Jillian Ryan Photography » Blog

When you run your own photography business, there is only so much work you can physically take on.

Each session fills a fixed slot and brings you one step closer to your weekly, monthly or yearly goal. And that’s why cancellations, especially those that happen at the very last minute, hurt so damn bad.

As you can probably guess, I’m writing this because I’ve had some pretty painful experiences myself.

Once I had a themed photo shoot scheduled for a baby’s birthday. I absolutely love kids themed photography and I was SO excited to get such a unique session on the books. I sketched out the concept, bought a few props and spent hours crafting the perfect details.

I must have looked like one of the 7 dwarfs, whistling away as I finished up the final touches.

Then the client called with bad news. She cancelled just 3 days before the shoot.

I went from Happy dwarf to Grumpy dwarf in 2.5 seconds.

In fact, if there was a Self-Pity Dwarf that definitely would have been me.

Then there was the client who called me to cancel her session the night before it was scheduled.

That’s right. The night before.

There goes another perfectly good date right down the drain…cue Ragey, the foamy-mouthed dwarf.

But one of the most extreme examples came from a client who canceled and rescheduled with me three times.

Oh boy, let me tell you. That one got old fast.

My interactions with this person were Einstein’s definition of insanity.

I consider myself a pretty polite, fairly obliging person but after the third cancellation I vowed not to go down that road again. Especially if this person wanted yet a fourth shot. And sure enough, she did.

I finally put my foot down, took a pass on “rescheduling,” and felt a HUGE sense of relief.

I mean how many times are you gonna let someone poke you in the eye until you finally put your glasses on and walk away?

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally human. I understand that sometimes you need to cancel an appointment. A last minute crisis, an unexpected event or even a real emergency can pop up and derail your plans. I’ve been there, and yes, I’ve done it myself.

But now, as a business owner, I see the act of canceling in a whole new light.

What folks just don’t realize is that when you cancel an appointment, the commission for the person you cancelled on is lost. Money gone. And the chances of replacing that income at short notice are pretty darn slim.

Now that I’m a full-time photographer (and because I would like to remain a full-time photographer), I felt it was high time to stop getting burned.

These days I take payment up front via an online system that withdraws directly from a checking account (here’s why I don’t take credit cards).

I won’t block the date in my calendar until payment is received.

But I still allow a little wiggle room. Because after all, stuff happens right? So if someone needs to cancel, I offer a grace period which ends two weeks before the date of the scheduled shoot.

After that, the payment is non-refundable due to the incredibly low chances of replacing that income at such short notice.

If for some reason I’m the one that needs to cancel (and you better believe this would be a last, last, LAST resort option for me), the client will receive a full refund along with a sincere, wholehearted apology.

It takes a lot of time to coordinate a photo shoot. To feel like you wasted that time planning a session that’s not going to happen, truly sucks. And it sucks even more when you don’t have enough time to book another one in its place.

Businesses need to be profitable in order to stay in business.

Establishing a clear cancellation policy will protect your photography business from getting hurt financially.

So get yourself a little back up and put an end to the pain of cancelled income.

For the photographers and business owners out there, what’s your worst cancellation story? Have you put any policies in place to protect your business?

(Side Note: Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for the memes used in this post. I’m not sure who did, but they’re awesome.)



These two beautiful women are married and currently live in another state. They happened to be visiting Arizona, which is how our paths were able to cross! I was thrilled to have the opportunity to photograph this couple and their relationship through a gorgeous boudoir session.

I had never done a couple’s boudoir session before, so I was a bit nervous about that at first. And to be honest, if these two weren’t both women, I don’t think I would have done it. I’ve seen quite a few couple’s boudoir sessions involving a man and a woman and generally think they end up looking pretty cheesy.

I had a feeling that with two women, the session would be just as sweet and sexy as any other, and it turned out just as I had envisioned! I love the photos we got from this amazing sunrise shoot. It was such a peaceful time of day. No one was around, it wasn’t too hot yet, and even the wild horses made an appearance!

Much of the inspiration from this shoot came from the 20s era, when lesbianism was quite fashionable. We incorporated the couple’s vintage hat collection, books from the 20s, and vintage style bathing suits into the shoot. It all went together perfectly!

It was such a blast getting to know these amazing women while they were in Arizona! They’re so laid back and easy to connect with. They didn’t even think I was crazy when I broke my flip flop and did the shoot barefoot!

I’m grateful to have had this experience with them and also to be able to share these sweet photos on my blog <3

  • Brittany - What a warm and wonderful story – beautifully told through these moving images! Just stunning!ReplyCancel

I had been dying to do another session at this amazing location but unfortunately right at the last minute, the girl who was scheduled for it no call, no showed on me. I was bummed because I was way pumped up to shoot at this location so I logged into model mayhem and sent this gorgeous girl a message to see if she was up for the shoot.

Sometimes when something bad happens an even better opportunity presents itself. What started out as an annoying situation, turned into an awesome one. I actually feel grateful the other gal fell through because this shoot with Laila was exactly what I had envisioned! She was super enthusiastic about the session concept and brought her amazing wardrobe along.

For this session, I was going for a vintage, 70s look, and edited the photos slightly different from my norm. It was fun to try a little something different and I love the photos we got from the day!