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View Full Version : Should I Charge Relatives for Prints?


tomslens
30th of July 2008 (Wed), 16:55
I wrestled over which forum to place this is as it seems like a business question but since I'm not a pro, I thought it would be better here.

I'm an amateur who has really just begun getting interested in portrait photography. My wife and son are mildly and severely unwilling models (respectively). So I'm intending to offer my services to close friends and family for portraits.

Since I'm doing this for experience and practice, I certainly have no interest in making money off of this. However, I do want to keep from getting abused. I don't want to give my images away on CDs and I want some control over the printing/quality. I've posted my stuff to places like Shutterfly and had relatives go there for prints. The problem is, some are cheap enough to copy the small thumbnails and print them off their printers instead!

My thought is that I would like to tell my family that the shoot will be free and so will my editting time. I'll come back to them with proofs and they can order what they'd like but they'll pay for the prints through me. I figure that I'll gently pad the prices to round them up to cover a little effort on my part but nothing crazy.

What do you guys do? I'm not looking to make money off the family but I want to create some respect around my work and handing out CDs of my images doesn't do that.

Tom

poloman
30th of July 2008 (Wed), 17:06
Watermark your images to discourage them from printing the thumbnails. I find this particularly disgusting because they then have an image that is not quality that they might tell others you took.
I think your approach is perfectly appropriate. You may wish to give away some 8x10's just so they can see the quality. Even to those that have printed the thumbnails.
I think the key is to abuse them as subjects. Use them for all your experiments. If you have a new idea or technique, try it on them! Use them to practice group shots. You can get away with this and all in the name of posterity. :) :)
I am a pro, by the way, and that is how I approach it.

Riff Raff
30th of July 2008 (Wed), 17:32
I give some prints away to family members as gifts. Apart from that, they'd have to be doing me a favor in return (particularly if they wanted a specific set of prints). I don't use watermarks, so if they want to print low resolution photos from the web then more power to 'em.

Quad
30th of July 2008 (Wed), 17:53
You want to get practice and are going to offer to take photos of friends and relatives right?

You get to have free models to practice on and you are worried about your time? I would do it free and do only as much as I felt like. Make an on-line gallery with full resolution down loads available to them so they can print all they want. You get the experience and they get some decent photos. You are offering. When they start asking then you can charge but keep it to friends and family and let them know you just need subjects to sharpen your skills on.

I would give prints as well but not every time, just if I am really happy with the result. If I do street photography I always try to find the people and give them a print. I consider it part of what I owe them.

If you give it away to practice subjects you are not putting a price on what it is worth so when (and it will happen real soon) they start wanting you to do a wedding they will not have a price in their head about how cheap you are going to be.

Tixeon
30th of July 2008 (Wed), 17:55
............
I think the key is to abuse them as subjects. Use them for all your experiments. If you have a new idea or technique, try it on them! Use them to practice group shots. You can get away with this and all in the name of posterity. :) :)
I am a pro, by the way, and that is how I approach it.

Ferengei Rules of Acquisition #1. Exploitation begins at home. :)

SuzyView
30th of July 2008 (Wed), 17:59
My first reaction was that you shouldn't charge unless you were a professional, but everyone has to start sometime. I would not charge any of the relatives at all for the sitting, the pp and 3 sheets of pictures. That means an 8x10, 2 5x7 or some wallets. That's it. They probably don't want more than that anyway, but if they can show those to friends who you can charge, then that's even better. Freebies are good because people don't mind advertising for you. I never charge relatives and I always absorb the costs of everything I shoot for the events we all attend. I even do a gallery that they can take any pictures they want. It is overly generous, I know, but family is family. Someday, they'll repay you for something you need.

tomslens
30th of July 2008 (Wed), 19:48
Wow, thanks for all the great responses! I should clarify a couple of things I guess for those who question "charging" relatives.

First, I don't expect to be paid for my time. Because my skills are not amazing, I know I'll spend hours on the editting but that's fine. Its part of the learning. I certainly don't want a sitting fee of any kind. Any pad I add to the cost of prints would cover shipping, taxes, etc.

Second, I want to keep control of the prints because at the end of the day, its my work. If I get a great print made for them and they hang it in their house, maybe a friend notices and asks who took the shot. Maybe I get a gig. If I let them take it to Walmart and the prints comes out green and cropped wierd, maybe that same friend makes a mental note to never even think about hiring me to shoot her kid. I'm not making money with my camera now but that doesn't mean I don't ever want to. Its a similar thing with web images. If they blow up a 200 x 300 pixel image to a 5x7 print, my work looks like garbage.

