Forgot Password
Pentax Camera Forums Home
 

Reply
Show Printable Version Search this Thread
04-06-2010, 07:34 AM   #1
Junior Member




Join Date: May 2009
Location: New York City - Staten Island
Photos: Albums
Posts: 42
Losing Friendships Over Photography?

Full disclosure: This is going to be a long rant because the background events leading up the “the situations” are integral to what happened. I’m posting because I truly want to know if anyone else has had similarly unfortunate experiences in this regard and what, if anything, I can learn from them.

Within the space of less than 3 months last year, two separate friendships were severely and perhaps irreparably damaged by situations connected to my photography. I cling to the belief that I did nothing wrong. I have stood my ground on the first incident, but caved on the second. However, I continue to suffer emotional distress over the loss and what I could or should have done differently.

Both sets of friends are fully aware that, after losing my day job in March 2009, I’ve been trying and marginally succeeding in earning a bit of income as a 2nd shooter for a local studio and through small family gigs I get via word of mouth. It’s a fledgling ‘business” but a business nonetheless. I describe myself as a hemidemisemi-pro photographer. They all know that the bit I earn from photography is not pin money but rather goes toward paying the bills.

Situation 1:
In the first incident, a neighbor with whom I had been very friendly, called in a panic the Wednesday evening before her daughter’s Saturday wedding, when she learned that the wedding photog would not be coming to the bride’s home to shoot pre-ceremony. She begged me to do so and I agreed. I shot for about 3 hours and post-processed for an additional 5-6. At the end of the shoot, the MOB asked what she could do to repay me so I explained that I earn a small commission on prints and JPGs purchased from the smugmug site where I load the images and would therefore appreciate orders placed there. I don’t recall her exact response but I’m fairly certain I’d remember if she balked.

The pre-ceremony shoot was a huge success and afterwards, the FOB called me in tears saying the photos “took my breath away.” Awhile after that, the MOB called to ask how to download the JPGs from my shoot because the “official” photog’s were a huge disappointment and mine were the only ones anyone wanted. I walked her through the process of purchasing and downloading. That’s when the balking began. She repeatedly asked me to just give her a CD so that she can order prints at the local pharmacy. I repeatedly tried to explain (1) the benefits of using a pro lab and (2) that free downloads would obliterate my meager commission: 50 cents for JPGs (42-cent commission) and 50 cents for 4x6 prints (26-cent commission). She was having none of that. That conversation was followed by the several identical ones, each one making me increasingly uncomfortable. The wedding was 5 months ago and to this day, my total commission from the shoot amounts to $1.25, from prints purchased by the mother of the flower girl. In the meantime, the password-protected gallery has received more than 5,000 hits, the bride has stopped speaking to me and the relationship with the family has cooled considerably. I have not changed the prices or provided a free CD.

Situation 2:
A dentist friend of more than 40 years recently became a grandfather twice within the space of a few weeks. For the first newborn, I managed to pull off a few good shots of the mother and newborn while visiting them in the hospital. The new parents were thrilled and used the images (which I gave them for free) in the birth announcement and on their Facebook pages. For the second baby, complications prevented hospital visits but, now feeling obliged to do for the second sister what I did for the first, I asked the new parents to let me know if and when they’d like me to come by. A few weeks later, the new grandmother called to say that both babies were at her home and that this would be a good time to come by and shoot them. Grandma invited me for lunch. I brought dessert. When I arrived, I was told the family wanted photos for a birth announcement and 3 Christmas cards – one for each of the new parents and one for the new grandparents. Several changes of clothes for both babies were already laid out and both new mothers were dressed and primped. Obviously, I was not prepared for a formal sitting but did the best I could under the circumstances, shot for more than 3 hours and managed to pull off several decent shots. Grandpa arrived toward the end and when the shoot was over, asked me for the SD card so he could download the images directly onto his laptop. I explained that I needed to post-process the images first and that since I shoot in RAW, he would not be able to see them without the proper conversion software anyway. Grandpa was very skeptical and annoyed yet I was afraid to give him the SD to demonstrate for fear that something would go awry and I’d loose the entire set.

