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What if Your Best Client Doesn't Show up without Canceling?

Published: 04/05/2018
By: larry

Alan in the Seattle area asks:

This morning, one of my best clients scheduled me for a shoot and when I arrived, nobody was there. When I called the client’s admin/assistant, he said they no longer are listing the home and he forgot to cancel my shoot. My contract states that a no-show or cancellation within 24 hours is charged full price of the shoot. Being the agent is one of my best clients, how would you handle this? The fact is, I not only spent over an hour in the car round trip, but I turned down another client who needed a shoot at the same time.

Tough question! How you handle a cancelation situation like this is totally dependent on what kind of a client this person is and your relationship with them. It's not black and white!

If this client is hiring you for many shoots a year, you have a positive relationship with them; they recommend you to their friends; and this is the first instance of its kind, I could easily see blowing the situation off. It sounds like it could have possibly been caused by the agent's assistant. I would have a friendly chat with the agent and find out exactly what the problem was. Don't get all worked up over this if it may lead to losing a great client. Give them another chance. Finding and training a good real estate assistant is hard!

On the other hand, if this is not the first time a no-show has happened with this client I would not let it go... it's likely to happen again.

19 comments on “What if Your Best Client Doesn't Show up without Canceling?”

  1. I had exactly the same thing happen from a HUGE client. The assistant was to blame. The client treats commitments very seriously and would have came unglued if he found out she 'spaced it'. But don't kid yourself, assistants have considerable power- they can mess up a 'best client' relationship. Swallow hard and forget about it would be my advice.

  2. I'm with Dave.

    I typically reconfirm the day before to avoid stuff like this, but things happen so unless this is an ongoing problem with a client, be the good guy.

    my 2 cents

  3. I would let it go but let it be known that they owe you one. This has happened once or twice to me in the past w/ large clients and every once in a while I need a favor myself. It's certainly not worth putting up a fuss over if they're putting a significant amount of money in your pocket every year. This is business, it isn't smooth sailing 100% of the time.

    I had a client show up 18 minutes late today. I sat on the curb staring at my watch the entire time... "at 20 minutes I'm leaving". They ended up showing up and while we were there I booked 3 other jobs with them. I can guarantee you if I left, though I wasn't at fault, I wouldn't have got the other listings. I was upset and I politely let her know and she apologized profusely. Now, she owes and we both move on.

  4. As George said, confirming listings is always a good idea as well. I typically text all my clients the morning of.. "Hey, just confirming today @ 12:15. See you soon!". This has prevented a ton of disasters.

  5. It has happened to me others have already said - confirming day before is best or even two days before depending on your T & Cs will keep this from happening 98% of the time. That way you always can fall back on referencing the fact that you did all you could to ensure the appt. if a discrepancy does arise.

    Also confirming will fix any misprints or confusion on appt time or addresses etc. most importantly it could save you some extra sleep in the morning or editing time if not booking another appt

    I typically confirm evening before via txt and sometimes again early morning of appt if i have not heard back... but i have an assistant that handles booking and usually can trust that we have been in communication with clients pretty regularly close to the appt.

  6. #1 - If your best client has a no show, it shouldn't matter they are your BEST client. You will do just about anything for them because of your relationship over the years. NBD.

    #2 We use a scheduling system called Schedule Once

    This system allows for agent to book their own listings and get update and reminders about the appointment time. You can even offer pre-payment through their system and capture their CRM info

    We have built in a T&C field to be checked off everytime and set multiple reminders for problem clients.

  7. I think Garett, Daniel & George's practice of confirming the day before is essential! Notice that every doctor or dentist etc appointment you have confirms the upcoming appointment you have with them a day or two before the appointment. Real estate photographers should do it too! Daniel's approach of texting the confirmation is a great way to do it.

  8. You are the only person who knows what to do. You usually do know too.

    This story says it all though. I remember my grandma was such a huge movie fan back in the vhs days. She would wait at the video shop i heard to get the new movies because there was only one or two copies. She rented multiple movies three or foir nights a week. The video store had a return policy of course; gotta retun by 5pm next day. She walked in one day a few minutes late, they charged her the late fee, and she never went back in there again.

  9. I had this happen last week, I charged 50% of the shoot fee and I was booked for 3 more shoots this week by the same client. Things happen but this is business. I have let things go before but this wasn’t the first time this happened. If it was a new client, I might let it slide the first time.

  10. @JosephNoel

    Do you get to see all of the listings in your scheduling system before they are confirmed with the agent? 1) How do you prevent excessive travel? (i.e. client books a job 20 miles East, another 20 miles West and then someone back East again). 2) How do you prevent people from scheduling East facing properties late in the day and you show up w the sun glaring behind the house, etc. 3) I'm assuming you can block specific dates/times?

    I get the convenience of this but I could also see a lot of real good reasons why this would just be more effort than it's worth.

