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How Not To Hire With A Professional Photographer . . .

Part 1 of . . . ? I'm sure that as time goes on, there will sadly be more posts along these lines . . . Here’s the latest story.

Several weeks ago, I received an email with the salutation, “Hey there,” which is a red flag to begin with. A sure sign it was sent to every commercial photographer they could find, at least in my area.

The email went on to say they were looking for a photographer for a commercial shoot here in OKC, and after reviewing my website, thought I would be a perfect fit. They included a brief rundown on the shoot, and asked that I send them my rates.

I did some research, and discovered that the gal who sent the email worked for a NYC-based ad agency with offices across the country, including Dallas, and their client base was pretty extensive. In this particular case, their client was a restaurant firm that had restaurants all over the country — except Oklahoma. This was to be their first.

I responded as I often do by asking for a shot list and schedule.

They responded by with a shot list with over 50 shots, and a schedule that allowed less than 4 hours to complete all 50 shots. Please note that you don’t just shoot 50 individual images. To complete a 50 shot list, it’s more like several hundred images, so the client has a choice.

I conferred with a friend who has far, far more experience in this kind of thing than I do. We settled on a fair price, including licenses, and I sent it along to the ad agency gal, along with my terms (copyright, licensing, etc).

I didn’t hear anything for several days, and since the shoot date was fast approaching, I emailed again, asking if they’d made any decisions.

Her response was, “We’ve decided to go with someone who is more in line with our budget.”

Well, next time, tell people what your budget is. And, were you ever going to tell me you had decided to go with someone else? Or just leave me hanging?

All that was enough, but a few weeks later, I received another email from another gal at yet another NYC ad agency. At least this one actually started with my name — “Dear Don.” That was an improvement.

Same story different verse, but with a small twist — they wanted to know what my day rate was, along with a price for licensing all of the photos. Of course, there was no shot list attached.

This time, however, when I asked for a shot list prior to sending a price, I got nothing. No list. No response. Nothing at all.

After waiting a week or so, I inquired about the shot list, again mentioning that the shoot date was coming up soon. This time I was told, “we’re working on it,” and “the shoot may be postponed a couple of weeks.”

Those “couple of weeks” have more than come and gone, and still no shot list. For that matter, no communication of any kind. At all. Nothing.

This is not how it’s supposed to be done, folks. For example:

  • Treat people with the respect you want them to give to you.

  • Be up front. Be honest. Tell them you're considering others. DO NOT lead them to believe otherwise.

  • Tell people your budget. I understand you're hoping to get someone to bid it low, so you can save your client some money and/or put more in your pocket. Fine. Start with a lower budget that what you actually have.

  • Keep them informed, even if you have to suck it up and tell them you’ve decided to use someone else. It’s email, for crying out loud. It’s not like they’re going to get in your face, especially when there are several hundred miles between you. Just send the note, and move on.

I’m not overly expensive. At the same time, I’m not cheap, either. If you’re looking for bids, say so up front and I will pass immediately, instead of wasting my time and yours. But please be a professional about it.

I have to admit, I am curious who did that restaurant job, because the price I quoted was quite dirt cheap, which means whoever did it was basically working for free.

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