Fstoppers Answers - What Is Your Cancellation Policy?

Fstoppers Answers - What Is Your Cancellation Policy?

Each week, we ask our writers to answer a question submitted to us in the comments from the previous weeks. These questions can cover anything, and hope to provide some insight on what its like to be a working professional photographer in the industry. Last week, we asked "Ten Headshots for a Corporate Client, What Do You Charge?" and got a lot of feedback, which spawned this weeks question -- "What is Your Cancellation Policy?"

Dave GeffinStaff Writer | Professional Photographer Cancellation policy: my contract stipulates that I need 7 calendar days notice of changes. If notified 7 days in advance, they don't forfeit the deposit or retainer that I have been paid to hold the days open. If they cancel or change dates with less than 7 days notice, they are subject to forfeiture of the deposit amount. However, that's what the contract says and is there for protection in the worst case scenario where a client really just messes me about continually (that hasn't happened yet, fortunately). Wherever possible, even if there is less than 7 days notice, I will do whatever I can to make it work for my clients so they don't have to forfeit the deposit. I do think it's worth reminding clients of the cancellation policy at contract signing though, just so all parties are aware that everyone's time is valuable because reschedules can and do happen, and it's important to be up front about this and not just have it buried away in your contract somewhere.

Mike KelleyAssociate Editor | Architecture Photographer I don't have one. That is, if some unfortunate circumstance comes up where the project isn't ready to be shot, I'm not going to hold the client hostage or make ridiculous demands citing lost income or hardship as many photographers might. What I do have, however, is a clause in my contract that in order to book a date with me, you need to put down a deposit. This serves as incentive not only to keep the original date, but if something comes up, to reschedule in the future. I also tell them that under extenuating circumstances, I'll refund that too. I'm not out to take advantage of people's misfortune, as long as they are honest with me.

Peter HouseStaff Writer | Commercial Photographer If it's a TFP project with fellow creatives, then honestly, "shit happens" is my approach. Of course I prefer some heads up and if you can give me a weeks notice or even a few days that would be ideal. We all have last minute emergencies that pop up though and I don't think I can be unreasonable in expecting someone to show up at a free creative session if their child is sick or grandma broke her hip. Because of this I have a short list of back-ups who I know I can call to fill in on a whim. That ensures the rest of the team doesn't get let down. The key here is not turning this into a habit though. One or two emergencies I can deal with, but if you do this consistently I will stop calling on you. I prefer to work with those who are reliable.As far as commercial projects go, admittedly, I have had to overhaul my cancellation policy. I tend to give folks the benefit of the doubt and I can be a bit too trusting, so I have been very relaxed with my cancellation policy. Such is life that inevitably actions like this bite you in the butt and I have had a few clients take advantage of my easy going ways. I now employ a strict policy to gather a non-refundable deposit that is the greater of the production costs or 25% of the estimate. Upon completion of the project the remainder is due at which point full resolution files are delivered and the usage rights commence.

Noam GalaiAssociate Editor | Commercial Photographer I have to admit - I don't have a cancellation policy, and I never asked for partial payment ahead of time and it's a big mistake. I actually never had any issues in the past, which made me think it's OK to work like this, but in the past 2 months I had few bad clients who canceled the shoots with no notice, or even while I was setting up the lights on location. I lost time and money on these canceled shoots, and because we didn't sign anything on this matter, I couldn't demand anything. I will learn from my own mistakes and from now on I will make sure to add a cancellation policy to my documents.

Andrew LinkStaff Writer | Automotive Photographer My cancellation policy used to be that if you canceled I burned your house down. Since the fire department had a problem with that I've resorted to getting a 50% deposit up front. Clients are less likely to cancel since they've already spent the money, but if they do I still got half and a day off to catch up on other work.

Zach SuttonAssociate Editor | Headshot Photographer My cancellation policy is that you need to give me a 48 hour notice or you forfeit your security deposit, which is 50% paid up front. Your security deposit is then just pushed to the rescheduled date that you have planned. Because of the nature of my business, security deposits are never refunded. I recently had to do this with a wedding, and keep the 50% retainer paid for the day, despite the wedding no longer happening. It's tough, but I'm a firm believer in keeping business business, and personal personal.

As always, feel free to input your thoughts on the topic in the comments below, and if you'd like to ask us a question, feel free to do so in the comments as well.

Log in or register to post comments


aat Lab's picture

For me, a specified amount as a non-refundable deposit in order to book the date. Probably about 20% of the full amount. Then full payment the day before the shoot. I have had too many issues and know of other photog's who got burned not getting payment up front. This is for weddings/family shoots/etc... not commercial.

John Flury's picture

The 50% idea... I fear that would create a psychological barrier for some of the clients, which could be the decisive factor if they take my offer or not. On the other hand it does help to have their commitment. I am torn. I'd rather have them sign the quotation that has a couple of clauses with regard to cancellation, payment and usage rights, all in one neat package.

Billy May's picture

I shoot wedding and commercial video - we take 25% upfront for weddings with the remainder due 2 weeks before the big day. Big businesses generally don't want to pay upfront, so we generally settle on 50% upfront and 50% within 2 weeks of delivery (but sometimes you gotta work with them a bit). When you're taking bookings for 2015 or 2016 it is extremely important to take a deposit - especially since you turn people away frequently on the days you're already booked in the wedding industry.

About 6 brides wanted 1 date this summer and then the couple canceled within a week of the wedding and I wasn't able to rebook someone, so yes, we kept the deposit. I feel terrible honestly, but they cost me nearly $3000.

Clare Spencer's picture

50% minimum up front. 100% if the wedding is within 90 days. (I book a lot of courthouse weddings). Keeps clients from "vendor hopping" (aka, booking one photographer, then continuing to shop for one they like better, cancelling, doing it again, etc. to get the best deal). Too easy for brides to say "yes, save the date" and then not book without a deposit. And yes, I keep it. as a matter of policy. The only exception might be if, for example, the bride or groom was killed or taken hostage in a foreign country or some other such circumstance truly beyond their control.

Jacob M. Ermahgerd's picture

I have recently been considering charging a 10% deposit as my times become more valuable, and my skillset has definitely increased. I tend to lack on the business side of things so I believe if I start becoming more serious it will help me increase my client base.

I'm used to shooting for free, however as I test with models, but I'm looking into doing submissions and whatnot in order to gain the business I want and hopefully get a few paying jobs (in the fashion industry that is).