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How to Establish a Friends & Family Rate

How to set boundaries in your photography business when everyone wants a deal
They all want a discount…friends, family, the barber, even the lady at the checkout counter who reads that my debit card says, Leah Remillét Photography. They-all-want-a-deal. 

For some this wouldn’t be such a big problem…I’m not ‘some’, it reeks havoc on me. 

I’m one of those people “pleasers”, the one who will say ‘yes’ while in her head can already hear her husband saying, ‘you volunteered us for what?!*&^%$???!’  Yep, I’m one of those types and it can be a problem. 

So first let’s talk about why and what the problem is with doing favors for everyone…the bottom line is that, this is my business. Yes, I love what I do and I consider myself very blessed to say that often it doesn’t even feel like work but it’s still my business and it’s still how I bring in income for my family, it’s my livelihood. This isn’t, ‘hey can I borrow a cup of milk?’ This is ‘hey, will you give me some of your paycheck?’ 

On average I invest 15 hours into each client I work with from first contact to product delivery. Because of where I set my priorities, I only accept one session per week. If I want to maintain any sort of balance (or attempt at it) I can’t take on anymore then that. I learned that lesson many years ago the hard way!

My clients invest a substantial amount per session. If I give that weeks spot to a friend who doesn’t want to pay, then I’m hurting our family’s financial stability. If instead, I try to take on their session and a regular session I loose balance in my home. It’s a very delicate balance that I’m trying to maintain, unfortunately that’s what happens when you’re trying to do more things than the hours in a day want to allow for…wiggle room just isn’t an option.  Add to that the fact, that there are costs involved and you realize that it is not just my time I’m giving away…I do have a bottom line associated with every session that I do, so if I do it for free I’m essentially paying them to let me take their picture. I know you’re seeing the issues!

Now lets move on to the next situation at hand.  I kept trying to squeeze a friend/family session in around my already booked schedule but then I didn’t have the time to finish on the back end so they would have to wait and wait and wait. I’ve even had people joke about their {free} pictures taking too long. Now of course I do know that this was meant as a harmless joke, but it meant that they were aware of the waiting and that shows me that maybe the magnitude of the gesture wasn’t fully appreciated.  Which brings me back to another point. I really enjoy all my sessions, I genuinely have a great time every time I shoot, so does that mean I’m not going to charge anyone?  Of course not, I found something that I love to do, but in no way does that mean I should apologize for accepting a fee.  Last time I checked professional ball players are doing it ‘for the love of the game’ and they’re expecting to be paid millions for it.

6 Rules that have helped me set ‘friends & family’ boundaries: 

Rule #1. I only do one family/friend session a month. If the family/friend wait list is 10 years they may want to find another friend with a camera or decide that I’m worth paying for at regular fees.

Rule #2. It is never 100% free (unless it’s charity and that would be totally different if that also fell under the friends and family “plan”). It’s not free for me, I do not do my own post-processing and if I decide to take on the post processing in order to save the money then I throw my family life out of whack and that is not acceptable to me. So free is not an option unless I 100% plan to gift it to someone, which sometimes I do!

Rule #3. Create a policy that is written ahead of time and when someone Facebook’s, email’s or whatever I can just send my canned response. It’s obviously generic and this is on purpose so that they can understand and appreciate that I get asked to do this a lot but it’s also sincere and from the heart.

Rule #4. Not all friends are created equal (and neither is family). I have friends who have done so much more for me that I feel I could never repay them and for them I would do anything. Now on the other side, there are very extended family members who in the name of “family” feel they somehow deserve my services for free…in that case I can (politely) say no.

Rule #5. You can say yes, but not right now. If it’s summer time and peak season for you and you’re plenty busy with full paying shoots it’s more than okay to explain that you have no availability right now but in a few months (say February when you’re deader than dead) you’ll be happy to do something with them. Then you can spread good will and fill up your blog with some fresh content. Make it work for your schedule, after all you are the one doing a favor and you shouldn’t be put out because of it.

Rule #6. This is really an idea not a rule but I’m hoping it will inspire your own thought process. When I’m doing a “friends/family” session I explain a few things and basically it’s this: I won’t be editing the normal 25-30 images that I would for a client. You will get my very favorites may that be 5, 10 or 15. I also use these sessions as creative sessions where I can try out ideas and concepts that I’ve been playing around with in my head, so I try to make these sessions work for me in my marketing or portfolio in some way whenever possible.

I don’t have this one all figured out. I told you my rules but the truth is, I’ve already broken them. I guess I really just follow my heart. I think about how I’m feeling and I let that make my decisions. There will always be more money to be made but great friends are precious and they’re a lot harder to come by.  I think the most important thing to consider when determining your policy is your family (I’m talking about your spouse and children) their time and their needs should never ever be compromised, no matter what.

