's being walked all over by this family that was originally looking for a professional.

Thanks for any advice or input.
posted by circular to Society & Culture (19 answers total)
Her husband needs to cut it out with offering her services without making it clear that she charges for said services.

Tell her to not buy a flash or do any post-production clean-up or retouching for free. Her perfectionism should be saved for paying clients. Period. Before the shoot, she can tell her friend's sister that she'll just get the raw photos from the basic camera set-up. If she wants professional clean-up and editing or top level equipment, her regular portrait rate is $XXXX. That's more than fair.

She also needs to be ready to tell sister's friend that this is the last freebie. Also, because they're raw photos, I wouldn't put my watermark on them. But, that's her decision.
posted by quince at 4:00 PM on October 22, 2014 [22 favorites]

She should have asked for money before setting up the shoot. It might have been a little bit awkward, but now it's way more awkward.

I don't see how she can ask for money now without making it weird between the families. Instead, she should chalk it up to experience, tell them it's their Christmas gift and mention a couple of times that she's planning to start charging for photo sessions, they're getting her last freebie. Then do it happily because honestly this is at least half her fault (and her husband's).
posted by yogalemon at 4:00 PM on October 22, 2014 [19 favorites]

She should send them an invoice before she starts confirming all the details discussed. Not mentioning the asset she hopes to buy (the flash). If they want to negotiate or discuss the fee it's a perfect opening. Otherwise they're unsure what her offer exactly is also. Make it "mates rates" if she likes, but definitely send the invoice with payment options.

Truly though, don't mention the flash. Clients don't want, nor need, to hear about that.
posted by taff at 4:02 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I like to do artsy stuff, and people always ask me for free work. It sounds like things have already been set up, but for future reference here's how I handle it.

Friend: "I want you to paint a mural for my daughter's room!"
Me: "Sure! Call me later and we can discuss your budget for the project."

or this:

Friend: "I found a saw in my garage. I want you to paint my ancestral family farm on it."
Me: "Sure! My 'Friends and Family' rate is $25 per hour - half of what I usually charge. Think about what you want and we'll set up a time to discuss composition and pricing."

Both of these conversations establish that I don't work for free, but hopefully in a cheerful manner.

In both cases, I usually never get a follow up call. Which is OK - I'd rather build my network of paying clients. The ones that want freebies are always the hardest to please.

I think that this particular situation may have progressed far enough, though, that asking for money now would be awkward.
posted by Ostara at 4:16 PM on October 22, 2014 [29 favorites]

Yes it's too late to charge for this shoot -- if she does, the family will be legitimately pissed. If she were going to charge she needed to make it clear before a date was set. In future if her husband wants to promote her work he needs to say something like "and her rates are really good." It's not fair to let people assume it's free and then charge. Sorry!
posted by Susan PG at 4:25 PM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

Perhaps her husband could pay her....
posted by HuronBob at 5:18 PM on October 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Just because it isn't her main job is no reason she should be expected to do it for free. Many people have more than one string to their bow.

In this situation, though, it does sound like it's too late to put things on a business footing.
posted by zadcat at 5:58 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

She can't charge them for the shoot, but she can charge them for prints!
posted by echo0720 at 6:02 PM on October 22, 2014 [7 favorites]

Charging for the prints like echo0720 suggested is a great idea.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 6:28 PM on October 22, 2014

Too late to charge for this one. She needed to offer the rates before scheduling. For the future:
1. Tell husband not to offer services for free. :)
2. Email people who make a request like this and say, "My rates for this are $x-$xx. I always do half off for close friends, so for you guys it would be only $x/2! Let me know what you think." If they question "But the wedding was free..." it's easy enough to say, "Oh yes, I was happy to do that in lieu of a gift."
posted by amaire at 6:39 PM on October 22, 2014

I think she's pretty much stuck doing the shoot, but I think she's fine limiting herself to one or two finished pictures and saying she just doesn't have time to do more than that.
posted by jeather at 6:51 PM on October 22, 2014

I agree that your friend is pretty much stuck doing this for free. I definitely think that she should put as little effort in as possible...okay that sounds bad...but basically do a "mini-shoot" with minimal retouching.
posted by radioamy at 7:10 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recommend this article:

"Slaves of the Internet, Unite!", by Tim Kreider
People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors...” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.
posted by alex1965 at 7:51 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

she feels like she's being walked all over by this family

This is really not fair of her. Her husband volunteered and they accepted. They did nothing wrong here. Sure it would be nice of them to offer money, but they aren't obligated to pay for it, any more than you'd feel obligated to pay someone for any nice gift or favour they offer you.

