The client who wasn’t there…A PSA from your photographer

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

I could easily rant. But I won’t. Instead, I might just make a request, a plea, or, oh heck, why not a public service announcement on behalf of anyone who runs their business on an appointment-only basis. To the clients of these great establishments: If you plan to cancel your appointment, please, let the business know!

Some time ago, I wrote a blog about how the designation of “by appointment only” works more in the client’s favor than ours (“By appointment only” doesn’t work for us…It works for you!). Every word still holds true, however, as we have progressed well into our business during these last three years, nothing exemplifies the very darkest downside of this approach than the dreaded no-show.

Now, when I say no-show, I am not referring to those who call (even if it is in the eleventh hour) to say they will not be able to make their appointment. While, technically, they are no-shows, the effort to alert us beforehand automatically classifies them as “cancellations” and, sometimes, “reschedules”. They are off the hook for this blog. No, I am talking about those who simply do not show up, therefore leaving a loose end which may never be tied.

For other businesses, such as retail and restaurants, this might not be such a big deal. Store clerks and restaurant staff are there all day regardless if the client changes their mind or reschedules without notice. And there are likely going to be plenty of other walk-in clients and tasks to perform with or without a scheduled presence. The same could be said for more bustling, by-appointment-only businesses, which include a waiting room full of people all of which would love to get in sooner than later.

However, this is not the case for every business. With us, for example, you have one whose sole proprietor is also, among other things, the head worker, marketer, secretary, photo editor, and groundskeeper. For us, and others like us, a no-show has a much more profound (and often negative) impact on the day and business/client relationship. It goes well beyond a simple 1-3 hour void in our day. For instance, when we book an appointment, there are certain givens which must be met well before the actual event.

First and foremost, all schedules must align. Within the business, appointments are meticulously placed within a schedule amidst photo editing, advertising, grounds maintenance, business errands, and many other tasks for which, it seems, there are never enough hours in the day. For us, the client’s desired appointment time (as we make that the planning priority) often becomes the cornerstone for the day’s schedule.

And it does not always stop at our calendar. For more involved portrait sessions, appointments could easily influence three or more people’s daily schedules including that of the photographer, hair and makeup artist and assistant(s). Not to mention the one to two week’s worth of pre-prep effort it takes for those of us who are tasked with getting all the ducks in a row.

Second, the studio must be ready. This includes room setup, which could be anything from complete rearrangement of furniture, backdrops, equipment and props, to simply sweeping the floor. It also includes temperature control, as we seldom run the air conditioner/heater when we do not have studio sessions. It takes time to heat/cool the studio depending on the outside temperature, so timing considerations must be made and the cost to run these devices is never a no-show.

Lastly we must be professional. In any professional business, being well groomed in front of one’s clients is a must, however, while I certainly do not lay around in pajamas all day, I do not wear khakis all day either. Let’s face it: If you are a home-based photographer, would you wear dress clothes to edit pictures?

Now, imagine going through all of this only to have the client simply not show up. This frustrating feeling is especially poignant for the more involved sessions as, following weeks of reworking everyone’s schedule, a no-show could easily end up costing multiple people not only their time, but money as well.

Now, you ask: “Patrick, what about those who had a sudden emergency or who simply forgot?” To this I say: We are not totally without mercy. We understand life happens. I’ve had no-shows who have not only had sudden, debilitating health issues on the day of the shoot, but also had their vehicle totaled that same day. I can understand letting your portrait session slip your mind on such a bad day.

I can also understand the session generally slipping one’s mind within our ever-busy world. This is why we are doing our part increasingly using reminder emails/phone calls to stave off these occurrences. At worst, we might find the client wants to reschedule at the last minute, but at least we can plan accordingly with 24 hours notice.

So, what do you do if you become a no-show (regardless of the reason)? How do you avoid the wrath of a slighted photographer? Well, it is quite simple: Send an email or pick up the phone and say “I’m sorry”. You don’t have to give details or even a doctor’s note. At that time, you may reschedule or not, but the important thing is: There is some closure between us and you and any and all negativity can be cleared.

Hopefully, this stayed within the realm of a PSA rather than a rant. I am a very tolerant and forgiving person (maybe even too tolerant and forgiving at times), however, when we have had enough no-shows during the past three years to warrant a blog, it might not hurt to nudge the Internet a bit. Hopefully, this reaches some of the would-be no-shows and lets them know how far some businesses go to meet their needs as well as how far a little common courtesy can go too.