Making a portrait session last long enough?

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by TobascoJackson, Aug 15, 2010.

  1. TobascoJackson

    TobascoJackson New Member

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    Before I launch my site and start booking paying clients for outdoor portrait shoots, I have a problem to fix. I've done 5 or 6 regular pro-bono shoots to grow my portfolio, familiarize myself with my lighting equipment, and just learn how to direct people while shooting portraits of them, etc. But ideally, I want to be able to provide a client with 10-20 proofs of shots that are worth editing and keeping, so they can go through them and have a wide selection to choose from if they end up ordering prints.

    So far, I've noticed that I sort of run out of ideas around 1 hour into the shoot. This generally leaves me with something more like 5 or 10 good images, where I need more. I have heard it's not uncommon for a shoot to last longer than 3 hours, which helps justify the price some photographers charge for a sitting. Is there something I'm missing, or should I just push it and try to fill it out to something more like 2 hours? Are there any tricks I can use to expand the length of the session?
     
  2. mwcfarms

    mwcfarms New Member

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    2 - 3 hours for a portrait/family session. That's a really really long time and if I was the client I would get sick of that much time posing. Not too mention little kids don't have the attention span for 2 hours of posing. I would work on getting more/better shots in less time.
     
  3. Josh66

    Josh66 Well-Known Member

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    Unless you're going to multiple locations where driving time would be a factor, 2 hours seems like a really long time to sit in front of a camera...

    I agree with mcwfarms - I would try to keep it around an hour and just try to get more keepers in there.

    And, 10 good images sounds good to me for an hour of shooting.


    ...I don't know, maybe it's just me - but I can't see buying prints of more than 4-5 different poses. Yeah, it's nice to have a lot to pick from though.


    This coming from a 'non-pro' though, so keep that in mind. Think of it (this post) as from the point of view of the client, lol.
     
  4. TobascoJackson

    TobascoJackson New Member

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    Sounds good... I guess it is less that I think they'll buy more prints if there are 20 keepers than that I want to offer a variety of options for them to choose from instead of sticking with 6 or 7 "standard" poses. I do like the idea of just working on getting more keepers in the same hour though. Maybe if I pre-plan various poses instead of flying by the seat of my pants, I'll be efficient enough to crank out a couple more than 10 keepers in an hour.
     
  5. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker New Member

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    Interesting thread in the sense that it fits what I keep saying about today's wedding photogs. You are working on making life harder for yourself. Why?

    Today's average wedding seems to be around 800-1000 shots. Mine were 250-300 tops. all important shots were there but I spent a lot less time than today's photog working on that project.

    And that is the same with your portrait dilemma. How many portraits of myself (and my family) at this one point in my life do I need? ONE.

    5-10 proofs are more than enough. I only need one good shot.

    Concentrate on getting a really good shot rather than a whole bunch of choices.

    I did not do a lot of portrait sittings but that was the way they worked out. 4-5 proofs. And all prints were of the same image.

    Do you know that grocery stores are working on reducing the number of choices on the shelves because they realized that having 50 different versions of basically the same product did not help sales?
     
  6. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish

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    Who is choosing the locations for your shoots? You or the client?
     
  7. TobascoJackson

    TobascoJackson New Member

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    Depends on the client. If they don't have a specific spot in mind, I have several areas that are tried and true for portraits that I'll default to, depending on weather, subject, what the client is looking for, etc.
     
  8. msf

    msf New Member

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    You should be able to get a ton of good shots out of an hour session. People get tired of pictures after a while, especially kids, and the more pictures you take, the more you gotta sort and process.

    You should be able to get a good number of shots out of half an hour if they are co-operative.
     
  9. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish

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    How do you handle it when the client selects a location you're not familar with? Do you scout the location prior to the sitting? If you do, do you charge for your time to do so?
     
  10. g-fi

    g-fi New Member

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    I don't want to be Debbie Downer, but 5-10 shots in an hour seems... low. Maybe it's because I do a lot more work with children, and an hour with younger children is the upper limit of what they'll tolerate, but even when I work with adults, unless it's a boudoir session or a maternity session with several outfit/location/background changes, an hour usually nets at least 50 clean usable images. Now, I wouldn't proof 50 images with a client for an hours work, but 5-10 just seems terribly terribly low.

    When it comes to my portrait sessions, usually it's a matter of trying to fit in all the poses that I want to try in my time limit, rather than trying to fluff out the session. You should have a fairly standard range of poses to draw on (not to duplicate! To draw on!), and if you use a set range of locations, you should be familiar with the location and where the best light/shots are so that you aren't fumbling around trying to figure it out on the spot. When I shoot in clients homes, if I haven't been there before, I'll do a walkthrough with the client to see where we will shoot and match up shots to the location as we go and determine how much equipment I'll need.

    My motto is shoot fat, trim down later. Go into your session with an idea of what you are going to shoot ahead of time, and allot your time accordingly. If you're billing for 2-3 hours of shooting, give value to your clients and make sure you are prepared to take a wide range of shots, or offer time for them to change outfits, or locations.
     
  11. studioandy

    studioandy New Member

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    Better still, just get it done in one hour and charge the same. They are not buying your time, they are buying your photos. My sessions usually go 45 to an hour for a family session, I usually show about 60 proofs, of which 8-20 get bought. I did some high volume fundraising work for a while, family, kids, parents, three poses (and paperwork & presell) in ten minutes. From this I learned that to get a good shot of the kids you have to earn their trust and get a good shot in the first couple of minutes or it just would not happen, or be quite difficult. Not so bad outdoors though where they can wander and are more comfortable than in the studio.
     
  12. TobascoJackson

    TobascoJackson New Member

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    Oh I have far more than 5-10 "clean, usable" images. I just usually don't get more than that that really pop out and are the clear best from the group.
     
  13. newimage

    newimage New Member

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    Anyone having trouble with ideas during the shoot just means they need to spend more time studying away from the camera. Study poses .. scout for locations that offer a multitude of backgrounds in a smaller radius. So you can spread the shoot out .. without the expense of physical travel be it driving or walking distances.
    For a general session I normally figure 5 outfits, 10 backgrounds, 50 poses. I tell them the session lasts "up to" 2 hours. Basically just because everybody else spends 2-3 hours which is annoying. It can be done in 30-45 min ... I goof around and waste time joking with the client to drag the session out to an hour and then wrap it up and tell them they did awesome job slamming through those outfits and to go get a cheeseburger. They say WOOO CHEESEBURGER and everybody's happy.
     
  14. DanEitreim

    DanEitreim New Member

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    If you are running over an hour for a family shoot, you are wasting everyone's time. That's why top models get the big bucks, they can look fresh for a long time...normal families can't.

    For a family of 4 - Mom, dad, boy and girl - You could shoot the whole group in three different poses. Just the 2 kids in three poses, Each kid alone in three poses, mom and dad together in three poses...mom with son, mom with daughter, dad with son, dad with daughter.

    There's 19 poses...get just 2 usable shots of each one and you have 38 proofs. The whole thing should take well under an hour.
     

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