Answering Your FAQs – Part One

business resources

January 10, 2024



This is a great time of year to answer some of those questions that often are asked when considering a photo session. The FAQ list is a long one, so I will break these FAQs up into different blog posts – this is part one! Whether it’s a Family Session, a Couples Session or a Legacy Session, there are usually similar questions that pop up. In today’s world, it seems there are photographers everywhere and it can be difficult to differentiate between them, making it hard to choose one over the other.

So let’s have a conversation about me and my photography and what you can expect when we work together!

What type of photography to you offer? – Great question! You will find most professional photographers will offer certain types of sessions but not others. For example, I offer Family/Couples/Lifestyle Sessions, Equine Sessions and Legacy Sessions. These are the niches that speak deeply to me and fill my heart to photograph. While I love wedding and newborn photography, I don’t include them in my offerings. Each photographer develops their own specialties based on what speaks to them.

How would you describe your style? – This question is one that each client should ask before they schedule a session. The reality is, five photographers could stand together and take a picture of someone and each picture would look completely different after they’ve processed it. Why? Because photography is an art and each photographer has their own vision and style when they take pictures. When a photographer is just starting out, they tend to create images that reflect a similarity to other photographers they admire. As we grow in our skillset and learn new techniques, you will find photographers strive to be unique and create images that reflect their individual style. Some create “light & airy” images, while others, like myself, prefer more depth, color, boldness and emotion. Be sure you look at a photographer’s work and like their “style” before you book a session! A seasoned photographer will not alter their style because those images are a direct reflection of their work.

Why is there such a difference in price between photographers? – The answer is pretty simple! “You get what you pay for!” Each photographer starts somewhere and each of us quickly realize there’s a lot to learn, both in photography skills and running a real business! When photographers are starting out, they’ll usually offer free sessions or sessions that are crazy cheap. They are trying to learn the business and grow a portfolio. Most will give up because they never make enough money to support a family and aren’t able to invest in the years of training and mentoring they need. We can love photography, but we also need to learn what it means to run a successful business, in order to have a financial income and pay the bills. I have invested in years of workshops, mentoring, trial & error, making mistakes, purchasing the best equipment, paying for the different software programs that provide a smooth process for my families, etc. All those years have afforded me a professional skill-set and a deep working knowledge that enable me to give the best experience to my families and clients. When you work with me, you are reaping the benefits of all those years of training, investing and learning and it will show in your client experience, from beginning to end.

Aside from their photography style and offerings, what else should I consider when choosing a photographer? – Personally, I think this is a very important question to consider when choosing who you want to work with. Depending on which type of photographer you choose, you are also choosing how your overall client experience will go. In my years of doing this, I’ve seen photographers fall into two different methods of running their business. The first method is fast-paced. These photographers are busy, busy, busy! They tend to offer a lot of mini-sessions or regular sessions and it’s pretty impressive how many clients they’ll take on each season. Often their social media posts will reflect lots of late nights up editing pictures and catching up on galleries. Usually they offer a limited number of images in their sessions or strictly offer digital files only. With a packed schedule, they process galleries then move on to the next client. These photographers keep a full shooting schedule, so there may not be a lot of room for making changes and sometimes the client experience may feel impersonal.

The second method is more personal and connected. While these photographers still have full calendars, they tend to limit how many sessions they take on. They focus more on the entire client experience, from beginning to end, and usually put a higher priority on building relationships with the families they shoot, which creates a more connected experience. Me and my business fall into this category. I find that by getting to know the families I am photographing, we build a friendship and our sessions are more comfortable and relaxed. I invest time before and after your session to learn about the seasons of life you are in and how I can walk through that season alongside you and capture it in a way that you will always cherish. I will share my heart with you and educate you on why you want to invest in printed pictures and photo albums. In a field with many photographers, I am truly grateful for the families that return to me time and again to capture their different seasons of life and allow me to share in their life story with them.

Prints vs. digital files…Why do photographers offer one but not always the other? – Oh, Friend, this question speaks to the heart of my work and why I do what I do. Do you know our generation is one of the most photographed, yet we have very little to show for it? Think about it…Today everyone has a cell phone with a camera and lots of apps that filter pictures. So our phones are full of images that live in some iCloud somewhere. But what happens to those digital files when we are suddenly gone? They quietly die in that iCloud, leaving the generations to come little to show for the lives we lived while we were here.

We are lucky today because we have old pictures and photo albums of the generations before us and we are able to pull those pictures off of the shelf, hold them and learn about who they were. What a gift this is! Our pictures were never meant to sit idle in some digital cloud. They are meant to fill our walls, picture frames and photo albums where they can be seen and held close! When you invest in a photo session, you are investing in the story of your lives. So choose prints and photo albums that will give you the most return value for your investment! I only use the best print labs to ensure your pictures will truly last lifetimes and retain their color-accuracy on archival papers. Printing at low-end labs will likely leave you with faded pictures years down the road. I understand the desire for digital files, but if you have to choose one over the other, always choose to print your pictures and create photo albums! You will never regret that investment!