  11. We use a system called Setmore that does send an appointment reminder a few hours before. We also state in our appointment confirmations:

    "CANCELLATION POLICY: Shoots canceled the same day of appointment will be billed 25% of shoot price. If photographer shows up to property and is unable to shoot or access the property, 50% of package price will be billed."

    With that being said, for our good clients, we usually give them a warning first but if it becomes a recurring problem we will begin to invoice them.

  12. I have charged cancellation fees a few times. Once was my biggest client, two shoots in one day, no notice, just delayed when we got to the address. He is part of a small team, one of the others said to charge him or he'd do it again. So I did. He paid me and it has not happened again. The other time was very last minute, really irresponsible agent, so I added it to the rescheduled shoot price. He also paid, but, has gladly moved on.

    My policy is in place, it is clearly stated in advance, so I don't worry about using it. This is a business, I am going to run it as one and the agents I work with are usually also running their business properly. Yes, it is just a mistake, but, it was not my mistake and I am not planning to pay for someone else's mistakes.

    If my relationship was so bad with an agent that an assistant could screw it up, then I was under a wrong impression about my relationship with the agent. I would not take their calls again if they made anything difficult for me.

    There are lots of clients out there. Get good ones.

    I would have more worry about an agent that did not understand the what and why of the cancel fee or would refuse to pay if it was obviously due.

    As to avoiding cancels, I usually confirm a day in advance.

  13. @JosephNoel,

    Automated scheduling sounds handy, but you miss out on talking with your clients. Daniel makes good points about winding up with excessive travel, and my service area is really big, along with sessions being scheduled when the lighting is very bad. There is one more point I would like to add and that's being in a better position to let the customer know that you will be nearby the next day on another job and would they like to get a $XX discount for scheduling their appointment before or after.

    I can absorb a few cancellations, but it eats up time slots that I never get back. My terms require a payment for last minute cancellations, but what happens now is I try to install some guilt the first time and if it starts to become a habit with an agent, I fire them. I leave the door open that if they pay the fee outlined in the terms, it will buy them another chance. If they pay 75-100% of the fee for the job, I'll wipe their record clean on that one.

    I use email to remind agents about appointment made more than a couple of day in advance. I really hate text and it can be unreliable. I'd rather make a quick call just to ask "are we still on for the Elm street property at 2pm?" Yes. Great, see you there. 10 seconds. It takes me much longer to fat finger a text message.

  14. I look at the whole situation before I decide how I will deal with it. If it is a innocent mistake, then like they say "Sh.. Happens" and let it go With the agent aware that they are getting a pass on This one. If it is a flake who has no respect for others, then I just let them know they can find someone else in the future... to many solid professional agents out there to work with.

    Years back, I had an occasion to shoot a home. Everything went well and as I was packing up the auto, the agent comes out to tell me she just got a cash offer on the home and won't need the photos after all. I said, wow, congratulations on the sale, at least your clients will have some photos for their memories. She acted stunned that I would still charge her since she did not need the photos.... Yep, if you let them, some will try to walk over you.

  15. "Years back, I had an occasion to shoot a home. Everything went well and as I was packing up the auto, the agent comes out to tell me she just got a cash offer on the home and won’t need the photos after all. I said, wow, congratulations on the sale, at least your clients will have some photos for their memories. She acted stunned that I would still charge her since she did not need the photos…."

    You could offer a discount since you won't have to process the images, but I agree about charging for the photo session and travel. You've done that much work. It would be like not paying the house painter because the buyer didn't like the color and the seller is offering an allowance to have the house repainted. The painter might offer a discount since much of the prep work is done and repainting would go much faster.

    Every once in a while a job gets cancelled because the home has sold, but not very often and I don't charge a cancellation fee for that. Those are usually HUD homes being sold very cheap and bought by flippers. If I've made and delivered the images, I've earned my fee.

  16. @Jerry, I'd prefer to do everything on a handshake too, but not everybody is the same way so I have to use written contracts, licenses and terms.

    A student of mine just got burned on a job after I told her it would be a good thing if she drew up a simple contract with a Beauty Pageant organizer. The lady promised that each contestant would receive a CD with photos from the pageant at the event. My student was planning on selling image packages to the girl's parents to make up for the cheap price she charged the organizers to make the formal portraits. It sort of put her in a tight spot. She could tell parents that the organizer had not cleared that with her and made everybody mad, but decided to turn the situation into a lesson about how not to handle one of these jobs. She also gave the organizer a couple of photos from the pageant to send to the local newspaper which then credited the organizer for the images. I tried to stress to her to walk across the street to the newspaper office and supply the images herself and make sure she got the credit. All in all, I think after she paid me as the portrait photographer, second shooter at the event and for supplying much of the photo gear, she was out of pocket on the job.

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