Why I Gift Studio Portraits with Some Wedding Packages

When a bride inquires with me, I send over my Wedding Rates outlining my three packages. With every package, include some sort of Bonus….a gift of my choosing that I think adds just a little extra something to say “Thank You”.

One of those bonuses is a Bridal Beauty Session, where we capture contemporary women’s portraits (like these) in the studio on a date separate from the wedding.

While most of my couples booking that package welcome the bonus shoot, I do sometimes get the question:

“Can I swap the complimentary session with something else?”

Sometimes the request is to take money off the package, sometimes it’s to add more wedding day coverage, sometimes it’s to book a different type of session.

Before I answer, let me first have you consider…Forget we are talking about photos for a second. Forget it has anything to do with a wedding package. Instead, consider that if someone brought you a tangible gift, and you held it in your hands, unwrapped the paper, looked down and found a sweet-smelling candle, a cute blouse, or a bag of fresh-baked cookies, would you hand it back and say “You know that patio set I bought from you last week…well I’ve realized I really need the cushions….instead of this gift you just gave me, can you give me those instead?”. [imagine the wide-eyed emoji here]

Why Does Anyone Give A Gift?


Whenever someone gives you something, there is usually a reason.

Maybe it’s a special occasion…

It’s your birthday and they want to help you celebrate, or you just had a baby and they want to help you get their new room set up.

Maybe it’s to show appreciation…

A boss surprises you with a quarterly bonus in thanks for all your hard work, or your neighbor brings over a card and house plant to show appreciation after you pitched in to watch her kids unexpectedly.

The point is, people give gifts for lots of reasons, but there is usually a reason.

For me, it as a labor of love…

A love for my work, a love for having an excuse to shoot in the studio, and a love to give a client something they would normally not consider giving themselves.

But, Why Do I Gift a Beauty Session Specifically?

You might wonder, “Okay I get wanting to gift a session, but why a Bridal Beauty shoot? Why not a family session, or an engagement session? Why this session specifically?”

1) Because I know it’s an experience most women won’t take the time for themselves


Women, as a general rule, are busy, tired, we give and give, and rarely get a day to ourselves.

This is ESPECIALLY true when we are in the middle of planning a wedding

when there are a million details to worry about, a thousand decisions to make, and hundreds of people attending who all have questions, requests, and input.

As human beings, we make all decisions based on our highest value.

For example, a parent very often values their kids’ needs above their own, which is why they might not spend the money to go on vacation themselves, but if they can turn it into a family trip with some cultural enrichment for their children, they’ll justify the expense.

It’s no different in photography. I have been a photographer for nearly 2 decades now, and I can count on one hand the number of clients who have called me and said “I decided to book a photo shoot just because I want nice photos of myself”. It’s always tied to a bigger reason - an event, a milestone, etc.

So, when I realized that, I made the choice simple…I’ll just gift it, so there is no guilt or obligation attached.

2) Because often my most skeptical clients become those most impacted.


Oh the reasons we tell ourselves…
”I’m too fat, too old, too wrinkled, too busy”.

Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but none of us are getting any younger, none of us are getting any skinnier, and none of us are getting any less busy than we are right now.

Why wait?

Despite what you think, you DO deserve to be seen, you DO look amazing (especially when photographed by someone who understands how to make you look amazing), and you DO have the time.

And the fears that come up around being photographed…gasp!….alone!?….

”What will I do with all these photos anyway?”, “Who will want to see these?”, “What if I don’t know what to do?”, “How will my ___husband/sister/mom___ react?”

Is it such a crime to just have something for yourself?

Nope….definitely not. If you don’t want anyone else to see the photos, guess what….we have these beautiful keepsake boxes that you can store the images in and just pull them out when YOU want to see them.

And, if I may be so bold, if you are in a position where someone you love would question your decision to do this, then you, more than anyone, are the kind of person who SHOULD do this!

3) Because I Get a Lot of Personal Fulfillment From This Type of Session


You know when you’re in a store and you see something you know your friend would love? You get that little spark of happiness, you pick it up, and carry it proudly to the checkout, excited to see her reaction. That reaction is your reward.

In a similar way, I get rewarded when women have no idea what they’re about to see, and then they open their images for the first time, and are completely wow’d. The impact, I find, is often all the greater because these are not the kinds of images you would see yourself in at any other time.