A few days later I posted the finished images to my smugmug gallery, provided a password, and priced the JPGs and prints as I did for the bride. Within minutes, Grandpa purchased $7 worth of JPGs ($5.88 commission), then immediately fired off a nasty e-mail to me berating me for threatening our 40-year friendship by exploiting his grandchildren’s shoot to make a “profit,” that this “profit motive” was my ulterior motive for not allowing him to download the images the day of the shoot (untrue, obviously); that it was my idea to take the photos in the first place (partly true), and that as my dentist, he has never asked me to pay the difference between his standard fees and what my insurance pays him (true). In an effort to keep the peace (and in acknowledgment of my own failure to discuss the charges in advance) I immediately arranged for smugmug to refund the $7, removed the JPG download fee and called to apologize, explaining that since I was unemployed, I was merely trying to recoup actual expenses, e.g., $10 in bridge tolls to get to his house. We patched things up, or so I thought.

Since then, however, both new mothers have stopped speaking to me altogether and relationships with Grandpa and Grandma are severely damaged, perhaps irreparably so. We no longer communicate, no longer socialize, and I was not invited to the second baby’s Christening as I was for the first. The punchline: 7 of my images were used on the 3 Christmas cards. No one has ever called or written to say thanks.

One more item that might be irrelevant but which continues to eat at me: Grandma once owned a yarn shop, from which over the years I had purchased several hundred of dollars worth of merchandise—never got a thing for free and never questioned her or anyone’s right to earn a profit.

Has anyone else had similar experiences? How did you deal with them? Am I a bad photographer, a bad person or just really bad at choosing friends?

04-06-2010, 07:53 AM   #2
Senior Moderator
Loyal Site Supporter
Loyal Site Supporter
Parallax's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: South Dakota
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 17,747
Friendship vs business is always tough. The only thing that I can see that you did wrong was:

First incident: "At the end of the shoot, the MOB asked what she could do to repay me"
You didn't establish a firm payment agreement before taking the pictures.

Second incident: You didn't learn from the first incident.

Never, ever, feel guilty about charging for your time. Your friends just assumed that
they could take advantage of you. I don't mean to imply that they aren't true friends or
that they don't appreciate the quality of your work, but I guarantee that one of the reasons for calling you instead of picking a name from the Yellow Pages was that
they assumed it would be far less costly, if not free.
04-06-2010, 08:02 AM   #3
Pentaxian
newmikey's Avatar

Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,966
I find it hard to answer as I am very rarely in such a situation but it seems to me both situations are entirely different and would have called for a different approach.

Sitiuation 1-
What you did right: Come to the neighbor's help
What you did wrong: Explain about the ordering process only after the shoot
What you could have done to remedy things: Estimate the potential earnings from a normal and similar shoot and offer the CD for that total price (alternative: multiply the total number of files on a given CD by a set charge of, let's say $1, and make that the price for the CD)
Explanation: She thought she was appealing to the status of friendship and did not give the money thing a second thought until confronted with it. To her, being able to order prints from the grocery store is the "normal" way of getting prints to give out to friends and family.

Situation 2-
What you did right: Offer to take shots of newly born grandchildren of a friend of 40 years
What you did wrong: Everything! You offered to come by, you offered to make similar pictures as with the first grandchild, you accepted an invitation for lunch (making this a friendly visit). Then and only then did you ask for money.
What you could have done: Nothing! IMHO, you had not a single leg to stand on and I would have considered our friendship a fake, had you done it to me. You should not have asked for money, full stop.
Explanation: The first grandchild set the stage, your friend had every reason to believe this time would be identical and you would be providing your services as a dear friend and not as a professional.