Maybe I get them a proof book on me to help pick photos and I'll watermark some online images.

SuzyView
30th of July 2008 (Wed), 21:44
Do what you feel is appropriate. I understand about quality control. It's a never ending fight we all have. Before you get started, maybe ask one relative to model for you and show us your work. Without seeing what your product is, many of us won't be able to judge whether it would be worth paying for or not.

Shutterbug Doug
31st of July 2008 (Thu), 04:01
I've been informed I'm doing family portraits for the family this year for Christmas cards. I'm going to shoot them and provide 1-8x10 and 2-5x7's and tell them Merry Christmas from me. Consider my presents bought and delivered. That should save me enough $$ to hopefully get my mkIII by January! :-)

DStanic
31st of July 2008 (Thu), 07:48
Some people (like my mom for instance) will copy photos off facebook, get them printed at walmart and think they look fantastic. You are probably best to give away a few "demo" 8x10s or something.

elysium
31st of July 2008 (Thu), 07:53
How I have approached the business world is picked 4 or 5 individuals who I know would be happy with my work and will not pass it off as their own. Provided them high res edited copies with a little signature at the bottom to mark it as my own and its working for me. Free work is hard work at times and may not see rewards or money as a result straight away but I ilke to get my name out there first.

Friends I would work with but family, I would not charge or even think about shooting due to unpredicted results and reactions.

elader
31st of July 2008 (Thu), 08:51
Pay it foward dude. Shoot them for free. Spread the love, get smoe practice. They wont sue you when you screw up, right? Just have them cover your costs for the prints.

carlacid80
31st of July 2008 (Thu), 09:21
Just don't get into the habit of doing these jobs too often:)

GilesGuthrie
31st of July 2008 (Thu), 11:36
Shoot & process free, then upload to a gallery that allows the relatives to choose and order their shots & sizes in their own home without you having to manage the delivery chain. If you can set it up so you make a buck off each print, then so much the better. Nobody will begrudge you a peppercorn payment, but you won't have to say "I'm not free any more" to them either.

Double Negative
31st of July 2008 (Thu), 11:45
Some good advice here; taking shots and putting them online for others to optionally print. Saves you the hassle and expense and lets them choose their sizes as they see fit (and can order extra).

Amamba
31st of July 2008 (Thu), 18:09
I would never take money from relatives. Family is family, as Suzy put it. They are entitled to certain things just by being family (and it goes both ways).

I print for friends and family when I feel like it (I stopped printing some 5000 photos ago, it looks better on a 20" monitor than on a 4 x 6 anyway). I provide them with files if they ask. If I am asked to film an event I would do it for free. They can print their own prints. If I don't have time or don't feel like it I won't.

shadowcat
31st of July 2008 (Thu), 21:09
If it's a close relative like mother, father,r sister, brother etc.. i would never charge them I wouldn't feel right about that.

SuzyView
31st of July 2008 (Thu), 22:46
Boy, I feel better now. I really didn't want to step on the OP, but I was wondering if I was the only one that didn't charge family. I am a pro now and don't charge for my work, do it for charity and non-profits. When I do get payment, it's in the form of a byline. That's very rewarding. But If I were to really consider this as my primary income maker, I still wouldn't charge family. So, thanks for the support. I feel better.

NZDoug
31st of July 2008 (Thu), 23:04
Think of their last will and testament, do you want to be in it?;)

Vacation
1st of August 2008 (Fri), 00:46
I would never charge family.....I enjoy giving to them as much as I can. IMO I would just charge the smiles on their faces.

Mark1
1st of August 2008 (Fri), 00:49
I dont charge family...... but I dont turn down the money when its offered.

Riff Raff
1st of August 2008 (Fri), 02:55
I've never charged anyone, but I've always made it very clear that I'm only willing to do it as a personal favor or gift. And that they'll have very little room for complaints about it. I have turned down money for it, as I think that sets up other types of expectations that I'm not willing to put up with.

tomslens
1st of August 2008 (Fri), 07:55
Wow. Looks like I stepped on a nerve. :)

Before anyone gets set with the idea that I'm a money hungry SOB, I was never looking to make money off of family. That's not the way my family works. It was more about the idea of charging them for the cost of prints or just giving them CDs. FWIW, this is a cousin and her family. After seeing some of my photos she asked if I would shoot her family portraits.

