A client reached out to me for my photography services. They said they absolutely loved my photography style and wanted me to create some photos for them for their website and Instagram. I work in 4 hour slots. I said I could do between 2 to 3 photos in an hour and they were fine with that.
They sent me 11 recipes to photograph knowing that I could do between 8 to 12 in the allotted time slot. They kept promising me many more photo shoots for the next few years. So far so good but red flags started showing up pretty early.
For one, the client insisted on talking to me on the phone as opposed to emails. I spent more than 2-3 hours talking to them.
I sent a detailed questionnaire about what they wanted or not wanted in the photos. The client insisted that there are no props or colors I cannot use. Said everything is at my discretion and I have full artistic license. Only asked for the photos to be slightly zoomed out so that they can be cropped in different ways for different platforms.
I asked to be sent reference photos so that I could at least see what they liked. I received a couple dozen of photos that were all nice and pretty but had nothing in common. Some had more props some less, some were light some dark, some were very minimalistic, some were really colourful. Different angles, different styles. So I confirmed with them that I should create a variety of different styles also. They agreed.
Photo shoot went well and I was very happy with the photos. I was able to get 8 recipes in those 4 hours. Since they promised me a lot more photo shoots, I went ahead and finished the other 3 recipes that took me another 2 hours.
I sent them the photos and the invoice where I clearly marked that I provided extra 2 hours of work at no charge. (Big mistake)
Suddenly, the client who was super chatty and kept calling me at all hours, got all tight lipped. I figured something was wrong. After a few days finally talked to them. All of a sudden the person stopped saying “I” and changed to “we” and “the team”. And “the team” didn’t like most of the photos. Things that were wrong:
– I shouldn’t have used blue (blue is one of my favourite colours in food photography and most of my portfolio that they supposedly loved had blue)
– I shouldn’t have used white plates
– I shouldn’t have used grey metal plates
– I shouldn’t have used coloured and patterned plates
(at this point I got super confused as short of putting food directly on the table I don’t know what other plates I could have used)
– I had too many props
– I had not enough props
– there was not enough “pop” and I should add more “pop” (I don’t even know what “pop” meant in that case)
After the conversation I went back to those few emails we had as they insisted on talking on the phone and wrote a detailed response with examples. I pointed out that they said I had no restrictions in terms of colours and props. I showed how photos could potentially have more “pop” as they are cropped for various social media platform. I went ahead and showed my photos side by side with the reference photos they sent.
Their response was: “If reference photos were supposed to be taken literally then we should have discussed every photo over the phone”
They then started demanding reshoots and even before I responded to it started saying that they won’t pay for reshoots. I actually have no problems doing reshoots if the client is nice but they were aggressive and rude. I asked which photos they’d like to reshoot. It turned out that after all their disappointment and terrible feedback they actually only wanted 3 photos to be redone. I said sure, but since 3 photos were provided for free, I’ll update the invoice to reflect that it’s no longer free.
All of a sudden they didn’t need any reshoots. We obviously aren’t working together again. And yes, they are using my photos on their Instagram.
I am still unsure how I was supposed to take reference photos if not literally.