“Influencers” are the scourge of the earth. What do they even DO?
Apparently they grift photographers (among other businesses) for free services and goods and that’s… uh, about it? There’s not a lot of value in this job, y’all.
A recent AskReddit thread caught our eye and we scooped up some of the most outrageous stories posted in the thread. u/peaches1687‘s original question was “Photographers of Reddit: What is the most outrageous photo shoot request you have received from an Instagram “influencer”?” and there are some doozies.
1. Exposure’s gonna be on this list a LOT
Wedding Photographer here, they said they were influencers with a great following that they’d promote me to but when I asked for their handle online, silence. I get this is a lot as I’m fairly well known so an easy target when people look. Exposure? People die from exposure.
2. Why pay?
Had an “influencer” try to set up a shoot with me. When I mentioned my price she was shocked because she was under the assumption that I was going to pay her for some reason.
3. Free stays
I work at a hotel and its un-f***in-believable how many of these dips***s want to stay for free in exchange for a post. Our marketing research shows they have almost 0 return on investment.
Ask them to pay full price but that you’ll give them discount vouchers for their followers to redeem at your hotel and they will be reimbursed based on the number of vouchers redeemed. Easy to tell and control your return on investment there.
Some influencer that was promoting betanin in beets as healthy diet. She want me to take images of the colored-change poop. That this is actually normal in those that can’t process the betanin.
(that week, my DSLR was dropped hard, and now I am without it. It was a bad week…)
6. Bot followers
I do documentary film and I had a non-film job in college and I met this lady who was maybe 30 ask me to do an “Instagram video like this” and she showed me a professional video-shoot done with a greenscreen, lights and set. I told her I could probably get pretty close to quality (with my University’s equipment) but it would take time to get a crew together & reserve a studio. She told me no, that I should just record it with my phone. I told her that’s not what they did for the Instagram video she just showed me and she said “It’s on Instagram, that means they recorded it with their phone.” She dropped it after I mentioned I charge money and wouldn’t just “do it to be nice.” She has like 10 followers and three of them were bots.
7. No, that’s not how this works
Influencer asked me to shoot and before I even had the chance to give her my prices she decided to give me hers, over $300 for ME to shoot with HER for 30 minutes, one of her main selling points was she could “teach me how to leverage and grow my social media”.
Girl was 15…
Edit to clarify: she was asking me to pay her $300+ when in reality at a minimum she should be paying me. I don’t even charge that much haha
8. Seriously, not how it works!!
An “influencer” contacted my production company to shoot both a photo session and promo video. They sent ME an estimate on how much I HAD TO PAY to do the work for HER. I politely declined.
9. A band
I have a really close family friend from high school who plays in a local band, and he usually does a pretty good job at getting me on the guest list, whether or not I actually want to take pictures. However, I do bring my camera with every time, just in case.
I usually use the opening band(s) to dial in my settings and see what angles look good for the stage setup, because they didn’t even know I was going to be there in the first place, and I’m there because of my friend. So obviously, I want anything I give to him to be some of my better work.
Sometimes if the other bands notice me walking around and snapping pictures during their set, they’ll come find me after the show and ask for some of the pictures. If I managed to get any that look decent, I never have a problem sending them copies of the photos for their social media pages. Some bands even offer to give me a free t-shirt or hat or vinyl of their newest release, etc. which is always appreciated.
As with any photo that hasn’t been purchased (done for exposure), I place my watermark on the lower right corner of the picture after I’m done editing. It’s not obtrusive, it’s pretty tasteful in my opinion, and it just ensures people know who took the photo. Sometimes bands can’t remember my name or forget to tag me in a post, no big deal, humans make mistakes, I get it.
So after this one concert in early 2019, the lead singer of an opening band (one I had never heard of) comes up to me and says, “I saw you taking pictures during our set. Would you mind sending those to us for our Instagram?” I said no problem, give me a few days to import, edit, and upload the photos and I’ll email you everything. She followed it up with, “We’re on tour right now, so we’re pretty hard pressed for money, but we’d be happy to give you a shout-out on our page and direct bands in the area to look into you for concert photography.” I said, “Yeah that’s fine, I already got free admission to the concert through another band so I’m not super worried about the money. Besides, this is more of a hobby than a job.” And we went out separate ways.
