To charge or not to charge? in-laws' family photos at the holidays

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by fuccisphotos, Nov 25, 2010.

  1. My in-laws' in-laws asked my in-laws (yes that IS confusing!) if I could take photos of their family that were all in town for Thanksgiving instead of them just setting the self timer on their camera this year. I of course said yes, they were just down the road, and it was a pleasure shooting them. The grandmother of the brood is insisting on paying me. Yes I will have to go through and process the images, etc, but they are indirectly my new family who live in the area I just moved to. Somehow I just don't feel right charging them for this. Have you been in this type of situation before? It is the type of image/service that if they weren't family, I would charge for. I also for free shot their grandson's baptism last week, but this was also good for me, so that I could get to know the priest in their church, etc, and add some baptism shots to my portfolio. I asked specifically if I could be there to take photos of that baptism. Any thoughts on this are much appreciated. Thanks all, and happy thanksgiving to those from the USA reading this thread.
  2. Sometimes freebies are good for your portfolio, sometimes they're good for your soul. Politely decline payment. If
    Granny insists, tell her to pay what she feels they are worth to her. You can keep it in good conscience or donate it to
    a local charity and build your connection to a new community even stronger.
  3. is insisting on paying me.​
    Some people have the opposite problem. In a couple years or so you may be posting here again in that regard as favors become expectations. Especially when challenged on why in laws of in laws get free sessions but you insist on being paid for a wedding for someone within six degrees of Vail Fucci.
  4. When shooting for family suggest that you shoot for free and tell GM to keep her money....let them order the prints that they want at cost using a site like smugmig so that it minimizes your need to do anything more than just shoot, post-processing, and upload online.
  5. David Schilling's suggestion may be the compromise that lets a favor be a favor while managing future expectations to, at least, some degree. It started already. Your request to shoot something has already become a special request of you. Not everyone's going to have the social graces and appreciation as Grandma.
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    If she is so instant and it would offend her to not pay something: ask her to buy you a bottle of Scotch (box of Chocolates, Bunch of Flowers – I’d opt for the Scotch).
    If you want to avert others' ideas later of getting freebies, give her a Full Invoice - and mark it "Paid in Full".
    Grandmas are really smart, I have found, at least mine were.
  7. WW makes a good point, be careful not to offend by *not* accepting :) I agree, I would use a diversionary tactic like suggesting a bunch of flowers or other recompense in kind :)
  8. Somehow I just don't feel right charging them for this​
    it seems to me you've answered your own question ;-)
  9. At least get a home cooked dinner out of it, but let Granny keep her money :)
  10. Remember the song "Nature Boy" sung a long time ago by Nat Cole? The last line was important to me: "The greatest thing you'll ever learn; is just to love, and be loved in return."
    Grandma would feel better having given something in return for your efforts. It would be good for you to give her the "gift" of receiving her donation. The above suggestions are good ones. If not money to cover expenses, then a gift in kind: dinner, flowers, or whatever seems approprite to satisfy her need to remunerate you.
  11. A classic dilemna! I have a "policy" that I don't charge family. There are lots of things that one had to do to be a part of a family. Remembering that some family members ask more than they give is one of them.
    But I don't consider in-law's of in-laws family either.
    Only once have I had an uncomfortable request for a "freebie" and that was easily handled by politely declining.
    Grandma sounds like a sweetheart.
  12. I like William's idea too. Your gift is nice. Accepting a gift in return keeps it seen as such. At least to those who know of it.
  13. Home cooked meals are great, unless Grandma can't cook. LOL. Yes, let Grandma save face by allowing her to pay you with some token gift for your services as others suggested. Frankly, I'd go for the home cooked meal or my favorite dish of hers or something similar.
    What I have learned to do is to quote "family" a sliding scale rate that runs from drinks to full price depending on what I am asked to do. If it's gonna be full price, I refer them to a friend who will give them a discount because of my referral. Everyone wins. Generally, I tell "family" my hourly rate and they are then given a discount off that rate at my discretion, Grandma's and favorites excepted. Why do I do it this way? Because family will always expect your services to be of the same quality as them having paid top dollar and it minimizes my feeling taken advantage of when the services are at a rate that I can live with.
  14. When film was the thing and I knew one of these dreaded events was looming, I would go to the party, take less than a roll of 24 and give the negs and 4x6s to the sister-in-law or whoever and whatever they did with it never became my problem. :cool:) Now with digi, it's even better. I make a few shots and ask who wants me to send them the files. Once it starts to sound like work, I have to figure out a plan how to handle it and not get in too deep.
