Photography Sessions and No Show Clients

Jul 21, 2015

Topic: Business, Client Relations
Time Investment: 7 Minutes
Suggested Product:  Model Call Contracts


You have been emailing with a potential client, set up a photo shoot date, researched posing and theme ideas, turned down other clients, set up and paid for child care, arrive at the location and wait and wait and wait…a NO SHOW! 

You set up a model call and have booked four back-to-back sessions in one day. Again, you have spent time and money on props and pose ideas, turned down other interested clients, and wait and wait and wait…another one is a NO SHOW!

‘No shows’ are a drain on your business financially and on your mental state. What can you do to avoid them, or at the least, offset the costs of one?


What about using a contract?

The first step in protecting your business from the dreaded no show is to have a contract signed before the session or model call!

There is a lot of legalese that could define what a contract is. Books can be written on the subject. Books ARE written on the subject! What you need to know about contracts is that they are legally enforceable agreements between two parties who agree to exchange things of value. The ‘thing of value’ could be a product, a service, a promise to act or not to act, etc.

Your contract should cover the basics of your agreement with your client, including such information as:

  • General party information (name, contact info, etc.)
  • General information on the shoot (type of shoot, location, day/time, etc.)
  • General pricing information (session fee, print prices, due dates, etc.)
  • General information on use rights of the images for both parties.
  • ALL of your policies, including a no-show policy!


Snag lawyer-drafted contracts from TheLawTog!


No Show Policy

I am sure you have come into contact with a no show policy in other areas of your life. It could have been a few dollars for that missed doctor appointment or much steeper for that missed flight. So what should your no show policy look like?

Some things to consider for your policy that can keep it fair for both sides include:

  • State the policy clearly in the contract to avoid potential issues later.
  • Set a window where cancellation is allowed. If you have enough notice, then you can schedule with another client.
  • Set a window where re-schedule is allowed where no negative financial penalty.
  • Set a window where the entire pre-paid amount or portion of that amount is forfeited. If you have not taken payment or a deposit, then you may be able to charge a no-show fee.
  • Remember to make the EXPRESS distinction between refundable and non-refundable fees/deposits and what terms surround them!

See also: To Use Retainer Or Deposit In Your Contract 

What About ‘No Shows’ for Free Sessions or Model Calls?

You may be running a free session as a way to build your portfolio or for a cause close to your heart. Whatever your reason for offering it, no shows can still happen even when the client isn’t paying a session fee! How do you protect against no shows when you can’t pre-charge the non-existent session fee?

In this case you may charge a small refundable deposit prior to the session as a ‘no show’ policy fee. If the client shows up, then you refund it to them. If the client does not show up then they forfeit that deposit or a portion of it.

If you do not want to pre-charge anything you can attempt to charge a no show fee after the fact, but you may have a difficult time collecting.

See: Model Call Contracts


Other Options

Some other options to keep your clients informed of your policies include:

  • Include your pricing and policies on your website, so even potential clients know what to expect before they become official clients. This pre-emptively avoids misunderstandings.
  • Have clients pay the session fee up front, or at least a deposit on the session, along with signing a contract that includes language regarding your refund policy of the fee. In this case you are financially protected from a no-show and clients may feel more financially able to purchase prints if they aren’t paying the session fee at the same time.

No shows are common across all businesses. It is important to take steps to protect yourself and your business!


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