One of the many romances I heard working as a young photographer in the early 90s was of wedding photographers who keep raising prices every two months until a point of time they are so expensive and yet so popular, that its them who chose the clients instead of clients choosing them. Undoubtedly these are the stories that mislead people to believe photography as a highly lucrative market and made everyone with a camera wants to get in. It was true for some individual but not for most. As I said before, photography calls out to many, but chose only a few. It was hard back then, it is even harder today with the advent of technology (easier entry) and popularity of the camera hobby (more supply than demand).
So new and young professional photographers, hungry for jobs, takes any and all jobs. They believe they are not in the position to choose clients, and that privilege was something aloft and reserved only for the big time successful photographers. Not entirely true. Little do you know that, what clients you chose in the early part of your career, actually results in what kind of photographer you will end up becoming. It is not hard to imagine why. First is referrals, if you shoot for budget blog shops, other budget blog shops owners will be looking for your services, your portfolio will be budget blog shop pictures. If you shoot a lawyer cousin's wedding for free, do an amazing job, get your work out in front of his lawyer friends, you might land another wedding, lawyer marrying a banker, etc, and then you get a banker's wedding, etc. If you do a free shoot for a NGO charity event, knowing that event guest list consist of many big business, and on event day a few executives and secretaries asked for your business cards, weeks later you might be shooting a corporate or commercial job for them.
Birds of feathers, flock together. At the start of your new bird career, eagle or cuckoo bird, you choose.
Here are some personal guidelines, final decision is of course your choice:
Bad - Clients who ask what equipment you use. They are measuring your abilities by your equipment, totally have no respect for your skills as a photographer. The problem could them - some just picked up a camera hobby and *thinks* they know more than you. The problem could be you - you never gave them any confidence to start with, could be your presentation, very possibly could be your very low pricing.
Good - Clients who ask what equipment you use - if they are also industry players hiring you not a a consumer, but as a business hiring a sub-contractor. Common scenario wedding photogs wants their second shooter to have same RAW files readability. Advertising client wants to know if your product can be printed big, ie medium format vs small format... etc.
Bad - Clients who ask for your price. Its bad when its at the lower segment price market because clients are not considering your photography, they are price shopping for the cheapest deal. If you are cheap, there will always someone that will be cheaper or free. Why lower yourself to compete in that segment that only tired you out and discourage you in the long run? If they don't need quality for that job, what makes you think that portfolio or exposure will help or further your photography business? Remember if you are a good deal for being cheap, you are going to be very cheaply popular, filled with cheap jobs that saps your energy, your creativity, and keep you busy from getting better jobs. Why you are busy serving nasty cheap clients, other photographers are booking better jobs because they have time you don't.
Good - Clients who ask for your price. Its good when you are decently priced to be profitable, competitive and market-healthy. Clients ask because they want to know if they can afford you. If they cannot, they either don't waste your time, or they find means to afford you. Or they negotiate for a mid ground. Either way is good.
Bad - Clients who ask you to shoot for free in the name of charity and exposure. As Hart mentioned in another thread, decide what kind of exposures you are getting, from what kind of people, are those kind of people the type you want to attract? Most likely not. And how many of them? And is the client capable of paying you in the first place but don't want to, and just making use of you?
Good - Clients who ask you to shoot for free in the name of charity and exposure. I think I mentioned somewhere that I had volunteered to shoot for free for a NGO but ended up they insist on paying my full rates because as a reputable NGO with big time sponsors from big companies, they don't believe in short changing a humble working photographer earning a photographer's pay. The point is - choose wisely.
Bad - Clients who don't know what they want, beat around the bush and wants you to start work, yet ignore your terms and don't sign your agreement. Run. Run away from them. They want you work first, if they like, then they pay, and they will try to pay peanuts. If they don't like, they just played you round and round in circles like a monkey.
Good - Clients who don't know what they want, but wants you to lead them. Take it - this is where you have creativity freedom and maybe your big break if is a big client, - but have a solidly written agreement for contingencies and payment in case of the work not suitable or not used, so that you won't work for nothing - or look like a fool.
What kind of clients you chose could very well determine what kind of photographer you will end up being.
Please feel free to add your insights to the list.