You should approach photos of family and friends like any other client.
Making photos of family and friends is part of being a photographer. Once your nearest and dearest find out that you know how to use a camera, they’ll be inviting you to everything and anything. For many, myself included, that’s a good thing. Because although I may not always want to make photos, most of the time, I will. And it’s nice to be able to give something to the people you care about while knowing it’s something they’ll enjoy. But photographing friends and family should be done with the same standards as any other client. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’ll act as a client. You must set boundaries, and in this piece, I’ll tell you how I did it.
Making Photos of Family and Friends
Those in your inner circle will come with a range of requests. Some may want you to make photos of a night on the town, while others may ask for a full professionally done portrait shoot. What you commit to is up to you, but I know first hand it’s hard to turn down people who know you best.
Whatever variant of shoot you do, you must approach it like any other time you make photographs. That’s because you never know where your images will go. After making photos of family and friends, they’re going to want to share them. Like any other person in this era, sharing them means posting on social media. There’s a chance anyone could see them. If you’re sending images that are low in quality, you don’t want certain peoples’ eyes landing on them. There’s a chance it may tarnish your reputation, especially if a person in the industry sees them.
And this is where we reach the first potential hurdle. A common request you’ll hear is, “Send all the photos, and I will choose my favorites.” The problem with that is their favorites may not be the same as yours. Sending all the photos can result in you seeing a photo you took (and that you didn’t like) shared with strangers on the internet.
In this situation, you must be strong. Remind them it’s going to take you time to look at the photos. Also, remind them it took you time making the photos when everybody else was having fun. Explain to them that you don’t want certain images online, and you would prefer to send the photos you’re most happy with. Lastly, ask them to trust you. Remind them you know what you’re doing you will ensure they’ll receive photos they’re happy with.
Sending Unedited Photos of Family And Friends
Another common request you’re likely to hear is: please send all the photos unedited. I’ll say this the simple way: never do that. Editing is such an important and sensitive part of your image-making. Terrible editing can ruin an otherwise good photograph. So, tell them you’re only sending photographs you have edited.
If they insist and you feel like you don’t want to let them down, there is an alternative. Send them all the unedited photos, but ask that they do not tag you or give you credit for the image if they share them. I would only reserve this for your most inner circle. Anybody outside of that, who you still consider close, should only get edited images. If they’re close to you, they should respect that.
Sending Photos Right Away
After making photos of family and friends, they will want the images as soon as possible. Because they are close to you, they may think they should get special priority. This is natural, of course, but you must put boundaries in place when needed.
Don’t allow them to pressure you into sending them right away. If you have the time, do it. If not, then don’t be afraid to make friends and family wait. Your more important commitments should take priority.
Making photos of friends and family is one of the best things you will do as a photographer. You’re likely sharing a special moment with them, and having the opportunity to record that is an amazing thing. Unlike a client, they won’t only be photos for them; they’ll be photos for you too. The images are something you can cherish and look back on as you think about the people who meant the most to you.
Setting boundaries isn’t about minimizing their importance. Quite the opposite. Boundaries allow you to be accountable for your own high standards. It also means your friends and family get to reflect on past times by looking at high-quality photographs.
Stand your ground and enjoy making the photographs. It’s a fantastic thing to do.