Friends and Family: The New Photographers Key To Success

Quick Disclaimer – we all have family members that do not think “photography” is a real job, and feel like you should be more than willing to take pictures of their whole wedding for $50.  Or that will be a pain as you ask them to pose or move.  I am not talking about these friends and family. (P.S. – If this is the only kind of friends and family you have… fire them!  Get some new friends and family!) I am talking about working with the friends and family that are willing to give you a shot, who you are comfortable working with, and that will give you open and honest feedback about their experience working with you.

Here is the deal, to make consistent money with photography you are going to need a few things… You are going to have to get comfortable talking to people (posing, directing, doing sales, etc…), You are going to have to start charging more (I wouldn’t recommend charging less than $100 for any shoot), You are going to have to have at least a few pictures to show potential clients.  All of that is solved if you start by photographing your family!

By working with people you know and are comfortable with, you can get used to talking before, during, and after a shoot.  Treat them like a “real client” and meet them before your session for a consultation.  Send them Pinterest boards of some ideas you had for the shoot, talk about outfits, and lay out your itinerary for the shoot.  At the shoot, you don’t mind telling your best friend to take two steps forward… bend your elbow… chin up… a little further… oops, too far!  It’s easy, and the more you do it the more comfortable you will get.  Once the session is done, you can go grab a cup of coffee and honestly ask, what did they like about the shoot? You as a photographer? The entire process? And then the harder question what didn’t they like? All the questions you might not feel comfortable asking a client, you can ask a friend or family member and hopefully get a more honest answer!

Let’s face it, most of the sessions we book when we are first getting started are friends and family anyway!  A lot of us got started taking our nieces senior pictures, or shooting Cousin Tom’s little intimate family wedding.  But we make the mistake of throwing out a low ball price, to be nice, because of our own lack of confidence, or any other number of reasons.  However, the reality is your friends and family are offering you the job because… well… you are friends and/or family – and as long as you don’t charge them an arm and a leg they’ll stick with you!  Think of the last shoot you did with family and how much money you made.  $20? $50? $100? Now use your imagination and pretend when you were negotiating price, if you had doubled that number – $40, $100, $200 – Would they still have said Yes?  I think in most cases they would have!  If the answer is no, refer again to my disclaimer above.

Now that we have the friend or family member that we are comfortable working with, that are also going to be a good model, and that are willing to pay you for your services, now we can get into portfolio building.  Use the family sessions you do, to prepare yourself for booking other clients.  If you want to offer Family Sessions in October so families have beautiful images to put on their Christmas card, book one of your friends or family members to come in and bring their family with them for a shoot in September.  Practice how you will set up the studio space, practice posing, practice editing family images, price out printed Christmas Cards to upsell – use the session as a dry run for other models!  It is a win-win situation!  You are getting paid for your service, you are getting prepared to offer the service to others (to make even more money!), you are getting terrific portfolio images to use in your advertising and show off to potential clients, and your friend/family member is getting some great images for their Christmas card.

A few other reasons you should be photographing friends and family:

  • You have a relationship with them, which hopefully makes you want to put your best foot forward and create some really incredible shots with/for them!
  • They’ll be honest, but kind.
  • It’s okay to FAIL (even to FAIL big time!), you’ll laugh about it later, while learning what not to do in front of a “real” customer.
  • You really are capturing and creating memories for years to come. When talking with a potential client about the value of great senior pictures, you have a personal experience to share with them.  You get to emotionally experience both sides of the camera!
  • Blackmail Pictures – Every shoot has a least one image with a weird facial expression, awkward hand placement, or otherwise unflattering moment. With clients we tend to toss these out in our hunt for the best images from a given session.  With friends and family THESE ARE GOLD!

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