The HARVARD Client (PART 2)


And so it happened that I would find myself doing yet another job for the client from Harvard. This time around, it would be a portrait session for his family. It happened approximately 4 weeks after the incident in PART 1.

Location was at his mansion in Abuja. As at December 2008 when I found myself in his house, that would go down on record as the most beautiful house I had ever stepped into. It was situated in an estate in Abuja that I never knew existed. If you had taken a picture on the streets inside that estate, one would have thought you were in Dubai. It was that beautiful.

And there I was at 10pm preparing for what will also be the latest family portrait session I’ve had for a client. I was very conscious of making sure that I did not break or scratch anything. My guess was that I probably could not afford to pay for anything I accidentally damage.

The man’s 2 children had arrived from America the day before and had planned to spend just 3 days in Abuja. That night was the only time left for them to do the shoot. And so it happened that the session would start at around 11:30pm.

My first experience with the man had created an unconscious intimidating cloud over my head whenever I was with him. How else would you explain my being nervous in his presence. At one moment, he started directing the session and for some unknown reasons that created the impression within me that I was a LEARNER.

20 minutes into the session, my Harvard client would excuse himself to receive a visitor. I wondered within myself the type of visitor that would stop by one’s house at 11:50pm. Coincidentally, it would be the type that was the CEO of one of Africa’s biggest banks. Eventually, the guest CEO walked into the room we were having our session and his presence seemed to multiply my nervous quotient by 5. I was super nervous. Why? I can not say.

My nervousness increased when my client started bragging to his guest that I was the best photographer in town. If only he had seen some of the images I was taking. If only he could peep and see the blurry and dark images that I was trying to hide from him. “He’s the one that took my pictures during the event last month,” he continued. Although I knew it was a compliment, I don’t know why that gave me goose bumps.

Eventually the CEO’s visiting time was up and he would greet us all farewell. After he left, we continued the session from where we left off. 5 minutes into the session, I would eventually notice that my hands were shaking. I felt intimidated in the presence of this client. Perhaps I should have done some type of meditation before the shoot. Perhaps I should have taken some type of medication that would ease my nerves.

Matters got worse when the client’s son (who coincidentally happens to be attending Harvard also) asked me how much I was charging his father for the session. N100k was my reply. He shouted and asked me why I was so expensive. The father asked me the same question. I thought I had explained my charges to the man before agreeing to come to his house for the shoot. Perhaps the mistake I made was not to have come with a written document detailing the charges. I explained that N100k was the minimum I charge for going to a client’s house for home sessions. I assured him that I wasn’t trying to defraud him. His response? “Anyway, its for my house in America that I need the pictures for, so continue shooting.” I was more tensed.

(At this junction, its important to note that I don’t just write about my experience with some people just to narrate how terrible they are or how holy I am…the goal is that we learn one of two things from these “Super Story” encounters)

The shoot continued and a few minutes into the session, my N350k camera kit fell down. Remember that story about humpty dumpty falling down on a wall? This was worse. Eventually, that would be the last time my Olympus E3 camera functioned properly. Ultimately, I had to send the camera to Olympus in America for repairs. $500 later, the camera returned to me in pristine condition.

What hurt me more was the fact that I did not get a dime from that session. It wasn’t that the fallen camera damaged the pictures; we would eventually finish the shoot with my backup camera. The client eventually procrastinated choosing the pictures he wanted framed and I learnt key lessons that I doubt I’ll ever forget.

I learnt always to be confident no matter who I was shooting (even if the person is Jesus or Satan). I learnt always to have a backup camera for any job outside my office domain. I learnt to always ask for 80% of my fee before leaving the home of a family portrait client (especially someone I have never worked with before). I learnt to always put the strap of the camera on my neck during a shoot because if I had worn the strap, there’s a 99.999999% chance that the camera would not have gone the humpty dumpty route to destruction. I learnt to put it all in writing no matter what so that no one will accuse me of not informing them of my fees thereby resulting in unnecessary argument during a session.

That was December 2008. In 2012, I would eventually get a call from the same client requesting for a quote to do another job. I replied with a detailed email explaining to him that we still have an outstanding of N100k. He was furious. He called to explain that how can he owe me for pictures that he never did use. He explained that the presidency was after his life so he had to escape the country and seek asylum. And after 5 minutes of explanation, I found myself apologizing to him for not knowing what he went through.

But the lessons had been engraved in my heart the hard way. The Harvard Client will never be forgotten by this big-headed photographer. I am a better & wiser photopreneur because of him. So the next time you’re privileged to be one of the students in our Academy and I tell you to ALWAYS wear the strap of your camera on your neck (or shoulders), this is the reason why that rule came into being.

For one reason or the other, I have a funny feeling I might still do business with the HARVARD client one day. When that day comes, I shall by all means be READY.
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Plan to take a photography course at eloPhotos Academy. Visit eloPhotos Academy for a detailed list of options of classes to take. It will be the best investment you’ll make in your journey to photography greatness

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