Today’s question is from Amy and she asks:
I am trying to maximize my time with 15 portrait sessions that I booked from a recent offer.
Last year I had roughly the same amount of clients from a similar offer, but failed to do five of them. The Weather and the clients busy schedule resulted in lost money.
My sessions are 1hr – 90 min long.
What is the best time of day to get maximum amount of portrait session done.
Topics Discussed in this Episode:
- Photography session length
- Choosing a time that works for your client
- Choosing a location to suite the time of day
- Booking fee & contract to secure your clients
- Logistics of multiple sessions in a day
- Back up , food & water
Photography session length
Hey Amy, Thanks for your question and congratulations on those 15 sessions that you booked from your recent offer. You’re obviously doing something well with your advertising and congratulations.
I really like hearing success stories like that. To answer your question, what is the best time of day? Well the thing is, if you get the conditions right, you can photograph all day long.
There are three things that come into play if you’re photographing out doors.
There’s the session length, the choosing the time of day that works for you and your client, and the third being the location that suits the time and day that you’re photographing.
So let’s start with the session length. The session length you’ve got here for one, one and a half hours long. That standard I generally do a similar type of length of session.
I actually sometimes go over to a couple of hours depending on the client and/or how far we’ve traveled to get to a location.
But I think if you can work this smartly, you can actually do it in an efficient way that you can condense your session a little bit to allow you to get the quality of work that you and your clients are used to but also fit more fit more sessions within the day.
So, if you can maybe keep your session down to one hour, now that would include at least 45 minutes of solid photographing and then have 15 minutes there as a buffer for you to have a quick chat with your client in the beginning of the actual session so you’re going to get them warmed up, walk into the location. I like to greet my client.
If there’s any kids, you know, just have a chat with them or try to make them laugh somehow, but all while we’re actually walking to the location.
Then we start photographing or try to go as solid as I can for about 45 minutes or 50 minutes and then giving you say maybe 5 or 7 minutes at the end just to say goodbye to your clients, and to thank them, and then also to let them know what the next stages are in regards to the process of getting their photos.
I mean, this is the type of thing probably would already explain to them on the phone or if you met them in person, but it’s nice to tell them again to keep it in the back of their mind.
So, if you do in-person sales, you’d let them know that there’s viewing session coming up in the next week and you’d be contacted via email or you’re actually booking the time then, whatever it may be, however you may have your procedure set out.
Just remember, if you keep everything within an hour, it will allow you to do say two sessions in the morning and two sessions in the afternoon quite comfortably allowing you to have a nice, big break in the middle of the day to hydrate, and just rest, and feed yourself because if you’re photographing say four one-hour sessions, that’s quite a lot of session that you got to be, I guess, energetic, and on the ball, and think creatively, and try to get the best quality of photos.
Also, just to think about if you’ve got say two sessions in the morning or two sessions in the afternoon as well, you will need to have a little bit of buffer in between each session if you’re doing the back to back type thing and just maybe leave 10 minutes buffer.
This will mean that if a client’s late or if you’ve overshot from the previous session because you’re having a lot of fun with them, nothing wrong with that, that will give you a little bit of buffer or even if you need to go to the toilet or do something with your equipment, it gives you that time.
So, that’s just something to keep in the back of your mind.
Also, you could potentially do the sessions in a way where you’ve got one session in the morning and maybe three in the afternoon or even maybe you could fit four in the afternoon.
It just depends on when the sun is setting and this is a type of thing that you have to be very strict with yourself. I know it’s very easy to overshoot a session, especially if you think, “Oh, I’m getting so good photos here.
Keep on going, keep on going,” well you’ve just got to cut it off and try to get that feedback from the customer and see they’re getting board. The kids had too much. The kid’s getting tired now and then you definitely know that’s a good time to start wrapping things up.
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Choosing a time that works for your client
In regards to choosing a time of day, this really depends on the client that you’ve got.
If you’ve got young kids, say from 10 years and younger, I like to get them first thing in the morning because kids at that age they go to bed early and they get up early.
So, by the end of the day they’re a little bit cranky, don’t want to listen to anyone.
Look, it just depends on the child. I know that some kids, when they’re about five years and under, they’re probably still having naps. Also, if kids are still nursing, you’ve got to really put the sessions around their feeding time and that’s just something to think about.
Now, if you’ve got say young couples that may not want to get up so early, they want to maybe go to the market and do their own stuff.
Also, if you’ve got families that have teenagers, they’re probably not going to really want to get up so early in the morning and do a morning session and they prefer to do an afternoon session.
Then of course there are clients that potentially would want to have afternoon sessions because they want to get that sunset type photos and that’s perfectly fine. You just have to make sure that you can fit them in within the day.
Choosing a location to suit the time of day
Now, third on the list would be choosing a location that suits the time of day of shooting. So, if you’re doing a morning session, I find that as we’re getting closer say to 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock, the sun is going to be pretty intense, and it’s going to be quite high, and you’ve got to pick locations that will work for that type of lighting.
So, what I generally do is that my area has a lot of trees and bush and the canopies from the trees are really, really good.
I love putting my clients at the edge where the canopy cast a shadow and this the same thing I do with weddings as well when there’s a big group and it’s just the wrong time to take those type of family photos.
I put them at the edge of the canopy where it cast its shadow and so they’re in the actual shade themselves and what happens, the light gets dragged into the shade and it illuminates their faces.
It’s a pretty cool trick if you haven’t tried that.
