Humor: What Some Photography Clients Act Like in the “Real World”

Here’s an oldie but goodie: Scofield Editorial released this tongue-in-cheek video back in 2009 titled, “The Vendor Client relationship in real world situations.” It pokes fun at how clients try to bargain with creative professionals in ways that they would never do in “real world” situations (e.g. eating at a restaurant, buying a movie, getting a haircut).

Many of the top comments on the video were left by photographers. Here’s a selection:

I am a professional photographer, and I keep my responses to these types really simple: “Oh, really, Company X will only charge you $99? Well then you should call Company X.” Prospect Answer: “But I didn’t really like Company X’s pictures online.” MY response: “Exactly. I really prefer the fresh mahi mahi at Brasserie Perrier to the filet o fish at McDonald’s, but I don’t call Brasserie Perrier and ask them to lower their prices because McDonald’s only charges $1.99.” [#]

The only thing missing is “Just think about all the exposure you’d get from this job! Your image will be seen by thousands of potential clients, which is great advertising. I mean, really, you should be paying us!” [#]

Clients nowadays doesn’t seem to differentiate between a picture and an image. Everyone can take a picture, but few have the dedication, the insight and the brilliance to visualize and produce a stunning image – over and over again. There’s image takers, and then there’s image makers. The problem is that the takers also call themselves “photographer” or “photography” and get paid in gratification, leaving the market as a whole with a bad reputation. [#]

I had a client for whom I did product photography, photo editing (basic like cropping and creative like changing colors or objects and compositing elements to digitally create new products) and page layout of a digital catalog and 50+ line sheets. After her 4th round of revisions (I do 1 round free and charge for all client requested revisions after the first one,) she asked me to put everything into a Word Doc so she could do the edits herself! I told her I couldn’t…she didn’t understand why. [#]

I received a request for my photography services with an offer to ‘pay me’ to take some pics of their product which they sell at market. Yes, I said, and I’ll keep it reasonable. As soon as I confirmed I would indeed be accepting payment (& we didnt even get into how low i was prepared to go)…the person came back with, ‘oh maybe i’ll just take some shots on my iPhone and get you to take a look at them for me…’ Suffice to say, the conversation ended there! [#]

If you can relate to the video and have had similar experiences as the people above, leave a comment sharing your story with us!

(via YouTube via Reddit)

  • Anthony Harrison

    This makes me angry.

  • Mike Philippens™

    Poor photographers….
    Think about this: In the real world, photographers are consumers too. So when they go to a computerstore to get something fixed, they start bargaining with the same nonsense arguments from the video. Everybody does it. Think about the bs articles about the ‘real’ costs of an iPad. It’s the same everywhere.

    I think people just like to complain. Photographers are no different.

  • Tommy Sar

    So many of my friends wonder why I don’t look into doing photography as a side gig, They think I do great work. It’s things like the parody video that turns me off to photography as a business. I have no interest in dealing with prospects and clients, answering to their whims, or compromising my freedom to do photography my way. The few rare occasions where I do photoshoots for a client is if I have full control and they don’t question me. They can tell me what they want and I’ll work to deliver it but if they can’t meddle with me. It sounds mean but since I don’t do this for a living, I can affording to be picky and not compromise my work.

  • Rafa.Fontana


  • Jeremy Madore

    I think it is quite possible to function as a paid photographer and not compromise your work, Tommy. I found that establishing a very clear pricing structure has given me more qualified customer leads, with fewer people questioning the costs of an item. I do have customers looking to reduce the cost of the overall package, but I don’t budge a muscle without also reducing the value of the package.

    For instance, my mid-size wedding package is $1950. If people want to pay less, they can do so by eliminating the photo album or the engagement session that it comes with. 9 out of 10 customers are more than willing to pay the full amount. That remaining 1 either looks for the reduced value package (barebones coverage) or, once I suggest reducing the value, quickly pays the full amount instead.

  • Mike Is Annoying

    No, not everyone “does it,” and not to this degree. I think some people just like to think they are photographers and dig on people who try to make a living by it. I notice your twitter feed says “photographer” on your list. Do YOU make a living as a photographer, or are you another person who simply thinks how easy it must be while keeping your own salaried position?

