Clients From Hell Photographer Edition: “What Are Your Rates?”

Feb 1, 2017

Pratik Naik

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Clients From Hell Photographer Edition: “What Are Your Rates?”

Feb 1, 2017

Pratik Naik

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I always say that if you want to see creativity, ask a photographer the various ways potential clients will respond back to rate requests. I decided to turn that into reality!

I asked photographers the worst stories they had with potential clients responding back after being asked what their rates were. I promised to keep the responses anonymous so they could let loose. Sadly, it happens to even some of the best photographers.

The point of this is to make you realize that you’re not alone. It’s a part of the industry. I think in time, it gets easier to handle knowing that it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with you, but how awful people can be sometimes. And hopefully, by sharing this, people will know that it’s really not cool to act like this!

I decided to collect the *best* (of the worst) 35 responses and here they are below:

1. *Radio Silence*

2. “Did you accidentally add an extra zero?”

3. “Do you know anyone cheaper?” -sends list of people who charge twice as much.”

4. A client once said to me “I can’t pay you! I’m going on a cruise :(.”

5. I was asked if I could provide a discount because he was a gay father of two. I replied back if I could get a bonus for being a single mom of four.

6. Someone once wanted to give me a used Coach purse to shoot their wedding… They said I could use it in my fashion shoots…

7. The best response is when someone comes back to you cause they realized that they get what they pay for.

8. They said, “I’m a wedding photographer and I would never charge that much”… lol, then who’s the smart one here?

9. Me: Shoots half of a designer lookbook
Client: Has husband shoot other half of lookbook to save money
Client later emails: Can you retouch theses to look like yours?
Me: It would have been cheaper and of better quality if you just had me shoot the entire collection in the first place…

10. One time LA Tan tried to give me unlimited tan for a year in exchange for a billboard. LOL money>skin cancer.

11. I once told a would be client, “last year I went to the bank to pay on a loan with my photo credits.” He just laughed at me and said, “Son, the real world takes real money!” Long silence, then he said, “Oh so you would like to get paid?”

Yes, yes I would!

12. I had a very big company ask me to do hair and makeup for 25 people for a commercial shoot. When I quoted them my day rate and kit fee for that, they wrote back asking if I would consider cutting my rate by half but getting paid in socks. SOCKS! SOCKS!!!!!!!! Since when do socks pay the bill? WTF?

13. My favorite was from trying to price re-licensing of an editorial picture to a client for commercial use:
“…why don’t you just give it to us, we know they’ve (the original magazine)already paid you….”

14. Literally “HAHAHAHAHAHA”, entirety of the email.

15. “Your work is much better than who we usually use. She charges $75 for a session including all files, but we would pay you double that.” -_-

16. Someone asked for a print of one of my images and when I told him the price he said, “I’m not paying that for something that costs you a dollar at Walgreens!” He then followed that up with, “I’ve done some photography and I know how much prints cost.”

17.  “Lol” – always from models who expect/are accustomed to not paying.

18. “Okay, thanks.” Followed by an immediate post on the newsfeed from her of “Looking for a CHEAP photographer.” I laughed. Really wasn’t that much for what she wanted, honestly.

19. “For photos?”

20. “I’ll have my intern shoot instead. They have an iPhone.”

21. Best thing I ever heard ever, “It’s really not fair that you think you deserve that much money.”

22. Non-payer: “To push a button? I like your images and all, but you’re not THAT good! I can get (insert friend/bartender/neighbor/priest here) to do it for me. He/she has a camera. It’s not like it’s that hard.”
Me: Cool. Please do!

23. “Oh, I thought you were going to pay me!! You know that’s how it works!! Photographers pay models to shoot!!!”

24. *After giving full list of rates*
“What’s your cheapest?”

25. Client: $14.95 for a family album?
Me: No $14 hundred 95
Client: wait, what??????

26. Got a call from OWN, an actress I photographed was on a new show and they wanted to use my photos in promotion. “But there is no budget for the photography.” “Oh I’m sorry, is Oprah a little tight on cash?”

27. I actually had a model give me a pure shock face/response… “Rates? But… I’m… I’m really pretty you know?!”

28. “But what about the exposure you’ll get from shooting for us? That’s worth more than what you’re charging.” Lady, exposure doesn’t pay my bills, hahahaha.

29. “Oh you’re way over our budget… unless that changes?”

30. “Omg I love your work SOOO much! how much do you charge? I’d LOVE! to shoot with you!”
Here are my rates ____
*Reads message and never replies again*

31. When they don’t want to pay for your services with cash… but with their body. I’ve gotten so many clients who respond this way and it’s honestly extremely sickening.

32. “Come on! Don’t be a stiff!” – Client after I refused to give him a discount. -_-

33. It drives me insane when a client will try and compare me to other photographers asking why I charge more? As if there’s only one rate for photographers!?

34. “I thought we could test so you could update your portfolio.”
I update my portfolio everyday with new clients lol.

35. I once told someone my rates for a headshot session and he responded with, “I totally thought it was gonna be around $10.”

