What Do People Want From A Portrait Shoot?

If you've never commissioned a portrait of you or your family it's a minefield out there...

Which photographer do you choose?
Home, on location outside, or a studio shoot?
What do you wear? What happens if it rains?
What do you want as a final product - prints, canvases, an album, a nice frame?
How much are you going to budget for everything and surely a holiday, a car, or the school fees are more important?

There is a lot of choice right now with photographers popping up everywhere, all the time. I always say two things to my potential clients - one, LOVE the photographer's style (really have a close look at their website for previous examples - do you like the actual photographs?), and two, LIKE them... after all, you might be having them in your home, working with your children. They really should be someone that you are 100% comfortable with.

When you look at photographs of children and families are they taken in a studio, inside a lovely (clean and tidy!) set designed home (as in Junior Magazine or Homes & Gardens), or are they out and about on a walk with the dogs with lots of seasonal colours in evidence? Cut out your favourites and meet the photographer before you even commission them & show them what you like. I find it really hard turning up to a house having never even met the family. It puts me on the back foot. I'm not saying that I can't do it but I far prefer a cup of coffee with at least the Mum before I am even commissioned. It means that we can agree to a plan that will produce images that are really wanted. And if you don't feel that I'm the right person then that's fine too... far better to opt out at this stage.

It's during this meeting that clothing, make-up, hair etc. can be discussed and a shoot date can be agreed. Oh yes, the British weather. It's the hardest thing about my job. I always have a back-up plan and this can be agreed during the initial meeting.

And at this initial meeting you can discuss what you'd like as a final product. Do you have lots of bare walls looking for large canvases or frames? Would you just like lots of prints as presents to friends and family? Or would you like an album in the style of a magazine spread that marks where you and your family are right now - this can include details of your house and garden, pets, a family walk and some interior shots of you all too using window light (very flattering)? Knowing what you'd like in advance helps me during the actual session as I can tailor what I do to what you'd like.

And finally, your budget. If you can't tell the difference between someone charging £50 and £500 then hire the £50 photographer! Studios are usually a little cheaper because they can do more sessions per day. I've been doing portraits for 6 years now and I've worked with hundreds of families. I have now just launched a brand new easy to understand price guide based on my experience of what people really want.

Do bear in mind that the average quality studio spend per customer is £600 and my average is more than this. However,
some of my clients know exactly what they want and spend £295 on a single frame (20x16") or £295 on a canvas (20x16") while others buy a selection of frames and canvases and some prints for family and friends. Here are some examples from one shoot - a newborn, his big brother and sister, and Mum & Dad. I travelled to London and spent half a day with the family (newborns take the longest of any shoot) which produced 96 final images. I've incorporated 8 final shots in these examples - x 2 3-image frames (£379 x 2 = £758) and x 2 20x16" frames (£295 x 2 = £590) to make a total of £1,348. The entire job took just over 3 days from start to finish. The frames are all bespoke, using museum quality mount board, and made by my local framer.

Overall dimensions 14x26"

Overall dimensions 30x12"

Overall dimension 16x20"

Overall dimension 16x20"

The only question that I really can't guide you on is whether a holiday, a car, or the school fees are more important. I have always gone for quality over quantity and I like nice things. Have a look at Emma Duggan Photography on Facebook and you'll see what I mean by that. I buy photographic art and have spent £thousands on prints and framing... and my family aren't even in the photographs. I dread to think what would happen if my favourite photographer took photos of my dog, Fred... I'd have to hide my credit card that's for sure! Lol

I hope that this has helped anyone out there thinking of commissioning a portrait. Do call me - 01342 811631 - if you have any questions.

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