I used to think that a certain local boutique was my ideal client, so the day they posted on Instagram that they were looking for a local photographer I jumped right on it. I emailed them my resume immediately and within less than four hours I had a test shoot scheduled with them.

They came to my studio the following week and brought their go-to model and couple outfits for me to photograph. Everything went perfect! They raved about how much they loved my lighting style and ask me all sorts of questions about my style of photography and gear. Now keep that statement in mind as it plays a big part in this story but for now, I’ll continue. As we left that shoot they asked if I would be willing to sign a contract and work with them monthly. I couldn’t have been more excited!

The following week they sent the contract over and asked me to go down to Provo, UT to train with their other photographer, to help get a feel for their style when it came to posing the models and working with their clothing.

To be honest I didn’t think much about it. I really hadn’t worked with a boutique before and knew that I could use some fashion help when it came to my photography. The shoot went great. I got to see a little behind the scenes and meet their other photographer. However, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why she kept asking me about my gear and my lighting setup. In fact, at one point, I was so taken back by all her questions I literally said, “shouldn’t I be asking you all the questions?” She just played it off like she was just trying to get to know me.

The confusion starts

The shoot ended and I drove away feeling a little confused by the whole thing. I didn’t feel like I knew anything more than when I first started. She didn’t want to answer my questions or show me anything, but I was too excited to let those thoughts get in my way.

A week later they reached out to me again asking if I could come to shoot two local models at a studio with the other photographer. We were going to tag team the models; I was going to shoot full bodies and she was going to shoot close up of all their accessories. I was going to need to bring all my gear because the other model was using the naturally-lit room. I went fully prepared to blow their socks off!

The shoot was perfect. The two models actually ended up being acquaintances of mine so we had a great time. However, the entire time all anyone wanted to talk about was my gear and where I bought it and what size and brand everything was. I tried to play it off like they were just trying to make conversation. I quickly realized two days later, when they didn’t respond back about my invoice, that I had just been played.

What I learned

The entire time I was working for them all I was doing was training their current photographer on how to use studio lights and giving them the exact list of gear to do so! I was shocked and devastated. I had wanted to work for this company for a while now and my whole dream had been shattered.

I never did end up getting paid for the images that they used on their site, nor was I asked to come back. But I did learn two incredibly valuable lessons during that whole process. First, just because you teach someone your lighting set up doesn’t mean they can replicate it or even make it look like your work. Second, just because you put a label on a company as your dream client doesn’t actually mean they are a good fit for you or you’re a good fit for them.

I never want to work with these people again. I never want to wear their clothes or support their business because I don’t agree with how they run their business. Our morals don’t align and that’s OK — I don’t need them to. I need my real dream clients too.