About the Author

Pratik Naik is a high end retoucher, photographer, and retouching teacher under his Solstice Retouch brand, he also runs the succesful retouchist blog.  You can catch Pratik on social media on his Instagramtumblrtwitter and facebook. This article was also published here and shared with permission

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17 responses to “Clients From Hell Photographer Edition: “What Are Your Rates?””

  1. Owen Avatar

    Thank you for this article. I was starting to think it was just me.

    My Favs:
    I’m a student
    You can use the images on your website. (I would anyway, but thanks)
    Can you throw in a photo album?
    We’ve already paid out for all the other services.
    I’ll tell me friends about you.

    1. Anders Avatar

      -What? I usually pay half of that and then they do twice as much work as you have done! But you know, if you lower your rate we could give you a lot of work! -Yeah right, cause I would love to get a lot of mor work but only get paid half as much!

  2. phillip mccordall Avatar
    phillip mccordall

    My only advice is to triple your prices , you will end up with a third of the work but as the profit margin is higher you will make more with a lot less hassle. If your work is good in the end you will end up with the real big money work. Actors, footballers, etc. There’s nothing wrong with pricing yourself out of the lower end market.

    1. WillMondy Avatar

      My friend runs a shop selling lighting and other household accessories like vases etc. She used to put 100% markup but people thought it was cheap and tacky and sales were low so sho charged 200% and even 300% on some items and sales are booming. She only gets the rich clients but they are willing to pay because it came from a boutique store not a department store.

  3. Laurent Roy Avatar
    Laurent Roy

    #28 is such a Classic !
    btw I already heard it, even if I’m not a pro photographer !!!

  4. Glenn Dulay Avatar
    Glenn Dulay

    Xylph Jb Dacanay

  5. Kevin Blackburn Avatar
    Kevin Blackburn

    The sad part is when you have a long time client who finally hires a marketing person and brings in their “friends” to shoot and you watch the image quality go in the toilet (because you are still connected to their dropbox) and you just can’t do anything about it. BC the owner that you used to work with “trusts” their new hire and is just to busy to see the damage being done. Yeah her friends charge a 3rd what i do and the image quality is about 25% of mine at best just frustrating and sad but hey is what it is right.

  6. Thiago Pereira Avatar
    Thiago Pereira

    The 30th happens to me ALL THE FUNCKING TIME where I live… -.-

  7. Shelly Lloyd Avatar
    Shelly Lloyd

    I work for a company that does newborn photos in the hospital. Our catalogue of packages/prices are included in each parent’s welcome package and yet often after we do the pictures parents are pissed off when they realise that, yes, you have to buy the photos if you want a copy. I have heard, “But my nurse said all the pictues are free” several times. Even though none of the nurses say this.

  8. Angie Dutton Avatar
    Angie Dutton

    “I was wondering if I could have the friends and family discount.” Lady calling to inquire about my already discounted fall mini sessions.
    Me: “I don’t think we are related, and my true friends would never ask for a discount.”
    She didn’t book the session.

  9. David M Stephens Avatar
    David M Stephens

    Yeah this is the reason why we go out and spend thousands of dollars on equipment so we can give our product away cheap or free

  10. Addison Geary Avatar
    Addison Geary

    “If I knew it would cost that much I’d hire a professional.”

  11. Kevin Price Avatar
    Kevin Price

    When working on my own pieces, I don’t mind shooting for a newly starting out model in exchange for them posing for my personal work. However, some arrive with rather wild expectations (they want a ton of photos out of the shoot- like 50-100- all processed through photoshop, of course), or they try to bail after I’ve taken their shots and it’s time to move on to my work. “Oh! I just remembered I have another appointment!” Well, if you’re bailing on the agreement, then I don’t have to hold up my end of the deal either. #31 is the creepiest I’ve experienced.

  12. Charles Sherman Avatar
    Charles Sherman

    If I hear “you’ll get exposure” one more time…

    followed closely by “we’ll trade this product/service (at full marked up value that really costs us nothing) for your service and images (which is going to take 10-15 hours of your life and time away from actual cash paying work)”

  13. Romain Huc Avatar
    Romain Huc

    First of all , i’m sorry for my english ,

    Okay 1rst time on this website but i’ll have so much of this that i’ll make a long reply .
    First of all i work in eSport as photographer/moviemaker. My work is pretty reknow everyone saying (even guys from top org) that my work is awesome etc . But none are ready to pay when im asking for a pretty reasonable price for a movie or a set photo for their players. Nowdays esport has grown a lot (players i’ve been working with got 15 000 $ salary/month).
    I remembered back then , when they asked me to do a short video clip ( with their actions) for nothing and be like (cmon it will get you a lot of views since its me ) . So i used to do it but now they got a shit tons of money and come back at me (“cmon you did for free 3 years ago”) when i even asked just 50 € for a 2min clip that would take me a week. (They said no “i thought we were friends “) DUDE ofc im your friend but if i ask you to come to my house and cut my grass for free with lawnmower (would you do it ?). I’m asking for a short pay .