Again: just my 2 cents worth - I may be way off but I do sympathize, I wouldn't know what to do myself in these situations and I actually always end up offering the shoot in lieu of a wedding/birth/birthday gift.
04-06-2010, 08:04 AM   #4
Senior Member




Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: europe
Posts: 151
obviously, you're not a bad photographer but just bad in conducting business in thoses 2 cases.

It's only about money here. You shoud not mix business and friendship, or if you have to do so, you should be clear from the beginning and say your friends you need to earn money from your work, they can understand.
Or do it gracefully because they are friends but dont provide them their own photos through paying tricks (printing from this website where you get commissions).

04-06-2010, 08:19 AM   #5
Zav
Pentaxian
Zav's Avatar

Join Date: Feb 2009
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,367
QuoteOriginally posted by newmikey Quote
I find it hard to answer as I am very rarely in such a situation but it seems to me both situations are entirely different and would have called for a different approach.

Sitiuation 1-
What you did right: Come to the neighbor's help
What you did wrong: Explain about the ordering process only after the shoot
What you could have done to remedy things: Estimate the potential earnings from a normal and similar shoot and offer the CD for that total price (alternative: multiply the total number of files on a given CD by a set charge of, let's say $1, and make that the price for the CD)
Explanation: She thought she was appealing to the status of friendship and did not give the money thing a second thought until confronted with it. To her, being able to order prints from the grocery store is the "normal" way of getting prints to give out to friends and family.

Situation 2-
What you did right: Offer to take shots of newly born grandchildren of a friend of 40 years
What you did wrong: Everything! You offered to come by, you offered to make similar pictures as with the first grandchild, you accepted an invitation for lunch (making this a friendly visit). Then and only then did you ask for money.
What you could have done: Nothing! IMHO, you had not a single leg to stand on and I would have considered our friendship a fake, had you done it to me. You should not have asked for money, full stop.
Explanation: The first grandchild set the stage, your friend had every reason to believe this time would be identical and you would be providing your services as a dear friend and not as a professional.

Again: just my 2 cents worth - I may be way off but I do sympathize, I wouldn't know what to do myself in these situations and I actually always end up offering the shoot in lieu of a wedding/birth/birthday gift.
I do agree.
In the first case, you should have explained more clearly how you charge when asked for.
In the second case... well, what have you done dude?
If you are willing to charge people, state it first.
04-06-2010, 08:23 AM   #6
Pentaxian
SpecialK's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: So California
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 16,192
Find another dentist, too.
04-06-2010, 08:39 AM   #7
Pentaxian
reeftool's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Upstate New York
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 9,025
One lesson I learned very long ago was not to do work for friends or relatives. I'm not a pro photographer but through the years I have made a few extra dollars through my hobby. The last wedding I did for relatives was many years ago. No charge except for the film processing and prints. It turned into a big issue because I sent the film to a pro lab and not K-Mart. I stopped even bringing my camera to family functions and haven't shot at another wedding since except for my oldest daughter's.

It's an unfortunate thing but many people take advantage of friendships. I'm a transport refrigeration mechanic by trade and have also worked in commercial HVAC. I have had countless requests through the years by friends who would invite me over for a BBQ, only to find out their air conditioning was broke and while I was there could I look at it. I don't mind helping out a friend. I have volunteered a lot through the years. The phone call with the "can you help me out? I'll pay you" usually means " my furnace is broke and it's coing to cost me hundreds. If you fix it I'll pay for the parts". Does your dentist friend fix your teeth for free or only charge you a nominal fee for supplies used? One of the problems of starting out in your own business is many people don't respect your skills. You have to seperate friends and business. I have learned to politely make excuses and say no. If you do take on a job, make it very clear up front what you expect to get paid.
04-06-2010, 08:44 AM   #8
Site Supporter
Site Supporter
Lowell Goudge's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Toronto
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 16,592
In simple terms, a contract consists of an agreement however informal, of services to be provided and compensation for those services once provided.

If you intend to offer services, you should state exactly what you are going to do, In advance, and give them the opportunity to agree or not.