Fast forward about a week and I decide to go check their Instagram to see if they had posted anything from that show, and sure enough, they had. However, not only had they not tagged me in the post, they had completely cropped out the watermark I put on the picture. So much for the exposure I guess.
I reached out to them on Instagram and also commented on the post using my photography profile, not my personal one, and just politely asked them if they’d add my tag to the photo as not only was it my actual photograph, but it was also my edit. Well, they blocked me. Only on my photography profile though. I checked their Instagram on my personal when I started reading this thread, and sure enough, that picture is still on their page, and they hadn’t even deleted the comment I made on it saying, “I’m sure it’s an honest mistake, but I’d appreciate you giving credit to the photographer who kindly sent you these photos with nothing promised but a shout out.”
Some people’s kids, man.
10. Free weddings
Been a wedding photographer for 12 years. I ROUTINELY get asked to do entire weddings for free. Not even always from Instagram influencers. One time this guy (whom I didn’t even like that much) asked me to do a wedding for free for his friend. Someone I didn’t even know existed at all until this interaction.
I just imagine walking into a restaurant and asking for the absolute best meal they have for zero dollars and then telling them it will be good for their business to do so.
11. Influence credit?
I do street photography every so often. I was once offered “influence credit” for pretending to be in shock that I found her in the streets of my town. I would take a bunch of photos of her at the spot and give them to her. This would all be recorded by her, I hope, boyfriend. I wasn’t allowed to use the photos myself and all I would get is a tag at the end of the description.
I said no thanks. Then snapped a couple photos of her.
She said she would sue me.
I said we were on public streets and I’m a hobbyist who doesn’t sell. I dont need model waivers.
Never heard from her again.
Never used photos either. Shes not interesting.
12. Jesus, no
Had someone ask for me to do a videography shoot of their new house being built. They said $200, but they wanted me to go each weekend for 2 years and shoot it to build up a time lapse and stuff. I definitively said no
13. Tagging isn’t pay
This isn’t really outrageous in terms of what they wanted to do in a photo, but I would say 90% of “influencers” who contact me try to use tagging as their form of payment.
“Well I have 100k followers so you’re guaranteed to get so much work from this you’d be an idiot to say no,”
This is word for word what one woman said to me when I politely informed her of my rates. Paying artists in “exposure” is nothing new but the level of entitlement I’m seeing these days is off the charts. The only thing I can ever guarantee from these interactions is that they will throw a massive tantrum when I say no, complete with some classic r/nicegirls lines like “Your s*** isn’t even that good, I was trying to do you a favour, etc.
One person contacted me saying that she gets paid X amount from companies per post, thus every post she makes using my photographs should count for X amount of dollars paid to me because “like soooo many ppl will see it u will prty much be famos,”
Edit to answer some of the common responses:
Yes I do my best to explain how the process actually works, that exposure isn’t a form of payment, etc. This has varying degrees of success but a lot of the time they end up paying my rates anyways and say something like “Never know if you don’t ask right!? Lol!”
No I don’t ever respond with sarcastic or snarky comments. You never know when someone will go off the rails and start badmouthing you on their platform. Screenshots are a thing and word of mouth is a huge part of getting new clients. Yes it would be immensely satisfying to lay into some of these people but an out of context screenshot with some victim story behind it can be extremely damaging so it’s always better to err on the side of caution.
I honestly appreciate all the suggestions for counter offers and ways of dealing with these people, there are some seriously smart answers here (bravo Reddit). I don’t let anyone take advantage of me or my business and managing client expectations is just part of the job.
Cheers for all the awesome responses! This was a lot of fun.
A related story but exactly what OP is asking for, we were on a road trip and at the Toketee falls near southern Oregon. Now this falls is located at the end of a trail about a mile long. The trail leads to a vantage point that’s about 40-50 feet above the fall. If you are a rock climber, then you can probably scramble to the base of the falls but it’s quite a scary endeavor.
The day we were there, we saw two influencer couples at the parking lot. We noticed them because the girls stripped down to their skimpy bikinis at the parking lot and they had some snorkeling gear as well. Now this is a pretty popular spot on insta and so the parking lot was packed with quite a lot of kids and families around.