    The worst part is that i photograph some of best esport player on CS. And Counter strike has grown so much that there is a lot of views on youtube about famous player. Guess what ? people just come to my facebook page download my photos and then add a gradien fucking title and got 1 millions views with my photograph as thumbnail. Am i getting a $ of it ? No !

    So this is what you have to answer for :

    – Find respect (no matter what , or how important the person is , except if it’s OBAMA ofc)
    – if someone said : “Cmon it’s just a photo , you just have to press the button”
    Just tell them : dude “Look this is the camera (500€ lens 300 € Flash 100 € this light modifier 80 €) i’ve spend year/month and experimentation to come to this result.

    Other stories :
    Don’t know for you , but sometimes i did some portrait photos with girls i was with or i slept with . (just for fun ). Funny part is that when they cut off communication with you , they come back at you 6 month later (oh you did some sweet work , i don’t want to go back with you , but would you like to take some photos ? )
    – Test shoot :”When you ask someone to do photos and they seems to be motivated . “Yeah alright ”
    And then the shooting day or 1 days before : “Can i come with my friend ” I answer “Yeah of course” i know if you are a stranger or whatever “to feel more confident ” but then :
    “She would like to test , and do some photos too with me :) ”

    GO DAMN IT WHAT THE FUCK , We are not photobooth.

    Cs players i know , when they see me at an event , they often ask me to take them in picture , for facebook or social media (fan page ). But now i’m pretty happy and proud to ask them if they are going to pay me . And if they just said : “Come on we know each other for 6 years ,”I’ll be the MOST HAPPY MAN ON EARTH TO just say ” FUCK OFFF !!!! if they dare to say : “no, why would i pay it’s just a photo , we are friends , i’ll gave you credit”
    I’ve been to esport event for 5-6 years around 20 players told me that . Before i wasn’t paying attention since i didn’t find myself that good to be paid for that .
    But mostly it’s not about the level of your skill .
    Every work should be paid !

    I remember to pay a friend that make ink portrait from picture , and i was glad to pay him something for that .
    It’s Like , i don’t know people wants beautiful photo , but they don’t want to pay for it . They think smartphone+filters will gave them same results. And then come back at you seing they can’t.

    7 years ago i contacted a parkour/freerun group to take them in picture/photos . It was fun we were running walking into weird location and for me it was a great experience to improve myself in sport photography and sport clip. (I was 18 y) but then i stopped they opened a parkour club they get a lot of “student” (license was like 300 € /year(wich is kinda a lot) and i remember teaching a young guy to photography / video . Since i stopped doing stuff with them they still use some of my photos /edit as cover on facebook or on their card. (it’s okay) But they come back at me (at least 2 years without talking) and ask me to do some photos & stuff to renew their fb cover or photos . I said Nico can do it ? (the little guy i gave lesson) They said “No , he is good for video clip but not as good as you for photos ” I said okay so , this is my rate : (i kinda did a friend prize ) so i asked 100 € for those photos . They said that was a joke , we are friend bla bla bla . I was so mad about esport thing , that i just said , “i’m off that’s all “. The worst part is that they bought 2 years ago GH4 + Prime lens for it go pro 4 + dji phantom 3 (with license money ) (parkour trainer are also paid a real salary) . (im stuck with consumer camera like 750d + Good lens but not prime for years )

    An other one , I remember i was on an event taking video footage for a video about a team , and when they don’t play i was taking videos of my”friends” team . The thing is that my friend’s team reached final against my team , so i keep taking thos videos . And when i ask my friend’s team manager if they would be interested : “I think so, send me a mail , ill give to the org boss” . The team reached a final for 1rst time so i ask about 700 € for 20 min of video footage+ 20 retouched photos (it was cut by me+ i send a preview in low quality ) i even think that was pretty cheap. (i reduced to 500€)
    They come back at me and said it was too much and they would pay max 150 € (i’ve said no that’s absolutly disgusting to treat me like that , since i’ve known them and specially knowing that they pay their player 10 K per month) + adding fact that it was my team whom paid me for travel + hotel.

    So i’m not in a good financial situation , but i’ve learned a lot , if you keep being kind and accept for “credit , exposure” they won’t pay you , even if you become really good.
    Even if im’ pretty low , and i love taking photos for pro (to get some exposure). I’m pretty happy to refuse to shoot them . It’s like you have something they can’t get . I’m really bad at selling myself to people , org & company . But i know that my work is worth something , so i’m happy to not give this to anyone that doesnt respect it . And that should be apply to every photographers even beginner.
    Because a lot of times i didn’t asked for a lot (but for “something”).

    Sorry if you read me entirely , thats kinda my whole life being subject to this . And it wasn’t only for photos but for videos.

  14. pwp Avatar

    I’ve generally followed the advice of a great friend who had a dazzling business career.
    “It’s often preferable to be reassuringly expensive…”
    Works for me!

  15. Joshua Boldt Avatar
    Joshua Boldt

    Number 31? What the heck? Really?