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i won’t photograph ugly people | indiana county, pa photographer | personal

By August 17, 2011 518 Comments

I wrote a blog a month or two ago that talked about all the things I learned about being a “self employed” business owner. I was only roughly a few weeks into it when I posted the blog but I wrote about the Random Realities of Being Self Employed.  It was more tongue in cheek really, I mean I talked about such things like how your boss is awesome (which is true..haha), about how you can sleep in, how you talk to yourself and answer your self because you have no co-workers to chat with. For those of you who don’t know, I recently quit my full time day job to pursue my dream of being a full time photographer. As exciting as it sounds that I’m following my dream and ultimately getting paid to do what I love, it also comes with a lot of accountability and responsibilities.I mean, I *AM* my own boss and if my business fails it’s *MY* fault, I can’t share the blame with a co-worker or a supervisor….it’s my fault.

With that said, I recently made a decision that I know could ultimately create backlash for what I’ve decided….and honestly, I don’t care!  The really cool thing-(even among all the scary things of owning a business) is that you can make decisions without having to go through the hierarchy of people. On a whim yesterday after seeing something that was so appalling, I decided I was going to email some of my clients to tell them “I’m sorry but I won’t take your photos”.

Let me explain. Last night I posted on Facebook the following: “If I’m wrong, please speak up. I came across a page on Facebook that was created (by someone under a fictitious name) thats purpose is to bully,  ridicule and say mean and hurtful things about their class mates. While visiting the page, I found several teenage girls that have scheduled sessions with me for their senior pictures. I am emailing them tomorrow to cancel their shoots. I do not want them to represent my business and I am beside myself at how MEAN and CRUEL they were on that page.” As I was drafting the email that I was going to send out to the clients my phone was blowing up with comments.



Now I realize it’s going to be hard to know that every person that ever contacts me isn’t a bully, I understand that…but in this specific instance it was right in front of my face. I saw it with my own wasn’t hear say, it was right there..with their smiling face right beside such an ugly statement. I couldn’t forget about it, I mean how I could spend 2 hours with someone during our session trying to take beautiful photos of them knowing they could do such UGLY things. Realistically, I know by canceling their shoots it’s not going to make them “nicer people” but I refuse to let people like that represent my business.

This morning I sent out 4 emails to those clients while CC’ing in their parents explaining WHY I was canceling their shoots. I also included screen shots of the comments they made. They couldn’t deny it, I had the picture of what they said. I informed them that I’d be sending their deposits back and that they’d have to find another photographer. So far, I have received two emails back from their parents that claimed (I’m paraphrasing) they were shocked that this had happened. They apologized that their child acted in such a way and that they would deal with the matter. So far I haven’t received any backlash but I’m ready for it. I’m a small business owner and I have the luxury of making that decision. 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!

I’m not going to give a big speech that says how wrong or uncool it is…because let’s face it, you are seniors you should know better. I’m not trying to save the world of bullies or trying to start a movement. I simply don’t want to photograph ugly people!

To all of you who commented or “liked” the status… It’s heart warming to know that you support my decision.

Thank YOU!

*** updated 8/25/11: For those of you reading this for the first time, here is a follow up blog post that may answer any questions you may have:

*** updated 8/16/12: One year later, what I learned about going viral:



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  • Mara says:

    Beautiful. Wonderful. Fantastic.

    I really hope this makes a difference to those girls.

    I wish there was someone like you around when I was in high school.

  • […] motionless to cancel a sessions and posted on her blog that she doesn’t wish to sketch “ugly […]

  • Kelly Sauer says:

    I feel it’s important to note here that clients don’t represent a photographer’s business. A photographer represents her own business. This decision – and its publicity – is now a part of your identity as a photographer.

    As photographers, we SEE. It is our job to see. We see the stress and the insecurity and the grit and the awkward. We live in (and sometimes break up) the dynamics and drama that surrounds the people we shoot. We build trust with our clients, that we will not show their awful back to them, let alone to the world.

    You may not see visible backlash from your decision right now, but I think you may find a reluctance from clients to trust you in the future, knowing how you responded to this situation.

  • […] perhaps some of you may be missing. Incase you are wondering, this is in reference to how “I Won’t Photograph Ugly People” and the other blog post “ummmmm….Thank […]

  • Cindy Loo says:

    All these comments saying you will have clients not trust you in the future, or that the girls who made the website might have problems at home, or regret it so much.. yada yada yada.. It all is crap to me. I think not being the photographers to teenage girls who are online bullying people is the right thing to do. These girls might not know everything, but I know for a fact they know what bullying is and what cyber bullying is. They know it is wrong, and they know what it does in the lives of the people they are bullying. How dare someone stick up for a bully, when in this day and age numerous teens are killing themselves for what these people do and say. We need to teach these bullies a lesson. The simple fact of refusing to be their photographer is a just and reasonable way to punish these girls for their unacceptable actions. If they do have problems at home, now is a great time for their parents to step in. Hopefully now some sad teenagers out there are getting a break from their peer tormentors. You did the right thing. If other people don’t like it, they may as well wear a sign that says, “I support teenage suicide” I think its sad we let bullying go that far. Shame on those girls.

