One photographer’s decision not to shoot “ugly people”

One photographer’s decision not to shoot “ugly people”

Jennifer McKendrick, a photographer (and a business owner) based in Pennsylvania, made a recent business decision that’s put her into the national spotlight. She won’t work with bullies.

She spotted a page on Facebook that contained hateful and mean comments from several teenage girls that had scheduled senior portrait sessions with her.

So, she cancelled the shoots, emailed the girls, CC’ed their parents, and included screen shots of the offending comments.


In a blog post about her decision, McKendrick wondered how she could spend 2 hours with someone during a session, trying to take beautiful photos of them, while knowing “they could do such UGLY things.”

“I’m a small business owner and I have the luxury of making that decision,” she writes.

“If you are ugly on the inside, I’m sorry but I won’t take your photos to make you look pretty on the outside!”

As of this writing, her anti-bully stance has resulted in 20,738 Facebook “Likes”, and her blog post has been viewed over 129,000 times. The blog post contains 406 comments, an overwhelming majority of them being supportive of her decision.

As a business owner, would you make this call? Or would you go ahead with the shoot? Which decision do you think would help your business the most?

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There are 12 comments for this article
  1. Randy Shellenbarger at 12:13 pm

    Kudos to Jen! About time someone stands up for what is RIGHT! As a photographer I totally agree with her decision, putting moral right ahead of the almighty dollar is very commendable! my hat is off to her!

  2. Glyn Davies Photo Artist Ltd at 1:50 pm

    100% spot on. I’m sick of businesses doing anything for profit. We have to have morals and ethics, and compassion. If business people are happy to be seen to grab profit at any cost, then they are no better than those they quietly despise. Jen did the right thing, at a big risk to herself and/or her business – brilliant if that has generated excellent publicity for her. We live in a world of bullies, from government level, to authority level, within families but most definitely local communities and school kids. As the VERY old phrase goes, ‘what goes round comes around’ and for the pagans amongst us, what ever you dish out to another, comes back thrice-fold, so make sure you only dish out goodness! Respect to Jen

  3. 33photo at 3:31 pm

    I think our clients must share certain (or all) core values – we don’t work with clients that don’t have these values that are dear to us. In that sense I agree with Jen and fully support her decision. Although teenagers can be still be taught or helped reflect on these issues, perhaps the photo session itself might have been a great opportunity to do so; but that’s a whole other ball game.

  4. Graham at 3:37 pm

    I sacked potential clients last year by video. I was sick of spending all day in cars with racists so I told them not to bother searching for a property with me if they are racist because I didnt want them here. Best thing you can do as a small business owner is apply the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule and sack the majority of your clients just keeping the best ones. (by the way click on my name to see the video)

  5. pam at 12:03 am

    I agree with her comments about the meaness of some young women and think that what she did was wonderful. It’s why I love nature photography – I’ve never meant a hateful zinnia. I wonder what would happen if she had gone ahead and booked with them and read their comments out loud to them while she was photographing them and told them to reflect those words, just for the heck of it. And then told them to think of something that they love, shown them the difference and let them see for themselves how meaness affects their appearance??? Maybe, just a thought.

  6. chris at 11:01 pm

    Am I the only one who is disturbed by the fact that this woman stalks her clients on facebook? Great for her, she doesn’t want to work for mean people, but creeping on your clients? I think if I were a parent of one of these kids, I’d be relieved at having just dodged a bullet. Come on… don’t just “come across” stuff on facebook. You have to look for it.

  7. Grover Sanschagrin at 11:10 pm

    Really? I happen to come across things all the time on Facebook. Stuff that pops up into my feed (from both friends and family) that I’d rather not know. I can see how this would happen.

  8. Marc at 4:14 am

    I’m with Chris. I don’t get how you just come across comments from clients on Facebook unless you happen to friend them first. Of course, the photographer has every right to refuse service (depending on the terms of a contract, if she uses one), but I hardly think this is a scenario that most photographers have to deal with.

  9. Michael Stagg | The Light Scribe at 10:09 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with her actions. At the end of the day, everything is NOT about money. Your integrity is more important the the money she’s “losing” by cancelling with these two teens. There is no way I’d continue with a booking if I knew my clients were promoting hate. Even though I’m just starting out I’d like to think I value my business being recognized for taking a stand against bullying than for taking the cash and looking the other way.

  10. Gary at 6:14 pm

    Can we stop all of the “stalk on Facebook” talk? Seriously, now that we’ve chosen to open up our lives on various social media sites that are clearly open to everyone, we should expect that people will be checking us out, especially in the business context. To think that people won’t check you out is naive.

  11. Marie Grey at 12:44 pm

    I think that’s a great stance to take. As a cosplayer, I’m often used to being ridiculed. I don’t take it to heart and I’m pretty good at ignoring rude comments, but I’m also in a wig dressed as a character. I think my feelings toward that would be different if it were attacking me being me. As a fairly new photographer in the cosplay community, I already know who is rude and who is genuine (it’s a very small community, despite being all over the world). I don’t want to work with nasty people, so I can completely understand where she’s coming from.

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