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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Previous comments
Lenn Long's picture

What's a typewriter?..... j/k
Know how to spot the blonde girl's computer in the office??
The one with white out on the computer screen.....

Bart van Overbeeke's picture

The answer to your client is a simple one:
'If your client thinks
these tests necessary for a photographer, then surely they must have had
some bad experiences in the past. I regret that.
my time is too valuable for me to play along. If your client is
sincerely interested in my services, they can hire me in a respectful
manner. If for any reason the client has proper objections after I
finished any initial work done for them, the contract can be annuled.'
If that client then wants you without any problems, then all is fine.
If that client persists, then that client is not worth your efforts.

Oli's picture

Great story, fantastic comments ;) But I have to say, it's even worse in the graphics industry. I'm a graphic designer and I am at home in concept and print design. Looking trough job openings these days, it seems to be mandatory that I also have to be perfect at web design, programming, Power Point, After Effects & Premiere while it is expected of me to be a photo-/videographer, an illustrator and a copywriter. Oh, and of course it is requested to know every single CMS inside-out while approaching new clients and writing invoices.

Daniel Hine's picture

I didn't get a graphic design job the other day because my "passion was with photography and my interest was design". They wanted someone with a "passion for design and an interest in photography".
They obviously overlooked the fact I had received two awards for graphic design at my university portfolio exhibition.
To sum up, graphic design and photography are so intertwined it's ridiculous to assume that someone can't be equally good at both!

chris embardino's picture

It's funny you should mention that kind of testing. A lot of clients want to know where their money goes.. Most of them require the studio to do the paperwork as well. Case in point, we just received some work from a client where there was some clerical input to do. Their normal photographer was charging them about an hour to do what a competent typist could do in less than 15 minutes. Small skills like that are what could set you apart from a number of other people so don't discount them.

Dominos Expert's picture

Because in order to get "phenomenal" work, you can't do it fast.

chris embardino's picture

you most certainly can!. It's in the skill and experience of the person doing it. Perhaps i should also say that we found a few who had work that was just as good if not better and were much much faster.

David Gardiner Garcia's picture

I have 2 funny stories with retouching clients. Years ago I had one client who wanted total control over the retouching I was doing. After I sent 1 test image for review the client replied: "I understand that you prefer to sue photoshop, but we don't feel like that program is universal enough. If you could do all of the retouching in Microsoft Paint it would be easier for us to edit what you do and give you an idea of the changes we want."

Then last week I went for an interview for a freelance retouching job at one of the big NYC department stores. After an hour of talks with the HR guy, they called in the head of the retouching department. After another hour of corporate bs questions that are obviously for retail employees. He tells me they want me to do a test. I think great, where is the computer? The guy takes out pen and paper. It was a written test about grammar and also an essay question.

I didn't want to be impolite so I took the test. By then I had been there for 3 hours, and now they wanted me to take a 2 hour PS test. It was taking too long so I just asked what the rate was. The rate was so low I just said thank you but no thank you. $18 an hour! I took pics of the test with my phone and now its a great conversation piece with fellow retouchers and photogs.

Christopher McRae's picture

I just about spit my tea all over my monitor whe you mentioned the Microsoft Paint comment...hahahaha!

Kristian Dale's picture

hah, thanks to Wacom, I don´t even use a mouse anymore ...

Christopher Stivala's picture

Look if they want an aptitude test then they should hire someone who understands them. A mouse? I use a tablet. Typing Wpm, I use speech to text. I take the interview was in english and what kind of business can you run if you cant do simple math, never mind us photographers deal in math most dont even comprehend. This is not 1998, this firm is obviously living in the old world.

Thomas Jesper's picture

I had a funny experience recently actually. Somebody emailed both my work email address and work facebook page to enquire about booking me for an event (i work as an event photographer, so suits me!)...

She the gave me the brief...5 hours, 300 photos per hour, not more than 2 photos per group of 1 photo every 20 seconds, of different things...she then said that i needed to deliver 1500 unedited raw files by hand the day after, to an address 20 miles away from my home (i have a car, so i thought ok! no editing too!) she asked the price...i gave my standard rate (which for 5 hours is the mid £££'s) plus petrol milage...she sent an email back with (and i quote) "Hello Thomas. As this is a charity event, our budget is stretched to say the least. We would be able to pay you a sum of £5.70 per hour plus a free drinks voucher and 25% off food."

Bearing in mind that £5.70 is lower than the british minimum wage! Sharply responded with a polite 'no thank you!'

Alexandra Giamanco's picture

OP: this is my opinion ....

We need to UP our game people......I mean, if we want to continue to make money, we need to set some really don't see other industries being mocked like this.

I am really curious how that company came up with that they "brainstormed" for it! (LOL)

Christopher McRae's picture

What do you mean you don't see other industries being mocked like this? So many industries get hosed on the daily.
What is with all of the "Quotaton" marks? (LOL)

Alex Christian's picture

I had a client tell me that she needed a family photo taken for Christmas cards.
She said, and I quote, "Normally, we got to Feeders' Supply, and do Doggy Photos with Santa, and pay the Santa to move out of the picture. But this year, they wouldn't let us do that, so would you do it for us? How does $15 sound?"