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Photography Question 
Eileen Broderick
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/11/2005
 

Couple Cancelled Wedding--return retainer?


I am in my first year of business as a wedding photographer. I am not making money this year b/c I am spending every cent I make (and more) buying and upgrading equipment. I do have a separate business account and deposit all client payments there. I had a couple booked for Oct. 20th who just called off their wedding. I had made a pretty good deal with them b/c money was tight for them. They had paid me $250 so far as "retainer" for the date. My contract does specifically state that this is non-refundable but I just feel guilty. On the other hand--I have "spent" their money buying equipment and building my business. I joined Pictage and the rest of their event $ was going to pay for my unbooked winter months! DOH! I don't want to be a jerk but I also can't realy afford to pay them back. I can if I dip into my personal funds but...Does the following offer seem fair/reasonable? The bride has 2 daughters from a previous relationship--14 and 10. Can I offer to shoot family pictures and portraits of her girls so that it isn't like she paid me for nothing? I would really appreciate some honest feedback as I have never been in this position and have a hard time being a "Business Person" sometimes.


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8/29/2007 7:25:29 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  well eileen,your actually giving them something for nothing.
the business person,which your having trouble with,booked a gig.then if someone else wants your service on the same day,you have to refuse,cause someone else has retained you.hence the non-refundable shtuff.
then you as a person says well I feel kinda bad,maybe I can?
this is your decision and your concience.
if you don't do it,how bad are you still gonna feel?
I think i'll put you on my list of hometown favorites,sam


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8/29/2007 8:43:16 PM

 
Eileen Broderick
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/11/2005
  Thanks for your input, Sam. If I get you right, you would consider it an extra, a favor, if I offered to take pictures of her girls. And totally fair to keep the money they paid me so far regardless of if I offer anything in exchange, right? I guess you are right--it's up to me and depends on how bad I would feel...I'm sure she could use the money as much as I can! I took a look at your gallery. Your images are stunning. It looks like you live pretty much in paradise--what settings you find! Thanks, again, for your 2 cents. Much appreciated.


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8/30/2007 5:56:23 AM

 
Rob Zuidema
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/19/2005
  Well, Eileen, your contract does state the retainer is non-refundable and they knew that before they called it off. If you start feeling guilty and giving them extras, people are going to get to know that and take advantage of you in the future. This is the reason for the contract, to protect both parties. When they called off the wedding, they broke the contract and thereby lost their non-refundable retainer.


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8/30/2007 6:10:23 AM

 
Eileen Broderick
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/11/2005
  Okay, Rob. I know you are right. I really need to toughen up! I guess I just thought it'd be a nice gesture and that if anything, it may help me in the future. Maybe she'd be grateful and if the pics of her girls came out really nice she could tell friends about me...That kind of thing...Thanks for your input, Rob. By the way--nice gallery!


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8/30/2007 7:25:07 AM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  I've felt guilty w/ client things too... a poor bride & groom, both students, who needed a break on her wedding photography and I felt guilty charging even remotely near full price. Only to find out later she paid the DJ more than me. I traveled 3 hrs roundtrip and shot for 2 hours and gave them a proof book. But the DJ got paid more to play right in town for 3 hours. So much for sob stories. Think THEY felt guilty paying me so little?? Nope.

If she canceled her wedding, you might not be the only retainer she lost... you think the caterer or florist or invitation company or anyone else will feel bad for her? Nope!

Take it from me, it's OK to be a business person about this and NOT feel guilty!!


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8/30/2007 9:25:12 AM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/8/2004
  All the comments are bang on Eileen. You've got to have a thick skin when it comes to business, any business. It's not your fault that they cancelled. Why should you pay for their mistake?


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8/30/2007 9:43:24 AM

 
Jerry Frazier   The retainer fee is to hold the date for them. And, to not book anyone else on that date. This you did. Therefore, you DID provide them a service. The fact that they cancelled on you is their problem.


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8/30/2007 12:03:23 PM

 
Eileen Broderick
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/11/2005
  Wow--thanks for all the support, guys! Jerry--I especially like how you put it--I did fulfill my part. Holding the date was a service, of sorts. (Not that I turned down any other jobs, but come to think of it, if I had I would have been disappointed and would not feel bad keeping the little bit they had paid me.)Again--thanks for the feedback. I do feel better about the whole thing. My husband keeps reminding me, "You are in this to make money..." I can't be doing favors and making deals all the time. I think b/c I am so new and want to get as many jobs as possible to build up my portfolio, I feel tempted to make deals to get jobs. I am shooting my 5th wedding this weekend and I think that'll make a decent portfolio. I can start asking for more and stop feeling bad about it! As someone who had little money for my own wedding I always get this feeling like, "why should only rich people have nice pictures of their weddings?" Know what I mean? Okay--I'm getting off-topic. Thanks, everyone!


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8/30/2007 12:34:41 PM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  and why should only rich people drive cadillacs? LOL

I was in the same boat as you when I accepted that "discount wedding"... I really needed that job for my portfolio, and so it served it's purpose but I still made TOO good of a deal.


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8/30/2007 2:15:30 PM

 
Eileen Broderick
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/11/2005
  Okay--you can all laugh at me now! I watched Oprah while on the treadmill and it was her "Pay it Forward" episode. Basically--doing something nice for someone else because you can. Just because it's a nice thing to do. So I did email the bride back and told her I am sorry about their situation and told her I'd be happy to meet her with her girls at a park somewhere to do some nice portraits. She's a single mom. Maybe she'll cherish these pictures forever. Maybe she can't afford to do things like that. I can't give her the money back, but I can do something nice for her. Why not? So after all that, I caved. But I feel okay with that. I like to do nice things!


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8/30/2007 2:40:21 PM

 
Mario Morel   Hello Eileen. I know that business is business, but in my opinion I think that for future contracts maybe you should set dates. What do I mean with this? I know that you are giving them a service just for putting their date appart, but I think wouldn't be bad for you to say for example, No money back if dates are canceled within 2 months of the activities. I work in a retail store and I don't know if this example applies, but what we do here is that if a custumer returns a product 30 days after purchase we either charge a fee or there is no money back, depending on the product. I hope this can help for future contracts.


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8/30/2007 4:11:50 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  i don't believe anyone is laughing eileen.i think you will do well.
I am not sure if compassion and poverty are twins,and business is different?
that I live in paradise,from a look at my gallery.i am your neighbor,the person you pass on the street,maybe your cousin.
quite the compliment.i have trouble thanking you.through your eyes I may just be,at least in a sanctuary.
somehow eileen,you have settled some of my hatred.
many may pass this way,yet at least you question?
all my best,sam


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8/30/2007 8:41:04 PM

 
Tim G. Stout
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/8/2007
  For future reference. I actaully put a Initial here box on my wedding contract to emphasize to my clients that their deposit was in no way shape or form refundable. I had it bite me in the tail years ago and I missed out on a Prom that grossed all most 5k the following year when I did it for the first time. Best of luck to you and I think you probably did the right thing, given the situation.


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9/17/2007 1:36:51 PM

 
David A. Bliss   Eileen, I am on the "help them out" side of this. I too am a softy when it comes to this sort of thing, and while it has at times come back to bite me, I believe it more often than not works out for the best. There is a limit, though. Yes, you should keep the money, and yes, you can do some portraits, but don't give away everything. What I mean by that is, do one outfit, a few poses, and maybe a couple of prints. If they want more, charge them the difference in what you would normally charge.


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9/17/2007 1:59:28 PM

 
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