When It's Alright to Give Family and Friends Free Photos and How to Do It

Working for free is always a hot-button topic in the photo industry, and it can become an even thornier issue when it's friends and families asking for your services at a 100 percent discount. This great video examines the pros and cons of working for free for friends and family and how to set and maintain boundaries.

Coming to you from Tony and Chelsea Northrup, this great video examines the touchy subject of family and friends asking for free photography services. Photography unfortunately tends to run into this issue more than most other careers. I personally think part of the problem stems from the fact that nearly everyone in society dabbles in photography in some way, that is to say that nearly everyone owns a camera (even if it's just their phone), and because of this normalization of the equipment and act (surely, not many people carry around a full dental office in their pocket), they may not appreciate the monumental difference in skill, effort, vision, and gear that comes between a smartphone snapshot and a professional image. Either way, it's important to know what your boundaries are and stick to them, particularly if you're a people-pleaser who will do things for others even to your own detriment. People will (not always knowingly) take advantage of that sort of kind and giving demeanor. Just make sure you know what's ok for you and what isn't, then stick to it. 

Lead image by Krewr Studio, used under Creative Commons.

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If we are such a good friends - why don’t you make me a favour and pay more than my normal rate?

Nkosi Hamilton's picture

I agree I have had clients give me $400 tips and good friends give me nothing for hours of work.

Now, that is the perfect response!

To me, favors and their boundaries have nothing to do with your source of income. How is helping someone in an area related to your profession different from anything else? Either case can be abused or respected. This is such a personal question, why is it even being discussed with strangers?

When It's Alright to Give Family and Friends Free Photos? Easy answer: always. This is assuming it's not a long-running project, your expenses get reimbursed and you don't lose business because of time spent helping. If it takes a few hours and doesn't happen too often to be a burden you just do it.
Same as when you ask your garden designer friend to spend an evening helping you with your new garden and your car mechanic cousin when your car has a small issue. And if you feel it's not OK to ask or being asked then this person is not your proper friend, just someone you happen to know. The boundary for me is the nature of the relationship with a person, not whether it's OK to ask (or being asked by) a family member or a real friend.

Leigh Miller's picture

People need to be advised "when" it's ok to do something for family and friends?

Stephen Ironside's picture

Luckily for me, most of the time my friends/family insist on paying me. But even when they insist, I tend to give them a good discount or do it for free, depending on the situation (not weddings, which I'd rather attend), because they were intending to pay me.

I've developed a really simple method for deciding whether or not to work for family or friends for free: If they're actually friends or (immediate) family, they'll pay if they can, and they'll pay what they can, and if they can't pay me, then at least I'm helping a friend or family member. If they're not a friend or (immediate) family member, then a) it's outside the purview of this article, and b) I don't care, and the fact that they're asking me to work for free when we don't even like each other tells me that I made a good choice in not being friends with that person.

Seriously, not everything is about money. It's not about aiding the plight of sad, underpaid artists. It's not about sticking to your principles. Be a good person. Help out a friend once in a while.