  15. I would not charge. I have been in the same circumstance. What I do is (I shoot film) when I have the film processed I have a low scan made for computer viewing which I proved to them free. For 4x6 (or 5x7) they can use the dvd and make their own.If they want an enlargement they can request one from my negatives. An 8x10 where I go is inexpensive and I foot the bill. Personally, I enjoying photographing people so it is not a strain.
  16. While I wouldn't accept the money, you have to consider how strongly they insist you take it. At a restaurant, how many times do you argue back and forth over the bill. I like the compromise of just charging for the prints. If you are going to print a nice 16x20 or something, say "If you really insist on paying me, I won't accept any more than $X, which is what it cost to make the print." That way you don't get caught up in making free prints forever - when they want a print again, they know you are simply passing on your costs.
  17. When I practiced law, ending over two decades ago, I had a wife whose family had numerous family trusts. I often represented these trusts which my in-laws managed actively, but which did not require too much legal work, except in two major instances:
    1. When a female relative was about to pass away leaving a large potential bequest, they called me in to draft a new trust. This trust benefited them, their siblings, my wife and my children. Care had to be made to avoid 'undue influence', as the dying relative had a 'lover' who occupied her house.
    I did not charge, and flew to their home town at my own expense to do the legal work, drafting, meeting with the aging aunt, etc.
    I drafted the documents on a creaky typewriter in an attic at over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for hours over a couple of days because there were no word processors available. I did it all myself: Net value to the family interests (not mine at all) probably up to $1 million or more. I did not bill. In turn, my father in law sent the aunt's fine console piano to my house which my children could play on (me too). I appreciated it very much and never thought of charging. (Eventually the trust I created poured over to benefit my then-spouse and children in each of their retirement future possible, eons later.
    2. When that bequest and a bunch of other property interests resulted in that family and other family interests owning a square block almost (but not quite) at the center of what is now downtown San Jose, CA., but filled with slum housing renting for $35 a month per house (yes, you read right, unbelievable, hunh?), I helped negotiate evicting the tenants (The premises were unsafe and should have been torn down but tenants could fight the eviction A relative manager who had just passed away had let these slum-level Victorian rentals deteriorate and they were hazardous, and the local Community Legal Services [Legal Aid[ which could have fought us for years representing the evicting tenants for free, agreed AND cooperated, not fighting one eviction, and no one got sued.)
    The ramshackle structures were demolished without incident, the very poor tenants paying $35 a month moved on, Legal Aid did not sue us and even helped us, even though we were potential 'evil landlords' with slum housing, since we did the right thing and approached them the right way.
    I did all the legal work so my in-laws could negotiate the purchase for family interests of a remaining one-third interest in that block for $10,000 (yes, that's correct) and not much later selling that same interest for over $1 million, not making even the tiniest representation of value to anyone, (no lies and no misrepresentations), and dealing with sophisticated sellers who were more than a little shortsighted.
    My charge: Nothing.
    It was 'All in the Family'.
    My children, my then-wife, and her entire family were the beneficiaries of several family trusts that would support them all for a lifetime, and the profit from the sale became part of the corpus (financial body) of those trusts, and eventually my then-spouse might have a lifetime income after remaining older relatives died off.
    I never thought of charging.
    My heart was not all made of gold. My in-laws paid the tuition bill for my law school (not expenses or any other bill), but it was offered, and I gratefully accepted, no strings attached. Further services were not required, and I was not indentured.
    The tuition was not so large, and we did not have a 'quid pro quo' agreement either.
    Many other attorneys in such situations would have made that into a family business, charged, and maybe become a well-paid 'family lawyer' for the 'family business' (I had way, way too much business to even think of that.)
    I often was called into to advise on this matter or that, and always interrupted almost everything to give my very best advice, even writing letters at 4:00 a.m. on the spur of the moment on the wisdom of 'this or that' decision, most of which opinions I was told were invaluable.
    I never charged; it was family.
    My in-laws paid my law school tuition, later I paid their daughter's law school tuition afterward as a matter of course, and she went on to a stellar career, achieving some legal fame.
    Family can be different.
    I'm not saying never charge family anything or never do business with family; many people in many professions owe their jobs or their incomes to doing 'family work' which they otherwise would not have. I did not need the business, but gave my work with love.
