Selling Prints to Family

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by j_d|32, Dec 10, 2011.

  1. An offer from my sister and her husband to buy landscape prints and has taken an undesirable turn and is putting a strain on our relationship. I would like some advice from the photographic professionals on how to proceed and general advice on handling such situations to begin with.
    First, a bit of background. I have amassed a portfolio of what I consider to be high quality landscape images. I have no website offering them for sale, however. Also I am currently not working much due to a physical ailment. A couple of weeks ago at Thanksgiving my sister and her husband mentioned to me that they wanted to adorn their wall with some of my photos and "help me out" by purchasing them. We did not have time to talk about specifics, but I told them I'd send them a link to my photos and they could select some.
    A week or so later, after having perused my photos, my sister replied glowingly via e-mail that she loved them and would get back to me in two days about which ones she wanted to buy. Since we had not discussed prices, I followed up letting her know I would look at what local photographers were charging and quote them an average price, with a discount for multiple photos. I never heard back from her. My reasons for going with an average price were 1) my sister and her husband have secure and well paying jobs with no kids and 2) they approached me and offered to help me out.
    Through the grapevine I heard from my mother that they she was concerned about the cost and surprised to learn how much the 16x24 photo cost,, which I took and is displayed prominently on her wall. After having received no response from my sister, I broached the subject in person a couple of weeks later while they were in town. She stated she just wanted a couple 4x6's and 5x7's. I asked nonchalantly if price was an issue and if initially she had in mind just those small sizes. She demurred on the question of the price, and said she wanted to fill up a couple of existing small frames first and then make decisions about other photos later.
    I then asked my sister directly if price was an issue and told her about information I was privy to. A somewhat tense discussion ensued and nothing was resolved. Now it looks like they will in all likelihood not be buying photos. I did offer to give them some 4x6 and 5x7's for free. I feel like most of this could have been avoided had they been honest and forthright and had a mature discussion with me. Instead, what looked like a potential source of some needed cash has crumbled like so many stale holiday cookies. I was willing to give them more of a break on price, but they would never admit to me cost was a problem for them. Also I am disappointed they did not communicate with me in a direct fashion or in a timely manner.
    Sincere advice about this situation would be greatly appreciated. To be honest, I feel like my work and my relationship was devalued in this process.
  2. get over it, forget about it, move on . . . My philsophy on this is similar to loans to friends and family.
    Dont do anything you cant live without or will regret doing later in life. . . Friends and family are too
    few, take the high road . . .

    As for how to handle this in the future, with family. . . 1. have a price set so they know in advance how
    much your work sells for. 2. if you want to discount to them, tell them you will charge them cost plus
    time which means you will get zero profit off this but you do have to pay for your time. ONLY
    photographers and artists know how time consuming it is to put together prints and art pieces. People
    really think, "oh, it's just a photo," and they dont really understand the complexity of pulling together
    even one print, let along a collection. State it like this, if you want to give them a break, or they are
    asking for one, "I can get you what you want at cost. The price of the product, plus my time." This is
    the same thing i do with most non profits. I no long give anything away. If I gave to everyone i would
    be out of business before the end of the week. . . I HAVE TO COVER COSTS AND TIME. Deciding
    to not make a profit is a personal choice i might make, but I can NOT undercut my business . . .

    After you figure costs, plus time (you should be able to do that in your head) quote them a price per
    unit, no bulk discount if you go this route, pure costs, including your time. You will feel much better if
    your time is being paid for and they will get your work at rock bottom price . . .
  3. There is the telling phrase “Not much if you’re earning, a lot if you’re paying!” I personally earn through professional activity (writing and translation) roughly the same as I pay others for skilled labor (such as automobile servicing or house repair). People pay for these services without demur, but unfortunately they will never accept that an artist in the family lives in the same world and has to charge the same. Never charge family – not full commercial rates, or even a reduced price, which will mean no profit for you but which family will most likely still consider exorbitant. If you are unable or disinclined to give your work or nothing, don’t give it at all!
  4. just make sure they know what you charge retail, and charge them cost, including your time, and you'll do
    great. . . . I've never had a family member balk at that . . . they want to pay for your time and talents, but
    as other's have said, they dont know what it really takes so they think $500 is too much . . . even if it's
    not. Decide what you want to do, but if you can not afford to give your art away, DONT. At the same time,
    pay for your time and everyone will be happy . . . Dont give it away to avoid problems, give it away if you
    can afford it . . .
  5. You say you want to find out what other photographers are selling their prints. Also you say you do not have web site to sell your prints. Are you currently selling your prints? It will make a different if you have going business or never sold a print. It should not but it does to your sister. Remember she said she wants to help you out. If you had given her prints, I expect that she would have compensated you but probably not what other photographers would have charged. Sandy
  6. Photography is merely incidental to this Dear Abby type question. It could be any product or service involved. The situation is an offer was made but someone didn't realize what the price would be or got cold feet as to that after the fact. Probably some embarrassment was felt on the issue whether justified or not. At least you know what you can give them for Christmas now. Of course such gifting may be seen as passive aggressive.
    Given what was considered 'help" and the reaction to fair market value for your work, it seems best to terminate future discussions of your finances with your sister and husband although the discomfort shown will probably cause such talk to be avoided on their part anyway. I suspect they won't be talking up your photography with you anytime soon either. Now you know where things stand.
    Doing business with family has reared its ugly head again.
  7. I've had very similar responses from colleges I work with when I e-mailed desktop images to share local views. People write how much they love the picture and can they get a print? When I send them a link to my web pages with prices (quite reasonable) listed I never hear back from them. Like Tony said, I just move on and forget about it.
  8. I think better make barter with family member, they found someone for you, you make some orders, and like benefit your family members gonna have some photos.
    The maim point in this Life
    "What is in IT for me?"
    I like barter evrythere. That like friends with benefits.
  9. JD,
    This entire thing is a shame and proves once again how cheap people really are. If you love your sister, make her a print and put it in a tube for her to custom frame at the mall. Since you're not yet in business (no web site, no sales, etc.) just let it go. Take the high road. You never know how kind she might be if your Mom tells her about that big oil heat bill (hint, hint) and she wants to do something to help. Mom will be happier if you both get over this, especially at Christmas! Don't burn bridges, especially with family! Life is too short to get into a pissing contest over what a print is worth......

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