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Should Influencers Ask A Boudoir Photographer To Work For "Exposure?"

Updated: 3 days ago

Ah, the Golden Age of the "Influencer." What a glorious time... The big question, of course is to ask... or not ask a boudoir photographer to work for "exposure" --THAT is the question!

The short answer here is don't do it-- but you're welcome read on if you'd like...

If you are a photographer, it is simply just a matter of time before you will receive one of these inquiries in your inbox. I think I received my first one perhaps three or four years ago. After a quick curiosity read and head scratch, it pretty much immediately went into the trash bin with no reply. Since then, like weeds, they keep popping up every so often.

If you are a potential boudoir client, I understand the allure is sooo tempting. It seems everyone is doing it. Essentially, everyone is an "Influencer" these days... so why not!? Got a few followers online? That ought to be really enough to garner $1000 - $2000 worth of services, right?

The truth is depending on which side of the coin you are on, your perspective may be very different than the other.

These requests don't anger or annoy me-- It's just one more piece of "junk" in my inbox to be removed. As someone who operates a business, you are a constant target of attack from people trying to get money out of you in one way or another. From advertising people, sales people, marketing companies, etc... they're all out there trying to get their piece of flesh and explain how you can't exist without them, or how your business is missing something without them. Like mosquitoes on a summer evening while you are sitting on your porch-- these inquiries are the constant buzzing around you while you slap at your thigh trying to keep them away-- "Got it!" Like the mosquitoes, too, it never stops-- via calls...via emails, and if you have a storefront-- via people walking in.

Influencers, or perhaps better stated, self-proclaimed Influencers, are just one more group looking for a piece of your pie. One more insect looking for a bite of flesh. As a group they are currently feeling empowered, but as we all know Instagram certainly isn't reality, and I suspect a few years from now this will run it's course and become a memory.

I guess from the Influencer point of view... what's the worst thing that can happen? Just a no response, or a "no thanks." The upside is getting all, or part of what you request, for free. I would imagine wedding photographers are probably the main targets of attack by Influencers. If you can wrangle $2.5K - $5K worth of services for nothing... that can amount to a big savings on a wedding day. Sadly, there have been some examples of entitled Influencers not taking "no" very well and going after photographers who refuse to donate services. This is where it starts to get messy. -And this type of behavior is all to common, unfortunately.

boudoir photo of woman in bed

Followers Do Not Equal "Influence."

The thing is, on a basal level I get it. There can be an equitable trade in a rare situation where there actually may be a person of real "influence"-- the real disconnect here is that followers do not equal "influence." I'd guess 99% of those who claim the title of "Influencer," well... just aren't what they think they are. The truth is, in large, the Influencer industry is mostly a smoke and mirrors situation founded on a broken core. Someone...somewhere decided traditional advertising was dead, and companies now needed to chase shady Instagrammers with imaginary followers, paid comments and fake likes to sell their goods for them.

This hype train is on auto pilot and doomed for a derailment.

What has happened is the "Influencer" title has been over-adapted and watered down where people with essentially no influence adapt the title and try to milk it for all its worth. Now there are "Micro Influencers," and even "Nano Influencers," if you can believe it.

The first issue here, as I mentioned earlier is having followers is not what influence is about. Getting a certain number of likes on a post is not influence-- it just means there are people who follow your activities, for whatever reason. They could be complete dummies. It doesn't mean they trust you, or they are willing to do what they are told. I think the big misconception is that this is exactly what many so called Influencers believe-- and if that's the case they don't understand the game.

There are indeed people who seem to have tremendous influence and have the Midas touch, but there is a lot more here going on than simply having followers, namely establishing trust, credibility and likability... for a start. Oprah Winfrey may be one such example. When she recommended a book that she liked and enjoyed people flocked to purchase it. She wasn't paid by an author...or only promoted one publishing company.

This type of influence works when there is a degree of credibility. When this is not in place, its corrupted, or based on lies ( Instagram skinny tea, anyone?) and you are clearly taking someone for a fool... it doesn't work. When this "Influence" is done by legal contract for a pre-determined number of photos or posts of a particular product in exchange for money-- you are no longer an Influencer-- you are just an unglamorous paid advertiser. That's it. Influencers recommend what they enjoy, what they like based on personal experience. No experience? No Influence. It doesn't matter if you are a famous TV personality, an Instagrammer with tens of thousands of followers, or a micro influencer-- your power is based on trust and the moment you start shilling Skinny Tea your influence is done.

In the "old days" when a celebrity advertised a product-- just because Sofia Vergara was bouncing all over the screen lauding Head & Shoulders dandruff shampoo-- no one was thinking she was lathering up twice a day at home with the product because it was so damn good she couldn't keep her hands off it. There was no belief that on holidays she was gifting Head & Shoulders to friends and family because it was such an impactful part of her life. She had simply been paid to promote the product, and that was that. We all understood this relationship. NOW, with Influencers, the idea is to deceive and pretend that a promotion of a product is genuine and to hide the fact that you were paid, or begged for an item for free, when in reality this is where it falls apart. If you believe this is "Influence," you've been fooling yourself.

There are certainly people out there aware of this false truth, but many Influencers seem to not live in a world of reality. It appears to me it has just been taken too far. Lately, you can find stories of hotels refusing Influencer requests, bars refusing Influencers-- and I'm sure the list goes on. Aside from it being a bit much, it reminds me of something... back when I owned a retail store, you were subject to the endless parade of local fundraisers and sales people that just walked from store to store to store. In and of itself, their request for "support" for a local team or cause is not a terrible act, but what they never realized was that the day before-- someone else was in also looking for support. The day after another cause will be walking in looking for support. --And so on...and so on. It's draining.

Likewise, today, getting regular emails for "collabs" (Influencer speak for wanting something for free) is pretty much the same thing. I'm happy you and your partner are willing to offer up your 3000 Instagram followers, but at this point I think you're a bit too late to the party, and as I outlined above, these 3000 people do not define "influence," they're just... followers.