    If you can give it lovingly, respectfully (or both) as it appears you can, then you will be be possibly an unsung family hero for that, and in the end, possibly well-regarded by important people who may be in your life till your dying day.
    MY solution may not be correct for you or others, but it suited me fine.
    Your family situation may be far different, and so may your financial situation, and I would not seek to substitute my judgment for my distant past situation for yours; but it seems the advice in general given by others above is very well considered.
    Use care and great discretion when collecting money from family for anything or 'charging', almost no matter what the personal cost, if you can stomach it and so long as no one takes great advantage of you.
    (Oh, after decades that relatively idyllic family situation ended, and I am no longer in that family; do I regret my largess? Not for anything. I did the right thing; I receive NO benefit at all from it, never did and never will, but am happy I did so.
    I hope you are as fortunate as I.
    With respect,
    John (Crosley)
  18. Just tell the GM to donate fifty bucks to breast cancer or her favorite charity.
  19. If you are running a business then I will say this. "I know you as and love you as my friend but when it comes to a business transactions I know you as much or less then a guy walking down the street."
  20. Take the money. I don't draw lines between family and others and I charge for everything, all the time. This way I don't have any fuzzy zones and for the most part people respect this choice. It's just business baby.
  21. From my experience people (friends and family) get very used to having free photos and once that you give them for free it is very hard to move to make them pay.
    So I would suggest you said it's X dollars but I will donate it all to the charity you support in your behalf, as mentioned before. That way she will give you some money so next time when she asks a similar photo favour she will expect to depart from some money, hence everyone knows it is a professional transaction.
  22. That way she will give you​
    We weren't told that the grandmother initiated the request for photos to be taken. Since she's the one 'insisting' to pay, the grandmother probably isn't be one to be concerned about for future expectation of freebies. There is an entire remaining family that may gain such notions. If that does turn out to be the case later, asking for a charitable donation may be a diplomatic and nice way to show that the services are valuable.
  23. Another factor to consider - it also depends on how big and how inter-related the town you currently live in is. If most of the families there end up being mostly "family of family" of yours, and you do this for free, will everyone then expect free services because you're half-step-cousin-in-laws 3 times removed?
    Just a thought.
  24. In spite of my post above, and after you view the family relations involved, you may wish to take the position of a merchant.
    Of course, you may explain, if I ran a clothing store, or a supermarket, you would not ask and expect to get free clothes or free groceries for in-laws (or in-laws of in-laws).
    Whereas, I once treated my own inlaws as though they were personal family and close which they were, you may have an entirely other attitude, and if 'service considerations' and 'reputation' does not appear to be a problem, than you may feel free to charge (at which point there may be reconsideration, as the request seems predicated on an expectation that if there is a charge if will be for a 'grandmother's budget' and unless she's an oil heiress or other, it seems a way of asking at least for a substantial discount, or making it hard for you to charge at all.

    My own experience aside, you may be reluctant (as some posters have noted), to get in the business of giving 'freebies' as that may demean the 'business aspect' of what you do. So you may justify charging, to GM. She would not think of giving your supermarket meat to other in-laws, or designer gowns, or even casual wear to others free, from your clothing store. But photography is a very 'personal' business' and 'public relations' often are very important, so it is best, as you have done' to tread carefully in this area.
    How to treat your business in face of such circumstances is a decision you must make, and you have good advice on various ways of handling what still must remain a personal decision based on prameters we cannot measure: is grandmother a multi-millionaire or very well heeled, how distant are the in-laws of in-laws (have I got it right?), how tight-knit is the community, et cet.?
    It sounds as if you were brought up in the Christian faith; what would be your attitude if brought up in another; say Muslim where charitable giving is a pillar, or Jewish, where you are a man at 13 and there is a ceremony to help 'bankroll' your adulthood with big gifts and often much advice on 'how to be a man' and 'make a living' often given by successful males, man to man, so to speak?
    If your background is Christian (US Christian) with its emphasis on sharing and giving, would you have a different background if you were an immigrant running an ethnic restaurant as part of your living and then doing photography as maybe a second business?
    Your answer may reveal much about your own heritage, as I can envision many people from different backgrounds behaving differently when faced with this circumstance, and some might not consider it at all a dilemma. Some might just consider it 'business' and treat it as such.
    One thing seems clear; you probably are going to set some sort of precedent or later have to justify your way out of it. Your post is a very prescient one.
    John (Crosley)

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