Although you, in the first case, did at least at some point advise what pricing would be, it seems as though there was a form of agreement in place however there was really no scope of total services defined, and it was after the fact.

In the second case, there does not seem to be any mention of the fee for service, and the first set of shots you probably, in all honesty gave them as a friend. But having offered the first set of photos for free, you are somewhat stuck. You did something for free once, agreed to do it again, and then withheld the second set of prints/files once done holding out for a fee.

Were you taken advantage of, probably, is it intentional, probably not at the onset, but it is hard to tell with only one side of the story. Clearly, the second session for the second grandchild, where there were several changes of clothing, etc, was a planned long photosession, they should have told you in advance.

The other point which is not really clear is while they know you are a photo hobbist do they know you are trying to establish a business out of this hobby? You say yes, but are they really aware of this?

04-06-2010, 09:01 AM   #9
Veteran Member
johnmflores's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Somerville, NJ
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 5,339
Sorry to hear about your distress and how it has hurt you and your friendships. If they are that important, then take the extra steps necessary to repair them. It sounds like you are trying in the second case. If you continue your efforts are are continually rebuffed, then I guess you have to ask yourself if you want friends like that in the first place.

You will probably be gun-shy the next time an acquaintance asks you to "take some photos". One of the hardest things to say to a friend is, "I'm going to charge you for this." But by your post you seem very articulate and can probably find the right words. You in fact do have the right words - you just need to say them earlier rather than later.

Good luck to you...
04-06-2010, 10:25 AM   #10
Junior Member




Join Date: May 2009
Location: New York City - Staten Island
Photos: Albums
Posts: 42
Original Poster
First, thanks all of you for your frank, candid replies, which I hope will help me get past all this someday.

I agree with the majority of opinions, that the problems stemmed from my failure to be upfront about fees (although in the first incident, I thought I was but admittedly in a very timid sort of way). Truth be told, although I have no problems whatsoever laying out fees with strangers, I am very uncomfortable discussing fees with friends and family and tend to freeze up on the topic (obviously). I guess I weaseled my way out of the discussion by "assuming" that these particular friends--who are all very well aware of my unemployment situation and that I do earn some money from photography--would not mind helping me out.

I did immediately apologize to the dentist and refunded his $7 but the damage is done. Because we travel in the same circles, we run into each other now and again but it's not the same. Don't think it ever will be.
04-06-2010, 10:25 AM   #11
Inactive Account




Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Tri-Cities, British Columbia
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,784
That really is the crux of having a technical/creative skill and friends who don't, unfortunately. While I do IT for a living, the last thing I want to do is "help friends out" on my time, especially when it's free. I've made it a point not to be known as the guy to come to when folks have personal PC problems...
04-06-2010, 05:08 PM   #12
Veteran Member
MJB DIGITAL's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: st. louis
Posts: 1,170
I've told my family now that I will only shoot for them if they bring an SD card. I shoot jpg on their card and hand it off.

I believe the two grandchildren are different scenarios. Kid 1, you happened to be there and get some snaps. Kid 2 was a full blown session.

Do you have a different full time job?
04-06-2010, 06:00 PM   #13
Veteran Member
wlachan's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Canada
Photos: Albums
Posts: 2,625
The problem was that you should raise the issue of payment before the shootings, not after. When friends asked you for your service, they almost always expected it for free. You can either do it free, or explain your situation beforehand. If you seek for money afterward, anyone would feel uncomfortable because you are holding their pictures hostage, so to speak. And as it has been said, friendship and money don't mix. Personally, I enjoy photograph my friend's families and never even been temped to ask for a penny. Live and learn.
04-06-2010, 06:30 PM   #14
Veteran Member
LeDave's Avatar

Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Minneapolis - St. Paul
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 3,065
Some people just don't understand the hardship and dedication involved in taking photographs and post processing them, they just think that it's taking "good" snap photos and that's all there is to it; pretty much explains why the professional photography field is going down for a bunch of point and shoot style'd DSLR owning amateurs.