Thanks for all the feeback!

SuzyView
1st of August 2008 (Fri), 09:13
Not so much a nerve, but many of us have been shooting for family and friends for years, and I know for me, I am the family photographer and it's fine. I don't want to see Aunt Sally's 3x5 film shots being passed around 2 years after the event and roll my eyes. I'd rather have the 3 pros in the family shooting and getting the best possible images for everyone to enjoy. I don't know very many pros who do portraits of family groups or individuals without feeling a little uncomfortable about it, since it's something we do for real. But why not? I know I've hit up an uncle for car repairs before. And my motto is "If it's free, they can't complain about it." That goes for most things I shoot. :)

GilesGuthrie
1st of August 2008 (Fri), 16:31
Not so much a nerve, but many of us have been shooting for family and friends for years, and I know for me, I am the family photographer and it's fine. I don't want to see Aunt Sally's 3x5 film shots being passed around 2 years after the event and roll my eyes. I'd rather have the 3 pros in the family shooting and getting the best possible images for everyone to enjoy. I don't know very many pros who do portraits of family groups or individuals without feeling a little uncomfortable about it, since it's something we do for real. But why not? I know I've hit up an uncle for car repairs before. And my motto is "If it's free, they can't complain about it." That goes for most things I shoot. :)

You're absolutely right SuzyView. But I draw the line at having to organise everyone's prints for them. Firstly because it costs me money, and secondly, because it takes more time and is less enjoyable than the shoot/select/edit phase of the engagement. Family will take advantage in the way that friends or clients never would. I'll happily give my time, especially when I'm probably already there, and (frankly) shooting gives me something to do, but why should I be messing about with providing prints to the friend of the friend of the cousin?

Double Negative
1st of August 2008 (Fri), 16:32
Family? Price goes up 200%!

j/k

CyberDyneSystems
1st of August 2008 (Fri), 16:56
I'm actually pretty protective of the digital files with relatives,. I do however give them the prints as gifts.
I want them to think it's a special and limited commodity, as it is.

Vacation
1st of August 2008 (Fri), 22:28
Wow. Looks like I stepped on a nerve. :)

Before anyone gets set with the idea that I'm a money hungry SOB, I was never looking to make money off of family. That's not the way my family works. It was more about the idea of charging them for the cost of prints or just giving them CDs. FWIW, this is a cousin and her family. After seeing some of my photos she asked if I would shoot her family portraits.

Thanks for all the feeback!


I don't think anyone thinks your a money hungry SOB...lol It's actually a good question!

That's exactly what the talk forum is all about!!!

notapro
1st of August 2008 (Fri), 22:36
Here's my experience: I started out giving family high res discs. All well and good. Then two of my sisters wanted me to order professional prints from my lab because the quality is obviously better. I had already given the first, whom I trust completely, the prints basically at cost knowing that she wouldn't tell anyone what 'cost' was. But the second is a blabbermouth, and I was stuck wondering if I should risk having her leak my costs (and therefore markup) all over town, or if I should just charge her the full price. I ended up giving her A LOT of prints for free and having her husband come over and do work for us (his business) for free because I didn't know what else to do.

So my advice is to either charge full price or give them as straight gifts--just don't let them know what you're paying for prints.

tomslens
2nd of August 2008 (Sat), 07:21
Here's my experience: I started out giving family high res discs. All well and good. Then two of my sisters wanted me to order professional prints from my lab because the quality is obviously better. I had already given the first, whom I trust completely, the prints basically at cost knowing that she wouldn't tell anyone what 'cost' was. But the second is a blabbermouth, and I was stuck wondering if I should risk having her leak my costs (and therefore markup) all over town, or if I should just charge her the full price. I ended up giving her A LOT of prints for free and having her husband come over and do work for us (his business) for free because I didn't know what else to do.

So my advice is to either charge full price or give them as straight gifts--just don't let them know what you're paying for prints.

I don't think I want my cousin's husband coming over to do any work for me...He's a funeral director ;)

20droger
2nd of August 2008 (Sat), 11:55
If you're a professional in practically any business, NEVER let anyone know what you pay for something by giving it to them at cost. This goes double for family members.