For me, that reaction is priceless.

If you know anything about Love Languages, then you’ll appreciate it when I say that mine is “Words of Affirmation”. A rave review or verbal praise of how much someone loved the experience and the images, is worth everything to me.

4) It’s the Type of Session That Stretches Me Creatively and Gets Us Both Out Of Our Comfort Zones


Now, this is where I have to pause, because someone might think

“What!? You mean my wedding or my engagement or my family session will not challenge you creatively!?”,

and that’s where I have to step back and go

“Hang on…hear me out”.

Like any job, wedding and location photography (beach sessions, engagements, etc) are my “work”. They are what I went to school for, what I trained under others to learn, what I attend workshops and pay for seminars to get better at. And like any line of work, you have to have systems in place to deliver consistent results.

A chef can’t run a successful restaurant if his patrons can’t trust that every visit will yield the same delicious meal. So once he develops his style and creates a new dish, he writes the recipe and follows it every time.

The same is true in a photography business. Once you create your style and a reputation for the types of images a client can expect, you have to be able to consistently deliver on that week in, and week out.

Like ANY job, anything you do repeatedly becomes very easy, you can do it without thinking, and so you have to switch things up occasionally by doing something different.


If you’re a left-brained spreadsheet-making, list-checking, technical photographer who does not believe that variety is the spice of life, then maybe you’re fine without any artistic outlets.

But if you’re like me, a very creative, artistically-inclined person, that system that lends to the consistent result, becomes very familiar.

And like the chef, every time you tweak something, everything you learn in your personal work and through experimentation, only serves to make you better at your job overall.

That experimentation, for me, comes partially through sessions like this.

  • We can try outfits and hair styles that you may not otherwise try.

  • I can test new lighting setups that I would never experiment with on your wedding day.

  • There are artistic edits I might attempt in post-production that I wouldn’t do with other images

  • I’ll ask for unique poses during this shoot that would not make sense anywhere else

And so in this way, I get to challenge myself, flex creative muscles that then help me be creative in other areas, all while also creating something unique for you.

5) It’s a Bonus I Can Give Without Adding Significant Tangible Cost or Liability to My Studio

Every hour of coverage someone books with me, comes with it it’s own cost and overhead. Every event, family shoot, engagement shoot, you name it…I have to consider timing and travel to leave the studio, I have to consider weather and rain dates and backup plans. If it’s a session I can’t easily shoot by myself, I have to consider an assistant…if that assistant will be my husband, I have to book child care, etc. When I’m doing a location or event type shoot, the number of images I’m capturing is far greater than an in-studio shoot, which means now I need to pay my editor to help me get them finished.

Point is, there are a lot of behind the scenes logistics and considerations that I have to think about every time I pick up my camera.


But with an in-studio beauty session…

  • I can shoot it by myself

(no assistant or childcare needed)

  • I can do it without leaving my space

(no extra fuel, park access fees, etc)

  • I can do without significant risk to my equipment

(speaking as someone who once gifted an extra hour of coverage once, and in that extra hour, we got torrential downpour that ruined 3 pieces of gear, warranting a $3300 insurance claim and costing me a $500 deductible to get that gear replaced…instead of making $500, it cost me $500),

  • And if I had to, I could also edit it myself

    (leaving my editor to keep her focus on paid work and not stop the workflow on a wedding to pause and edit a free shoot)

6) Despite Being Complimentary, It Does Often End Up Paying For Itself and Sometimes More

This is where the business hat gets put on….


Yes, the five reasons above are reason enough that I do these shoots. But just like you’re getting an extra bonus shoot, I too understand that there is the potential for it to be a bonus for me too….in that almost every client who does one of these sessions, usually purchases at least a few images.

In that case, I break even on my own time…always a nice thing!

And often, I have clients who love the photos so much that they do place a significant order, which is much appreciated extra income, especially when added to my lowest package.

Again a win-win-win….my couple books a budget-friendly wedding package, my bride gets a beautiful extra keepsake, and I get to further continue my work and do what I love.

So, this is why when I chose something to gift my clients with, it was specifically
a Contemporary Women’s Portrait In-Studio Shoot…

aka, the “Bridal Beauty Session”.

What are your thoughts about this bonus? Leave me a comment below!