This series is meant to be a guide through the process of planning a custom photography session.  In my first post of this series, I went over some general information on custom photography. I also talked about why you should consider scheduling a session with a custom photographer instead of having your portraits done at a commercial chain studio.

The short version is that custom photographers provide a client-centered experience in order to create unique artwork that showcase the beauty of your family.

Then I talked about product options and deciding what you want to take away from your session.   You can read, What do I Get.

Now what about session options?

Step 2:  What kind of Session

It seems like there are so many options, it can be hard to decide where to start.  It also seems like photographers speak their own language when it comes to options.  Yes, the chain-store studio seems much more simple but with just a little bit of information, I think you’ll find a custom photography option that will fit your families’ needs.

On Location vs In Studio

When deciding on your custom photography session, one of the things you need to consider is location.  Do you want outdoor portraits or would you prefer to stay in a studio?  There is actually a bit more to consider besides just your preference when making this choice.

First off, are you flexible with your time frame?  Yes, I love to shoot outdoor sessions but Mother Nature doesn’t always agree with my plan.  No matter what season it is, weather can make portrait sessions challenging.  Outdoors means having to be flexible.  You might not get rained on but you might end up with damp ground, windy weather, or unseasonably hot or cold spells and yet, it can be so worth it.

family, fall leaves, Pittsburgh, mom hugging little boyOutdoors, you have the freedom of walking around (which is great for active little monkeys).  One of the best things about Pittsburgh is it’s abundance of parks and green spaces and at this time of year, the trees are breathtaking.

If you prefer not to fight with Mother Nature or if you want a more formal style of photography, then a studio session is a better fit.  Studios still offer beautiful locations but without the question of if the weather will cooperate.

Did you know that you don’t need to necessarily go to a studio photographer to get portraits in a studio?  There are plenty of photographers that have studios but there are also photographers (like me) who can provide studio photography by renting spaces.

Mini Sessions vs Full Sessions

Mini sessions are short session options that many photographers offer.  They are scheduled for one or two days a season and done in a studio or on location.  With a mini session, the photographer chooses the date and location and then sets up appointment times.  The sessions usually last between 15 to 30 minutes.  Mini sessions will often include a smaller gallery of 10 – 20 images.  They also often include a variety of products with the session fee.  Sometimes mini sessions have a certain theme and the photographer will incorporate props into the shoot.

Mini sessions are great for updating your family photos, especially if you know that you just want that one family shot for the Christmas card.  They’re also good if you are flexible with when you can schedule.

When is a mini session not a good fit?

  • If you have children that take time to warm up to new people or situations.  Due to the time constraint, your photographer may not be able to take the time to coax smiles out of a child that is really uncomfortable.
  • If you’re looking for newborn portraits.  Newborns take time, a lot of time.
  • If you aren’t interested in a specific theme or certain location.

Full sessions are 1-2 hour photography sessions that thoroughly document your family.  They can include multiple outfits as well as multiple locations as time and your photographer allow.  Full sessions are perfect if you haven’t had family portraits taken in while.  The photographer will not only get that whole family shot but will also be sure to get those smaller groups.  Full sessions tend to be more expensive because they take more time.  However, they are worth both the time and expense.

When you have an idea of what you want, you should start looking for photographers that will meet your needs while also fitting into your budget.  Next we’ll talk about finding that photographer!

VABeach 2012_6205 f web

just a cute picture of my little girl- future photographer 🙂

Are you ready to book a custom photography session with me?  Send me an email and let’s talk about the possibilities!


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Hi there, it's Jodi!

I hope you enjoy my work and please let me know if you have any questions about photography, art, or anything at all.

When it comes to portrait photography, there are a lot of options. It's important to me that I help my clients create the session and have the products that are the best fit for their family!

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family, senior, headshot, and creative

portrait photographer for the Pittsburgh area including:

Cranberry, Fox Chapel, Mt Lebanon, Sewickley, Upper St Clair, and Wexford