Monday, November 10, 2008

What to do About Cancelled Photo Shoots

Win Your Cancellation Fee

A local newspaper that I have been working for over the last two years, called on Friday evening with 3 jobs for the weekend. Two were on Saturday evening (bang goes my social life - or it would had I got one) and the third was on Sunday morning (bang went my usual Sunday lie-in - not that I usually get one!)

The two evening jobs went quite smoothly: other than the fact that the paper booked me in at 8.15pm for a book launch shoot and then a sports club anniversary dinner at 8.30pm. Which gave me 15 minutes to take the book launch shots. Oh no it didn't! The jobs were 20 miles drive apart, it was dark and raining torrentially, and I was on back-roads of Ireland I had never seen before. Mind you, even if the jobs had been a street apart, 15 minutes was hardly time enough. As it was, I got the book job done fairly smartish, and my Sat Nav found my next location in 25 minutes, so I was only about half an hour late - which, in this part of Ireland is known as "being pretty punctual!"

I was in good time for the third job, which was scheduled for 11am on Sunday morning, a local league soccer match at a ground, about 30 minutes drive from my house. I just needed 2 actions shots of the match, and I'd be home in time for the Coronation Street repeats (blog readers outside of Ireland and the UK may want to follow the link or contact me for further details on precisely where Coronation Street is - and what you've been missing!)

The problem was the game was canceled. No one from the paper had contacted me to tell me, there was no notice on closed and securely locked gates of the soccer pitch, and there was no one to ask, either. I drove away thinking that I might have got the time wrong, and stopped a man in the street, to ask if he know anything about it. This being Ireland ("a small country" - meaning that everyone knows everyone else in the small towns; which is really something to be very thankful for, especially when you've experienced the anonymity of large cities) the man pointed to a corner shop and said: "someone wearing a red coat has just gone into that shop - and he will be able to tell you". I went into the shop, found the young man in the red coat and politely asked him about the game, to be told "all local matches are off due to the weather". I thanked him, and drove home, wondering about my fee for the job - which now looked to be in jeopardy.

It's not easy being a freelance photographer. The work doesn't come regularly, you have to take what you get - or not work at all - and sometimes, the work is canceled at short notice, or, like today, it just doesn't happen at all. Not that long ago, I would have written it off as one of those things.

But when I got home today, I emailed the paper and told them that the game was canceled and that I would be billing them for the full amount, given that I had to find out about it from a man in a red coat in a corner shop - and not from the picture desk!

Luckily - the National Union of Journalists fees guide is on my side (sporting pun) and it recommends that a minimum of 100% of the job fee is claimed if work is canceled within 1 - 7 days of the scheduled date. Other rates are on the website (follow the link for more details and their views on cancellation policy).

I just hope that the picture editor (who is a union member) agrees with his union's advice!


  1. Did they pay up in the end Stephen? I'm a web developer by trade (though moving more and more into photography) and I've had clients pull out of prijects right at the end of the development life cycle. When I tell them they still have to pay they seem completely shocked? Even though it was their decision to cancel the project!


  2. I'll be billing them at the end of the month, Kevin. But, I fully expect them to pay. Some photographers include cancellation fees as part of their terms and conditions that they submit to a client before work commences (or at the start of a working relationship. That way, the client can't say they didn't know about them - and it will be assumed that they have agreed to pay them. You might try it next time.


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