The Funniest Client Request I Will Have All Year. I Hope.

The Funniest Client Request I Will Have All Year. I Hope.

They are out there. Lurking in the shadows and deep recesses of the internet where common sense is not welcome and logic has yet to be invented. I am speaking of course about every small business owner’s worst nightmare. The potential client that has no potential. Nothing I had encountered before could prepare me for the hilarious email I received one fine Monday morning.

It all began two weeks ago on a Tuesday. It was a fairly cold day up in Toronto which is not unusual and offered a rather unsurprising start to my day. I wasn’t particularly looking to leave my office where the trusty Tassimo machine was dispensing plenty of warm beverages at a furious pace. My caffeine addiction was to be cut short however, at least for the time being, as I had scheduled a meeting that day with a new prospective client. Luckily for me it was at a coffee shop.

The client in question was actually more of a middle man. In today’s politically correct world I suppose they are a middle person. I work with a lot of these. This particular middle person was a marketing agency that had their own roster of clients. As campaigns developed across their roster and if there was a need for a photographer I would naturally step in to place. Sounds like a pretty good place to be. So we scheduled that meeting and off I went on that cold Tuesday morning to make my presentation.

I have always considered face to face meetings my absolute best strength. I usually know that the job is mine if that is what it comes down to. In fact I make it a point to move my potential clients as fast as I can to a face to face interaction. As predicted, this one went as well as all the ones before it. We discussed our respective selves and the work that we do. I was informed that this marketing agency already had a client in mind for me and that the project would include some fairly simple product photography on an ongoing basis as well as corporate headshots. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary to note and I left the situation feeling great. Coffee in hand.

Fast forward to Monday of this week and a lovely surprise waits in my inbox first thing in the morning. It is an email from my new friends at the marketing agency. They had finished discussions with their client and were ready to proceed with the project. Yippee! This is what their email read:

“After talking to the client, they would like to have you come by to see the facilities, and do a couple tests for us. It would take about 2 hours for the whole thing to take place.

The tests would include:

1. Typewriter: Gauge words per minute and average typing speed
2. Mouse Reaction: Used to test mouse and keyboard reaction speeds
3. Cognitive: Basic math and English assessment (15 minutes to complete the test)
4. Photo: This may involves taking both studio and product shots, and editing them

If you're available, we'd like to have you come in this Saturday, February 15th, 2014 at 10:00 AM.”

Have you ever taken a brick to the face? Neither have I but I imagine it would make me feel about as stupid as reading this email.

I still have no clue what any of that had to do with the job I was being hired for. In a day and age where we hear about frivolous lawsuits against photographers, and a constant downward pressure on the price we are expected to provide our services for, it seems that client expectations might also be getting increasingly creative and ridiculous. Gone are the days when your portfolio meant something. Prepare yourselves people. As of today we are starting mandatory mouse reaction tests.

I don’t know if this is an anomaly, but I will say, as funny as this email was it did have me a bit concerned. Is the perception of our industry SO horrible that we must be subjected to such degrading tests in the eyes of the client? Have we become so competitive with each other that we are no longer rising above the competition but rather taking down the entire industry? Have we thrown so many of our fellow photographers under the proverbial bus that the path to success is littered with vultures?

The next time you receive a ridiculous request from a client take a moment to think about that. Then remind yourself that you probably don’t have it nearly as bad as some poor shmuck up in Canada furiously testing his mouse reaction skills to land a photography gig.

Think you can top this story? Share your client horror stories in the comments section. I look forward to reading them all.

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I'm completely dumbfounded by this "aptitude test". What was your response? Were you forced to take this taste?

Peter House's picture

No Manny I declined the offer. I refuse to give clients the impression that photographers can be made to jump through such hoops.

But for one that is not willing to, there are ten who will at any price just to have recognition, fame, spread of word and easy money. That's sad. And that's the kind of people who devalue photography.

Not really. The photography business is a business as any other one. You can buy a Ferrari if you got the money for it. If you don't you will find a VW sales person telling you how much better the new Golf GTI is and yes you can buy it. But did the VW sales person ruin the Ferrari market? Nope. Ok situation is a little different for photography but you can compare it. If you do want the Ferrari, you will have to pay for it. If you don't, you want get a Ferrari.

If you want a real photographer, you will have to pay for it. If you don't, you won't get one. If the services you offer as a photographer, does not find enough interest on the market, you offer something there is no need for and you need to adapt your business. That's it.

So you can cry that VW is selling there cars so cheap, they ruin your business. Or you can adapt and keep on finding customers for your premium services (or cars). That's it.

Partially true. Where we have to focus is not in the business aspect, but in the perception of the photographic market as a service by those who request it. This perception is changing negatively although there will always be people who want and can pay for top photography. Unless you are a top photog, it will affect you. So adaptation is an energy-consuming effort in the short term; changing perception takes a lot of effort, but is like sowing seeds...

Forced to take the test? You've got to lose that way of thinking. Nobody has to do anything they don't want to. Say no to your boss, your client, a cop telling you to stop taking pictures. Those demands were so insulting, no one with any self respect would work with people like that. I'd also love to see the rest of the exchange though. I hope Peter put them in their place.

olivier borgognon's picture

Could this top it ?
A couple asks for pricing for a glamour/boudoir shoot with some nude art shots.

