Ask Missy: How to Respond to the Request for Free Wedding Photography

Sep 11, 2015

Missy Mwac

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Ask Missy: How to Respond to the Request for Free Wedding Photography

Sep 11, 2015

Missy Mwac

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I received the following inquiry from Lisa, who has a dilemma.

She writes:
Dear Miss Mwac, I would love your advice on this. I keep being invited to weddings lately. By “friends” (ie: acquaintances) whom I have not seen or spoken to in years. Their messages always start “I would love for you to photograph my wedding” and end with “…and you are of course a welcome guest”. In other words…. ‘Well since you’ll be at my wedding anyway, thank you so much for shooting it for free!’. I never know how to politely answer these emails. Any suggestions?? I’m more than happy to shoot their wedding, but I ain’t giving it away, and I ain’t gonna be sipping cocktails like a ‘guest’. I’ll be working, while the real guests are enjoying themselves. I just never know how to wird a response, once it’s clear that they meant “we’d love for you to shoot our wedding…… as a favour”. Thank you Missy Mwac!! (and anyone else who has anything to say / suggest)

Dear Lisa, here…take my hand and let me guide you through the murky waters of PEOPLE WHO WANT FREE PICTURES. It can all be resolved with an email or phone call during which the following is shared:

Dear <fill in friends name here>
Congratulations! Wow, this is exciting and I have no doubt your wedding will be beautiful! I’m so looking forward to it!

(Okay, you might very well have your doubts that this will be a beautiful wedding, but you can’t share that, ever. Not even if it’s a tailgate wedding, the cake is a Twinkie tower and the bride is in overalls with a patch over her right butt cheek that reads “Git ‘er done”)

You mentioned the wedding is on <fill in date> and after checking my schedule, I see I have a couple inquiries for that date already. Yikes!
(I say, “Yikes” a lot. Feel free to fill in with the word of your choice. “Zoinks!” is kind of nice, too. If your bio says you love pink lipstick, feel free to use the word ‘Oopsies!” Now, you might or might not have inquiries, but this lets them know that you will be reserving the day for THEM when you could be photographing someone else. People who assume you will shoot at no charge because you had lunch once together 3 years ago need a little prompting.)

If you’d like, <fill in friend name’s here> I’d be more than happy to send you information regarding my wedding photography collections/packages and if it works with your budget, we can set up a time to sit and talk details!’”

At this point, the bride will react in one of two ways:
“OMG. I went shopping with you once in 2009. I thought we were best friends. I can’t believe you would actually charge me! I mean, I’m already paying all the other vendors and now you expect me to pay you, too? I’m going to Craigslist.”
or
“Sounds great! I look forward to receiving it!”

Now, they might not use you, especially if, in their minds, they still THINK they should be getting an entire wedding coverage for the price of a reception dinner and a slice of cake, but at least, they know THIS wedding photographer values what she does enough to charge for it.
xoxo

About The Author

Missy Mwac is a photographer/eater of bacon/drinker of vodka and a guide through the murky waters of professional photography. You can follow her social media links here: Facebook, Tumblr. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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7 responses to “Ask Missy: How to Respond to the Request for Free Wedding Photography”

  1. Patrick Dobeson Avatar
    Patrick Dobeson

    My answer: I do nude photography, hope you don’t mind.

    1. Sean Avatar
      Sean

      Better yet, I photograph in the nude, hope you don’t mind.

  2. Photomancer Matt Avatar
    Photomancer Matt

    I saw this differently, and maybe I’m lucky, but when someone approaches me like that, the intent is they want me as a photographer and are more than willing to pay, but since we know each other they also want me to enjoy myself like a guest, too (they fell awkward having someone they know work their wedding). Of course I tell them I won’t drink or party till after I definitively stop working (which is clear to everyone as camera and gear are put away and out of the building).

    So maybe I’m lucky that people don’t expect me to shoot for free, or in my correspondence I convey payment is necessary without knowing it, or perhaps I scare them too much to ask such a thing and they are fearful of me stealing their souls with the power of my camera.

    1. Sean Avatar
      Sean

      Last wedding I shot was about 6 years ago. Was a good friend and I didn’t charge, but they were also aware that they would get what they got cause while I was going to take photographs I was also going to be acting like a guest….got some rather interesting shots near the end…lol. That being said, I don’t shoot weddings normally. I do though shoot other types of events because I’m rarely ever invited to a bar mitzvah as a guest..lol.

  3. Cath Povaschuk Avatar
    Cath Povaschuk

    Oh, I got this request with a wedding invitation from an acquaintance: “We hope you will bring your camera.” We would likely not have even been invited if they knew the answer would be no. They were likely not all that happy when we accepted the invitation to the wedding, but said we would not be bringing our camera. This is kind of like inviting your lawyer to your second marriage and asking if he/she could just write a pre-nup at the reception, you know, as a wedding gift. Why are photographers treated with such total disrespect? We are retired now, and glad of it. I got so tired of being told that I ‘overcharged for a few pictures’ and I made a ‘huge markup’ on extra prints. Again, if you told a lawyer that he/she only paid pennies for the paper they ‘wrote on’ and that their ‘mark up’ was too high, would that seem reasonable?

  4. Dirk Beichert Avatar
    Dirk Beichert

    Brilliant!

  5. At Dusk Avatar
    At Dusk

    All depends who you’re doing it for. I would never charge friends for work, that’s just rude. They’re all good points, and a decent amount of humor thrown in … but. You should have said once at the beginning of the post that doing free work hurts other photographers trying to make a living.