5 Reasons Why Photographers Should Charge a Session Fee
There is a debate going on in the Photography Community. Photographers are going back and forth about whether we should charge our clients session fees upon booking or not. Many people may call this a deposit or a booking fee, but the idea is that you charge your client 50% or more to secure their booking with you.
When I first started my photography business, I never charged my clients session fees. However, after a few years into my career, I quickly realized how much of a mistake that was. I thought I was being polite and kind by not charging a session fee, but in reality I was hurting my business and myself.
So after learning the hard way, I have compiled a list of reasons why I believe Photographers should definitely be charging session fees.
Session Fees Help Determine if Your Clients Are Serious
I have a motto in my business: If the Session Fee isn’t paid, the session is not booked.
Too many times I have had people expressing interest in shooting with me and I will hold them to their word. I take time off from work, rent a room and plan an entire session… and then they will nonchalantly cancel on me, go with another artist or forget altogether.
I have found that when people actually put money down, they are way more serious about becoming a client than those who don’t pay upfront.
I’m pretty sure that Session Fee Paying clients are more committed because people are more likely to commit to something when their own money or something they value is put on the line.
Charging a session fee will help weed out those who are “interested” and those who are “committed”.
If your client asks why you charge a session fee, you can tell them that this solidifies their slot for the session and no one else will be able to take their time.
If The Client Cancels, You Still Get Paid
As I mentioned before, clients cancel, change their minds and forget. By charging your clients a non-refundable Session fee, whether they cancel or bail, you still get something for your time and potential time taken off or created in your busy day.
Even though you won’t get your full session payment, it won’t be a total loss if they cancel. You’ll still walk away with something.
It Protects You From Clients Not Paying
When Someone books a session with me, the day they book they are asked to pay a session booking fee, and on the day of the session the remaining balance is due.
I chose this as my model to protect myself against clients who just decide that they don’t want to pay after the session. Sadly, this has happened to many photographers because the clients claim they aren’t satisfied with the service or who realize that it cost more than they bargained for (that’s why a contract is so important). I, too, have had clients go ghost on me after their shoot and the only thing that saved me was the payment schedule I had set up.
By Charging a session fee and having clients pay on the day of the shoot
Session Fees Give You the Ability to Purchase Supplies
Sometimes a shoot will require that you purchase props, backdrops, new equipment, booking fees at a venue and many other things.
Having a session fee allows you to be able to pay for those necessities without having to dig into your own pocket to have what you need for a shoot that may or may not happen.
You can explain to the client that their session fee is being invested back into their session to ensure that they get the best and the greatest experience that you can provide.
Session Fees Pay For Your Time Before The Actual Session
Let’s be honest. Your work for a session doesn’t start when you take out your camera. You spend time preparing the session. You have consultation meetings, go back and forth through email, you coordinate the outfits, book the make-up artist, scout locations, research looks and poses and so much more.
You do way more than just shoot photos on your camera and send them to clients (even though they may think that’s all you do), and you should be paid for that energy and time. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with explaining to your clients how their session fee helps you to be able to do your job more effectively.
Whether you decide to charge a session fee or not is totally up to you. I’m just giving you my opinions on why I think you should charge a session booking fee to your clients. It protects you and ensure that the client will have the best possible experience that you can provide.