Why Your Friends May Kill Your Photography Business

Hi guys. I hope ya’ll are well, or at least some sort of well.

Yes I know that the blog has been down…it was actually going out but since I have found out that the new location is not just yet ready and this one had to be resuscitated for now. So feast your eyes on the blog while it’s still here. As soon as i’m ready to move, I shall notify you guys before doing so that you may (hopefully) move with me.

Why Your Friends May Kill Your Photography Business

Now today’s topic may rub some of you the wrong way depending on what side of the fence you fall. Let the record state that this is not based on any true story and it’s not an attempt to speak about anyway in any subliminal tone but seriously, how many of us have thought ‘____________ is a photographer and my friend too. If I call him to just snap snap some photos at my party or company event or wedding, I don’t really have to pay him, do I?’. The unfortunate thing is that we have all thought like this at some point in our lives with little thought of the people from whom we ask these favors. But just reason with me and bear with my rambling if you may but I seem to be of the school of thought that you should succeed more with lots of friends in this business and not the opposite. I imagine that many friends would translate to many people that are interested in using my services because they believe in and support what I do…I may be wrong.

Now if your friend had just opened a supermarket, what do you do? I think you then even change your movements a little bit so as to make sure you do all your shopping at the said supermarket(I assume that he has good pricing and a nice setup that also encourages you to go there). I mean I imagine you’d do your shopping there and actually pay for your services to support the said friend, yes? The alternative is that you pass by every so often and pick a few sodas, cake & sweets and let the men asking for money know that the owner is a really good friend of yours and that he really shall not mind you doing all that.

The point is, it’s awkward when you have to charge your friends the rates you charge everyone else but you hope that when you do, they shall not be difficult and that they actually pay. The fact is if they don’t pay, your business dies slowly but surely from lack of making any money. All you shall have is very happy friends who refer many other non-payers and who shall post your photos all over facebook praising you but you shall be very broke. Also you may end up resending them for always taking instead of giving into your young business.

For the friends of photographers;

It’s not wrong to ask for favors but if you really are concerned for you friends’ welfare, don’t ask them to give you free services when they can’t. Go ready to pay. If it’s for charity, ask but also expect to get a negative answer based on how busy they are at the time.

If you wanna get really subsidized rates and good vibe from your photographer friend, refer them for may paying jobs. Help build their business(it shall not even cost you) that way you shall be able to even get free shoots once in a while as return favors.

Remember they are in business. They are your friends but the business is not your friend. Pay on time so that they keep their books well maintained.

For photographers;

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to shoot friends. If it takes out of your business more than it gives, then just make it an effort not to shoot friends, refer them to other photographers(of course this may hurt your business but it’s better than darn straight loses).

Make it clear that the business is a different entity and that needs to be maintained with money so they need to pay up. Talk about it before hand so that they are clear about it.

If it’s a charity case make a pint of noting it before starting to avoid any disappointments to both you and the client. Consider each charity project and see if your business can handle it and if you can, do it and help someone out, if you can’t, make it clear and politely decline.

It’s all about clear communication.


All that said, photography is a lot of fun and sometimes friends make good test subjects and make some dull projects fun so don’t make enemies, just let people know how you contact your business. Help out friends but do it in moderation. Friends enjoy your discounts but if you really care about your photographer friends, help them make money and help them get better. It’s a tough industry and we need all the referrals we can get.

Disclaimer :: You can obviously tell that i’m no finance expert on business and all so take my advice with a pinch of salt. If you don’t like what I have to say, you have the freedom of unreading it…:), if only. If you have better or additional advice, kindly share it in the comments below, i’d love to hear what you have to say on the matter, I’m sure each of you guys has an opinion on this.

Have a great day.


Some aerial photos from Tanzania

19 thoughts on “Why Your Friends May Kill Your Photography Business

  1. Too true even in the music business. Infact its easier for you Mutts cuz u can pick up ur camera, pay 200bob bus fare to and from a gig and click away. Imagine a guy (friend) asking to have a band of 7people to his wedding for free aaaand the snigger hasnt even factored in Sound in his budget. Oh oh and he calls u up on Wed for a wedding on Saturday. Somebody say BITCH SLAP! And thats just one of the numerous examples I can give.
    SUPPORT THE ARTS INDUSTRY PEOPLE. Some of us live off it and we cant pay our bills using favours.

