What Is A Session Fee?

September 10, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

If you've looked into hiring a professional photographer, you have undoubtedly seen a wide variety of pricing structures and business models. All this variation makes it hard to understand exactly what you are paying for and when, especially when you are trying to understand the value each potential photographer provides. If you have browsed my site you probably know that I charge a session fee, and in my Investment Guide you can get a sense of what your post-session investment might be. By now you probably also have a sense that I don't include tangible products with my Session Fee. This is the number one point of confusion with nearly every potential client that contacts me.

 

Baby Rowan with a surprised look on his faceWhat?!Baby Rowan gave me the cutest expressions during his newborn session! It's often a little bit of a shock when I explain that I don't include any digital files with my session fee. There are a lot of reasons why clients expect to receive digital files as an all-inclusive package. For one, it is a very popular business model. So popular that there is even a name for it when a photographer takes your portraits and in turn delivers you a tidy bundle of digital files - this is the "shoot and burn" model. The level of service provided with this business model is typically lower. There are always exceptions, but for example, you are most likely left on your own to figure out what to do with those digital files once you receive them. There's nothing inherently wrong with this business model, when it is priced appropriately to the value of the service and product being delivered.

 

So that brings me back to the point of this post - if there is nothing tangible delivered as a result of the Session Fee, then what is the client paying for? After all, the point of hiring a photographer is to have images to cherish and proudly display, so the client should get something in the end, right? You are right. They should, but this concern is all about understanding what happens when you hire a professional photographer, and having an open dialog about the investment expectations before the shutter is ever pressed. 

Canon 5D Mark IV Camera and lens, tucked into the angle of a series of custom frame corners.Camera and FramesTools of the Custom Photographer - the all important camera and a selection of frame corners. Choose from these and many others when designing custom framed portrait art with me.

When you choose a photographer, you are hiring a person with a particular skill and expertise to deliver a service, an experience, to you. That definition of service and the quality of the experience delivered can vary widely. It's like the difference between Super 8 and The Ritz. Both of them will offer you a private room, a bed to sleep in, and a bathroom, but no one would argue that the experience of each is wildly different for what is essentially the same service. And this is the beauty of choice in consumerism, isn't it! Professional photography is no different. 

 

Custom Designed Wall ArtPerfectly sized and coordinated to enhance the beauty of the room, your photography experience includes custom design assistance for a permanent visual history of your family. When you hire me, your Session Fee pays for a high quality portrait photography experience. You are paying for me - my time, my expertise, and my guidance. You are paying for me to spend the time to get to know you, and to build a relationship. You are allowing me to spend the time necessary to know the names of your children and what makes each person in your family unique, what colors and style you decorate your home with, and to understand your goals for seeking professional portrait art. Before the camera ever comes into play, we've invested in each other to make sure the outcome of your portrait session is a set of beautiful images that capture a piece of time, a moment that you can never have again. During this time before your session, I also start to think about custom artwork that will best suit your home and the way you wish to enjoy your portraits over time. 

 

Your Session Fee ensures I will be available on your session day. It gives you access to my Gown Closet and as much styling advice as you want leading up to your session day. Wipe away the stress about what to wear - I have you covered! I'll help you decide how to dress each member of your family so everyone looks their best. I will style your new baby completely from my extensive collection of fabrics, wraps, delicate clothes, and props. I will take the time during your session to make everyone feel relaxed and comfortable, and to truly capture the essence of your family. This is where the investment of time to get to know each other really makes a difference.  Mother dressed in long flowing ivory gown, holding newborn boy in a light blue wrap. Natural toned backdrop with portrait finished like a painting. Painterly PortraitTurn a beautiful portrait into a truly unique work of art when you commission me to finish your portraits in painter style.

 

Your Session Fee allows me to take the time to carefully curate your session images so you only see the best of the best. Each image will be carefully edited in my unique finishing style. Finally, you will return to the studio to enjoy a relaxed and fun appointment for your Image Reveal. Again you will benefit from the time we invested in understanding the goals for your portrait art as we design an heirloom album or custom wall art gallery for your home. 

 

Custom Photography and Portrait Art is certainly an investment, for both the photographer and the client. The session fee is the entry point to an exceptional experience, one that culminates in the preservation of your family's legacy for generations to come. 

 

This is part 1 in a series about the value of custom photography. Visit again in upcoming weeks to read about the value of the print and the value of digital files. 


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