My first paid photo session

Sofia (313/366)
View on Flickr

One of my coworkers (Beth) asked if I could take some photos of her daughter for their Christmas cards. So, after a reschedule due to rain, I finally had my first paid photo session.

It was awesome.

Before the session, I typed up a brief contract outlining what my services do – and don’t – include. Even if you’ve known someone for awhile, protect yourselves from “misunderstandings.”

What did your contract say?

In plain English, I explained that the customer(s) was paying for:

  1. my time to photograph and process the photos,
  2. online access to view the photos within 5 days, and
  3. ordering photos is an additional fee.

I also asked if I could use their photos for my portfolio (e.g. my websites, proof books). It was a yes or no question that they could circle. Lastly, I offered to give them a CD of really low resolution photos (600 pixels, long side).

I know I forgot some items. Help?

In the moment

Sofia accidentally knocked out her two front teeth — and the permanent teeth won’t grow in for a couple years. So, she’s very self-conscious about her smile. Beth approached me, primarily wanting candid photos that might reveal Sofia’s genuine smile.

Beth picked Sofia’s favorite park so she’d have lots to do.

I went there 30 minutes early to scout the area. There were a lot of families around the playground and tables, mainly because of a party. Ouch. There was an empty baseball field, but not much else.

Then, they arrived and hung out at the swings. I said hi, chatted a bit, then started snapping away[1. I offered to let Sofia take some test photos with my camera in case she was uncomfortable, but she was too shy.]. I’ve met Sofia before because I helped fix their home computer, so I’m sure that helped a lot.

Sofia played on the swings, walked on a wall, got tangled in a jungle gym, raced against her parents and ran a few laps around the baseball field. (Sofia had enough energy for an hour!)

I kept myself in the background and Sofia kept moving from place to place without any persuasion from me. I gave a few ideas, like jumping off the wall into Beth’s arms, and racing each other on the baseball field. I had a minor challenge to avoid taking photos that included other children, but it was alright.

At the end, I told them where to stand for a posed family portrait, took a burst of photos[2. In case of accidental blinking.] then bid them farewell.

The photos

I photograph in RAW and took 501 photos. With my Canon EOS 40D at 10.1 MP, that was a little over 5.5 GB of photos. For processing speed, I imported them into a dedicated Lightroom catalog. After rating them, 80 photos were 4 or 5 stars. (I didn’t delete any.)

I think I processed 20 of the photos, then synchronized the develop settings to the similar photos. Although my photos are slightly edgy and tend to be black and white, I kept all these in color and gave them some pop.

Here are my favorites:

Water fountain mishap
View on Flickr

View on Flickr

The family portrait
View on Flickr

And…I’m spent

Once I uploaded all the processed photos[3. Uploading full resolution photos took a long time. I just didn’t want to deal with reuploading the full-res photos once the order came in.], I sent Beth an email, telling her to sign up for a free account at Zenfolio[4. Why? You can create private groups and galleries, which can only be accessible by authorized accounts or a password. Don’t let complete strangers order customer photos.]. They setup an account, looked through the photos and loved them! Plus, they showed them to their relatives, some coworkers, and neighbors.

I definitely see more of these in the future — I can’t wait! 🙂

Oh yeah, take a gander at Bryan Villarin Photography. I’ll keep that updated with the best stuff, along with my Flickr account.


Why did I choose Zenfolio over SmugMug? They’re both comparable, but the $50 difference for the Premium/Pro account was the kicker. Oh yeah, Mpix rocks.

Zenfolio offers a free two-week trial. If you’re convinced, please use my referral code (8E1-4V5-FH4) and we’ll both get a $5 discount. Sweetness, huh? Thanks!

Published by

Bryan Villarin

Bryan works at Automattic. Cat whisperer. Sometimes, a photographer and card magician.

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