  • Davemeyer

    well, a movie is actually there, and a steak. but taking pictures really is just pushing a button. it doesn’t cost money per se, so really why not be flexible?

  • MarvinB7

    Oh the joy. Lived and living this now. I shoot real estate on the cheap these days but had to raise my rates by a whopping $15. I notified clients, etc and REMINDED them of the change during the next booking, to which they agreed. Then I send the invoice and you would think the world imploded. After a ridiculous email conversation the guy comes back with, and I quote “Cause you wouldnt have any customers in this biz if not for me.” Did I miss something? I don’t recall the godfather helping me out. After 6 weeks the guy finally pays, but only after I was able to get in touch with him while he was on vacation in Mexico. Poor overcharged guy. Really, I should just do it for free.

  • MarvinB7

    F- -. You fail. Actually, you aren’t even admitted to the class. Please go make snide comments on a subject you know about and stop digging hard working, skilled people who are just trying to make a living.

  • AW

    But…the company duplicating another DVD and printing a plastic cover for it only costs them less than a dollar, so why can’t they be flexible? Because it’s the costs to produce a movie that makes the DVD expensive, not the cost of making the DVD and case. Similarly, it is the cost of being a photographer that makes a commercial photo expensive, not the cost of pushing a button.

  • mythbuster

    What about all this fuss? Where there is demand, there is a market and everybody is free to discuss the price. No need to get angry. If you don´t like the client´s proposal, just don´t do the job. End of the story.

  • “ToExpensivePhotog”

    Actual Client: “What you want money for sending me 3 pictures via eMail? I know exactly how much time it takes to put 3 pictures into one email. I real don’t get, how you photographers justify your enormous hourly rates, …. .”

  • Mike Philippens™

    I’m a photographer but I stopped trying to make a career out of it. My dayjob pays too much to give it up. But I’m just being realistic. Consumers act like that. You take it way too personal.

    I work with computers. Fortunately I don’t work in a PC store or even in the PC business, because I’d surely have killed a customer by now. People just don’t value the knowledge and skill (and the years to have gained the knowledge and skill) nessecary to do the job. Fitting a simple piece of hardware in a computer is such a job that people think shouldn’t cost anything. In some cases it’s just plug it in and you’re done, but not always. Installing soft and hardware, giving advice about what to buy (and what NOT), cleaning crapware off a computer, all tasks that the average consumer does not value.
    Ofcourse, it’s not all consumers literally (I hoped you’d have gathered that), but on average they’re pretty much the same.

    Problem is that people don’t (want to) see the hard work that’s behind gaining the knowledge and skill. Obviously, it’s ridiculous to pay $3000 for 1 hour of snapping pics. In the eye of the consumer. The don’t see that it’s 15 years of knowledge they pay for. And the gear too ofcourse.

    Other side of the problem is that people don’t really know a good picture when they see one. Some people get equally excited about a snap of a U2 concert (my area of expertise) taken from the top of a stadium with an iPhone as they do about a picture I take from close by with perfect lightning and framing. Obviously, they really like my picture too, but the next day, they get all excited about the crappy ones too…

    So I kind of gave up on it and just take the pictures for myself. I do show them to the public ofcourse, but I don’t go about trying to make a career out of it. It seems too easye for the average Joe, just pressing a button. Just like they see IT work…pressing buttons, clicking a mouse…how hard can it be?

  • Ashley Taylor

    uh no. i wouldnt go to jcpenney and try to get a sweater for cheaper why would i ask for anything lower than the cost that it is set at?

  • Tommy Sar

    I agree it’s possible. And I think it’s great that you manage to do get paid doing what you love. For me, it just doesn’t seem worth it. I’m one of those people who got into photography for personal reasons. I treat photography as a way to express what I see and value. It really is like therapy to me. Sure, I like to share my photos with others and if they wish to buy some as, dare I say, artwork, great! But when I press that shutter, I’m not thinking about whether people will like this photo or buy it but that this scene I am witnessing interests me and I want to capture it. In essence, I shoot photography for my own approval. Anyone else’s is secondary. Even paid clients.

    If I were to get paid or be on assignment, it sort of messes with my thinking and I second guess things. Unless my client totally trusts me, is completely hands off and understands why I charge what I charge, I feel my work would be compromised. Which means I’m not enjoying what I’m doing. It becomes work. And if I’m not enjoying it, I’m not going to do my best.