The rest of the message is to specify that they would consider the wife "play with me" during the session if she was in a playful mood and afterwards too.

I kindly declined the offer, as this was just amazing, I think they were looking for a swinger GWC and no nude art, but it does make me laugh sometimes to think about the weird offers we receive.

IF only we could be "licensed" to show that we are pro's, and learn to show some higher standards!...(it's not like we don't have plenty equipment & training available to NOT make fools of ourselves)!!!!.......and if only there were "reviews" available for photographers the same way they are available for plumbers, realtors, doctors etc. etc. etc. If only!
According to them, none of which work as professional photographers ONLY, we don't need to show professionalism by being licensed and have "something to prove", that would separate the pro's from the faux's! The comments on the show above were awful, and all came from people who don't even work as "professional photographers"; basically now we're having amateurs deciding pro's fate! (prices, standards, etc). Shameful. If they had to pay their bills solely out of photography, they wouldn't be so quick to downplay the importance of PPA, and also the fact that there is so much garbage propagated in this industry thanks to the "no critiques allowed policy", and the endless "likes", that sadly this situation above is not surprising at all.

Having read this far and seeing you comment on pretty much every thread; I've come to the conclusion that you have no idea how to use quotation marks.
I see your trying to emphasize particular words, but that's not the way to do it. It just makes it uncomfortable to read.

I'm not picking out the actual content of your replies, just the quotation marks. For the love of god, please stop with the quotation marks.


Noam Galai's picture

I want to see how you responded to that email!

What's to respond? He is not their future employee, he is an independent contractor/ other business; he should ask them if they give these tests to their flooring installers, and window cleaners! Most likely, that company hired an "uncle" to do work previously, it was crap, and since there are no reviews available for photographers anywhere, then this is the result! I made a graphic about the "REST" of the responsibilities fauxtographer's forget they have:

so that ugly piece of s*it graphics is all you can come up with? :-)
but you think you can advice others?

Hey Thanks for proving my point about who's lurking in our industry! Nice vocabulary BTW! You must have been one of "students that were smarter than my dog!"
That graphic wasn't meant to be pretty! Too bad you can't read the text in it!

In the imagerty business, content is as much valuable as the "container".
It is UGLY. Look at all those infographics and why do they punch? They educate WHILE looking damn good.

That's great! I don't "imitate" usually. Nor do I specialize in designing "infographics", nor do I want to do that. So, The point of it was the text, which you obviously you bypassed, so you didn't get it.
Conversation over.

BTW "imagerty" is not a word.

I have been reading this thread for about 10 minutes now, and nearly everything you have contributed thus far is helpful and accurate. However, this is disgusting! I can't believe that someone posing as a professional photographer could manage to break so many rules of media and advertising in one image! You talk big but then when it comes down to production you've left all of the secrets and rules of the industry at home. Go back home.

& You spent 2 minutes picking on the dumbest thing! Thumbs up for missing the point entirely.

Read what it says; if that's too much to swallow, the simply stop reading! It really doesn't matter if I wrap that in clouds and pink unicorns, the writing remains the same...I could spend 5 minutes and change the background, and the font, and the words will remain the SAME...I am not sure why you don't comment on what it says, and rather be so hung up on something that's completely IRRELEVANT!? (I would make "irrelevant" bold and underlined, but I don't have that option).

Peter House's picture

I can't say I was very courteous. Haha.

Respond with an aptitude test of your own to see if their a good client for you!

See how fast they can write a cheque?

Dani Riot's picture

I have a feeling you have been sent the request they send to potential agency based admin personnel… so could well be an oversight or mistake.

Jaron Schneider's picture

But the last part about photo stuff makes me think otherwise...

Dani Riot's picture

Possibly, but could have just been tagged on the end by some junior admin person who was asked to send an email to a prospective photographer for a job vacancy. was asked to send point 4. but assumed they had to send points 1,2 & 3 too.

Too many times these days these stories appear on sites, groups and pages before it has even been questioned…

Peter House's picture

Good point Dani. I did actually email the client back for clarification as I thought the email might have been partially mixed up. Their reply was simply "these are the clients demands".

Dani Riot's picture

oh ok, I didn't read clearly that further communication happened.

Then I agree, that is a little bit of an odd request.

Really? Are they looking for an accountant/secretary/photographer?

Alric Farmer's picture

Imagine you went and failled the test...but shot the best product photo in the history of photography...What then

Peter House's picture

They would probably tell me I was not hired but that they were going to use the photos anyway. :P

Let' see...
Before becoming a photographer I had a performing arts back ground. This "prospective client was aware of that fact and emailed me with the following "proposal":

"I am an event planner organizing a Oscar's themed party. I need you to play the role of a paparazzi and use a flash to take pictures. At the end of the night we will need to have a CD with the pictures taken."

Now while the offering price for the job was way bellow my rates both as a photographer and as a performer, what really bothered me was the fact that this client was trying to get two jobs for the price of one.... I mean you either need and entertainer to play a role, or you need a professional photographer to document the event...but don't try to fool people into working for you under false pretenses.

Peter House's picture

Haha Omar, this made me laugh. Thanks for sharing!