We are getting so close to the busy season in the photography industry–wedding season has just begun, and with summer senior and family sessions on the horizon, there is a good chance that you yourself are getting ready to book a session of some sort (it is only busy for us because these sort of thoughts have crossed your mind).
If that is your case, you have perhaps ran across a phrase that perhaps raises more questions than it answers: Sitting fee. I lump sitting fee into the same category as print release (which I have written on before, if you are interested); they are vital elements of a photographer’s business plan, and they both help us reach our ultimate goals…but they sometimes confuse the heck out of potential clients.
A “sitting fee” can be defined as one-time charge that is paid in order to have picture(s) taken. This is not a session fee–all photographers charge a session fee, so the sitting fee might be a part of that. A sitting fee does not traditionally include a print release or print package options; this does not mean that those will not be an option, but generally a sitting fee is exactly what it implies: It is a fee just to sit in front of the camera and smile.
Why do some photographers go with this? The beauty of a sitting fee is that is allows the photographer to focus on your session, making sure to make you look your finest. After that, they can invite you into a studio or office space and sit with you, walking you through the images from your session, and helping you decide which images best suit your needs. At that point, you would order those images (as either prints or digital images) at an additional charge. As stated before, sitting fees by definition do not include products, just the photography service, so this sort of fee most often will include additional prices once your photos are ready.
This is not a bad thing. Remember, so much of choosing your photographer should include a discussion on YOUR needs. For some clients, they may not need or want every single image taken, so it may be more economical and practical to be charged a sitting fee and then order images onsie-twosie. For others, they may prefer having all their images and ordering prints on their own time. For example, I don’t charge a specific sitting fee; for my business model, I charge a session fee that includes the session itself as well as complete print release of every image that turns out from the session; I deliver these to a client via an online gallery, and the client can download and enjoy them in their own time in their own way. If/when the client is ready, we schedule a time to sit and discuss their print or album options through me, even though they can print through whomever they wish. But that is just my business model, and every photographer goes about this a little differently. The key for you is to find that photographer that will take the images you love in the manner that is convenient for your life.