What being a photographer really entails...
This is a topic I've wanted to touch on for awhile, for two reasons:
- I think it's important for clients to understand where their dollars are going when they pay a photographer, whether it be wedding or portrait
- Like most career paths, there are a lot of important factors that go on behind the scenes beyond taking photos and editing. As your photographer, I feel I owe it to you to ensure you have an understanding of this.
New person: so, what do you do for a living?
Me: I'm a wedding & lifestyle photographer.
New person: wow, that must be nice... / Maybe I should try that!
Often when people ask me what my career is, the response goes something like this. In fact, before I was a photographer myself, I actually had the exact same thoughts. And it's true-- my job is incredibly fun, rewarding and exhilarating. However, being a photographer doesn't stop at taking photos, editing, and delivering galleries. I think it's important to explain all the different aspects that go into a photography business. And, I think it might be interesting for clients to see!
Here it goes.
How I allocate my time as a photographer
Let me walk you through a typical week for me. Depending on the time of year, I take between 4-8 clients a week. I also accept 6-8 weddings a year. I prefer to shoot during golden hour/sunset unless the session is indoor or needs to be done at a certain time of day. My sessions on average take 1-2 hours, depending on travel, package size and client needs. For example, a family with young children tends to take a bit more time than a couple or individual. A wedding day can take anywhere from 5-10 hours.
Before the session: Before each session I spend time communicating with my clients on what setting they'd like their photos in, outfit choices and booking a time & date that works for us both. On average, I would say I spend an hour with each client on "session prep." After that, I research and save any pose inspiration that could apply to the session. My goal is to choose prompts that are unique (so all my clients don't have the same photos) and natural (so photos turn out candid and clients can feel more comfortable in front of the camera). I like to spend 30-60 minutes on this per client.
During the session: The (most) fun part! I get to meet my clients, get to know them, and take some photos. My goal is to make your session feel less like a photoshoot and more like a date night/family night/social setting. This means I spend a lot of time conversing and building a relationship with you-- I LOVE getting to know my clients, and I hope that by the end of the session you feel like you've made a new friend!
After the session: Depending on which package you choose, I send between 20-80 photos (for a wedding, it's usually between 300-1,000). However, during our session I take about 10x more than this. After I leave you, I come home and get to work:
- Backing up your images: This is the first thing I do after a session. I upload photos onto my laptop, and then back them up onto a hard drive just in case.
- Culling: AKA choosing the best, cleanest, clearest photos from our session. For a portrait session, this can take 1-2 hours. For a wedding, it can take 1-2 days.
- Editing: When I started my photography journey, I used presets to help my editing look both professional and consistent. Now, I have made my own base presets which I tweak and change to suit each unique session. Lighting/time of day, skin tones, clothing colours, these are all things that can change the way a preset looks on an image. But there's so much more to editing than just that. Aside from colour and aesthetic of the photo, I also pay attention to any background noise that needs to be healed or removed. For example, cars passing by in the background, loud buildings or structures, etc. During weddings, there are also usually dress imperfections: dirt, leaves, wrinkles that naturally happen when you're having your special day (don't worry, it's normal and I've got it covered. you just focus on enjoying the best day of your life).
- Sending: Once the photos are edited, I back up the finished product, upload to your gallery, and my favourite part, reaching out to tell you your photos are done!
Beyond the sessions: After the photos are taken, edited and delivered, the behind the scenes work continues. Here are a few things I spend time on each week to stay on top of everything/ensure my brand is always growing and improving:
- Website development & updates: I try to update the photos showcased on my website a few times a year so it is always reflecting my most recent work
- Pricing & packages: As I learn and grow, and as industry trends change, I aim to update my pricing and package structure annually to reflect
- Social media: Social media is my most important and impactful method of marketing. While it is free, each post takes time and consideration. I try to choose photos that display a wide range of what I can do, and develop captions that are useful and insightful for current and future clients
- Blogging: Blogging is a HUGE component of business for me. When I blog, my goals are three-fold: 1. Allow my clients to get to know me. 2. Post content that help my clients prepare for sessions & understand what to expect during their session. 3. Post educational content that offers a candid look into my world.
- Communication: Emails, social media messages, website messages, texts; these are the mediums I most often hear from current & potential clients on. I set aside about an hour each morning to get back to all inquiries and messages. Whether it be about pricing, booking, or questions about an upcoming session.
- Scheduling: I like to open booking slots for my clients no more than 6-8 weeks in advance. This way if a gathering or event comes up in my personal life, I have time to block off booking. I also work with a handful of digital marketing clients, have a part-time job, and try to leave time for my friends, family, and MYSELF. It can be a lot to balance at times, but it's worth it. I LOVE what I do.
- Accounting/Books: This is a big one. Updating my books each week can take hours depending on the season. The more detailed my books are throughout the year, the easier it is for me when tax season rolls around.
Where your money is going when you pay a photographer for their services
So, aside from photos and session time, where exactly does your money go as a client? This topic is so important and something that I feel should be more openly discussed in the industry.
- Creating and Managing Calendars: Opening booking slots, booking clients in, balancing time so that every aspect of the job can happen efficiently and EFFECTIVELY. 10+ hours a month.
- Travel: This one is self explanatory. Travelling to and from sessions. 5-8 hours a month.
- Shooting: The time spent at a session taking photos. 20+ hours a month.
- Culling: Importing & backing up photos after a session, sorting through and retrieving the best shots. 30+ hours a month.
- Editing: 40+ hours a month.
- Uploading and Delivering Galleries: 20+ hours a month
- Writing Contracts / Following Up: The communication and paperwork booking a wedding/portrait client entails. 6+ hours a month.
- Writing Timelines / Meetings / Communication: This is especially important for wedding clients. As wedding photographers, we have to create a seamless schedule of where we need to be and when in order to get the best possible shots on your special day. For portrait clients, communication is necessary for sorting out where and when photos will be taken, questions about outfits, poses, logistics etc. 10+ hours a month.
- Software: Websites, editing software, online galleries, booking & calendar software, blogging hosts are only some of the programs photographers purchase and renew each year. On average, this can cost 1-2 thousand dollars each year. 30+ hours a month.
- Equipment: Lenses, SD cards, flashes, gas, second shooters, equipment insurance, camera bodies (and as a wedding photographer, it's essential to have a back-up camera should something happen to your main body), camera bags, laptops, external hard drives, the list goes on. On average, this can cost 10-15 thousand dollars a year.
- Taxes: As small business owners, we file our own taxes, which means a substantial portion of what you pay is owed back from us at the end of each year.