Working within our industry, it does not take long before you come across a bad opportunity. Now when I say “bad” I don’t mean bad overall (although that may be the case), I mean “bad” for you personally. But sometimes… someone will throw and outrageous and sometimes even unbelievable “opportunity” at you expecting your full respect and gratitude for their enormous pile of smelly crap.

As I’m driving back from Los Angeles this week I receive a call from a “publicist” who tells me she received my information from one of our mutual clients. I inquired as to the talent’s last name (as I often work with numerous people with the same first name) and she admitted she did not really know it or how to pronounce it. She attempted it and I got the idea of who she meant. Fair enough – but I did wonder how I would feel if my publicist did not know how to pronounce my name.

The conversation continued with a job opportunity she has for me to photograph another one of her clients who is “guaranteed” to be on magazine covers and has already been on a number of them. We looked the client up online – could find only one. But just to give the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she was being accurate.

The publicist really wanted me to work with her client to create publicity images which could be submitted to various publications. I inquired as to the types of images they needed, the time frame they needed the images done by as well as all the other important details I would need to know to take on a project.

Then the publicist stopped abruptly and then asked me if I intended on charging her or her client for this photo shoot. My response immediately was “ABSOLUTELY.”

The publicist then started talking about how many photographers she works with would do these publicity shoots for free and how if it were a commercial shoot – well then, she has paid upwards of “half a million dollars” for a photo shoot. Oh, and that this model typically tips photographers anyway around a thousand dollars – but they don’t want to make that mandatory, of course.

I laughed in my head wondering why I didn’t get that “half million dollar” photo shoot call!

I responded to say that this was our business and we treat it as such. I continued to say that although she has a “lot of photographers willing to do this for free,” she did call me (we did not call her for this) so there was something she saw in our work which resonated with her. Then I inquired – if we are not being paid to do our job – and these photos are helping grow your client’s career – how do we ever benefit or profit from the project?

Her response was the media exposure would help us. Then she mentioned how she had helped get some of my other work published (with the mutual client we shared) and hopes that “helped me out.” Fair enough point.

She then asked what I would charge to work with her client. As a general rule, I never give out pricing without knowing the scope of the project. Reason being is that I simply could drastically under or overestimate without knowing all the details. I responded to say that I could not give a budget until I knew what the shoot would include (location(s), length, hair and makeup, etc).

But I then said if she could either send me some details on what she was looking for (or tell me then) I could let her know the budget.

The response came back again “so you can’t just give me a price?” I explained a second time that I could not at this time, but if she provided me with the details of what she was looking for, then I would gladly let her know the price. She said “fine” she would e-mail me and the conversation ended.

I never received an e-mail from the publicist. However what I did receive was a post to my Facebook page which said: “called James Patrck to book hm for a shoot super rude to me with a huge ego. Im sorry hs work was placed n my press bookng.”

Note: I did not alter the text – typos were already there.

Now at this point several questions immediately popped into my head about the legitimacy and professionalism of a publicist who would make such an egregious public post (something I asked about myself as I wrote this blog – but I do have a point below).

But let us assume that the publicist was correct and that I am a huge egomaniac who is super rude and that was a gold mine of an opportunity that I was foolish to want to put a price tag on. That doesn’t charge the reality that this was a bad opportunity – for me.

When receiving opportunities you must take a few things into account.

First, know what it is you want to do versus want to avoid. For example, jobs outside of your comfort range.

Second, know what questions to ask. Get as many details as you can about each and every project before you agree to take it on.

Lastly, know that it is okay to decline a project if it is not for you. You should always be professional and not emotional – after all this is a business – but there is no shame in knowing when to say “no.”

In reviewing the conversation with the publicist in hindsight – was I professional and did I restrain for emotion? Absolutely. Did it come off as offensive that I was not willing to work for free? Apparently. Was this a bad opportunity for me? No doubt.

Moving on.

James Patrick