For the past four months, I’ve been diligently writing a book about our daughter, Cora’s, death, so I’ve been too mentally spent to blog much. However, blogging has always been my outlet, my therapy, my chance to get shit off my chest and flush it out and then keep moving forward, so before I fester much longer, I have to get this out and then move on.
Today, after A LOT of introspection and a few candid conversations with some very close friends, I finally find myself calm enough to blog about something that just about made my head explode the other day. I’m going to share it with ya’ll, but before I do, know that I have come out the other end having learned a VERY big life and business lesson and acknowledging my part in the truth of it all. I speak my truth and I don’t mind if it ruffles the odd feather.
A few years ago when I first moved to the Okanagan, before I built a house, I moved into a small walk-in basement suite that was actually an amazing little shooting space. Since it was a new space and a new area for me, I wanted to test it all out before I shot any paying clients there. I could have just hired a model. In hindsight, that would have been the smartest thing to do, but I was chatting with one of my friends about Boudoir and she said it would be fun to try, so I asked if she would be my model for some boudoir images.
The deal was that I would do a shoot with her and, in exchange, she would give me permission to use her photos for promotional material. With paying clients, I never post their pics unless I get their permission and many of them don’t want their photos posted, so I respect their wishes. These particular pics were meant to be my Go-To pics because they were free game.
She agreed without hesitation and we ended up doing two shoots so I could also try out some new techniques I’d been studying. I paid for the hair and makeup for both shoots (a total of $300) and we shot two sessions that are in around the $1500 price range for paying clients (or approximately $3000 for the two sessions). I also gave her twice the number of photos I would normally give to a client who had paid for an equivalent session. We both put a lot of effort, time and fun into the sessions and the pics turned out even better than I thought they would. I ended up with a huge variety of photos, ranging from light and fun to dark and sensual. We were both fairly jacked about the efforts and the results and, after I delivered her pics, she gave me rave reviews and told all her friends about me.
It was, all around, an amazing experience and I was really happy it had worked out for both of us.
Fast forward to approximately a year ago when I got a message from her asking me to remove one of the pics I had posted of her. It was a pic with no face in it, just a sensual black and white shot of her from behind at an angle. It was tasteful and hot and completely anonymous. She said that she didn’t want any of her hubby’s friends to recognize her, so I took it down. Even though she had agreed to give me free license to use the pics, I was understanding and took the pic down. I was a bit irked, but I STILL took the pic down because I love this lady and I didn’t want to upset her.
Six months after that, I posted another shot of her sitting naked in a lake, facing away from the camera, but her face is turned sideways so you can see her profile. Again, she messaged me and asked if I could remove that pic and use another one I’d taken that didn’t show her face. Again, I was totally understanding and, even though I was actually pissed off about it, I STILL removed the pic.
Each time this happened, I received an “I’m really sorry, Jo.” However, there was literally no acknowledgment of the value of our trade OR the fact that I had completely upheld my end of the bargain and she wasn’t reciprocating.
Fast forward to present day.
I have a Boudoir Ad running on FB right now and I have been using a pic of her in the Ad. She’s clothed, but if you look REALLY closely, you can see a bit of her nipple beneath her shirt.
This week, she sent me another message asking if I could edit the photo so that her nipple wasn’t so visible because she was worried some of her coworkers would see it and wouldn’t be cool with it. She also added in the fact that she was “really sorry, but…”.
I sat there, reading the message a few times and feeling my anger build up steadily. I even tried to take a few deep breaths and drop down into my heart center to calm myself and take the request in stride.
It didn’t work. I was PISSED OFF.
Not only had I given her thousands of dollars worth of my time and work (including paying for the Hair & Makeup artists both times out of my pocket) AND given her extra photos, but I had also spent hours looking through thousands of my boudoir pics to find one that would be accepted by the FB Ad algorithm. Before I had even submitted a pic of her, I had tried 12 or 13 others and that were all rejected by algorithms for being “too suggestive”. When I had finally submitted her pic and it had been accepted, I had actually jumped up and done a happy dance in my office and air high-fived myself. I hadn’t dared touch the Ad since then because I was worried that it wouldn’t be approved a second time if I made any changes (besides retargeting) to it.
So, when I read her message, logical thought eluded me and my head damn near exploded off my shoulders.