  2. all so true….but iv also had of friends who are models being used by fotographer friendz to practice or try out smthing new….n u guessed it with no pay….so its two way traffic-advice ur friends in ur line of business too

    • It’s also not ok to use models like that, for free without any pay…. unless the photographer and the model agree that the photographer gets her time and the model gets the photos, free to both parties which they both would have had to pay otherwise.

  3. That’s very true, awesome post… I think it’s easier to have your friends deal with an agent of some sort to book shoots, that way the agent can deal with them if you as a photographer find it hard to turn away your friends. The agent can tell them what you stand to lose by taking up their assignment free and that is why they have to be fees paid.
    On the other hand if you can face your friends, decline free shoots and give a discount to your daily rate since I believe friends play a big part not only in your life but your business’ success too. Free shoots should only come from referrals :)

  4. Two words.

    Be straight.

    We get very weird where money is involved. I think it stems from not being clear what one’s services are truly worth.

    There are three individuals that I really enjoy working with. They are very clear about their pricing and their justification is simple. When you pay, I deliver my brand promise. And if I cannot deliver my brand promise, I will not do the work.

    I’ll tell you this, it’s very refreshing when someone interacts with you like that. And those individuals (a trainer, a caterer and a musician) are solidly booked 3 months out.

    That’s how I’d run with it..it’s a business after all isn’t it?

  5. Even for charity, one piece of advice I got was, have them at the very least take care of costs to you to do the shoot. Even if that cost is as simple as your bus fare to and from the place, have them handle that. Then invoice them the full rate you would normally charge, but showing the discount offered to them, so that they are under no illusion that what you did for them doesn’t cost anything.

  6. Great post Muts! If your friends dont pay for your services, then make friends out of your paying clients. Dont be afraid of loosing friends just becoz you couldnt offer them free services. I used to do graphics for my church … then I realized that they pay for everything else (transport, tissue paper, electricity etc) but expect graphics for free. I started charging. What I can give for free I put in the offering basket as “tithe and offering”. And there is no shame in that. bere ya kura ripa!!

  7. A great read, something I fight off everyday… Business is only a friend to another Business but not you friend… We leave to loose “friends” as fast as we gain them so…. If my “friends” kill my business what the heck *BITCH SLAP*……

    Maybe this “friends” should read this article to know what it takes to get a shot…. http://www.petapixel.com/2012/01/10/this-photograph-is-not-free/

    Thank Muts for this article

  8. We all love our family and friends. True, this is a batch of ‘some nice but cruel people’ Nice because we love, adore and cant do without them, Cruel because they expect us to be there for them even if it means us sacrificing our sweat and blood. You remind me of my guy who always comes up with plans and plots for the weekend and holiday, he ends up with a team of ‘friends of friends’ and won’t pay a cent! Worse still, a relative expects to get goods and services from your business for free! Well i will encourage you bro, ‘call him friend who wants to see you grow’…

  9. It’s not just in Photography, all arts in general. It is the battle that we have to fight as artists. And the sooner an artist realises this and clearly seperates the business from friendship the better for him/ her. It is a lesson I learned the hard way :) Thanks for sharing.

  10. So true! We only do photography for free or at a discount when we initiate and offer the work for free up front. that way it keeps our giving on our terms. We have decided to make friendship the foundation of our business which means all our clients are friends and all our friends are clients and everyone gets the same rates – our friendship rates! And everyone (EVERYONE…friend or not, paying or not) must sign a contract. We have had way too many issues of shoots we offered for free or at a discount and then the friend didn’t want us to use the images for our portfolio and we hadn’t signed a contract so there wasn’t much we could do. Lets keep it professional people and I believe once our friends realize that we behave like a professional with everyone friend or not, they will usually grant us the respect we deserve.

  11. Agree with everything you say. It’s better to be upfront, let them know that you cannot do it for free because your time is worth something. Another option is to give a large discount so they only pay for basic costs e.g. transport costs or printing costs if you are getting prints for them. A booking agency is also a good idea, but you may find some close friends and relatives upset about that as well. If you value your time, they should value it as well.

  12. Great article I think separating friendship from business is very important … Another major issue goes to extremely passionate photographers finding it hard to properly price their work …most of them get enough satisfaction after getting that perfect shot and forget about putting the right price tag on their work either before or after work….something to write about and get to see what others in this industry have to say.

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