  • […] a few of her clients because she caught them bullying other students on Facebook. Jennifer wrote on her website that she will not photograph any ugly people by saying “If you are ugly on the inside, I’m […]

  • Michelle B says:

    I think you made the right decision! I raise a glass to you 🙂

  • […] few of her clients because she caught them bullying other students on Facebook. Jennifer posted on her website that she will not photograph any “ugly people” by saying “If you are ugly on the inside, […]

  • […] on what she read on the page, Jen wrote on her blog: “I do not want them to represent my business and I am beside myself at how MEAN and CRUEL they […]

  • Beth Ann says:

    BRAVO! I think you made a wonderful choice and it speaks highly to the business people will be supporting. If I lived closer i’d look forward to having you shoot my children!

  • Amie says:

    Way to stand up for what you believe in! I admire you for doing something that many of us don’t have the guts to stand up for, too much cyber bullying is going around and if people don’t stand up for a change and help those who are hurting it will continue. This was a lesson for those who were doing it, hopefully they will take something from what you did and think about it, and maybe they will even apologies to the victim. Thank you 🙂

  • […] next day, she uploaded a post to her blog titled “i won’t photography ugly people” explaining what she had done, and why. She summed it up by quoting from her earlier Facebook post […]

  • Marvin says:

    This really saddens and sickens me. All people, ALL PEOPLE, in this world are BEAUTIFUL! Who are you to pass judgement on how other people are on the inside?

    Calling them names and stating that you will not photograph “mean” and “ugly” people makes you no different than them with the “bullying”. As other people have commented, you have no idea, NO IDEA, what is going on in their lives and you my friend grew up in a much different time and with much different experiences than they have. This is like me saying you clearly have no idea on what photography encompasses and should not call yourself a photographer.

    This is your company and you can refuse service to whomever you wish. But to write about this on a blog is just plain tacky, thoughtless, and definitely unprofessional.

    I mean seriously, enough with judging other people comparing them to our level of standards and twisted morals. Enough with spewing out negative energies with “hate” and “ugly”. Enough with being closed off and hiding in your cocoon.

    Open up, be positive. Talk to these seniors, expand their minds, be a roll model, be an inspiration, take responsibility even though they are not your kids.

    Stop running away with your tail between your legs and sending an email to their parents with a “let them deal with it” attitude. This helps no one but your own self-indulgent egos.

    Again, EVERY single person in this world (as well as everything in this Universe) is BEAUTIFUL.

  • jen mcken says:

    Marvin, I appreciate your feedback and the mature way you presented your opinion….however I think you need to take a moment and read the newest blog post! Have a wonderful day!

  • John says:

    Way to go by refusing to do business with bullying youth. You’ve shown you have high ethics by making this point. I was bullied as a kid, and I still shudder when I read about such things. If bullying is to stop, it will take people like you to take a stand against it. My hat is off to you.

  • stacy says:

    Bravo! If you didn’t take a stand, who would??? P.s. I think anyone who is ridiculing you for taking this stand is ridiculous. You are right. It would be a representation of you.

  • Jennifer says:

    Bravo Jen!! What you did is admirable and makes you a beautiful person, inside and out!

  • Virginia says:

    I came across this in and shared your feeling. I cannot deal with such clients if I know that they did things so horrid as that.
    I am an employee so I have no choice, but you own your business and this is what you can do.

    For others who “advised you” — I think they are just pandering to societies “be nice” “all cheers” cloak which try to turn a blind eye to cyberbulling. If those kids have problems — go to a shrink instead of taking it on other kids in the Internet!

    Bless you.

  • […] school, not elderly) photographer “fires” seniors for being mean to others on Facebook, writes about it, and people around the world are writing on her Facebook fan page wall thanking her for standing up […]

  • Amanda says:

    I agree that you totally made the right decision. You’re awesome.

    PS. I’m from Indiana, PA! How crazy to come across someone from my hometown on the big, wide internet!

  • Julie says:

    The people making comments justifying the bullies because they were doing it online and not in real life? What?? Your character is your character. You use it in real life, you use it online, you use it around friends, you use it around strangers. You don’t get to be two people.

    Kudos to this photog! I often wear my heart on my sleeve regarding my business as well, and I can tell (truly) that this was not a publicity stunt. And I am glad she spoke out about it. Not enough people do.

  • I’m behind your decision 1000%. I have Zero tolerance/respect for parents who allow their kids to be bullies. It’s plain & simple, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” PERIOD!

