Maegan Dougherty Photography » NJ Birth and Family Photographer

Pay What You Can for Family Photography: Year 2!

Remember last April when I did that Pay What You Can experiment??? Well, it was really special!!! And I’m doin’ it again this year!!!

The Process

1. Read this page to learn what it’s like to have a family documentary photo session with Maegan Dougherty Photography. If you want to document your real life in an authentic and natural way, and you value experience and art, I hope you’ll apply! If my style isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, this is still a great month to have your family photographed, with many local photographers offering mini sessions and full sessions with a range of pricing. If you’d like me to photograph your family, because you feel a connection with me or to my work, I’d love to capture this crazy, beautiful, hard, messy, fun, full of love time in your life! 

2. Think about your financial situation, and what is a comfortable amount for you to pay for family photography at this time. My standard pricing is included on the page in step 1. For the month of April, if we’re meant to work together, we’re not going to let money get in the way. You let me know what you are able to pay. It might be that you find great value in photography, but don’t have room in your budget this year. Maybe you can offer a product or a service to barter, or you have gift cards you’re not using. (I LOVE barters!) Maybe you can even do more, to help cover other families who aren’t able to offer much. Let me know your number. Yes, this might feel awkward to you. Please know that I wouldn’t be doing this if I weren’t confident about my own value. Your number won’t insult me if it’s below my standard pricing. I trust that you are being honest and generous, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work together. I know that abundance comes many forms.

3. Complete this questionnaire  to share with me a little about your family, your story, your experience with family photos, and what draws you to my work. You will also put here the amount you are able to pay.

4. I will respond and let you know what I can offer you. I may be able to travel to your home on the weekend for a 2-3 hour family documentary photo shoot with 50 pictures. Or I might offer a shorter timeslot with fewer photos on a weekday morning near my home. Or something in between. Either way, the experience will be unique to your family, and the pictures will show your life and love.

5. If you are happy with the proposal, we arrange payment, and schedule your family photo session for a day in April! All Pay What You Can sessions must be completed in April. Since time is limited, I highly recommend submitting the questionnaire as early as possible.

Of course, you are still welcome to book a session at the standard rate for April or beyond!

The Questionnaire

If you are interesting in being a part of this project, click here for the questionnaire!

Otherwise, feel free to keep reading if you’re curious and want to know more.

Last Year

Last year I wrote, “I think about this all the time. This idea of paying what you can, for something you want. Until the other day when I spontaneously posted about my experiment on Facebook, I have always talked myself out of it. I love the idea of photographing families at whatever price they are able to pay, in a way that allows me to earn the income I need, to feel valued, and be sufficiently paid for my time and my art. But won’t that feel awkward for people? Wouldn’t it be unfair to my full price paying clients or to my local photographer friends? Doesn’t that lead clients to choose me only based on price?

I don’t know if it’s possible to make this work in a way that feels good. But I’m going to give it a shot for a month, and see what happens! My hopes are that I will have a good time, photograph really awesome families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford my prices, pay my mortgage, and I don’t know…maybe some other amazing results that I haven’t even considered.”

So I went for it, knowing it was a risk, and excited about the potential. I considered it a social experiment.

I intentionally limited the reach of my announcement. I posted on Facebook and shared with only a few other people I wanted to photograph and thought might be interested. I wanted it to to be seen by people who were already following me, and felt a connection. Interestingly, and not surprisingly, the submissions that didn’t work out were from people who had seen my announcement in a Facebook group someone had shared in. We had some back and forth, but ended up not scheduling. Overall, I had 22 submissions, and most of them led to a family photo session. The ones that were meant to be fell easily in to place. They were awesome! Families were so grateful. Some had uncomfortable feelings because they weren’t able to pay me full price. I reassured them that it was okay, that what they had to offer was valuable to me. It was wonderful to photograph families who had followed my work for years, but money was tight, or had worked with me previously, but had a change in financial situation. It was a month of saying yes. Of not letting money stop me from working with people who were otherwise an amazing match for me. It was a month of abundance in all kinds of ways.

You can read some beautiful words from last year’s submissions here.

Notes for Photographers

Over the year, I have received several messages from photographers interested in doing something like this. Here are some notes:

Do this only if you feel good about your current pricing, know your worth, and feel confident about the value of your time, work, and art. It’s easy to start questioning yourself when people are offering to pay much less than your standard rate.

In general, if someone tries to negotiate pricing with me, I will not work with them. It was important to me that I view this not as a negotiation. I offer what feels good to me based on the price they can pay and several other factors, and if that feels good to the client, we do it. There are lessons I needed to learn about as a business owner before I could do this.

Was it sustainable? Not for me, at this time. For the income I received, the number of hours I worked was too high. So this wouldn’t make financial sense for me to do long term. But I’m so glad I did it. When I look back at the photos, and remember the generous offers, the thoughtful gifts, the feelings shared, the kind words, and the memories captured, I feel happy.

Thank you for reading!