I would love to get pictures of my family but we never take good pictures and my kids usually misbehave. Is there a secret to getting good pictures? – I love this question! Remember when I said each experienced photographer has their own style? Well, professional photographers also have their own techniques used in sessions. I am a mom, too. I know what it’s like to flip through social media and see all these pictures where everyone is dressed beautifully and their images look perfectly posed. Here’s the thing…I am not a photographer who will place you into rigid positions and tell you not to move and ask for fake smiles. I am going to guide you into moments and ask you to focus on each other, not me. I believe the moments when a family is holding each other and loving each other and allowing themselves to connect naturally make the most beautiful pictures. In my eyes, there is no such thing as perfection. I believe it is in the messy, unposed, authentic moments that the greatest pictures are captured. I will let your children guide us into those moments and encourage them to explore and be themselves. Of course we will get pictures with everyone looking at the camera, but I want those moments to be genuine. It is my hope in each session I shoot that you will allow yourself to connect with the nature that surrounds you and just let go and be present in those moments together. I promise the end result will be beautiful!

I don’t know what we should wear for our session. Do you have a client closet? – When a family is planning a session, this is usually the biggest stressor for them. Here’s what I can tell you…Do the pictures look stunning when everyone is perfectly color-coordinated and mom is wearing a long, flowy dress? Sure, those pictures are beautiful! But can you still have a beautiful session without buying all new outfits for everyone? Absolutely! Want to know a secret? I’ve been a Tomboy as long as I can remember and I don’t even own a dress! When I got married I wore a bridal gown…with white sneakers! So if I were having family pictures taken, I would not opt to wear a dress. You don’t need fancy, flowing clothes to have beautiful pictures. You just need outfits that coordinate well together, are comfortable and give a timeless feel. The choice is yours! When you book your session with me, I will send you a Session Guide. It will provide you a wealth of information and help you plan your outfits. I tell you what colors work well and what doesn’t, what materials and patterns, etc. to avoid. You can even send me pictures of outfit options and I will help you choose! So while I do not offer a client closet, I will work with you to ensure your outfits work perfectly with my style of shooting.

I don’t want to pay for a full one-hour session. I just need a few new pictures of my family. Do you offer mini-sessions? – Remember earlier when I discussed the two different methods that photographers usually fall into for running a business? Mini-sessions fall into that fast-paced category. It’s really just a personal choice for a photographer. Again, I want to get to know the families I serve and develop a relationship with them. I can’t really do that while offering quick 10-15 minute windows for pictures. In a one-hour session, it usually takes the kids a little bit to warm up to the idea of pictures and having a camera following them around. That’s why you sometimes have unhappy kids in mini-sessions. They need a few minutes to warm up and by the time that starts to happen, your mini-session is over and the photographer has moved on to the next family in line. I would encourage you to invest in the full session and allow your family to have the time to move through different moments together without feeling rushed. Those moments pass quickly, so make the most of them! With that said, have I ever offered quick sessions to families I have worked with previously? Absolutely! And because we know each other and already have a relationship, their session runs smoothly and gives them beautiful pictures!

Why do photographers want the full payment before the session date? – There is a lot of planning and prep work that goes into your session, from beginning to end. When you complete your contract, pay your retainer and select a date, your photographer blocks that time slot off for you, meaning no one else can hire them to work. You will find most all photographers will require your non-refundable retainer payment with your contract to hold that date and time for you. Then the remainder of your balance is due by a set date before your session. It’s the unfortunate side of the business. Sometimes people back out of their session, leaving the photographer without work, or try to get out of paying the fee all together. There have been times when a photographer shot the session without the payment and in the end was never paid for their work. There are unfortunately a lot of these types of stories. Today, the industry standard is that you pay for your session by the stated dates in your contract, before your session date. Rest assured that when I book your session and you pay your session fee, I will arrive for your session early, prepped and ready to go! I promise you a fun-filled evening with lots of smiles and love and you can rest assured I will provide you an abundance of memories you will treasure forever!

Do you offer Destination Sessions or Adventure Sessions? – Yes! While the majority of my sessions are shot locally here in coastal North Carolina, I love a good adventure and I love traveling to new places! If you have an idea, reach out and let’s talk about it! Adventure Sessions involve hiking or traversing to special locations to explore and be a part of the natural elements or a special place. These sessions can be truly magical. Destination Sessions involve me traveling to a certain location that is meaningful to you to photograph your session. So if you are considering one of these, let’s chat!

And that wraps up part one of FAQs! Check back for part two! In the meantime, if you have your own questions that I haven’t yet answered, please reach out and ask! I would love to chat!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Here to capture the magical moments between you and your loved ones

I believe it is in our DNA to be connected to nature, animals and each other. When I look through the lens of my camera, I want to highlight this connection and preserve it so you can share your story with future generations.

work with shelley