They aren't really your friends in the first place if they can't truly understand your situation and needs. You just have to try to explain it to them with the best of your ability so in the future, they can remember this situation and put some actual rational thoughts into it. They'll remember you and feel sorry when they encounter another photographer or countless photographers and learn the actual hardships of professional photography work; whether it's getting crappy photographs from a desperate Craigslistee or from another professional who asks for what they don't want to pay, they'll find out.

Don't ever feel bad for losing them as a friend, just be glad that one day they'll learn from what they've gone through you; as for now they may think you are just trying to pull out some cash from their pockets, but they'll regret ever thinking that some day.

People now days are undermining professional photography from amateurs with Rebals claiming to be a pro. Photography has really hit a new-low where funny HDR and heavily over-processed and horrid exposed shots can be considered well above photos boasting good exposure and good post-processing. I really can't blame them though, looking at the culture that we live in today makes a good comedy-movie. People are sue'ing others for their own problems, laugh. If they can't distinguish the quality of classical to Lady GaGa singing Agababadada (Or whatever that's suppose to be) and some rap artists chanting the same sex lines throughout the whole so-called music, then what makes you think they can distinguish your position to someone else who is a self-employed, kit-lens owning Craigslist shooter. I'm actually scared for the future of the American people and their children.

Last edited by LeDave; 04-06-2010 at 06:59 PM.
04-06-2010, 06:56 PM   #15
Site Supporter
Site Supporter
MikeW's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Indiana
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 437
My wife and I are both academics, but she is a CPA as well. I cannot tell you how many times people have asked her for tax advice, for free. She puts them off by telling them that she doesn't do taxes, which is true. Her colleagues have similar experiences and are asked to resolve complex questions for free. They have to firmly tell their "friends" what they charge for tax consulting. The conversation almost always stops. People assume that because you know them they are entitled to services and information for free.

An acquaintance thinks nothing of burning CD's of her "friend's" piano performances (a professional of high standing) and then giving them as gifts. Her friend, of course, loses the royalty.

In your case, your time and skill are paying some of the rent. You gave away (or almost gave away) nearly an entire day of that time. Although I have no idea about how to make your friends speak to you again, what I would do is put together a price sheet. When you are next asked by a friend to photograph for them, I would say that you would love to work for them and hand them your price sheet. Do not be surprised if they back out. Things may be awkward and they may get huffy, but at least they can't say they were victimized. Finally, what is this with Grandpa asking for the SD card? What nerve! They are your photos. Treat them as such. Sell copies or give away copies, but never hand over the files. Good luck with your business!
Reply

Bookmarks
  • Submit Thread to Facebook Facebook
  • Submit Thread to Twitter Twitter
  • Submit Thread to Digg Digg
Tags - Make this thread easier to find by adding keywords to it!
commission, download, grandma, grandpa, images, jpgs, parents, photo industry, photography, photos, prints, shoot
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
F 50 1.7 Losing AF Mike L Pentax SLR Lens Discussion 9 09-25-2009 01:24 AM
Losing the complete image cupic Digital Processing, Software, and Printing 4 07-29-2009 08:08 PM
Losing pictures trishytee Photographic Technique 6 01-07-2009 06:23 AM
Losing the Joy JamesD Photographic Technique 9 02-24-2008 05:22 PM
I am losing my mind!!! or am I? Buddha Jones General Talk 16 07-13-2007 06:28 AM



All times are GMT -7. The time now is 06:44 AM. | See also: NikonForums.com, CanonForums.com part of our network of photo forums!
  • Red (Default)
  • Green
  • Gray
  • Dark
  • Dark Yellow
  • Dark Blue
  • Old Red
  • Old Green
  • Old Gray
  • Dial-Up Style
Hello! It's great to see you back on the forum! Have you considered joining the community?
register
Creating a FREE ACCOUNT takes under a minute, removes ads, and lets you post! [Dismiss]
Top