How much time do you really need for your senior portrait session?
This is a question I go over with nearly every senior who books a session with me, so I thought it high time I create a blog post for it! It applies to other portrait sessions like engagement and branding as well.
The amount of time you book will be central to almost all of the other decisions you make for your session. So let’s dive into which factors to consider when choosing your amount of portrait time!
Obviously, the amount of time you choose will limit how many locations you can fit in, but don’t forget to factor in drive time between locations as well. You might have only two locations picked out, but if they are 30 minutes away from each other, that’s going to have a big impact on shoot time, versus three or even four locations that are all within a couple minutes of each other.
I typically recommend 1-2 locations per hour that you book. For example, if you want to take sports photos at your school’s field, get a set of downtown urban photos, and end with sunset at the beach, you’re most likely looking at a two hour session. But if you have only two locations that require a hefty amount of drive time, you’re still going to need a longer session to accommodate that travel time and still give you enough time in front of the camera.
Also consider how much walking will be happening at your locations. Some spots require very little of that and it won’t be a factor. Some locations, like public gardens or state parks, can eat up a lot of time walking from spot to spot.
Ah, the outfits. What aspect of your session gets more scrutiny during planning than your outfits?? Don’t forget to plan, not only for how many you have, but also for how long it takes you to change in and out of them. A lace up back prom dress takes a lot more time than a sweater and jeans!
I recommend about 2-3 outfits *per hour of shooting time.* So if, say, 20-30 minutes of your session time is going to be spent driving between locations, don’t count that time when deciding on how many outfits you can fit in.
The more outfits you have, the more variety there can be in your sets, but the less time you will have in front of the camera because more of it will be spent changing.
So let’s say you want one sport uniform, your prom dress, a personality-driven casual outfit, and a cute “out to brunch” sort of dress that you know Grandma would love, you’re probably looking at a two hour session, depending on how many different locations you’re using.
Props are an awesome way to showcase your personality and interests in your session! Not all props will have a significant impact on your session time, but some certainly will. If you are planning on devoting part of your session to something like dance photos or equine photos, those will require much more of your time. Any photos with animals should always be allowed extra time. Dedicated time to sports photos with cool lighting, displaying your medals/trophies creatively, etc, will take a lot longer than just “snapping a couple photos in your jersey.” And overall, if you are not including any props whatsoever, you’re not going to need as much time as you would if you were including several.
Adding It Up
Both the outfits, locations, and props go hand in hand when deciding how many to have. I never recommend maxing out both major categories, so when I say 1-2 locations per hour and 2-3 outfits per hour, that doesn’t mean you can fit 4 locations and 6 outfits into a two hour session. Remember that there is give and take there, so if you want to pack in more outfits, you’re going to have to limit your locations, and vice versa: if you have multiple locations you want to cover or lots of drive time between them, you’ll have to book more time or cut down on your number of outfits.
One more thing that you want to consider when choosing how much time to book is what you are going to do with the end product. If you know that you’re only going to choose a few images to purchase, then you only need a small amount of time, even if you want variety. If you let your photographer know what your goal is beforehand, we can help you plan in such a way to achieve your goal without wasting time. If you’re planning on purchasing things like the whole digital gallery or an heirloom album to showcase a large number of images, then a longer session will suit you well!
I hope this helps as you plan this big milestone!