8 Lies Newbie Photographers May Fall For

Is your client lying to you?

When you are new to the business world, its easy to want to trust everyone that walks through your door. Unfortunately not every client will live by the same ethics you do. Some clients are strictly out for “the deal” and will think nothing of trying to get everything they can.

Unfortunately, “lies” not only will take away the solid income stream you are trying to build to keep yourself in business, but it can also take away your self-confidence as a business owner, wondering who you can trust down the road.

Watch for these 8 lies you may hear from time to time. And if you hear these words coming from your client’s mouth, move forward cautiously.

Lie #1 You’ll Get A Ton Of Exposure From This

This has always been one of my favorites and I’ve probably heard this the most. People want the world given to them even when they don’t have the resources to pay for it. And since you’re just an “artist”, you get that, right? So why don’t you remain a “starving artist” and give me images for free. Then I’ll pass along your name to everyone I know and tell them what a great job you did. The problem is most people won’t follow through on telling their friends. And even if they do, chances are they will throw in a sentence or two about what a deal they got. Then any referral will also expect the deal when they visit you.

Lie #2 You’ll Have Plenty More Work In The Future

You may hear this one a lot in the commercial industry. A new company wants great photos of their current products, and expect to build on their success in the future. So they want a deal today, promising you their future projects – annual reports, model shoots, catalog projects and more. These clients mean well and you have to appreciate their big dreams. Yet in many cases these dreams simply won’t materialize. You have bills to pay. And because they are also a business owner, they should realize that too. If they want to commit to future projects in a contract, you may negotiate a pricing structure built on several shoots. Otherwise stick with your original pricing.

Lie #3 I’ll Pay When I Make Money

While some business  owners offer to bring you in on future deals, others may simply ask to postpone when they pay for your work. “The big project is due next month” or “My largest customer’s bill is due in a couple of weeks” you may hear over and over again. So they ask for their images promising to pay when they get paid. Your policy should always be payment, then final images. The minute you release your images, they have no motivation to pay you. You may keep hearing these empty promises forever if you release your images first.

Lie #4 I’m Sending The Check Today

If you do work for a client again and again, its easy to get lazy and start releasing your work before payment. Pretty soon they owe you for a shoot, and for a few images .. and it quickly adds up to some pretty big dollar amounts. Then you send a statement, or leave a message, and you don’t hear from them. Even great clients can go “missing” if they have a few down months themselves and the bill suddenly becomes bigger than they imagined. If you hear “the check is in the mail” more than once, put a stop to it. Call and start a payment plan. Ask for a credit card. Find some way to resolve the situation. Then go back to payment first before you release your work.

Lie #5 It’s a Small Project

Its so easy to be taken in by this one. The client gives you a few details and you provide a low bid. Then suddenly new things start popping up. You have to spend time researching things, buying new equipment, and planning in extra hours of work. And this low cost small project balloons into something you no longer want to handle. Instead of getting sucked into this scenario, ask lots of questions before you take on the work. Be very specific about the little things and get things in writing. Contracts are good in this case to make sure you both understand what is expected.

Lie #6 I Don’t Know Anyone That Charges This Much

When people start questioning your prices, its usually because they see the value in your work and yet they don’t want to pay what you are truly worth. They’ve looked at other photographers and know you will be the best for the project. Yet they could save money by going in another direction. They are caught in a dilemma so they kick it back to you. If they can charm you and make you think your pricing structure is unreasonable, maybe they can get a deal. This is the time to stay firm in your pricing. If they really like what they see, they will find a way to fit you into their budget model.

Lie #7 I Just Want A Few Files Today And Will Buy The Rest Later

This usually comes into play when you offer a discount if they reach a certain level. So they take the digital files of the two prints they can decide on today, promising to come back and choose ( and pay for) the rest later. Later never comes. Again, payment should always be mandatory before they leave with final images.

Lie #8 This Is Our Budget

Many people start out phone conversations this way. “Our budget for photography is $xxx.” Yet in many cases they are just starting their research and have no clue as to what things truly cost. Don’t match their budget, stay true to your pricing structure. You don’t hold their purse strings. You aren’t in charge of their final decisions. People change their minds about financing all the time, especially if they find something they really want.

8 thoughts on “8 Lies Newbie Photographers May Fall For”

  1. You nailed this topic! I have encountered all of these over the past 10 months since I’ve gone full-time with photography.

    I will say that a few times I have decided on my own that exposure/future work could be the result of taking a certain job. But typically when it is somebody else trying to convince you of the benefits of working cheap/free then it rarely pans out. “I might offer to shoot your project for free, but please don’t ask!”

    As always–very practical and helpful information.


  2. Well written and straight served truths for both new professionals as well as a reminder to seasoned professional who may be experiencing a slower time.

  3. I was told by a prospective client that if I undercut another quote they had, they would guarantee me that job, plus any future ones. Unfortunately, I would have had to take a significant cut to do that, so I said no. I eventually found out through other sources, that the so-called “quote” was fictitious, as they tried the same stunt on a colleague & friend.

    • It can definitely work both ways. I know consumers will try anything to get great quality at the lowest price possible. Don’t bargain with your fees. If you stay true to what you charge, you will get quality clients that love what you do. The minute you cut, you’re headed for trouble.


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