Client Expectations

results from the may 2017 survey

During the month of May I ran a survey for my own market research.  I was overjoyed by the amount of people willing to complete the survey, thereby helping me improve my service to my clients by letting me know exactly what they want from a photographer.

I used the last month to fine comb through the data and make sense of it all.  Generally speaking, I found that I was on the right track with meeting my client’s wants and needs, but I also found that (not surprisingly) a lot of people don’t fully understand what exactly goes into a photoshoot and therefor have unrealistic expectation for photographers.

This article serves to discuss, explain and enlighten you regarding these findings.  I am not however going to discuss prices and pricing as an insurmountable amount of articles have already been written about this topic, and I wish to focus more on my personal findings from this survey, specifically image amount and product expectations.

Survey Results


For most of my basic one hour photoshoot packages I only provide my client with twelve edited images.  According to my market research the majority of potential clients expect between fifteen to twenty images, closely followed by a group who expect more than 30 images from their one hour photoshoot.

That’s one photo taken every two minutes, which doesn’t seem all that hard to accomplish until you start to consider this; not everyone is a natural model.

Natalie Swart portrait
Meet Natalie; a client whom I found to be a natural in front of the camera.

What I mean by this is that not everyone has the capability to morph from one pose to the next without any or much direction from the photographer.

My client base consists predominantly of families with small children.  Anyone with small children will tell you how incredibly difficult it is for a kiddo to keep still for longer than 5 seconds, and they don’t care that you are trying to capture the beautiful bond between them and their parents.  Add a sibling or two and it’s like trying to resist chocolate when you are on a diet: not impossible, but incredibly difficult.

Charlotte and Chiara - a Family portrait
Charlotte will testify to how difficult it is to get a toddler to cooperate. We only managed to get 12 images in an hour by giving little Chiara her favorite book to read with mommy and daddy.

My point is, most people aren’t professional models and need the photographer to direct them into poses and this can take between five to ten minutes for most people. That in turn calculates to between six to twelve photos taken during your one hour photoshoot.


After your photoshoot, your photographer still has to edit all your photos.  A seasoned pro will generally spend approximately two minutes per image on editing, and that’s just doing basic image enhancements!  If you start looking at more complex editing (blemish removal on a teen’s face, for example) the time spent editing will incline in relation to the complexity of the “fixes”/”corrections”/”retouching”.

Taking into consideration that the fee you pay for your one hour photoshoot includes the post production work (fancy industry term for editing), is it then really surprising that most photographers only offer twelve to fifteen final images for your one hour photoshoot?


This was one of the questions I had asked in the survey; Would you prefer receiving your images in digital format only, or receiving only prints, or a combination of the two.  Here the data was split in half with 50% preferring to only receive digital copies, and the other 50% wanting a digital copy of all the images combined with five prints.  The data also reflected that these participants expected these to be included in the price of the package.


Living in the digital age we are faced with a few options in delivering digital images to clients.  The three options most commonly used being a download link, a flash drive (USB), and a compact disc (CD).

I was surprised to find most participants preferred their digital copies be delivered to them on a CD as I was expecting to see an incline in preference to the other two options; the download link which implies a paperless and for the most part, effortless means of receiving your images, and the Flash drive (USB) which is becoming more popular as a storage device due to its reusability and capacity to store large amounts of data on a device no bigger than a rubber eraser.

For the most part I prefer using the download link method as this allows me to keep costs and thus my prices as low as possible.  You see, as soon as you start to include physical “products”, you also have to start thinking about how these physical products will be packaged, and how will they get from point A (me) to point B (the client)?  Eventually the costs start adding up and I have to start increasing my service fee.


At the end of the day I, as a photographer want my images to be printed, displayed and enjoyed as I put my heart and soul into my craft.  But once again, prints add to costs which means I would have to increase my service fee for exactly the same reason as delivering digital copies on either a CD or a Flash Drive.


The survey revealed that ideally clients would prefer fifteen to twenty images, delivered to them on a CD combined with five prints, and pay between R500-00 to R750-00 for their one hour photoshoot.

Realistically it’s all a balancing act, and we can only accommodate for one parameter by adjusting another.

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One Reply to “Client Expectations”

  1. Dalene

    I agree with your elequent explantion Celeste, most people do not consider that the job of a photographer, whilst very rewarding to see the outcome especially when the client is happy, there is another family (in this case the family of the photographer) who suffers the inconvience of irregular hours, weekends, travel etc that goes with this job – in other types of industries that kind of inconvenience will be charge out to customer.

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