41. Avoid running your photography business as a charity

Podcast Cover Episode 41 "How to avoid running your photography business as a charity"

Let’s talk about how you can run a healthy photography business and also balance that with doing some good. A lot of photographers feel guilty about charging for their services. Especially in certain situations like a single mom who wants photos of her children. Or a young couple getting married. Or that a newly started business owner needs photos for promotion. These kinds of customers are endless. And when you start giving in to them, your business gets unhealthy. Many photographers are running their photography business as a charity.

This is because you might think everyone deserves to have their photos taken. “I just want to be the photographer for everyone.” “I don’t want my prices to be so high that people can’t afford it.” Yes, those are some lovely thoughts. I completely understand where you’re coming from but you can’t make a living from your generosity. 

In this episode, I want to encourage you to stop thinking about your business as a charity. Let’s come up with some ideas of what you can do. That way you can balance your desire to give people photos, while still having a healthy thriving photography business.

First, though, let’s talk about mindset on how to avoid running a photography business as a charity

If you think like this, you’re not alone. I hear about it all the time. The guilt about charging money from others and that you should be working for free to please others. And it’s probably because that’s what we’re told. All the time. You’re asked by friends to take some of their photos. Your family guilts you if you charge what they think is “too much”. People in difficult situations like low income, going through the disease, etc. make you feel it’s your job to work for free or cheap to make them happy. 

You should avoid running a photography business as a charity. Because that’s what most likely puts you in a difficult situation. In a matter of time, you’ll be on the wrong end of your photography business. To avoid this kind of mindset, keep in mind that all kinds of professionals charge money for their services when someone books them.

Learn more about knowing the power of your mind.

Episode 9

Think about your local supermarket. They charge everyone the same price, from rich people to people who are struggling to make ends meet. A divorce lawyer makes a living from people going through a crisis. A cancer doctor still charges for the appointment where they let someone know they have terminal cancer. An electrician sends out the bill without worrying about whether the household that they just visited can pay or not.

Because this is what businesses do. They charge for the services or products they give. And your photography business must also do that.

Photography is a luxury service. It’s not for everyone. 

Stop taking responsibility for other people’s finances. If they can’t pay what it costs, that’s up to them. You shouldn’t decide for people that they can’t pay for your services. You should avoid running a photography business as a charity by giving away free services. If it’s important to them, they should prioritize it. And if they don’t prioritize it, do you really want to work with them? Ask yourself this question every time this happens to you.

Learn more about the value of high prices in photography.

Episode 19

Doing good without getting broke

As a photographer, you can still do good things while earning. Here are some tips that you can do to help others while making your business thrive:

  1. What about setting up one day for mini shoots? You can angle it towards single moms and their kids. Gather them all in one day means you can charge a low fee while you give them a couple of photos. Of course, you can also have the option of adding on files or prints. Since you’ll do many in one go, you’ll still get paid, but it’s more affordable than your ordinary shoots. At the same time, you won’t devalue your normal shoots, because you’ll decide the location and the time. And the variety they get will be less. Still, your clients get to have those treasured photos and memories that you want to give them. 
  1. Another thing you can do is to give people tips on how they can take their own photos. You can create a mini-course or you can do a workshop. This is where you teach them how to use their phone or camera that’s just been lying around. And they can take their own photos. That way you are not devaluing the work you do as a photographer and you’re passing on your knowledge so that it can be used by those you choose to help. 
  1. You can also do a giveaway. Have some requirements put up and people can apply to sign up. In this contest, you can choose maybe one or two winners. By doing this, you are not devaluing the work you do as a photographer because it’s not like you do this all the time. It should be so rare that no one would wait around for that once-a-year offer they may or may not win.
  1. Set up a charity or have a partnership with an existing charity. An organization that deals with the kind of thing that you are passionate about. Whether that’s photography for refugees, non-profits, single moms, or low-income families. It’s also a good way of promoting your products or services.  
  2. You can also create awareness around something that matters to you by making sure it fits well with your brand. Just make sure that you make it clear that this is separate from your actual normal paying services, so you don’t devalue your services. 

Running a successful business is also doing good because when you make more money, you can pay other people what they should get paid so it kind of goes full circle like everybody wins if you dare to charge what you should. And to turn that around, if you don’t charge what you should or nothing at all because you’re so hung up and building your portfolio, everybody loses.


You should avoid running a photography business as a charity. Remember that you need to make a living and you’re not a philanthropist. There is so much you can do to help people without ruining the marketplace with your own business. Remember that you should be able to make a living. 

This is, as always, just my opinion and you’re allowed to have your own. We all learn from our experiences. By joining communities, we also learn from other people’s experiences. If you want to learn more, join the Sustainable Photography Facebook group

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Podcast Cover Episode 41
Sustainable Photography
41. Avoid running your photography business as a charity

hi, i'm ingvild

This podcast is all about education and inspiration for photographers. A sustainable business is profitable and lasting. Instead of short-term wins you want to make sure you’re doing things that matter. Both to yourself, and to create the business you want. The goal of this podcast is that it will help you build and structure your business around your life, instead of the other way around.

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