    Perhaps I’m being lazy, selfish, or cowardly and limiting myself. After all, you and many other photographers have managed to do what you love as a career without compromising your work. Which I admire and respect.

  • Vicky

    Haha…i had this experience before, esp the second comment-tht i would get a lot of exposure! Maybe its like tht software piracy thing…only here it is charity!

  • Photographer_n12

    You get what you pay for. Experience, quality, and reliability aren’t free. If you want cheap, my 2 year old nephew has a new camera he just loves to use…

  • freeboprich

    Yeah, we’re all trying to save money because those of us who are freelancing part time photographers don’t make enough out of it to afford luxuries. But luxuries are luxuries, bargains are bargains. If you’re purchasing a customised service from a professional, you shouldn’t expect compromise in price unless you’re expecting the outcome to be compromised too.

  • Derek Lawrey

    Hahahaha this was hilariousness!! Ok, ok, designers get a lot of this too!! But you should come live out here in South Korea!! Cause that is how the general consumer is! Out here I mean really they love to do this stuff. I love the restaurant bit cause at the Bistro I am working now, they do things like this all the time!!! Ghahahhahaha!!

  • Barbara Armo

    You can expand this colossal sort of unthinking rudeness and selfishness to almost any sphere of existence. Think of all the champagne and caviar galas given to help the needy. Things can become very warped….

  • virgilstarkwell

    so you pay full sticker price when shopping for a car? or asking price for a house?

  • Annique

    This kind of thing also happens with internet professionals. One you missed though is the person who has you do the work but when their business doesn’t take off like they wanted they want you to walk away and eat the remaining balance. Where does this mentality come from? With the last client (who’s new idea didn’t take off) I said “if you provide massage for your clients over time but then they decide not to pay you do you just walk away?”

  • Jason

    Tommy, I feel the same way. I don’t want to compromise my artistic vision!

  • Victim

    I did a product shoots for my wife’s best friend recently. And we had an agreement on the costs after the first trail by verbally. But after the photos are done with the editing, there is no sign of payment from her side. I am giving her the best price as I am only calculating on transportation, equipments fees & etc. to me, I think it’s not easy to produce a product shoot, not just shooting it. After the shoot, I got to edit it, touch up, crop it etc. but do this client knows what am I doing? No..!!! Maybe they should try it themselves…of cos, if possible, she wouldn’t have ask me to help. I’m quite disappointed as when we discussed on the phone, this is not what she said. She said if the 1st trail of the product is fine, she is ok to pay for the services I provide to her. But when the costs are send to her for info, she said she cannot accept as it exceed her budget. So I let her make the call, ended up no replies. This shows your unprofessional behavior! If she just want it for free, just tell me straight! What is professional? If I can produce a photo u want, am I not pro enough? U are just finding a reason to get my service for free…that’s the fact! And I cannot accept it too…so sorry! This is business, not friendship anymore…

  • Nate

    ??? Doesn’t cost money per se? Buy a cheap camera, used, Nikon-D90 w/ kit lens: $700. Mem card: $40. Tripod, deflectors, lights, gear, bags, etc. $600 computer: $700 software: $500 schooling(optional):$20,000-$70,000

    if not schooling, train myself(materials, time, practice) $1000-$10,000

    Now, let’s go with all the lowball figures above and we still come to a minimal (and unrealistic) investment of $3540. If you went to school for this, we’re looking at $43,000 invested. And you want people who have invested a half or even a quarter of one hundred thousand dollars to be flexible on what they charge? You’re math is either very bad or you are simply a fool if or mega rich if $43,000 is ‘not a significant cost of money’. Even if $3540 is not a significant amount of money.

    So go spend that kind of money and see how many $30 sessions you need to do before you can even begin to make a profit. Don’t forget to add in the fact that you are losing money with time spent, which after 3 hours of shooting only pays you $10 per hour and puts nothing toward making back your initial investment.

    Or, pay yourself $3 per hour, put the rest towards your initial investment, live in a box in the park, shower at truck stops, do your editing at McDonald’s and live this way for a decade until you’re able to save up enough to make a security deposit on an apartment.

    Otherwise, be quiet and pay a photographer what he charges. Or take the pictures yourself.