They started the hike the same time as us and were planning on various poses and shots the whole time. Finally we reached the end of the trail and they realized that all those cool shots on insta means scrambling 30 ft down a wet rock face to the bottom of the falls. The disappointment was palpable that day. The bickering while hiking back was even better. It still cracks me up to think about that day.
15. Pure selfishness
A few years back I was in Acadia National Park and we did the Beehive Trail hike. For those unfamiliar it’s basically as close to rock climbing as you can get non harnessed as you are going straight up a cliff on iron rungs and stuff, so super fun and you are rewarded with an amazing view at the top. Most people take a quick snap there at the lip, as most do at the peak of their hike, and then move on to the more rocky area (but less a nice view) to rest.
Anyway while we were there resting two Instagram girls got to the top, and promptly took over the best view of the lip to take various yoga poses. (Because that was totally a natural thing to do after scrambling up a cliff?) For at least ten minutes- families were coming up asking if they could take a picture, but they literally said “we were here first” and “we’ll be here awhile” when asked if they were almost done.
We ended up leaving before they were done but it still boils my blood thinking about it.
16. Price reveal
Not a photographer personally but a few of my close friends are. My friend—we’ll call her Sara—is a pretty successful photographer for only being a college student. About a month ago, Sara and I were meeting up for lunch at our university’s food court and she’s fiddling with her cameras, prepping them for a big shoot she has that night, when this very attractive girl walks over and starts chatting us up. She makes a few minutes of casual conversation, mostly inquiring about Sara’s cameras, and then finally asks if she’d be interested in doing a shoot. She immediately throws her pitch, which had to do with modeling some very risqué outfits up in the mountains just outside of the city and then a few photos directly in the center of downtown. Overall, the whole pitch was something that bordered very close to being pornographic in nature. Sara tells the girl her typical rates and also states that because of the nature of the shoot, she’ll have to charge extra as it’s not something she typically does or is super comfortable with.
The girl’s face when Sara mentioned the price went from enthusiastic to very “are you kidding me?” She then butts in and says “I have over 85k Instagram followers. Do you know the kind of exposure working with me would give you? This is a once in a lifetime chance for you.” Sara responds, telling her that she’s an in-house photographer for 3 of the city’s largest concert venues, works as a photographer for the newspaper, and is a highly recommended wedding photographer on top of it all. “I don’t work for free.” My favorite line she said during this was, “I work with people much more famous than you on an almost daily basis. I’ve shot photos for Marilyn Manson, Motley Crue, Shania Twain, Post Malone and a bunch of other musicians that come through and was paid for all of it. Your exposure isn’t worth anything to me.” After that, the girl got really upset and walked off.
17. No respect for the art
Work in a camera store and do photography myself, hear stories about this sort of stuff all the time. Usually just ask model shoots for exposure but I’ve heard and seen stories (there is a fairly popular one at the moment about a photographer in Chicago) about people asking for full wedding shoots for exposure. Not always ‘influencers’ asking these questions either, sometimes arsehole people ask this stuff and then say stuff like ‘well if I had that equipment then we’d be able to get the same results’.
18. Five bucks an hour? no
Had someone ask me to do more than a week of videography for them and create a promo video for $200… not a day… for the whole week.
19. This worked out
I do photography on the side since I’m mostly film/video.
But I have a friend who has an Instagram account as a side business for fun. I told her I would do a photoshoot for her if she helped me with my resume and cover letter.
Although she has tons of company’s that give her products to review for free, the photo credit she gave me honestly didn’t lead to any followers on my Instagram. So yeah, anyone who wants exposure for crazy work I don’t think knows that they actually don’t give any exposure.
In my case I was the one who brought up the deal and honestly I would have done it for free to get out of the house because she’s my friend. But yeah, that photo credit doesn’t do anything in my experience.
Not a photographer but related story…
I was at a private event, The insta user actually had a camera man shooting video. 2 hours into the event one of the celebs noticed this random videographer and spoke with security. Security told them to stop filming and destroy any footage already shot. She refused and started yelling and making a fuss. Another (very large) celeb who didn’t like his party being ruined, grabbed the video camera, smashed the camera, took the memory chip and his private bodyguards escorted her away.
She ended up posting an expose` which she bashed the celebs that were there and threatened the location with retaliation. This got her account banned from both Instagram and Facebook. Instagram Influencer no more…. 25+k subs lost..
Sorry no names or I don’t get to go to these events anymore.