What better waste of time and money than to offer your services at an already discounted rate and then put trust into strangers to be, for the most part, decent human beings.

For the shoot I did of Welcome Home James, I found the customer through Craigslist. We communicated for quite a while before I knew she could be trusted. The airport was a public meeting spot and safe enough for me. I had no bad feelings whatsoever. It went swimmingly.

Now I posted another ad on Craigslist and a gentleman contacted me from N.J. He wanted photos of himself done. I’m not going to judge why people want pictures of themself…it could’ve been for numerous reasons. His was for Facebook. Some people…actually, most people, are not good with photos and just take them for memory sake. When it comes to “self portraits”, I’d rather they enlist anyone’s help than see those horrible shots where the camera flash is bouncing off a bathroom mirror or worse yet, their cell phone that is taking the picture is in the picture. This should only be legal for teenagers. (And even many of them should be banned). So, David M. and I set up his shoot. We planned for a while. Our emails went like this:

“Hi karen,
Saw your ad on Craigslist, and explored your photos too. I’m looking to take some pictures, something professional; like your work. It all seems interesting. I’m not a model, but would like something similar as an effect. Its all for facebook honestly. I havent taken pictures for quite sometime so hopefully I can schedule something with you soon. You seem like you have a good eye with your camera. Let me know what your availability is this week .”

This seemed well enough. Well enough for a reply. But availability in a week? This is something I won’t do again unless under very specific circumstances. But I was available and frankly needed a little cash. My reply:

“Hi David! 
Sounds good to me! Thats exactly the type of work I’m looking for right now. May I ask what area you are in? I will say depending on that, we could do it tomorrow night, after 730 p.m. Fri., or most of the weekend.”

Hi Karen, Thanks for your reply. im around the Atlantic City area, but could perhaps go to you if it’s at a reasonable distance, and If you feel you have some awesome sceneries as a backdrop. I’m available tomorrow after 7, or Friday after 1. the weekend after 1 too. what are your rates for a job like this ? please let me know . [:”

This is a typical response. Except a bit far for such a shoot. An “Individualized Shoot” as his email subject was titled. Travel would be pricey. I must say, I love the way people phrase things…”awesome sceneries as a backdrop”. Hahahaha…just sounds funny. Anyway…my next reply:

“Hey,
Id love to help you, but believe your area is a bit far for me. How much are you looking to spend? I may be able to find someone closer to do the same thing. I’m usually very reasonable (anywhere between 30 and 50 for an hour session on location…outdoors). But once we pass South Jersey, prices triple for me 😦
If I am out near Franklinville…to my in-laws, I could do it cheaper. But you’d still have to get there.”

I thought this would be when he changed his mind. Maybe he was just really homely looking and didn’t want anyone that could possibly run into him at anytime to see the photos after and realize what some touching-up can do. So, I looked him up. What’s this guy’s story? Just like everyone else, I searched his email address through Facebook. He wasn’t unattractive, but I could definitely help by taking some quality photos of him.

“Karen,

 I don’t mind the drive if it’s under an hour. your prices are very reasonable actually, so that helps.i can go to you, 

Im just looking for an awesome capture of myself.  I’m hoping to do something natural/outdoors but still genuine enough to seem like its not trying too much. that type of stuff.

David”

So persistent…and I noticed his font got screwy. Above is set like that because of  how he sent just that portion. Hmmmmm??? Why does that happen if you’re typing normally? Now I’m getting suspicious. Both responses are back to back from me to David.

“Awesome…well I just texted my mother in law, if she’s home this weekend, we’ll visit her. Then I’ll just take off to do your shoot. Nature/ outdoor are the best. We can find great natural backdrops with good lighting 🙂 I will contact u as soon as she tells me their plans. I’m fairly certain she’s about 35 min from AC.”

“Hi!
So I heard back, Id be able to do the shoot near her place in Franklinville around 4:00 on Sat. But looks like it’s still about 50 min from Atlantic City. So you can think about it and get back to me.”