What about you? Do you feel like you’re being taken advantage of? Do you have a strict no policy or are you in the process of trying to figure out how you’ll handle it? I’d really love to hear your thoughts and get your feedback. And no that’s not directed to someone else, it’s directed to you. Yes, you. You are reading this right? Well I want to know if you liked it, hated it, agree or disagree.



  1. Sarah Chase says:

    Thank you for sharing this! Great read.

  2. Jackie says:

    I did a {free} session for a friend. There were about 25 edited photos that she was given. She didn’t say anything about them, so I asked if she liked them. Her response was, “I really like them, I just thought there would be more images.” Ugh.

    • Ugh is right!! I’ve had similar things happen and you’re just like, ‘wait! What?#%@&*#%’ The one thing that has really helped me is educating early, just being really clear ahead of time about the time I have to invest in editing and post processing and that really seems to help f&f be more appreciative.

  3. I love this post, Leah! Since we live up in AK, we don’t get a lot of friends or family asking for sessions until it’s time to go visit our family down states. Then, I may get asked for everything from weddings to seniors. I explain honestly and politely that I don’t do those types of sessions and they would do better to find someone more experienced and that this time is for my family and not work.

    That being said, close friends and family I’ll ask THEM if they would like a session if I notice a need in their life and I have the available time. Like you suggested, I promise only a minimum and let them know it will take longer, but I do love the creative outlet!

    Just last month I had one of our very dearest family friends Facebook me asking if I would mind taking a few family shots while we were visiting. She is soooo meek and never asks for herself so this was a huge deal and honestly, I was so honored to have her ask. She asked me for pricing but I refused, saying that I couldn’t charge her any more than I could charge my own mom.

    I love that about being a business owner, that I can make the decisions on who I want to be a blessing to, and have it set aside in the funds so I have that ability. It’s great!

    Now, that lady that sits two aisles over from us in church… well..

  4. Kristina says:

    This is great, I pinned it to remind me as well. I’m in the hobby stage and maybe one day taking my photography to the next step. I need to figure this out as well, I find it hard to say no as well.

    • It seems like in the beginning we all welcome everyone in front of our cameras but then you start to realize that being a free photographer is becoming a full time job without very good benefits. 😉 Planning early is so wise! I wish I would have done that!

  5. Bari Baskin says:

    Great post and great points! I don’t have too many friends/family asking for discounts, thankfully. But, I have plenty of people who this $150 is the max they should have to pay. It’s frustrating but I have accepted that they are not my clients. Your point about prioritizing your family is excellent. It’s something to always keep in mind.

  6. Tiffany says:

    I’ve never heard anyone talk about this, but I feel like this is a very relevant battle! I am also a “people-pleaser” so I too have a hard time saying no and really it is SO unhealthy when I take on more work for free… aka paying them to take their pictures. Some appreciate it so much that it’s payment enough and others are so offensive and expect it that I hate dealing with them. Great guidelines that I can’t wait to implement! Thanks for taking the time to talk about this!

    • You’re so welcome! I’m so happy it was helpful for you and even more excited to think it was something new to talk about. It really is amazing how the way they receive the gesture impacts us, I guess if we’re being totally honest – we need to do the gesture because we want to and not for the praise but I think there is also room for a bit more gratitude in the world as well. 😉 Thanks for your comment, you’ve really got me thinking!

  7. Marcie says:

    good article, I dont always have time to sit and read let alone retain information. So I like to print it and read it, highlight it and keep it. I dont see a print function on most of the information I get. It would be wonderful to have that so I can keep your information in a library !!

  8. Hannah says:

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this matter. I agree that this is the way we make a living and we need to remember that, and when I say we, I mean myself.
    I have been trying to decide on a certain percent off to give family/friends, not an every time thing, but like once a year maybe. I am still trying to figure it out. But I agree with Megan’s comment, that sometimes it’s good to give of your self and your business, just to be a blessing.

  9. Debby says:

    Great article, Thanks. I need to remember this. 🙂

  10. kate kerr says:

    Awesome! great way to look at it and good advice!

  11. I just have to say… this was SO enlightening and inspiring that I had to STOP reading and start writing an automated (but friendly) response. I think that it’s BRILLIANT to have at least one on hand (and I don’t have any, but now see the need) but especially one geared toward friends/family who may (or even may not) be inquiring about discounts. It will help clear the air, and may turn them off from proceeding, but those who truly value our work and effort will surely be glad to pay what we’re asking of them for our time. Thank you so much for this!

    • I’m so so happy this was so helpful Chelsea!! And thank you so much for leaving such an awesome comment for me to find!! I love finding out that my lessons are now helping others. 🙂

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