Normally, when a photographer and non-paying client do a trade collaboration, there is a clause in the contract that states that should the “model” require the photographer to remove photos from social media at any time, the model will be required to compensate the photographer for the full amount of the session. I didn’t add that clause to the model release I had her sign because we are friends and I trusted her. That was clearly a gigantic mistake on my part and it just pissed me off more because I was angry with myself for being so trusting and letting that shit slide.
I was sitting there, seething – angry with her and at myself – and I couldn’t calm myself down.
I wanted to say NO. I wanted to remind her of the value of the photos I had given her and how much they would have cost had she paid me to do the shoots. I wanted to tell her that she was being a complete shithead for thinking it was totally okay to continue to shit on our agreement.
But I didn’t.
I took the photo down and reworked the ad (going through the disheartening and frustrating submission process for the second time) because, again, I didn’t want to upset her.
The entire time, I felt frustrated and angry and completely pissed off at myself for being so stupid. So many thoughts were racing through my mind:
- How can someone who is supposed to be my friend think it’s okay to agree to something and then back out of her end of the agreement after I’ve fully upheld mine?
- Why can’t I just tell her to stuff it and let her know that I’ll be using the pics as per our agreement and, if she doesn’t like it, she shouldn’t have agreed to do the shoots in the first place?
- Maybe I should just tell her that I’ll be more than happy to remove all the pics of her I have ever used if she pays me the $3000 for both shoots.
- How can I have made such a rookie mistake by leaving the most important clause out of the Model Release?
- Why do I keep allowing this kind of shit to happen?
And then my anger popped in a bubble of “OH SNAP!”
And there it was…Why do I keep allowing this kind of shit to happen?
Guess what, kids? This is not the first time this has happened. Years ago when I was still in Kamloops, I did the exact same thing with another friend and ended up with the exact same result. [She was going through a divorce and we were spending a lot of time together and I could see that she badly needed a pick-me-up, so I offered to shoot her for free if I could use the pics for promotional purposes. She also wholeheartedly agreed and we did a killer shoot in a natural waterfall and the photos were amazing. Then, a year later, she got a new job and was suddenly worried about her reputation and asked me to take the photos off social media, and I did. And again, I got an “I’m really sorry to ask this but…” and nothing else.]
That first experience left me feeling completely hurt, totally used, undervalued, and disrespected. It made me question my friendship with her (and, honestly, it was never the same for me after that and I have never trusted her since) and question why I would offer someone something so valuable when it was so easy for her to just renege on her end of the deal without a second’s thought for how it would affect me or my business.
Imagine my chagrin when I realized that this was the second time I’d allowed this experience to unfold in my life. It immediately brought me to the “fool me once” saying.
This time, though, the anger went POOF the second I realized I basically set myself up to re-live the experience. I immediately let the anger go to focus on the lesson. This time, the motivation to NEVER repeat this mistake again has sparked change in me AND in the way I will be approaching my business from now on.
Not kidding, it was actually a fucking blessing in disguise and it brought to light other instances (too many to count, actually) where I have offered to shoot for free and then been ridiculously disappointed when the people I shoot don’t share my work, thank me, or even leave a simple review on my FB page or Google.
This has made me realize, quite clearly, that I can’t shoot for free and have expectations for reciprocation UNLESS I outline those expectations clearly, in writing, and have people agree to them, in writing. Or, more importantly, shooting for free never seems to end well for me, so I won’t be putting myself in that position anymore.
I may be thick, but I get there eventually.
I’ve learned that it is much safer for my peace of mind and my business if I just hire a professional model when I want to try something new. I’ve learned that I am too generous in certain areas of my life and that, even though I still want to be generous, I need to focus that generosity in ways other than donating my time and energy to shooting friends and family for free. And, most of all, I have learned that I am still allowing myself to react to the shit that others do rather than reminding myself to breathe, take a step back, and put myself in their shoes for a few minutes before reacting.
That last one means more to me than the other two because I want to live my happiest, most-fulfilled life and I can’t do that if I’m allowing anger to cloud my thoughts and clutter up my heart, giving free reign to my ego to point my finger at others and forget to point inward.
Lastly, I love how life brings me these challenges that strip me down to the heart of the matter and show me when I’m a big part of the problem. There’s nothing more motivating and humbling that having my self-awareness smack me across the face.