What I tend to do is have two or three locations within a small walking distance, so we’re talking like 200 meters apart.
So, I’ve got two or three locations that I can start off and then I can finish or even do a full circle and come back.
Some of these locations are under big trees or there are some that are in the open and then there’s others that may have some structures for the kids to go and play and that’s a type of thing that my clients that come to me enjoy.
They want to have the kids do type of things that they normally wouldn’t and not be posed.
So, what I tend to do if the session is going really, really well, I’ll let the kids dictate where the next location or even I’ve photographed people in the same location for the whole hour and what it is it’s just them interacting with each other and getting nice, happy photos that they enjoy.
That’s when you use a short lens and a long lens to get different angles going and that will give you a variety of photos and you can actually achieve that all in one location.
But if you’re photographing first thing in the morning and working your way all the way to the end of the day, sometimes having these three or four locations up your sleeve, especially if you’re photographing first thing in the morning and then you’re working all the way through the day, you’ll notice that as the sun starts moving, you of course go to the particular location that works best and has the best lighting and that will allow you to photograph all day.
These are the things that I think you just need to go and scout and just take a friend or even what I like to do is go to a location, extend my hand out as far as I can and take a photo with a wide angle lens and just expose for my hand and just see what the light looks like when it’s falling on my hand.
Then of course just saying, is there anything interesting that the people that are there could use within the location because sometimes kids like to climb trees or if they want to maybe bring some props like a picnic blanket or things like that, you just have to talk it over with your clients beforehand.
So, four, possibly five sessions in one day is definitely capable is you could knock over those 15 different portrait sessions provided you get nice weather in over 3 days.
If you can do a Saturday, Sunday, and then the weekend after that, another Saturday or Sunday there to finish it over two weeks.
Booking fee & contract to secure your clients
Now, there’s a couple of things I just want to bring up. You did mention that you failed to do five of the sessions and that was due to the weather and the client’s busy schedule.
Look, we can’t control the weather. As much as I have a love and hate relationship with the weather person, it’s one of those jobs that can be consistently wrong and still have a job at the end of the day.
You can’t control the weather, but what you can do is make sure that there is a booking fee. Now, I don’t know if you’ve charged a booking fee, but if you charge say a seating fee or a booking fee, whatever you may want to call it, just enough to cover your costs of going, and editing the photos, and being on site.
So, some people have booking fees that are anywhere from $50 to $200, $250. It just depends on the market that you’re in.
Now, if you got a booking fee, this will weed out anybody that is not 100% certain about getting a portrait session because we want people to come to our sessions and not waste our time.
The last thing we want to be is stood up or even know only 10 minutes before you meant to get there that they’ve decided to change their mind, which is painful. So, having a booking fee but also having a contract.
So, a contract, which it’s got to be fair. You don’t want the contract to be always in your favour, but having a contract that may say that you’re paying a deposit.
You won’t get it back if you decide not to take the session, but putting in a clause in there saying that if you have to re-schedule, it’s got to be done within three months.
A short period. You don’t want to leave it out to six months because people are going to forget about it. You can maybe have it shorter.
It just really depends on how you want to do that, but it’s important that you have a contract that they’ve all signed but also have a booking fee to cover your initial costs because if they don’t buy any products after, you’ve got that fee there to help you out.
Logistics of multiple sessions in a day
Now, just another thing is the logistics of multiple sessions in one day. You see, you can easily do four sessions, maybe more by yourself, but you’ve got to plan it well.
You’ve got to have that little buffer, as I talked about earlier, in between the sessions for the what-ifs and just-in-case.
But you’ve got to also think about people that may be late, people that have never been to the location before and even though you’ve given them map and Google, map details, they may still not get it and they way want to call you, but of course, you’re photographing somebody else.
That’s when you can have somebody that will come with you on the day and be the contact point. So, if you’re still photographing, I know that people will turn up and they’ll just watch you but what if they need to contact you?
It’s nice to have somebody that they can talk to otherwise, that just brings an extra bit of stress to them but also to you.
You’re wondering where on earth the client have gone. So, that’s just something to think about. It could be just, you know, somebody that you actually hire for that but also it could be a family member that you’ve trained up to just take this information and basically, help out the clients.
Back up and food & water
The other thing would be to think about backups. You see, if you’ve got a camera that can shoot to two memory cards.
So, if you’ve got a camera that has two memory card slots, you can configure in such a way that it will put photos on both cards giving you a backup.
You know, that’s a very safe way of doing it. If you were to lose your camera, then you’re definitely in trouble, but it just means that you won’t have to bring a laptop to download your photos.
Now, if you don’t have a camera that has a second memory card slot, that’s fine. You can bring a laptop on site.
Just be careful as the where you keep it and having a small backpack, an ordinary backpack that doesn’t scream laptop or camera bag is definitely ideal for there.
Don’t forget about water and food. You need to hydrate yourself throughout the day, especially in the warmer seasons and also, you go to eat. You don’t want to get headaches or anything like that. You just want to be full of energy and enthusiasm that you have from the first session of the day to the last session of the day.
There you go, Amy. That’s pretty much it. I don’t think there’s anything else I can add to that. You’ve just got to work out for yourself how long can you photograph to get the same quality of work but keep the sessions nice, and tight, and just keep focused. It’s very hard to do over a course of a day.
You may let a couple of sessions slide because of getting tired or you’re just having fun, but the important thing is to actually have fun right because we’re in here to photograph people and to make money but also we want to enjoy our craft as well.
So, thanks for your question, Amy and all the best.