by Laura Priestley Photography | Morgantown, WV Family Photographer

"To fail to plan is to plan to fail"-- and a competent professional photographer takes the process of planning your session seriously. However, your photographer's ability to plan a successful session for you depends on their having the information that they need about you and your goals. I've put together the following questions to get you started thinking about what you want out of your session. Give it a read, jot down some thoughts, and then shoot your photographer an email, so we can start planning the perfect session for you!

black and white portrait of a family with three teenage boys posed on an old bridge in Morgantown, WV

1) What type of photo session am I looking for?

This question may seem obvious, but it's important to nail down the type of photo session you want, before you consider anything else. Photographers' session offerings, areas of expertise, and specializations vary wildly, and most photographers specialize in (or only offer) particular types of sessions.

(Not sure what type of session you need? Familiarize yourself with the different types of sessions here.)

So-- figure out the type of session you're looking for first, and you'll be better equipped to start hunting down the right photographer for you.

2) What is my intended end-use for my images?

Are you looking for a classic family portrait to enlarge and hang on your living room wall? Beautiful images of your products to display on your website? Fun, candid shots of your children for this year's Christmas card?

You'll want to let your photographer know the end goal for the images they'll be creating for you; that goal will likely impact the way your photographer plans and executes your session. Be sure to think through any deadlines involved in your intended use for your images, and communicate with your photographer about these as well, to ensure that everyone's timelines are coordinated for success. (If you want to be able to display a fun birthday portrait of your child at their first birthday party, their birthday photo session needs to be scheduled far enough in advance that your photographer can edit and deliver your images after the session, AND you'll have time to order prints of your chosen image from your photographer's lab and have them delivered, before the party.)

3) What type of setting do I want for my photo session?

Do you want to shoot indoors in a studio environment with backdrops, or perhaps in the natural environment of your own home? Or do you want portraits taken outdoors in a timeless natural setting? If outdoors, what type of location are you interested in? Would you like a water feature (lake, river, waterfalls) or a forest feel in your images? Would you like an urban shoot, with buildings and bridges in the scenery? If indoors-- are there certain colors and themes you're hoping for in your images?

4) Who will be getting their picture taken, and what are their limitations and needs?

Does anyone in your group have conditions or challenges that will require accommodation? Will young children be involved who have specific nap times and bedtimes?

This valuable information will enable your photographer to guide you appropriately in your location choices, session times and more-- some locations that are lovely for two or three subjects are not suited for portraits of a group of eight, for example. And that beautiful mountain ridge with the sunset in the background might make a great setting for an active couple's engagement portraits, while the two-mile hike required to get there makes it a poor choice for an extended family session with Grandma.

An experienced photographer wants to structure your session around your needs to set your group up for success-- make sure to give them the info they'll need to be able to do this!

5) Are there specific colors or themes I would like incorporated into my images?

The end-use of your images that we discussed above comes into play here. If you're seeking updated headshots for your business website, consider the branding, colors, and style of your brand and website. If you're updating family portraits for your living room wall, consider your home decor and style. Again, a competent professional photographer can guide you here, and even design your session around any aesthetics you need to coordinate with-- you just need to let them know your goals.

6) What is my budget?

Are you working with budgetary restrictions for your photography session? Make sure you know what you have to work with. Photographers structure and present package pricing in a variety of ways, so make sure you understand how your chosen photographer's pricing works, and are comfortable with it, before you book. (Do you have "champagne taste on a beer budget?" Coming soon, some ideas on making a smaller budget work without sacrificing image quality and great service!)

While there are various approaches to presenting pricing, and many photographers require you to contact them for pricing info, no photographer should be resistant to discussing and clarifying their pricing details when asked, before you book a session with them! If you encounter a photographer who seems unwilling to explain how much you will be spending with them when asked-- mark them off and keep looking! (Personally, I'm big on simplicity, so I have my pricing accessible and spelled out clearly, here. You can make sure that I'm a good fit for your needs financially before getting in touch.)

The wardrobe for a session is one item on the budget that is frequently overlooked when planning for a session. If you don't have coordinated outfits in your closet already, buying new outfits for everyone, or specialty pieces such as maternity gowns, can stack up quickly. Some photographers, like myself, maintain a client closet of curated clothing items for their clients' use during a session, to ease the strain of sourcing and buying clothing for everyone before the photo shoot. Ask your photographer if they offer a client closet, if this is something that interests you!