Why I charge a session fee
As of recent, I have decided to charge a session fee. I am sure to some (me included before I was a photographer) you think "session fee, what is that?" Then you continue to read; time and talent of the photographer, and you think WHAT???? All you do is press a button...
I would really like to elaborate on that because just like I mentioned above I too was taken aback by that "frivolous" charge.
TL/DR: My session fee includes the time I dedicate to a client, averages 10 hours (that includes chatting, meetings, preparing etc . . . ). Rent for the room, 6 hours of heating and electricity, as well as pastries and drinks for every client meeting. Wear and tear on my car, as well as gas is also included.
For an in depth (lengthy) breakdown:
When I first get a client's inquiry, I send them all the information about my pricing and a little bit about what I do and offer. If the client agrees, I even send a guide that I spend a lot of hours creating. The guide is designed to help potential clients pick the best newborn photographer for them. At this point in the process you can still decide to go with someone else, but you have some great information to help you make an informed decision on who you choose.
If the you decide to become my client (YAY), I will reserve your desired date on my appointment calendar (typically its your due date) and send an invoice for the session fee which guarantees your spot. After that, I invite you to my studio to show you my work space in person as well as talk about what you envision for your session and get our ideas to mesh. If you are not sure what you want, I will walk you through all the possibilities. This appointment takes about 1-2 hours. I will have snacks (mostly pastries) and drinks here waiting for you. You will leave with a printed guide/packet (a different one, that I also spend hours getting ready and had professionally printed) to prepare you for our session. It includes everything you need to know about before, during, and after our session. It provides a checklist to make sure we don't forget anything.
After that appointment you will receive a few more emails from me. You will receive a questionnaire and the contract, reminders, and much more. I am also available for any questions you may have and I never want you to hesitate to write me with any ideas, concerns etc.
Before your session it takes me about 2 hours to get the room ready for you. I heat it to 80 F, which requires 2 heaters running before and during your session.
Once your session day is here, you arrive at my studio and relax. Again I will have snacks (pastries) and drinks; anything from iced water to coffee and tea. I typically get the goodies from the bakery. For the actual session I make a homemade cake, cupcakes, or cookies. The session takes about 1.5-4 hours. The length of your session depends mostly on your baby and the complexity of setups: how s/he sleeps, feeds, how many wraps, colors, etc . . . Also, I have my lighting-setup that is turned on from when you arrive and, just like the heaters, requires power the entire session. At the end of our session you have time to feed your baby again while we sneak peak your images on the studio's HD TV.
To break it down further, if I bake your yumminess, it takes me about 2 hours from start to finish (purchasing and preparing the ingredients and heating the oven). Then again the electricity I use for my light, heaters and even the electricity that powers the TV for your sneak peak is included in the session fee.
I also include a rental fee for the room I use. Yes, it is in my home, but my girls currently share a bedroom because I have my studio set up in one of our bedrooms. In fact we are actually in the process of moving to a bigger house to accommodate my growing business and provide my two girls with their own rooms. If I rented a space, I would also have to pay rent, so no matter if its in your home or a separate space rent for the area has to be paid.
After our session I will then go through all of your images and narrow them down to the best ones, that process takes about 1 hour or so. After that I do a soft edit to your images to get them ready for you, that also takes about 1-2 hours.
Once your images are ready we chat and decide on a time and date for you to come look at them. When you come look at your images I will again have pastry and coffee and whatever else your heart desires for you to relax and enjoy the beautiful images. I play a slideshow for you that I prepared. After that we will go through the photos and products a few times. I want you to be 100% sure and happy about what you are getting. This process takes about 1-2 hours.
The last thing I do is get the pictures edited, the session fee does not include images or products so I wont go into details in this blog.
And that is the reason I decided to charge a session fee. It's not just my time and talent and numerous hours and money I have spent and continue to spend on my education. But I charge this session fee because I have costs that incur during the session and to be real, the time I spend with my clients as much as I love getting to know them I think it is fair to say that I should get paid minimum wage. I do not have a clock in my studio for a reason and some clients need more and some clients need less time, so the average I spend on a client is 10hours (again not including editing or products...). I do not sit there and clock check to make sure I only spend a certain amount of time on you and I am always available to answer questions, so the only thing I can do is over the course of the two years I have been a professional photographer to take note on how much time I spend on each client and take an average.
And still there are things my session fee does not include, in fact that is not really included in any of my cost. It does not at all take into account the props, wraps, hats, backdrops, equipment etc... that I have purchased. The reason I have left those things out of my session fee is because I have heard and read that people complain that we reuse products and yes we do. But the initial cost is there and to go into the nitty gritty of each item would be very much time consuming and hard to pinpoint. So I currently take that off my minimum wage pay...
Neither does the session fee include the editing programs I use or the time I spend editing on each picture. The package or product prices cover that as well as the time, knowledge and style of the finished product.
I hope this sheds a little bit of light on why photographers charge a session fee and why I decided to go that route.
Thank you for reading this. And chances are if you are reading this you are expecting so Congratulations!
Have a fantastic rest of your day.