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 go into more detail, I like to first ask that we remember that I am not charging for the session, and it is in no way “built in” to the price of the wedding, hidden in some other fee. Before I started offering this, the package was the exact same price. In that way, it is truly and genuinely my gift…and like any gift you might hand to someone for a special occasion - be it a blouse, a bag, a trip to Alaska, or what have you - it’s a bit hard to know what to say when someone says “can I have something else instead?”

Why Does Anyone Give A Gift?

Jennifer was the first bride I had ever given this type of session to. After many conversations on the phone, I got to know her as a very Type A, successful career woman, and given how hands-on she was planning her wedding, I knew she was giving her all to making sure everyone else was taken care of. As such, it was a privilege to give her a day where she did not have to think about work, about the wedding, or anything else. We had a great time and she showed me the value of offering this to more clients.

Jennifer was the first bride I had ever given this type of session to. After many conversations on the phone, I got to know her as a very Type A, successful career woman, and given how hands-on she was planning her wedding, I knew she was giving her all to making sure everyone else was taken care of. As such, it was a privilege to give her a day where she did not have to think about work, about the wedding, or anything else. We had a great time and she showed me the value of offering this to more clients.

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…

If you’re familiar with Love Languages, then you’ll appreciate that some show their love through tangible gifts, some through access to information. While my primary way to receive is through Words of Affirmation, my primary way to give is with Time Spent and Acts of Service. And what better way to give, than to offer my time and attention through a photo shoot where you are getting 100% undivided attention?




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? You can fulfill a desire to provide ‘Acts of Service’ during those shoots too. Why this session specifically?”

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

This simple but beautiful photograph means a lot to me. Why? Because she shared that she had spent many years overweight and did not want to be photographed. This was a big deal for her to be with me, so I cherish this image.

This simple but beautiful photograph means a lot to me. Why? Because she shared that she had spent many years overweight and did not want to be photographed. This was a big deal for her to be with me, so I cherish this image.

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.

Humans make decisions based on their values

Parents won’t spend money to go on vacation themselves, but if they can turn it into a family trip, they’ll justify the expense. It’s why we hear moms continually sacrifice

No, not me. Just the kids. No, not me. Give this to someone else.

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.

I can’t help but smile when I see this photo. Abby had hired me for her intimate Hawk’s Cay wedding after she met the man of her dreams late in life. Soft spoken and warm-hearted, she admitted to me that she’d never done anything like this and was very nervous. When she came out of her shell to swish and dance and laugh, it was all I could do to remember to keep shooting instead of stop to dance with her!

I can’t help but smile when I see this photo. Abby had hired me for her intimate Hawk’s Cay wedding after she met the man of her dreams late in life. Soft spoken and warm-hearted, she admitted to me that she’d never done anything like this and was very nervous. When she came out of her shell to swish and dance and laugh, it was all I could do to remember to keep shooting instead of stop to dance with her!

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

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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.

Remember earlier I said my language to receive is “Words of Affirmation”? A rave review or verbal reaction 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

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Yes photography is an art and a passion, but running a business means it’s also a job. One that I love, obviously, but weddings and location photography are still my primary line of work. 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.

And any system, by its very nature of being efficient, predictable, and repeatable, tends to get easier with time. You want that in your wedding photographer, because it frees them up to look for unique angles instead of figuring out where they need to stand next, and it means they can react to the unexpected without batting an eye. You want that in your family or engagement photographer, because it means they can focus on your connection, body language, and interact with your kid with smiles and laughs, instead of fiddling with their camera settings.

But like any job, there are times you want to switch things up.

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And like a chef who tinkers with his recipes, a photographer also sharpens her process, improves her communication, and perfects her technique (that then applies to OTHER areas) through experimentation.

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

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

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

  • 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 Low-Risk Gift with Minimal Logistics

Every hour of event 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 shoot or event, 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.

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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 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

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Yes, the five reasons above are reason enough that I do these shoots, and for those content to enjoy the experience and tell me how much they loved it, I’m happy. But many clients do often purchase images, so it ends up a bonus for me too!

A small order lets me break even on my time, while a larger order is a surprise bonus with extra income for myself and my studio, especially when added to my smallest wedding package.

Again a win-win-win….budget-friendly wedding package, 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 about you? If your initial reaction when you heard about this bonus was “Nah, not for me”, share a little bit more as to why in the comments. If your reaction was “Heck yeah!”, share what it is about this type of shoot that you most look forward to.