Do You Offer a Discount to Family and Friends for Your Photography?

Photographers provide a very useful service, and because of that, you will probably often be asked to provide those services for friends and family, and they might want a discount (or even want you to work for free). When that happens, should you indulge them? This great video explores that exact question.

Coming to you from Jessica Whitaker, this excellent video explores the often awkward topic of providing your services for free or at a discount to friends and family. This can often be a bit of a problem for photographers, as family and friends may have the attitude that you just "press a button" and might not fully understand how much time and effort goes into producing finished photos. It can also be frustrating when they ask you to bring your camera to family events and you miss out on participating because you feel the obligation to work. Personally, I've found it's best to decide what boundaries you're comfortable with and be very clear in articulating those upfront and holding to them to avoid being taken advantage of and ending up in an awkward situation. Check out the video above for Whitaker's full thoughts.

Lead image by Gustavo Borges.

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16 Comments

Eric Salas's picture

If this was my full time gig I wouldn’t. You have to make a living. That time, effort, and energy can be put to good use elsewhere.

Family and friends should be tipping you for a job well done and because it will help you in the end.

Ryan Davis's picture

When I have very close friends who get married, and who are strapped for cash, I will, very very rarely, shoot their wedding for "free." By for "free" what I really mean is that the wedding photography is my wedding present.

I don't do this on the regular because the wedding photographer is working, not enjoying the wedding. Also, wedding photography is the worst gig in the world.

michaeljin's picture

What are friends?

Seriously, though. If it came down to it, I would not charge my friends or family, but I would also emphasize that if we're talking about a wedding or something, I would rather just be a guest who is enjoying the day with the rest of friends and family rather than work.

If they REALLY can't afford someone, that's fine, but usually they get a hired photographer and I just show up with my camera to take some photos of the occasion from my point of view. It's a happy medium since I don't have to deal with the weirdness of being an employee while everyone else I know is having fun and the couple in question gets some decent photos to post on social within a day or two as opposed to a year later, which seems to be the case with nearly every photographer people I know end up hiring.

Ive shot for family and friends dozens of times over several decades. I could never charge to take simple pictures of a niece or sister or cousin. Im happy to do it. Friends?...well thats a different matter. Charging less?...charging nothing?...it all depends...how good of a friend has this person actually been to me? Would they help me move? Come pick me up on the side of the freeway at 1am if my car was broken down? That kind of friend gets headshots or similar for free. A "kindof friend-aquaintance"....well they might get a reduction off my normal rates. Maybe. I would never do a wedding for significantly less though.... long day with major responsibility. Maybe a little price break...thats it. Im not a wedding photog tho...done a few...I avoid them. Primarily headshots-portraits...a long shoot for me is 2 hours.

Rogier Bos's picture

I have standard discounts for friends and family. They're not huge, but it's nice to show that on the one side you are a professional and you have your cost also, and on the other side you can show your appreciation to them.

When I say 'standard discounts', what I mean is I know in advance what I can offer. It shows I am a professional and I am prepared for the question. I am not offended, and I am happy to help.

My usual discount is not a reduction in price, but 5 extra images at no extra cost. That way I make the same amount of money; it just takes some extra time in the editing process.

Just this morning I was approached by my cousin, who I see twice a year, with the question if I would take a family portrait. Right away in his first message was the question if I offered a family discount.

I said I would love to take their portrait. I offered him the five extra images. He immediately was appreciative and now we are picking a date. I find people like the idea they have been able to bargain a little bit. The small gesture shows them they are important to you also.

(I am a full time professional photographer, 50 years, in Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

I guess you are not very popular.

Goran Vrakela's picture

I have a simple rule - 25% discount for close friends and family, no free shooting. Weddings - if friends or familly want me to shoot their wedding, 25% discount, my 2nd shooter shoots everything, I shoot only couples portraits. 😎

Yes, because I'm not selfish and know I'm fortunate to make good money doing something I love doing. Discounts and specials are great all around as they make the other person feel like they're getting a better deal. Don't like it? Jack your prices up and then discount it, everyone wins...

Kirk Darling's picture

I never discount. It's either full price or free. I don't discount because people don't appreciate a discount in photography. If I normally charge $3,000 and charge a friend only $500, she won't see it as a $2,500 gift, she'll see it as a $500 charge for what should have been a gift.

So either I love them enough to give them my services completely free or I'll just buy them a toaster and a Hallmark and call it done.

I give them a discount on prints. session costs are the same.

Simon Patterson's picture

I only do free work for immediate family in my civil engineering business, albeit very occasional small jobs. It would be the same if I ran a photography business.

Igor Butskhrikidze's picture

close friends and family is for free

Ian Oliver's picture

I enjoy doing senior portraits and occasional family shots. It's really kind of fun hang out time with fun people. I'm up front that editing has to take a back seat to other gigs though. I'm not good at weddings, babies or real estate and won't do those except for occasional drone stuff.

Vladimir Vcelar's picture

There's an old saying... friends and relatives are charged double price!
Seriously though, close friends and relatives won't get charged if it's a happy snappy. But I draw the line with misuse and abuse.

Rob Mitchell's picture

Weddings and family events? I'd never touch it in the first place. If I'm at a family wedding or event,I'm there as family. Not for work. I'll refer someone I trust. It has gone pear shaped in the past though. The person I suggested was too expensive and the person they selected was an utter cowboy. I had clean hands though, I'd done my part and had a great party.

Friends? Usual rate or even better, exchange of services. For example, I did some work for a friend and in exchange, he came to chop trees for me. A day labour for a day labour.

I never discount either. Then Don't have to inflate prices to be able to discount. I have a rate, if they don't like that rate then they don't like that rate. No sweat off my nose. No friendship lost, no discussions.

Do you get discounts from your friends who are doctors, dentist, lawyers ect?