29 Nov
Smile And Say Cheese! Now, Pay Up!

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I’m a photographer who absolutely adores her job. Nothing is more awesome than capturing memories with my family and friends. However, this career choice has come at a price.

I now find myself constantly on everyone’s guest list, even for my ‘not so close’ friends. But I think my popularity is only based on my camera. I’m not sure I’d be invited if I wasn’t going to capture all of their precious memories for them, for FREE.

I now wrestle with myself over attending these events. Often times, after I get over myself and just go I feel good about it. I get the photos and really enjoy having them UNTIL the inviter (I may have just made that word up) starts hassling and bugging me nonstop to have copies or a disk prepared for them immediately. I don’t feel like it’s right to charge my friends and family for me to be at their celebrations, but how do I tell them nicely that I’m not here for them to use and abuse?


I’m Gonna Beat Someone With My Nikon

Dear I’m Gonna Beat Someone With My Nikon,

Where did you say you lived? Near Brooklyn? Maybe you have next weekend free and would love to picnic in the park with me and my cuter-than-the-cutest-Gerber-baby son who is in dire need of a modeling contract? Also, can you pick up some sandwiches, a couple bottles of wine, and some cookies for the lunch? I’ll bring the blanket and the photogenic kid.

But after that, I would suggest that every once in a while you show up to a shindig without your trusty film-dependent sidekick. Keep everyone on their toes. They will learn pretty quickly not to rely on you to always have your camera and be their unpaid professional photographer. Unfortunately, I think this will be easier said than done.

It seems to me that part of the problem here is your lack of confidence in your own self-worth. While you may enjoy all the photos you take at these events, you may actually be way more scared that people only like you because of your camera. You are worried that if it’s not with you, they will stop inviting you. And for some of these folks, that could indeed be the case. But honestly, do you really want ‘friends’ who only like you because they can get your services for free?

You are lucky to be able to make a living doing something you love and enjoy; not a lot of people can say that. But part of being successful is knowing when to say ‘NO’. And you’ve got to do that, especially for those ‘not so close’ friends. As for your other friends and family, it’s a fine line you’re walking. It makes sense that you don’t want to charge them for your services, however, how will you continue to make a living? Perhaps you can take some pictures for free, but if they want the whole set they will need to pay something. Or maybe you can offer all of the photos at a reduced rate? No matter what you do, don’t undersell yourself. Take pride in your work, and more importantly, who you are as a person!

Good Luck,

Tonya, TMH

P.S. I’ll need 60 8x10s and about 200 wallet-sized photos. Thanks.

10 Responses to “Smile And Say Cheese! Now, Pay Up!”


Comment by TheHappyBaker.

Wow, I have a dear friend who could have written this herself. In fact, if it’s you, hello! *wave*

I agree totally– as someone who is self employed in a service biz, I know all too well how easy it is to get harangued into doing lots of gigs gratis for friends. It’s a nice gesture but it ends up costing time and money that could be used for paying jobs, so it’s important to limit your generosity.

I think coming to parties without the camera is an excellent idea. It’s important to make sure your friends view you as a singular entity–their friend. They should love and welcome you as that by itself, regardless of whether you’re willing to shoot their event.

My photog friend has attended several of my events with her camera and captured many a gorgeous shot for my family to cherish, so I know what a pleasure it can be. But it’s not a gift to be taken for granted, and they need to have those boundaries. And so do you. You’re worth it, and until you assert that worth, people will take advantage.

And K, if you’re reading – thank you for your generosity. Love you.


Comment by Desperate Dietwives.

I totally agree with Tonya and with The Happy Baker: start going to these events without your camera and if someone asks you why, just answer that you sent it to fix but it doesn’t matter, since your presence there is not professional. 🙂

In no time those who invite you to take advantage of your profession will stop, thus giving you free time to go and earn your living; those who really care for you will continue to invite you, but will also start to care about you more thoroughly.

If I had a friend whose professional skills I need to use, I’d approach him/her from a professional viewpoint and maybe ask for a favorable price, but I’d never dream of using them for my own benefit, it would be totally unfair and… unfriendly!

Stand for yourself and you’ll be better off for it.

Good luck! 🙂


Comment by Cate8.

Don’t worry about hurting feelings. Don’t bring your camera to parties.
If you were a car mechanic would you bring your wrench?
If you were a carpenter would you bring your hammer?
If you were a surgeon would you bring your scalpel?
But if you were a psychologist and you came to my party I would corner you and pummel you with questions ….LOL
good luck


Comment by Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes.

My husband has the same problem, he is a lawyer and so everyone will call him for legal advice. He is ok with it, he loves to help (yes lawyers have hearts they are not all bloodsuckers) but sometimes it gets on his system. He now has a new rule : advice free, actual work (making contracts, law suit) pay minimum fee and give me a bottle of wine.


Comment by thepsychobabble.

I like the idea of going w/out your camera, but if you find yourself unable to tear yourself away from it, you could wait until they bug you for copies/discs and then tell them yes, you’d be happy to supply copies/cds and then let them know what their price is.
I mean, tell them a discounted price if you’d like, but at least cover some of the expense it’s costing you to do that, ya know?


Comment by Erin I'm Gonna Kill Him.

I’m a total pushover in these situation, but what people who are not me would say to do is to say, “I’d love to come to the party; I can take photos if you’d like and put them on my website for guests to purchase.’ Maybe you comp your time or waive your typical fee if it’s for friends/family, but at least make the money on the photo rights/prints.

Or just scream “I’m not Annie Leibowitz, people!”


Comment by Emily.

My cousin is an excellent baby and family photographer. She charges family members half of her normal fee. But she still charges. There is no reason for anyone to expect to receive your product for free.

If you don’t want to say it, just leave the camera at home and when they ask, say ‘oh, I thought I was just coming to a party’ or ‘my camera is in the shop, you didn’t mention I needed to bring it’, etc.

but no, I don’t expect free photos from my cousin’s business. That would be rude.


Comment by S Club Mama.

yes! Just don’t bring your camera.


Comment by Becky.

I agree with the others. Leave your camera at home. Enjoy the party. If they really want pics, they should have been more honest about in the first place!


Comment by danielle.

Agreed with everyone. My BIL is a photographer. He has done free pictures for me once. Otherwise, he charges and I understand.

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