Saying no may seem a bit… wrong. In fact, it may seem counterintuitive to what you should be doing for your business – especially if you’re just starting. But it is one of the most important things you can do and one that you shouldn’t be afraid to use. 

There’s a good chance that you’re in this career because you want to build a life for yourself that you’ve always wanted; doing something you love & getting paid for it, perhaps traveling the world, meeting a ton of amazing people, earning decent cash, etc… and well, that’s just great! But at the root of it all, you are a business and businesses need to make decisions. 

Knowing when and how to say no is crucial, especially for this industry where being taken advantage of happens all too often and where the pressure to just make a quick buck is one we’ve all faced before. 

Photo by Rainstorm Photo

Why you should say no

Not a good fit for your brand/business

This is probably the hardest one to swallow but it’s because it’s so important. How you present your brand/business is key in attracting who books you next. If you fill up your portfolio with shoots, projects & clients that don’t reflect your ideal clients (or close to them), you are actually shooting yourself in the foot. It’s absolutely okay to say no to a wedding that just doesn’t feel right for you and your brand. You’re not obliged to photograph everyone. 

But how do we get those clients that are ideal? Well, it sounds like a catch 22 but the truth is you’ve gotta go and create that content yourself (either by setting up your own styled shoots for your portfolio or 2nd shooting), have an awesome network of fellow photographers who can share bookings with you to just name a few… 

Resources are limited to other projects

You may find yourself getting so many requests and inquiries at some point that you just want to take them all. But remember, you’re only human and if you take on too much – you do seriously risk burnout. On top of that, if you completely exhaust yourself through the season by shooting 4 weddings a week, how great do you think your performance will be for the last few weddings? That won’t be fair to those couples who pay you a full price but get an exhausted photographer. 

Not the right skillset

This doesn’t just apply to wedding photography – but to anything really. If you are being asked (and are going to be paid) to do something that is completely out of your league in terms of skills & capabilities, there is no shame in saying no. To be honest, It’s smarter to bite the bullet and lose a job than to agree to it and have disappointed clients who will likely not work with you again but will pass on their disappointment between their communities. 

When the risk is too high

Sometimes you may get a request for a beautiful destination wedding in X place but happens to be a day or so after another wedding which you were previously booked for. You look at the flights and you see that you could make it on the morning of the wedding. Why would you want to take the risk that you miss that wedding? The flight’s delay? Traffic? Sometimes you just have to say no when the risk is too high. 

Saying No if you feel it’s not worth it

As mentioned earlier, you are a business. You have to always think like a business and from time to time even remove all emotions from your decisions. It’s hard to do the first few times but it makes sense once you do it. If you’ve been negotiating with a client and they will only hire you for a price that is below what you’re comfortable going to, then you have every right to say no. And you should. Value yourself and others will too. 

What about Discounts?

When it comes to discounts, that is entirely up to you. If you feel that it’s worth dropping a few hundred bucks off your price to get the job then go for it. But just keep in mind that almost everyone wants to negotiate and get a better deal. A lot of the time they are certainly able to cover your full price -but just out of habit they ask for a reduced rate. That’s normal. 

But, if you say no (politely of course), not only do you come off as someone who knows their own value – you add more value to your business. You come off as confident and this is so important in landing your clients. They need to feel that you are confident in what you’re doing; as if you’ve been doing this for 15+ years. 

Photo by Yidaki Studio

How to say no

Great, now we have a few good reasons why we should say no and not be afraid to use it. How should you say No without coming off as arrogant, rude, or just simply unpleasant? 

Always reply. When someone sends you something, don’t leave them hanging for too long. Even if you know you will say no. It not only gives grounds for that person to speak about how unresponsive you are to their friends & family, but it’s not very nice either. 

Always be polite & professional. These are people reaching out to you and no matter what, always be polite & professional. Don’t just outright say “No. Bye”. Take the time to explain why you don’t want to do something and even offer solutions (perhaps fellow photographer recommendations who would better match their vision). 

Be Transparent. Don’t lie or come up with some poor excuses. People can often see right through this and well, paint you in a bad light. Just be honest. You can defend yourself much better if they ever contest it. 

Be gentle. If for example, you find that the request isn’t matching your style of wedding, don’t just say “sorry, your style sucks. see ya”. Be gentle about it without lying and work with something a bit softer on the heart like “as much as we would love to shoot your wedding and all those beautiful details, we feel that it just isn’t quite our fit and we want you to have the absolute best photographer for your day – but that isn’t us. But, here is a list of personal recommendations that may be just right for you”. 

Saying no is powerful. It’s scary, yes. But it’s powerful and important. With anything really – not just in business. Believe in yourself, believe in your vision, believe in your goals and your directions and if something is not going to move you even one step forward, then it’s moving you backward and you can say no. 

It’s even harder to do when you’re relying on this for your income entirely. Make your decisions carefully and just remember you always have that option. You always have that option to say no if you really feel it isn’t right. 

Photo by Melli & Shayne

How will saying no help you

To be honest, when you say no to something – it puts you in control. It puts you in a place where you value yourself, your business, your art, your everything. It’s so easy to think that this one opportunity is the very last and only opportunity you’ll ever get. Which is bullshit. If you are really serious about what you’re doing, then I know you have it in you to attract more chances – ones that better suit your vision.

It’s also a good little exercise to visualize yourself as someone successful. Someone you look up to. Can you imagine that they always say Yes? Surely not. So long as you approach it respectfully, and transparently – you’ll gain a lot of trust down the line.


Over to you guys – What do you think about saying no? Something you can all agree with?


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