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Drawing the Line

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  • Drawing the Line

    OK everybody . . . I'd like to get your feedback. Doug and I began talking about this in the old forum, and I'd like to continue our discussion.

    As you know, photo restoration and enhancement takes a lot of talent and learning. Usually if a close family member or friend asks me to work on a photo I don't mind doing the work "pro bono" or in other words, for free. But my question is this: Where do you draw the line? When do you start charging people?

    I mean, this work certainly is not "worthless" by any stretch of the imagination. And no one should have to give away their talents.

    What do you guys think?


  • #2
    Akj, When I started getting serious about retouching I began charging a nominal fee for almost every photo I worked on. Once you begin giving "freebies" it gets very difficult to stop as people will mention that they had you do some work for them and didnt charge for it, which leaves you having to explain to someone why they are being charged for work but their friend was not. Its a slippery slope and I have always made it a policy to charge something for my feeble efforts if for no other reason than to recover the cost of materials. Also, that which is obtained for nothing is generally held in low esteem. A professional has a right to recieve compensation for their work and anyone who has taken the time and spent bundles of money learning to do this type of work certainly qualifies as a Pro in my book, regardless of age or anything else. I guess the bottom line is that you must charge enough to at least cover your costs. People expect to pay for services and you deserve to be compensated for your time,dedication and supplies. Besides, the extra bucks can help support certain luxuries, like living indoors and eating regularly!! Tom


    • #3
      I agree with Tom. I just did some photos for my best friend and she offered to pay, which was nice, but I just asked her for a nominal fee just to cover the cost of material ie. printing paper and ink. I don't mind especially since I know she does alot for me. But you should get something to cover expenses at least. Then it will get easier to ask for compensation as you get more and more into making it a business.

      I do know how you feel though since I am trying to get a business going in this and I hate dealing with the money end of it. Good luck



      • #4
        Tom had an excellent reply, but everyone has to deal with this themselves. Would you charge your mother or father?, what about your brother or sister?, My son who has a remodeling business charges *everyone*. We did a siding job for my daughter and her husband. My son got paid. I told them to forget about my part, after all, she's my daughter. It's a tough thing. Maybe you stop with your immediate family??



        • #5
          Ed, When it comes to family and close friends the decision to charge or not to charge or what to charge gets a bit difficult. I tend to look at it this way; If I say owned a small grocery store would I give my inventory away to friends or family as a matter of course or would I charge them wholesale price, full price or something in between? If I am running a business and this business is my sole means of income, I cant expect to stay viable very long by giving my products away, although on special occasions a "Freebie" is OK. Now, if I am engaging in a business which doesnot supply my total income, I have more leeway in what to charge for my product or service or even if to charge at all. A good example of this is how many of the farm famlies up here do business among themselves. If the Son needs to get his hay cut but his swather is broken he will ask his Dad or Brother to cut his hay with their machine. In return for their time etc., they get part of the hay crop they cut. It really has nothing to do with who loves who the best it is simply business.Completely impersonal and I think most folks can understand that. I do work for my kids and dont charge them although they offer to pay,so I know what you are saying. I guess in the end everyone has to find their own "comfort" level as regards fees etc. Interesting conversation and you make some good ethical points Ed. Glad I dont have to debate you- I suspect I'd get creamed!!! Tom


          • #6
            Well I have to agree with tom and anyone else who recommends charging everyone. I'm doing work in a small town and this situation came up right after I started as friends were asking me to do things and I didn't feel I could charge them as they were friends..however, word travels fast and pretty soon I heard the old "well so and so said you didn't charge for this same type of service". There just isn't an answer that will get you out of that one. I now charge everyone the same price...after all, I think everyone in here would agree that their time is certainly worth something.


            • #7

              I wouldn't want to debate you either . No, I didn't pay for the siding and materials. But I did work for 4 or 5 days free of charge. When a family is as close as ours, it all comes back in the end. But I wouldn't do it for friends - strictly for my own family. No matter how you cut it - it's a sticky situation when it goes beyond family, and you wind up trying to find impossible answers for people.



              • #8
                Ed, I know what you mean about family, there is a world of difference in doing work for immediate family members ( as in Kids,parents,siblings) vs. friends.(One cavaet here-as long as said family members dont begin making unreasonable demands like cleaning up and printing dozens of photos). I did run into a situation where I was asked by a family member to do some free work for a friend of theirs and as hard as it was, I said no free work for anyone except immediate family. There were some temporary hurt feelings but those healed. Like you pointed out, once you decide on a business model, stick to it. Even though it may be difficult at times, without consistancy in your business dealings you might as well stand on the street corner and pass out $5 bills to everyone going by. At least then when you go broke, everyone will say what a great person you were. Thanks for your insight,its a pleasure talking with you. Tom


                • #9
                  I fully agree Tom. And the pleasure's all mine.


                  • #10
                    Difficult Relatives?

                    Use the "backlog" reasoning - you might be able to help them out if and when you ever catch up! Then recommend them to someone you know who does high quality work and charges accordingly. Even the closest relatives should get the idea that time is money with this not too subtle approach!

                    The last time I had a relative ask for a "quick scan" was yesterday by a middle age daughter - the only difference is that they KNOW there is an unending backlog, so start their requests with "I know you've got a lot of work but -" My response was - "While I'm doing this you will you go out and help your mother with the dishes! She decided to take it home let her husband try it on their (cheap) scanner.

                    Guess the moral here that you have to get used to it - as long as you have relatives the request will never never end but you already know which ones in the family will never understand a polite no!

                    In fairness to my family I am organizing all available historic family photos into a DVD catalog so they will know what is available. The originals are being preserved and copies are available at reprint prices from an online lab. This makes any family work that I do MY priority, not theirs. I consider this preservation project an obligation that I owe them and it is not in the same catagory as the usual "scan this", "copy this", "can you print this better" or other such requests. Those get a no - pure and simple

                    Jim Conway
                    Timemark Photo Conservators


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