How Long Should a Photography Session Last?

How Long Should a Photography Session Last_

Selfies are very popular nowadays as we see them posted everywhere on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media sites because of how easy they are to create and share. It’s one of the ways that we store memories of different times of our lives.

But even with the popularity of smartphones nowadays, when we get to that special occasion or a new chapter of our lives, like having a newborn baby, engagement, wedding, graduation, etc. we want to have the best pictures that capture the real you and we’ll treasure for a lifetime.

So a lot of people still take time to book photography sessions for their portrait photos.

So, how long should a photography session last? There are different factors that dictate how long a photography session can last but in general, photoshoots last from 30 minutes up to 2 hours. It’s important to understand this so we don’t waste our client’s time. Anything too short and we might end up with mediocre portraits that our clients may not like at all. Anything longer than that can be disastrous between you and the client. I’ll explain that in a little bit.

I can say that portrait photography is an art form and is not something that can be done easily with just a click of your smartphone camera. That’s why it’s different from the normal selfies that we always see posted on social media sites. It takes hundreds of shots for a good portrait photographer to capture the personality of the subject by adjusting lighting, poses, and backdrops.

Related: What Are the Ideal Camera Settings for Studio Photography?


Depending on the Subjects and Their Personal Needs, There Are Things That Need to Be Considered:

photographer studio


Number of Participants

For family photoshoots, try to limit the number of participants to 5. Things may get out of control if there are too many participants, especially kids.


Location of the Photoshoot

  • Does your client want outdoor shots?
  • Or he/she only wants self-portraits inside a studio?
  • Or maybe in-home lifestyle photoshoots?

A photoshoot in a studio only involves 1 to 3 decorations or backdrops that your subject can use to pose while outdoor photoshoots will give you a variety of spots to take pictures on so naturally, it requires more time. You also need to consider the scouting time on the surroundings of the location to check for good background elements for your shots.


Type of Photoshoot

Mini-sessions like headshots or personal branding shots lasts around 30 minutes while covering special occasions like a wedding or graduation will obviously take much longer.


Relationship Between the Photographer and the Subject

Once you’ve worked with a client before, the photo sessions become quicker because you’re already used to working with each other. Working with a new client takes a little more time because the photographer and the client need to build a good relationship in order for the latter to feel comfortable posing for pictures.

It’s necessary for you as a photographer to establish that friendly atmosphere for both of you to enjoy the photo session experience and to capture the subject’s authentic expressions and beautiful moments.


Here Are Some Types of Photography Sessions and the Usual Length of Each:

Types of Photography Sessions


  • Newborn Session

This session takes as much as 2 hours or even more because you want to allow enough time for baby feeding, diaper changing, and letting the baby fall asleep. It’s important to book the shoot around the baby’s natural feeding and nap times so you can set up the best photographic situations for the baby.

Related: Newborn Photography: How Do You Take Newborn Pictures like a Professional?


  • Solo Portrait Session

This type of photo session is quite popular with teens and aspiring models. If done within a studio, 30 minutes allotted for the session will suffice. If done outdoors – which is much more preferred by clients – this session takes more or less an hour.


  • Family Photo Session

Depending on the number of participants, this can take anywhere from 1 to 1.5 hours.


  • Headshot Session

This is a type of portrait session used by students (for school yearbook for example), professionals and business people as well as actors and models for branding or presentation purposes. This type of session usually takes 30 minutes up to an hour.


  • Engagement or Prenuptial Session

Photo sessions with engaged partners usually take 45 minutes up to an hour.


  • Wedding or Any Other Occasion Coverage

This includes graduation, anniversaries, birthday parties, etc. Depending on the length of the occasion ceremony and the package chosen by the client, this might take at least 1 hour to no restriction at all.

Related: How to Get More Wedding Photography Bookings


Tips on How to Leave a Good Impression on Your Client

When you know already what type of photography session your client wants, you need to do your preparations so on the schedule of your photo session you won’t waste your client’s time. Remember these tips as they will definitely leave a good professional impression early with your client so you two can go along well during the photoshoot.


1. Discuss with the Client in Advance

Discuss with the Client

This can be done through a phone call or meeting the client personally. Ask about the special occasion, the location, wardrobe, and props. Make sure you and your client are on the same page of what types of photos he/she is looking for and what you can deliver.

If you’ll meet the client personally, it’s also a good time to show them the contract to confirm fees, times, and locations so if he has any questions you can answer right away. It’s also a good opportunity to get to know your client. Discuss with the client his/her own preparations as well like grooming, make-up, and let him/her know the kinds of food or snacks that his kids need to avoid (those that leave the stain on mouth and teeth).

Related: How to Deal with Difficult Photography Clients?


2. Prepare Your Gear

There’s nothing more embarrassing than preparing your gear at the same time as your photography session and create a moment of panic when you forgot or can’t find your equipment. Always ready your gear the night before.

Charge your camera battery and bring an extra battery with you. Reformat your flash cards. Prepare the lenses that you need and clean them. Prepare the tripods, reflectors, as well as some props that you think might be needed during the shoot.

Related: How to Choose the Best Camera for Your Needs – 7 Step Guide


3. Arrive Early on the Agreed Location

Arrive Early

Especially if it’s an outdoor photo session, it’s never gonna look good if you arrive after your client. It disrespects your client’s time and will look like you’re not dedicated or interested at all in doing the photo session with him.

Being early also gives you enough time to adjust the initial exposure settings of your camera and scout the location to look for good lighting, shades, great backgrounds, and beautiful spots.


4. Build a Good Relationship with Your Client

As mentioned earlier, it’s important that you’ve established that good friendly atmosphere early with your client so he/she feels comfortable as the photo session goes on. Otherwise, the final shots aren’t going to work and you won’t capture his/her authentic facial expressions.

Take time to chat with your client before you start your photo session. When the photoshoot begins, give your client clear directions on how you want him/her to pose. Show your client the shots that you take from time to time in order to build his/her confidence.

Related: How to Get More Photography Clients


5. Shoot a Lot

It’s difficult to nail the best facial expression one time. As you interact with your client, you shoot a lot of portraits because those tiny changes in his facial expressions can carry a lot of meaning. As you go along with your client, he’s gonna feel more relaxed and that can help you get better portraits.

Related: Basic Tips for Taking Good Photographs


6. Take Some Well-Timed Breaks

Well-Timed Breaks

Especially if it’s a family portrait session and there are small children involved. They get frustrated early and when that happens, it will build up stress on the parents too, messing up the shots altogether. So when you see any of the kids fading fast or not cooperating, ask for a short break and let them bring snacks and drinks.

Just remind your client to avoid snacks that will leave coloring or stain on the subjects’ clothing, mouth, teeth, etc.


7. Stick with the Times and Time Allotment for the Photo Session

Don’t waste any time. Get your poses done early. You have about 15 minutes before your client starts getting frustrated and wears down. When the photo session is done outdoors, there’s also the issue with lighting.

There are only certain time windows during the day when the lighting from the sun is perfect so you need to make the most out of them. If you take too much time, the lighting from the sun will change and might mess up the shadows in your portraits.

Also, as much as possible, end the session on time, not because that’s the only time allotment that your client paid for but it will also make your client start feeling tense, bored, uncomfortable or frustrated if the photo session takes too much time.

Remember these tips as etiquette and your clients will definitely love working with you. He won’t hesitate to work with you again in the future or refer you to other people needing photography sessions.

Related: How Many Hours Do Photographers Work?

How Long Should a Photography Session Last?