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For photographers who love their craft, it can be hard to turn down clients or shoots, but sometimes saying no is necessary. Whether a shoot doesn’t fit your brand or a client doesn’t want to pay what you charge or you’re simply burnt out and need a break, saying no to a potential job is occasionally the best option. But it’s not always easy, especially if you tend to be a “yes man” or a people pleaser. The next time you have a potential client or gig, ask yourself these questions:

1. Does the shoot match your brand?

There are a few key things to consider when deciding whether or not to take on a new shoot or client. The first, and possibly most important, is whether or not the potential job will help solidify your brand. If you’re a portrait and wedding photographer, and someone asks you to shoot a local softball game, it’s important to consider how those photos will work in your portfolio.

Will they match the style of the other pictures you use to promote your work? Will you be able to use them to get more business? Will you be able to share them on social media without risk of confusing your audience? If the answer to these questions is no, your safest best is to turn down the job. In this case, the rejection is fairly simple. Tell the client about the kind of work you usually do, and that your photography business doesn’t cover sports. Recommend one or two sports photographers you know and trust, or share the opportunity on a photographers forum.

If it’s a creative shoot that’s too out of the box for your specific brand, ask yourself if you love the project or if you’ll get the opportunity to work with influential photographers or clients. If the answer is yes to any of those, shoot away! Passion projects are a great way to expand your portfolio and grow as an artist. But the key to these shoots is that you really do feel passionately about them. If you’re saying yes just to be nice, or just to make a little extra dough, your lack of interest will show in the final images, and it will end up being a waste of time or even a detriment to your reputation as a photographer.

If you have to say no to these creative shoots, take the time to tell the other photographer what you like about the idea and that you’re excited to see how it turns out, but that you don’t think you’re the best person to work on it. It’s always a good idea to recommend another photographer who is a better fit for the project. That way, you’re still being helpful to all of the photographers involved, and aren’t leaving anyone feeling hurt from a flat out rejection.

2. Will it pay?

Be wary of potential clients who don’t want to pay what you charge. In some cases, people are under a tight budget and really can’t afford the cost of a full shoot. If both you and the client are willing to compromise, offer a shortened shoot or a smaller number of finished images for a discounted price, but only if you feel the discount is deserved. If a client is rude or demanding, simply explain that you are currently too booked up to take on any discounted shoots. If you want to pass the client on to another photographer, tell the new photographer about your own experience with the client so that they know what they’re getting into.

If you do decide to give the client a discount, be clear that it’s not something you normally do, but that you’re making the exception for whatever specific reason. That way, the client will be less likely to later tell their friends that you offer discounted shoots regularly. In exchange for the discount, you can also request that the client promote your services on social media and recommend you to their friends and family whenever they need photos.

3. Are the clients your friends?

This is all made harder when those potential clients are your own friends or family. Whether it’s head shots for Linkedin profiles, graduation photos or couple shoots, photographers are constantly getting hit up by friends and family to do free or largely discounted work. Many times, the friends and family don’t mean any harm or offense. They simply don’t realize that professional head shots or portrait shoots are something you generally charge for.

There are a few ways to handle loved ones who request your services without offering to pay. The first is to implement a standard friend and family discount. The size of the discount is entirely up to you, but you should be clear from the very beginning whether or not the client will receive a discount. You should also decide early on who will qualify for the friend and family discount. Will you only offer a discount to family members? Roommates? Close friends? Acquaintances? Make these decisions early so you don’t run into any awkward uncertainty when talking to a client about pricing. If you do offer a discount, be sure to include the price of what you normally charge so the friend or family member is aware of what your services are worth. This will help keep them from spreading your discounted price around to people who don’t qualify for it.

Another great option is the barter system. If a friend or family member offers a specific service of their own, and are looking for photos, try to agree on a fair trade. A friend of mine is a hairdresser, and she gave me two free haircuts in exchange for professional head shots. Be sure to discuss the normal cost of the services so that you both know you’re receiving a fair deal. If a friend or family member offers a service you’re not interested in or have no need for, you can always offer the discounted price instead, or again, simply explain that you’re too booked up to take on any discounted shoots.

Turning down business can be hard for any photographer, but sometimes it’s the right decision. With a little practice and an established system for dealing with friends, family and discounts, you can ensure you’re always taking on shoots that are right for you and your business.

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