Your friend needs to grow a backbone and talk to her husband, who's the real source of the problem here. If she wants, she can talk to the friends and tell them that there was a misunderstanding and her husband mistakenly volunteered her services, and that she can do the pictures for X$. It's a bit awkward since she's basically withdrawing an offered gift, but that's why she needs to talk to her husband about why it's really shitty to offer things on her behalf like that. It's out of line to ask them to pay for photo equipment or to get mad at them for accepting the husband's offer.
posted by randomnity at 8:21 PM on October 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wait, sorry, I missed that she's already talked to them to arrange a date and time. That conversation was her chance to tell them her services weren't actually free. It would be extremely rude to take back the offered free session now. She'll just have to be more proactive next time.
posted by randomnity at 8:25 PM on October 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Would she like more paying work? If so, I think she should do a wonderful job, and then make sure the family (and her sister, too) are okay with her using the photos as samples of her work. If she doesn't want to have paying customers, no issue, and she can tell her husband to please knock it off.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:11 PM on October 22, 2014

If your friend doesn't want to do it, she should turn down the gig.

If she already said she'd do the gig, she should just do the gig. And then she should learn her lesson: don't say you'll do things you don't want to do.

None of her reasons for wanting to be paid for the gig make any sense. She's an amateur photographer. I'm sure she thinks she's like super duper good at photography (and for all I know she is very talented), but she's an amateur, and she's doing a favor for some friends, so, no, she shouldn't expect compensation just because she now doesn't feel like doing it.

If she wants to be paid for future work, she should set herself up as a pro photographer (set rates, get a business card and website, etc) and go into business as a photographer. And when someone reaches out following a referral, she should quote them her usual rate. But if it's all among friends and she's never charged for her services before, and she considers herself an amateur in all other aspects? She's still an amateur.
posted by Sara C. at 11:07 PM on October 22, 2014

I don't like that she feels like she's being walked all over by this family that was originally looking for a professional.

This is neither here nor there, but if these folks knew your friend had already done free photos for the sister's wedding, AND they came to your friend's husband looking for a "referral," my guess is that they were hoping/expecting the husband would volunteer your friend - I doubt they were ever really looking for a professional. Somewhat in their defense, however, I also doubt they realize how much money and effort goes into a high-quality photo shoot (I certainly didn't realize how much equipment and touch-up time a photographer puts in until after we got our wedding photos back!). So if your friend doesn't want this experience to rob her of whatever goodwill she has towards this family, it's probably worth remembering that they don't realize what a big deal they're asking for, and would perhaps (hopefully!) be mortified if they knew.

Since at this point your friend has already agreed and set up a time/day for the shoot, I unfortunately agree that it's too late to ask for compensation, but it would definitely be fine for your friend to do the no-frills version of the job. No buying special equipment, maybe don't take quite as many photos as she normally would, set a limit on time spent touching up, etc. In the future she can absolutely ask for compensation without needing to have a website, business cards, or whatever, but she does need to make it clear up front that she charges.

(And before she puts her camera away, perhaps she can also take a photo of her husband holding up a sign reading "I will never again volunteer my wife without her okay" for his future ease of reference.)
posted by DingoMutt at 7:41 AM on October 23, 2014

Even if it is too late to ask for payment, it certainly shouldn't end up costing her money to do this, so she should definitely make it clear that the family will have to cover the cost of making any prints.

And hopefully they realize the value of her services and at least offer her some sort of thank you gift. And there's no reason she, or her husband can't mention something along the lines of "If you like my work, feel free to pass along my name, my usual rates are $$$." Wouldn't hurt if she made up some business cards to give them too.
posted by catatethebird at 10:26 AM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

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