Charge them your normal price, less a discount. It can be a deep discount (50% off), but always base it upon your standard price, never your cost.

As for giving away prints to family members....

No one will rip you off like family. They know you too well, and seldom have respect for you, or your craft, or the labor and overhead you must put into it.

At the least, charge them enough to cover paper and ink, which, as WE well know, invariably costs much more than people realize.

Better yet, give them a CD with the pictures on it, all edited, watermarked, and in PDF form with security enabled. Let them view the pix on their monitor or TV, and make any prints they want, without further editing and using their own ink and paper.

Never, absolutely NEVER, give them anything they can easily edit.

"Family member" does NOT equal "friend." Every family has people you would cross the street to avoid if they weren't related to you.

If you let any family member get away with crapping on you, the rest will follow. So, the instant any one of them rips you off (and at least one of them will), come down on him/her/it like stink on s**t. Immediately let the entire rest of the family know he/she/it ripped you off! (A good offense is absolutely the best defense, get your 2 worth in first!) And cut the SoB off from anything else in the future.

Just my personal opinion. Yours may differ. Of course, mine is based upon many, many years of experience, some of it quite painful.

CyberDyneSystems
4th of August 2008 (Mon), 00:25
I guess it depends on your Family ??? Jeez...

We have this little thing called Christmas and Birthdays where we have this odd habit of exchanging gifts..

Stocky
4th of August 2008 (Mon), 10:43
I think my plan is to get my dad to make the prints and then I will give them out for free :)
...

...

Unless they ask me to do something silly like photograph my sister's wedding in which case I will tell them that I would have to buy about $5k in gear to do it and that I will need the money about 3 months out so that I can practice up with it first.

20droger
4th of August 2008 (Mon), 11:09
Sorry, CDS, but if your family respects you professionally, you are indeed the lucky exception.

The respect families hold for their members is well documented in this thread alone, where, in one blatant example, the photographer was informed he would be doing family portraits.

Yeah, great respect and honor exists among family members. Don't believe me? Ask any doctor how his family honors him professionally.

As for gifts, one year my wife decided to give every adult a family calendar, with all the birthdays, aniversaries, etc., and 13 carefully chosen pictures. We spent tens of hours, I putting the calendar part together in Corel Draw with all the family dates, various state and federal holidays, and the phases of the moon, equinoxes, and solstices adjusted to thir local time, etc., and she doing all the photo work. Printed them all on double-sided matte photo paper, and comb-bound everything together. Overall, a very expensive and time-consuming process.

Everyone loved them.

We did this for three-years running.

Then one year, we were unable to do this because of our personal situation. My father-in law was dying, and my wife was making 300-mile round trips every weekend to be with him and provide personal care. Did the family understand?

Ah, yes! The love and understanding was overwhelming. Not on your life! Incessant complaints about not getting a calendar that year, which complaints continued through most of the following year.

And no generally released family calendars have been made since. I simply refuse to make them.

Just a very few are made per year and given to those family members who understood and supported us.

The rest can go to hell, go directly to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Family is so wonderful!

SuzyView
6th of August 2008 (Wed), 09:08
I just put up a gallery in Smugmug for my husband's family reunion. I told them I'd do this at the reunion and the price is for my cost and that's it and about $.5 more. There were 70 people at the reunion and I can't give 25 different sets of prints to people, that'd be insane! So, I told them to choose what they want and they can get it shipped to them. Works well and I don't feel guilty it was not sent to everyone. My mother-in-law, of course, gets a copy of everything free of charge and with my blessing in a nice little album. He's 85, she deserves freebies. :)

neumanns
6th of August 2008 (Wed), 10:59
If my sister were practicing to become a chef and invited me over to taste her soup I would not expect to have to pay for the soup.....when she get's her resturant open I would not expect free soup, but if a discount on the soup were offered it would be accepted.

Now if my sister would just take an intrest in cooking...

tomslens
6th of August 2008 (Wed), 20:40
If my sister were practicing to become a chef and invited me over to taste her soup I would not expect to have to pay for the soup.....when she get's her resturant open I would not expect free soup, but if a discount on the soup were offered it would be accepted.

Now if my sister would just take an intrest in cooking...

This is the best analogy yet. Thanks. I'll add to it though. I'll give them a small bowl of "soup". If they want the giant pot of "soup" they can share with friends and freeze for later, they'll have to pay for the stock ;)