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Hope Taylor is a photographer specializing in senior portraits serving both Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA.


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How Requiring a Retainer Changed my Business For Photographers

For Photographers

HopeTaylorPhotography_7162This post is going to be short and sweet…but hopefully it helps someone who is struggling with the same things I used to!! When I was first beginning my business, one of the biggest struggles I faced was clients that would back out of their session last minute. We would talk about it for weeks, plan all of the fun details and schedule a date and time. I would charge my equipment, put it on my calendar and be so excited to start shooting…but then I would get a text that said “I’m so sorry, we had something come up and can no longer make our shoot”. Obviously that is TOTALLY understandable in lots of situations, but it happened to me over and over and over to the point that I was almost never shooting the things I had on my calendar. I knew that there had to be SOMETHING I was doing wrong. So I made one change to my business that I still practice to this day that has changed EVERYTHING for me!

The thing that I realized was that, even though though my clients were excited about the shoot, the shoot had no value to them outside of just being something we were doing for fun. The reason for that is because I was not requiring ANY payment up front to reserve a date to book a shoot with me. Because of this, my clients had no reason to place importance or priority on the shoot and they didn’t have any reason NOT to back out if something better came up. So, I started requiring a 50% non-refundable retainer (NOT down payment! Legally, the term “down payment” means that it’s refundable upon cancellation-a retainer is not) in order to book a date with me. This made such a drastic change in how much importance my clients placed on the shoot and on how professionally they viewed my business-it was crazy how much of a difference it made!

Now, I require the full amount up front to book a portrait session and 50% up front to reserve a wedding date. This way, payment is taken care of FIRST and the rest of the client experience with me can be centered around building a relationship and having FUN together! If you aren’t requiring retainers to book your shoots…start doing it right now!!! I promise it will make a difference!! 🙂

If you enjoyed this post, you may also love:

Using a Reflector for Portrait Sessions 

How I Decorated a Studio On a Budget

Packing Gear for Traveling

  1. Jennifer Taylor says:

    This was such a wise and smart move Hope. And I love how you explained it in such positive terms. No blame, no anger, no judgment – just the facts about impact to you and the client. Your photos are amazing and the way you express yourself is fabulous too. Well done, again! xo

  2. Love this, Hope!! I started doing this after about 6 months of being in business (the same thing was happening to me) and it really IS a game changer!!! 🙂

  3. Justine Heavenridge says:

    How do you have them pay you? Never found a formal way for payments ahead of time!

hi, y'all!

I'm Hope Taylor, an international Senior Portrait and Wedding Photographer based in Charleston, SC. I'm also an educator, international speaker, and the host of multiple sold-out workshops each year!



Top Three Educational Resources

My Free Senior Questionnaire

Free download

all free, of course!

My Entire Client Workflow in Honeybook

Free download

The One Secret To Beautiful Images And Easy Editing

Free download

Come Watch On YouTube

Looking to grow your photography business, capture better images or streamline your workflows? My Youtube channel is the best place to find free education. Come binge-watch all the past videos, and be sure to subscribe to see new content when it goes live:


My client booking workflow with honeybook

watch now

Most watched right now:

Totally Binge-Worthy

How To: Tips for Better Senior Portraits

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Client gallery delivery with cloudspot

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Resources + My Favorite Things

Ever wondered what programs I use in my business? My camera gear? My must-have photography products? Maybe just my favorite outfits to wear on wedding days? I've compiled a massive list of ALL my favorite things in every category! 


guides + Programs + tools + favorites