Recently I had an experience in business that made me realize something; you don't have to take every single job opportunity that comes your way. That goes for everyone who is in business for themselves, but more specifically photographers.
Let me explain the backstory.
I got an email from a man who we'll call Bob, wanting to set up a TFP (Time For Print) shoot for a male fitness model, who we'll call Joe. Keyword: fitness. Sports and fitness photography is not something that I specialize in, but I have shot a couple fitness events before, so I thought that this would be interesting and maybe even fun. Another piece to this whole mess of a pie was that Joe was a male model, and the majority of the models that I work with are female. I told Bob that I would love to do a TFP shoot, then asked for the model's social pages so that I could get an idea of what he looked like and what his style was. I also asked what Bob and Joe had in mind for the shoot. I explained that I use natural light for my photos, so a location outdoors would be ideal.
Bob responded back with a few more details about Joe, and then created a group chat on Instagram with Joe, himself, and I. I thought that this was a bit odd, but went with it anyway. Here is how the conversation started.
Hold the phone.
By this point, I had made up my mind. I had decided that I was not going to go through with this TFP shoot for a few different reasons other than being a little uneasy.
1. Normally when someone is contacting me and they don't have the correct grammar or they make mistakes with their spelling, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are just not thinking about it or maybe they grew up in a foreign country and are still trying to learn the english language (which is already a confusing language to outsiders). But, there are other times where is seems lazy, or a little suspicious, and unprofessional. This would be one of those times.
2. The look and aesthetic of what Bob told me they were wanting was not something that I wanted to do. As you'll see me explain in the third photo above, I was under the impression that Joe would be fully clothed, and doing some type of fitness activity, like working out in the gym or running on the track. The photos that Joe sent me were more for showing off the body in a different way, and I didn't feel comfortable around that kind of modeling. Furthermore, I have never done a boudoir session, let alone this type of session for men. The photos that I would have gotten from this shoot would have been useless to me, because I wouldn't have been able to put them in my portfolio, and it's not something I'm looking to specialize in now or anytime soon.
And after these messages were sent, the third reason became apparent to me:
3. Spamming me with messages trying to get me to agree to do the shoot after I had already said no and recommended two other local photographers is not going to change my mind.
I later sent him a final message saying that I would have to decline, and that I wished them luck. The spam messages stopped after that.
Wether you are going to be paid or not, if the job that comes your way makes you feel uncomfortable (and I mean in a bad way, like something or someone makes you suspicious or is doing inappropriate things or you just have a gut feeling that is telling you to leave) then you shouldn't feel like you have to take it. For one, this is your time that you would be spending, and that means all of your creative talents too. It's going to be your gas, wear and tear on your gear, your energy spent talking with the other people involved in the project or shoot, and most definitely the hours you spend editing photos.
The purpose of TFP shoots if for all parties involved to get something out of it, and this is what makes up for the fact that no one is getting paid. Photographers, models, make-up artists, hair stylists, fashion stylists, and sometimes videographers all get to use the photos and/or videos attained from the shoot in their portfolios and on their social media, and everyone gets tagged and credited in everyone's posts. It's beneficial for everyone involved, and those are the shoots that are worth not getting paid for. Now obviously, you can't live off of TFP shoots, but it's an excellent way to collaborate with other artists.
In my situation with Bob and Joe, I felt uncomfortable, and I knew that the time and energy that I would use to get the photos that would be rendered useless to me was not worth it. I knew my worth, and I said "No thank you." in the politest way that I could. If it had been a paid shoot, I would have been a little upset that I had missed out on the money opportunity, but ultimately I would have been glad that I realized that I would not be a good fit for the client and what their expectations were.
My point is, know what your time is worth and what you are worth, so that you don't feel like you have to take every project you come across, and ultimately avoid the situations in which your time and talents are wasted.
I decided to make a blog post dedicated to this topic because I want fellow photographers that might see this to take this empowering and insightful practice and apply it to their business, dreams, and ambitions.
Cover photo by: Visually Bias Photography