Saying No For Photographers: When and How to Say No
If you are a people pleaser, like yours truly, you may find yourself saying yes to every request and then later regretting it. It has taken years to realize that saying no is okay and necessary. Not just for the sake of good business, but for my own sanity. Most often, I have seen photographers asking for advice on how to say no when they are asked for a discount. Or when the session is not something they can confidently shoot. But how can we say no, without hurting our client or our business?
“I went to church with your Aunt Sheila, could I get a discount?” I do not offer discounts like this and sometimes I feel bad. Our prices are set to cover our costs to do business. So offering a discount may not be possible in every situation. When asked for a discount, you are within your rights ask the potential client why they’re asking you to change your pricing. If they cite budget concerns, you can reply “I can understand budget concerns. I can take payments and I'm happy to set up a payment plan for you!” If they still pull back or you get the vibe that they just don’t want to pay full price it’s okay to tell them you’re not a good fit for what they’re looking for - it’s the truth after all. You are worth your pricing, don’t let someone guilt-trip you into lowering it.
If a potential client expresses doubt that you are worth paying for at all, see your value and say no. This doubt is especially hurtful when the person has no idea how many sessions you have under your belt or what your cost to do business is. If this happens, you can simply thank them for their opinion and state you’re not a good fit. If you want to take the time to explain the costs to do business you are welcome to, but you do not need to defend your pricing to anyone.
“Can you shoot my wedding/son’s bar mitzvah/child’s birthday party?” For me, these situations are a HARD PASS. I won't take events because they are not something I excel in nor are they things I enjoy shooting. I will not provide work that is less than my best. When I’m not feeling it in a session, my work suffers. My go-to response for a request that I know I cannot do justice to is, “Thank you so much for thinking of me! I am touched that you appreciate my work so much and want for you to love the photos you get back. It is for this reason, that I am going to refer you over to these other photographers who specialize in this specific event.
When you’re first getting started, it’s so hard to say no to any shoot but remember, you need to provide your 100% best work. As flattering as it is to be wanted, we want our clients to have the best, even when the best isn’t us. This is a great opportunity to network with other photographers in your area. Having a network to refer jobs out to can be a life saver, not just when a request comes in that you’re not able to take, but also when your plate is full.
You might be reading this thinking to yourself that you cannot wait for the day when you turn away a session; I promise you, that day will come in time. Saying no is not fun, and it’s not easy, but hopefully you can see that sometimes it’s necessary for both you and your client.
You're The Boss
Being the boss of your own business is awesome, but it has its challenges. Remember YOU are the boss. You always have the right to say no and do what’s best for you and your brand and really, for your client as well. Happy clients, make for happy businesses!
Wendy Boyce is a family portrait photographer based in Cleveland, Ohio. She is known for her casual and friendly personality and her uncontrollable need to burst into song at any given moment; a trait she has passed on to her twin daughters with pride. Website | Blog | Facebook