The Beginning of my Journey as a Freelance Photographer

by | Nov 15, 2020 | Blog Posts | 0 comments

Years ago being a freelance photographer and being independent at the same time was one of my dreams.
I love to have the ability to do the things I love and get fun while doing them.
It is an amazing experience but it wasn’t always the case. I started my freelance journey as a photo retoucher more than a few years ago.

I met my first client looking for retouching services some years ago in Modelmayhem “Where Professional Models Meet Model Photographers” (it is a social network similar to Linkedin. Back then you were able to find a lot of interesting people there – photographers, models, make-up artists, hairdressers, retouchers, etc.) Their design now looks quite outdated and the functionalities are nothing special, but for then it was quite good.

I don’t use that website anymore because it lacks a lot of the features needed to present your work properly as Behance does, but that’s what I used back then and there everything started.

The Personal Story

Back then I had just started my first full-time job for a German retouching company and I loved it.
I knew that to be a good freelance photographer I have to know every aspect of image creation. I also knew that knowing how to take images is not enough so I decided to learn how to professionally retouch photography images. 
Determined to learn and earn more I registered to this site and a few days later a British photographer contacted me. She asked me to take care of the retouching for her new images.

I looked at her work in her portfolio and it seemed that she was known in England. How did I know That? Because her images were on the covers of fashion magazines, newspaper publications.
This was my first independent project and I was more than excited. I really did not believe she would hire me because my portfolio was not full yet. I had just registered on
the site and I was still a new member. Then she asked me for my price range and I gave her an offer based on her needs. Since I think everyone should value their work and not underestimate themselves, I gave her a price that was quite expensive.

What Did She Do

I remember how she accepted my offer almost immediately. Then I was 19 years old and I had already been offered a job by a famous freelance photographer. I remember I was super excited. I would earn an income equal to the work for a month with negotiations in less than 30 minutes. It wasn’t about the money though, because I felt like I could get to the top. I also felt like this was a chance. Back then I imagined myself two months later with a portfolio full of professional photos of a famous photographer.

She sent me the picture to my email and I got to work and a few hours later, the project was completed and I was happy with the great result I achieved. I worked all night and along with my full-time job during the day I had worked for more than 19 hours but it was worth it. Doing three photographs, I managed to make as much money as I was doing for a full month working from 6 am. to 2 pm. 

Falling Into The Trap

When I woke up on Saturday morning I saw that she had paid me for a job well done accompanied by the message “Amazing work I love your work, here are some more images to work on.”
To be honest I was very excited two days later I sent her back the work I had done. Then the problems have started. She stopped answering my messages. In the beginning, I was thinking that she may be busy and I didn’t want to be pushy but a few days later she was still not answering my calls and emails. Мy biggest mistake was that I didn’t ask her to pay me in advance and I trusted her completely. 

One day she said she will never pay me because she had chosen to stop working with other retouchers than the new retoucher she hired. I got mad but what could I do? She became a completely different person or maybe she showed her real self, that’s what I thought.

A Few Years Later 

One day a friend of mine told me that he heard something about a female scammer who pretended to be a photographer and got into prison. I searched her name on Google and what I saw left me speechless.
A respected British media claimed that she was a personal agent of a celebrity photographer. And she pretended to be a photographer. The scammer and her husband tried to swindle more than £560 000 from an acclaimed celebrity photographer which had led her to end up in prison. 
It became clear to me that she is not the person she pretended to be. Obviously, this was her job.

In conclusion. Doesn’t matter if you are a freelance photographer, Photoshop retoucher or you practice any other freelance profession. Beware of scammers, and never start working or send the work before they pay you. Don’t trust strangers. If you don’t know them in person and even then sometimes is a good idea to keep it in mind.


By Samuel Zlatarev

Samuel Zlatarev is a portrait, beauty, and fine art photographer. He started his photography career as a retoucher and soon started sharing his photography and retouching knowledge. Now he shares interesting stories, blog posts, tutorials, and documentation about portrait, beauty, fine art photography, and retouching with everyone who wants to learn and master their art skills.

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