I used to believe that a particular local boutique was my dream client. So, when they posted on Instagram that they were in search of a local photographer, I jumped at the opportunity. I promptly emailed them my resume, and within hours, I had a test shoot scheduled with them.
The day arrived, and they visited my studio, bringing their go-to model and a selection of outfits for me to photograph. Everything seemed perfect. They were effusive in their praise for my lighting style and asked numerous questions about my photography style and equipment. Little did I know that this initial encounter would play a pivotal role in my evolving photography journey.
As we wrapped up the shoot, they asked me if I would be interested in signing a contract to work with them on a monthly basis. I couldn't have been more thrilled. The following week, they sent over the contract and suggested that I travel to Provo, UT, for training with their in-house photographer to get a feel for their style, especially regarding posing models and working with their clothing.
To be honest, at that point, I hadn't worked much with fashion boutiques and realized I could benefit from some guidance in that department. The training session went well, and I got a glimpse behind the scenes of their operation, meeting their other photographer. However, throughout the day, I couldn't shake off the feeling that something was off. The other photographer seemed oddly interested in my gear and lighting setup, and when I tried to ask her questions about her work, she kept avoiding them, passing them off as friendly chit-chat.
The confusion truly set in when, a week later, they invited me to a shoot featuring two local models in a studio, in collaboration with their photographer. I was tasked with capturing full-body shots while she was to focus on the accessories. I arrived with all my gear, determined to impress.
The shoot itself was flawless, and I even knew the models personally, making it an enjoyable experience. However, what struck me as odd was that, once again, everyone was more interested in discussing my equipment – where I bought it, the size, and the brands. I dismissed it, thinking it was just a conversation starter. Little did I know that within two days, they wouldn't respond to my invoice, and it hit me like a ton of bricks - I had been played.
The reality was harsh: my entire time working for them had been a tutorial for their current photographer on how to use studio lights and a detailed list of equipment. It was a shock and a massive disappointment. My dream of working for this company had crumbled.
However, through this disheartening experience, I gained two invaluable lessons. First, merely teaching someone your lighting setup doesn't mean they can replicate your style or achieve your quality. Second, just because you label a company as your dream client doesn't guarantee they are a good fit for you, or you for them.
I realized I didn't want to work with these people again, nor support their business. Our values didn't align, and that's okay – I don't need them to. I need real dream clients, ones that appreciate and respect my craft.
This experience reshaped my perception of what my dream should look like. It made me more cautious and slower to say yes, but also more discerning. It taught me to prioritize my own values and vision over a label, and I'm grateful for these lessons. It's all part of the journey of becoming a better photographer and a wiser businessperson.