Hills District Family Photography: the price of portraits

The pricing of portraits in the Hills District, Sydney.

Recently, I needed to a hire a plumber as we had a leaking tap. He was at my house for 20 minutes, and it cost me $300. When I thought about it, that is $900 per hour. Umm, ok! I was flabbergasted and wanted to rant. But I paused. As I a small business owner myself, I know that a lot goes into the business behind the scenes; that is more than the face to face time. Each my portrait session is more than the time that I stand before you capturing your family. And  in the interest of explaining my photography business, I decided to break down my time and share it with you.

ADMIN: There is a small amount of admin work that goes into each session. It starts with the initial enquiry where you request pricing and availability. It progresses to deciding on the location, suggestions about what to wear, chatting about the type of session that you would like. There are contracts to send, and invoices to generate. After the session, there is a thank you note, and uploading the edited images to an online gallery. There is a blog post to write and social media sharing of the session.

On average, I spend  60-120 minutes on admin.

TAKING PHOTOS: Most sessions run from 60 minutes to 2 hours. It depends on the family, the number of children, the type of session, and how much light we have left in the day. I shot until it is too dark for the camera without the flash.

There is also the driving to the location which is usually around 30 minutes one way. Of course, living in Sydney, this can be longer due to traffic and the location.

On average, I spend 180 minutes "taking photos."

CULLING: After each session, I look at the images on the back of the camera, and I delete the glaring mistakes. The missed focus, the eyes shut, the blurry, the ones where I have made bad choices with my exposure settings. This first cull takes 20 minutes.

I upload the images to my computer, which takes around 20 minutes. I do a second cull on the computer and select the ones that I love. I create a folder with these selections. Again, around 20 minutes. I then do a third cull and remove the same images and keep the best images. I want the session to have a story, and I chose the images that tell the best story. This final culling is around 15 minutes.

On average, I spend 60-90 minutes on culling.

EDITING: I love editing, and it is a huge part of the creative process for me. I don't ever time the editing. I play with it until I am thrilled. Each image is hand-edited individually. I don't use presets, but I usually spend time editing one image, and when I am satisfied, I sync the settings to the whole gallery. I then go through each image and tweak it. This usually takes between 2 to 4 hours.

I have a fresh eyes policy. After I edit the whole gallery, I let it sit for a day or two. I let it marinate, and I return later in the week to review my edits. I do this because I see better after a break. I see mistakes or improvements that I didn't notice beforehand. I see colours and light better. My fresh eyes policy helps me deliver a strong gallery to you. This second edit usually takes around an hour.

On average, I spend 180-240 minutes editing.

Once I am finished, I export the set of complete portraits and upload to an online gallery. An email is sent and a blog post is scheduled. The portrait session is finished, and my work is down. Yippee!

None of these averages includes the photoshop fixes, like head swapping or removing distracting items from the background. They don't include clients who are late or Sydney traffic jams. They don't include re-scheduling due to bad weather or sick kids. It doesn't include sessions where babies cry and are fussy. It doesn't include toddlers throwing tantrums and screaming while we wait for them to calm down. These are the sessions where there are no problems or issues. These types of fixes and moments of patience as we wait out the toddler storm will easily double my workload.

So on average, I spend 8 hours and 45 minutes on each session.

That would be a whole day of standard work hours if I went from end to end without stopping for a lunch break. Now, if I applied my plumber's pricing, you could expect to pay $7875 for your next session. Now, there is an idea!


Want to know more about my pricing and session information?