  • Courtney says:

    Way to make a stand!!! It’s so inspiring to see this kind of choice being made. As a small biz owner/photographer I know how every client (and their money) matters. To make such a stand with the chance of loosing so much (current clients, potential clients) is just wow! Kuddos!

  • Bethan says:

    Thank you for writing about this. Yes you could have handled this privately, but then it would not have given hope to the teens going through similar things themselves. It would have not given pause for thought for those acting this way and it would not have encouraged others to have integrity in their own business dealings.

  • Jessica says:

    I think what you did is great. Finally teens who bully are being held accountable for their actions. No this may not change them, but it’ll make them think twice.

  • Daniel says:

    Great post! Being a business owner to, I completely understand where you are coming from!

  • […] A photographer decided to cancel shooting with people that are ugly. In the inside (school bullies) […]

  • […] photographer deserves a high five: “If You’re Ugly I Won’t Take Your Photo” (Via […]

  • Sandra says:

    Thank you for following through on the courage of your convictions! The world is full of bullies and I choose to NOT associate with them nor allow them to drag me down to their level.

  • Simone says:

    I admire you so much, you’re awesome. Gizmodo Brazil posted your story, btw 🙂

  • Marlon says:

    You are completely correct. If everyone thought like you, the world would be a nicer place to live. Congratulations on your beautiful initiative.

  • […] that she would not photograph anyone who behaves this way to other people. The blog, titled “I Won’t Photograph Ugly People,” explains that after Jennifer saw the Facebook page, she posted the following comment on […]

  • […] the ones on her client list, and subsequently cancelled the shoots. In a blog post titled “I Won’t Photograph Ugly People“, McKendrick writes, This morning I sent out 4 emails to those clients while CC’ing in their […]

  • […] off the session. McKendrick wrote more about her decision on her personal blog in a post titled "I Won't Photograph Ugly People." "I mean how could I spend two hours with someone during our session trying to make beautiful […]

  • Igs says:

    Rock on I am so glad ppl like you exist! Some people are so mean! When i graduated from high school we had a board With our class year and every senior would sign it. It was a school tradition and every class would do it. Well i was a troubled kid and i didn’t graduate with my class, i stayed behind to retake a test during the summer. Regardless, I had been in that school since 4th grade so i said to hell with it, and signed my name next to all my Friends…. Well two of the ” pretty girls” in my class apparently didn’t like that too much and decided to erase my name and write over it. It was one of the most painful things that’s ever been done to me . Why be so mean u know? I went back and rewrote my name on that board where it belongs… A bunch of times

  • […] when I read that she wrote publicly on her blog, “If you are ugly on the inside, I’m sorry but I won’t take your photos to make you look […]

  • […] anti-bullyng ha resultado hasta hoy en mas de 20,000 likes en el facebook de Jennifer y su blog post referente ha recibido mas de 139,000 visitas donde ha recibido gran cantidad de comentarios respaldando esta […]

  • […] I won’t photograph ugly people – An awesome blog post which has recently made the rounds about a photographer who refuses to photograph you if you’re ugly. […]

  • Congratulations from Brazil!

  • Congratulations on your attitude! It is important to end these abuses – Augusto, Brazil.

  • Sarah N. says:

    You GO GIRL! We need more people like you showing the youth of today that entitlement and bullying isn’t acceptable. As a 32-year-old mother, I have come a long way from the chubby grade schooler and chubby high schooler I was. In my memory, I was the bottom of the bullying totem pole. Granted, it wasn’t as harsh or physical as it is these days, but the emotional and mental scars have stayed with me long past the time it would have taken a bruise to heal. You can bet that I teach my son that compassion is the key, and fitting in doesn’t matter if they crowd is a bunch of thugs. I left my abusive ex-husband when my son was 3 days old so he wouldn’t grow up thinking this behavior is OK. Keep on what you’re doing, and you can bet your schedule will be overflowing with TONS of beautiful people. 🙂

  • […] This is in reference to ” I won’t photograph ugly people”. […]

  • Angee Sluder says:

    WTG, Jen! Even if you do face backlash, know that you did the right thing!

  • JJ Siemens says:

    Nice! Good decision, but I think you shoukd go further. Every person has skeletons. It’s something you should challenge yourself to keep in mind when you’re shooting – I smell a very interesting art-project here for you. Just sayin’.

  • […] i won’t photograph ugly people | indiana county, pa photographer | personal | Jen McKen Photograph…. […]

  • […] a blog post on her company website, the Pennsylvania-based shutterbug explains she was bee-bopping around on Facebook when she found a page made by a kid in her community specifically to bash classmates. It sounds […]

  • eryka says:

    awesome. you make me want to be “beautiful enough” to be photographed by you. 🙂

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