Gave him time…

“Karen, 
I’m fine with it all. Saturday at 4pm is perfect. A 50 minute drive isn’t too bad. 
How do you recommend I prepare for it all ?  Bring 2 change of clothes ? Fresh cut ? what kind of scenery did you have in mind ? Thanks . 
-David”
Does this seem legitimate to you? It did to me at this point. Most people don’t know what to do or how to prepare. If he had other intentions, he was already going to great lengths to assure me otherwise.
“Hey…
I would recommend solid color clothing. Your choice. May be best for a more casual feel outdoors. I think the shots would be mostly tree-lined background…greens etc. So stay away from green and a lot of print. You can be as clean-shaven/fresh-cut as you prefer. I will ask my mother in law if there is a water location nearby. There should be. I will get back to you again soon 🙂
Oops…also, yes, for a better variety, something you can change into would be great. We get creative along the way. Do you have any hobbies we can pull into it? Maybe a hat if you wear them. We can go a few ways…just not being my average children shoot (they’re easy to figure out), just knowing a couple of things may help. Wasnt being nosey. ;)”
I then did more research for this than I should have for the money I receive to do the shoot. I heard from a few sources that other photographers do not like fellow photographers to bend over backward to help with things like this. That it devalues them  and their work in some way. Offering the shoot and the pre-work for such a cheap price. It’s just how I do things. Sorry. This is what I sent after.

“Dont mean to bombard you. But trying to square away while I have a few min. today. 
We can go to this location…

Pine Barrens Lake

It will be XXXX cash or money order and will include images mailed on CD as well. Other images will be available online before you receive that. Then you can do as you wish with them. After the shoot I will need you to provide me with a shipping address to send CD to. It’s that simple :)”

I should ask for a government issued ID to be emailed first…I think I will from now on if it’s done anything like this.

“hey Karen,
 
Don’t mind the emails, nor the questions. [: hmm, I read and workout a whole lot. I also surf, a lot. Running is something I do a lot too. I like to keep stuff simple though. so maybe you can capture a bit of my personality within the picture.
now that we’re sharing links though; I actually have a few pictures I would like for you to check out. my friend just recently did a shoot of himself with his photographer. He’s an amateur to taking photos of himself too, but I really like how his photos turned out. I attached one.
 

 photos like this interest me a whole lot. 

possibly something Similar to all of his pics would be fantastic. Would you also to edit/add some touches to it all ? 
 
The process sounds simple to me. So Saturday at 4pm? 
 
Hope all is well, 
David “
NOTE: I DID NOT TAKE THIS PHOTO>>>NEITHER DID DAVID. I WOULD BANK ON IT BEING GOOGLED IN SOME WAY. 
My last reply via email before shoot:

“We can get some similar shots. If you can…bring the sample shots….even on your phone etc. and we’ll try to replicate them. Just be aware of the clothing/ accessories you’d like in them. 
I am also a graphic designer…so can do a bit with photos. But anything passed about an hour of after work would be charged… so images like the one you sent are fairly easy to recreate…not extra. 
OK…my cell is ————. Please text me around 1:00 so we can see that the weather is holding out.”

So we loaded the kids up as usual. Headed out to Grandmom’s. I made sure to let several people know where I would be and that I would check ID as soon as I got there. Although I trusted his intentions, I was still hesitant on it being a lone male and him having possibly looked up my Facebook as well. (Not just the obvious photography page). My cop friend Bob told me to take a fork just in case. Hahaha. I did!

(It rained for a short time after he already texted me that it was still on. The rain in Franklinville was more of a drizzle that lasted 10 minutes. We continued to text up until the time he ultimately rescheduled for, 3 times. He kept pushing it back despite me saying we could do it another time. I had a horrible headache and was more than willing to postpone.)

I arrived at the lake with my daughter-assistant. It was well-lit, open area and quite a few people around. Safe enough. He was running late so I did a photo shoot of her to kill time. I texted to tell him I was there (an hour away from home, that is) and waiting. He only texted back “It’s raining here Karen” . Creepy. I don’t like when people use my name like that. Just weird and at the very least sounds sarcastic. I advised him it wasn’t raining there and was beautiful and sunny. Of all the cars that arrived…no one ever approached me even though I was right there…texting him that I was. We saw one small car with a guy in it, that never got out. I bet that was him. He never contacted me after the text above. I can only assume this is some kind of sociopath that I was better off not meeting up with. If that was him in the car, he is a sick, sick individual. I just wish I got the money back for my time and effort on this piece of crap individual.

Lessons learned:

1) ID first, from anyone through Craigslist…in case I can invoice in such a scenario

2) Always, always a deposit and travel fee up front. Even for a 40.00 service

3) Never schedule the week of, even if I have time and need money

4) That’s a pretty lake and my daughter is even more beautiful

But most of all…maybe just flatten the tire of the weirdo sitting there with my fork…just in case. Just kidding…but be weary of anyone with the name “David M.” I do know his last name, but not sure if he is still out to get me. Hahaha

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