If you are looking to do a photo shoot and don't know where to start, what to account for, or how to plan, then this is the guide for you!
IN THIS GUIDE
1. Choosing Your Package
3. Planning Your Outfit
4. Share Your Session Goals
5. Come Prepared
Read time: 18 minutes
(PDF coming soon)
1. Choosing your package
Choosing the right photography package is essential for making your shoot go smoothly, and ensuring you get the result you want. There are three primary factors which impact the package you should choose: your session length, the number of prepaid photos in your package, and the editing services included. I go over each below.
Giving yourself enough time for your photo shoot is arguably the most important component to consider, as it impacts not only the number of photos you will receive, but pose and background variety, as well as your expression and affect in each photo. It takes time to loosen up and get comfortable in front of the lens and to fall into a rhythm with your photographer. The more factors there are at play in your shoot (number of people, presence of animals, kids, or mobility impaired participants, weather, busyness of the shoot location, etc.) the more true this becomes.
Below, I have outlined the amount of time I recommend for different types of shoots and shoot conditions, assuming an industry standard of 40-100 final images delivered, with multiple poses and backgrounds per subject or group.
The above recommendations are not hard rules. If, for instance, you are very comfortable in front of a camera, it may not take you long to loosen up and you may be able to squeeze in more shots; or if you are looking for only a handful of good photos (a common request during fall family photo season when many want only 2-5 shots to put on their holiday card), you may not need to worry about optimizing your session. As with everything, if you're uncertain, please always feel free to ask for a professional opinion!
HOW MANY PHOTOS?
So: how many photos should you prepay for up front?? The answer to that question lies both in your budget and the purpose for your session. With almost any photographer, the more photos you buy, the cheaper each photo will cost individually; though every photographer handles photo sales a little differently. I try to keep things simple, and offer two distinctive options: prepaid full-gallery packages, or session-only a-la carte packages.
PRE-PAID FULL GALLERY PACKAGES
Prepaid full gallery packages are exactly as they sound: they include the photo shoot itself, as well as a final curated gallery of 40-100+ edited photos (depending on your session length) that are yours to keep. Prepaid full-gallery packages offer the greatest per-photo discount, as it simply takes me less editing time, planning, client communication, and overall work to shoot and edit with that in mind.
SESSION-ONLY, or A LA CARTE PACKAGES
My alternative to the above is a-la-carte packages. This means you pay for your session time and photo editing, then are provided a gallery from which you purchase your favorite photos individually. The more photos you buy, the less each photo costs; though the per-photo price is higher than prepaid packages, even if you decide to purchase the full gallery after your a-la-carte session. However, these sessions are ideal if you only need or want 10 or fewer photos, as the summative cost of your session and photo purchases will be lower.
WHICH TO CHOOSE?
Finances aside, the question of whether to pre-purchase or not also comes down to your session type, and how important the contents of your photos are to you. Typically, I find my clients buying prepaid full-gallery packages for extra special moments: family photos (especially sessions with young children, older pets, or grandparents), maternity, newborns, engagements or proposals, and graduations (especially when the session is not solely of the graduate, but also friends, siblings, parents, or grandparents as well).
Session types in which I see clients most typically purchasing only 5-10 photos include family photos (when they are consistently taken every year), headshots and personal branding, couple photos, personal shoots, and pet portraits.
EDITING vs RETOUCHING
Another important component to consider in your package is whether to include retouching. But before I go into that, let's review the differences between editing and retouching:
Editing is included in all session packages. It comprises a series of basic photo adjustments that serve to give your final images a clean, consistent, professional look. Adjustments include:
Retouching is an additional service which aims to address more targeted issues in an image with localized adjustments. These can include:
EXAMPLES | Click to enlarge:
So, back to the question: should you include retouching as part of your photo package?
Retouching is easier and more time-efficient to do while doing the initial edits. As with pre-purchasing your gallery, pre-purchasing retouching is offered at a lower price than purchasing it as an additional service after your photos have been delivered. Some specialty session packages with known challenges include retouching as a matter of course--newborn sessions, for instance. I spend a lot of time removing drool, nail scratches, reducing the appearance of facial redness and cradle cap, etc. This serves to give the client the best possible results at the lowest possible cost.
As such: If you know there are specific issues you would like to have addressed (an acne flare up, a recent cat scratch, or a sun burn) I highly recommend including retouching in your package ahead of time. If you have no particular concerns regarding the outcome of your session, then I would instead recommend waiting to receive your edited photos and decide then whether any photos warrant the additional attention.
Choosing a location
I offer on-location sessions at 15 pre-vetted locations throughout Davis, Woodland, and Sacramento, and in-home sessions within the same region. If you're interested in shooting in-home, there isn't much to consider or worry about (aside from ensuring the house is nice and tidy!) but if you're looking to shoot on-location, there are a few details to take into account.
What is the time of year?
On my Session Location page, I go into detail about what each location I shoot at offers, both in terms of scenery and amenities. I also have a variety of photos for you to browse, so you can get a sense for what each location offers. Be sure to take a look before you book!
Planning your outfit
This is a huge topic I go into in more detail in this guide; but here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind as you dig through your closet.
COORDINATE, DON'T MATCH
Wear complementing colors and patterns instead of having everyone wear the same color or outfit. Mix solids with plaids, or florals with solids. Work around a color palette of 2-4 hues, and take into account the colors likely to be present at your location. You want colors that complement your background but make you pop instead of blend in:
CHOOSE A DISTINCTIVE STYLE
Try to choose a specific style for your outfits. Not only will this give your photos an interesting and distinctive look, but it will help guide your color and pattern choices. Some popular, easy styles I see clients frequently choose include: country, city chic, and urban casual.
Share your session goals
Every photographer has a different style. Every client has a different opinion on what makes a good photo, and what things are important to capture. You may think a particular shot or subject grouping is obvious, but you would be surprised by just how varied each client perspective is. As such, It helps tremendously if you can convey your goals and expectations to your photographer ahead of your shoot.
Why are you doing your session?
In addition, it can be very helpful to share photos you like with your photographer. Browse social media or do a google search and send your favorite shots to your photographer. This will give them a point of reference for your preferred style, and ensure your session photos are as in-line with your goals as possible.
There are a handful of accessories and tools you can bring to your shoot that make all the difference between a frantic, stressful session and a smooth, fun experience. Below I've included several lists for different kinds of sessions at different times of year.
YEAR-ROUND PHOTO SHOOT ESSENTIALS
ESSENTIALS FOR KIDS
ESSENTIALS FOR PETS
I know, I know. This is a lot! A whole profession's worth of information, you might say! If after reading this you still have questions or feel overwhelmed, please feel free to reach out. I'm always happy to help my clients plan their session and offer guidance so they can get the most out of their shoot.