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In this article we’d like try and explain the difference between the wide range of photographic studios and help you make an informed choice as to which would be the best for you. Choosing a photographic studio that’s right for your needs will lead to great pictures that will last for decades.

Also, if you’ve won a photoshoot competition on facebook or purchased a cheap Groupon deal, we’ll tell you exactly what you can expect.

Remember, not all studios are the same.

Many specialise in different areas of photography and your first piece of advice is to choose a studio that creates the kind of pictures you’re looking for. A good family photographer may not be a good choice to photograph your horse. Similarly, a baby photographer may not do boudoir quite as beautifully.

Here’s surprise number one though.

We believe, based on years of experience, whatever genre of photography, whatever studio you choose, you will end up paying roughly the same for your pictures.

Isn’t that surprising?

Regardless of whether you pay upfront or win a competition on facebook, you can expect to pay roughly the same amount for your pictures!


You may find a studio by entering and winning a competition on facebook.

So, what can you expect?

Remember, all photographic studios, no matter where they are based, need to advertise to find their clients.

An obvious place to find them is on Facebook or using voucher schemes like Groupon or Wowcher

Low volume, high quality studios tend to charge a creative or session fee to book a photoshoot.

This can range from around £50 to £200 or so and will cover the initial creative time with the photographer and possibly the hair and make-up, if available.

Sometimes it will include a small print (digital or paper) but rarely is that good enough to justify the fee.

You’ll need to budget to purchase the pictures and most high end studios should be upfront about their costs. After all, their reputation and experience are such that you’ll know the quality you can expect.

Our session fees, for example, cover hair and make-up, a relaxed and fun 2-3 hour photoshoot in the rooms and suites of Hazlewood Castle and full editing of around 100 images for the viewing about a week later. All this expertise and time costs £189 (You do get a digital magazine cover included which looks fantastic but is really the perfect advert for us since the magazine is ‘Madison Bou’ )

No one spends £189 with us just for the magazine cover. Everyone needs to budget to purchase pictures.

In recent years, many photographic studios have started to give away photoshoots in competitions and that’s why you’re seeing them more on facebook in particular.

Do remember though that all studios need to make money, so common sense will tell you that you’ll pay something for your pictures at some point. What’s great about the competition route is that it’s a kind of ‘try before you buy’ service. No upfront costs from you to book the sessions means that essentially, if you don’t like the results then you lose nothing.

How do you tell the difference between studios if they’re all giving sessions away?

Actually, remember, it’s the low volume, high quality studios that are more reluctant to drop their creative fees. They don’t need to. Mostly, they rely on reputation and word of mouth. But, some low volume studios use competitions to add additional clients to fill unused dates or try new ‘themes’

Don’t think by winning a competition photoshoot that it’s not worth anything. Actually, it’s quite likely you’ll end up with the same quality products that regular non competition winners will get.

Be under no illusion though, session fee or no session fee, you will have to invest in the pictures.

So, here are some key points to remember about booking a photoshoot with a professional studio

1. You can pay a session fee up front and book a date and pay for the finished products after viewing

or 2. You could win a competition so you don’t have to pay the session fee up front and you then pay for the finished products after the viewing

Be very clear what the session fee or competition includes – Hair and make-up (or is it extra?), how much time, outfit changes allowed? Any ‘free’ prints included? … If it doesn’t say then don’t expect any. If the competition says the ‘first one free’ then expect…. the very first picture taken on the session to be the one you get. (You may not love that one but you’ll get it anyway)

Remember, a photographic studio is a business just like any other. The object is to make money and if you love your pictures you’ll have to pay for them. No photographic studio will ever offer a FREE photoshoot and offer all the pictures as well. (Actually, we have done that occasionally but there have been solid marketing reasons for doing so and it was always made clear )

Some studios will show the pictures shortly after your photoshoot and other studios will take many hours in post production to finish your images and so will have to invite you back another day.

You can decide whether convenience is important to you.

We are a nation of McDonald lovers and ‘fast turnaround’ never did them any harm.

Some diners prefer to eat food that takes a little longer to prepare and are happy to wait. In the case of photographic studios though, the end product often costs much the same regardless of the speed it takes to produce. (Of course, you would reason the longer it takes to produce the better the result. You should be the judge of that)

So, what about the costs of the pictures?

This is probably going to be the biggest eye opener for most people.

The end cost is roughly the same for professional pictures. High quality or low quality, fast or slow, good or bad service, the cost is roughly the same.

In fact… trying to save a little money can lead to very costly mistakes.

It’s reasonable to assume that the most expensive photographic studios are going to be the low volume, bespoke studios that create individual photoshoots just for you.

They may include luxury extras, more high end hair and make-up, more time, higher quality photoshop finishing. In short, these studios are more Louis Vuitton than Primark … but…. honestly…. The finished images may not be that much more expensive. (Of course, once again, we’d expect them to look better)

Next are the high end franchise studios such as Venture. This is the Pizza Express of photographic studios. Reputation will tell you the kind of experience to expect. They specialise in creating wall art for contemporary homes and are pretty up front about their pricing. Pricing at Venture can seem insane to many people but only because they don’t put artificial ceilings on what you can buy. Buy one framed image for the wall will cost you one amount but feel free to buy 9 images, all framed for different rooms and very quickly the cost goes up…. As would be expected. Quality frames are never cheap.

Then there are the more traditional High Street studios with window displays just like traditional shops. They tend to offer a quality product but in most cases stick to a studio space to create their images. There’s less room for fully individual photoshoots that the true boutique studio might offer but you’ll be assured of a thoroughly professional end result with quality frames and quality photoshop finishing. it’s unlikely that these traditional high street studios will offer ‘same day viewings’

‘Make-over studios’ are another group of studios that deserve a special mention. They may or may not have a High street presence but are often in more ‘off high street’ locations (Office blocks, houses etc) These are the studios which offer a more ‘conveyor belt’ attitude to the photographic experience. You arrive, have hair and make-up done, go through some fairly routine set poses and then wait around for an hour or two to view your images. You’ll often see many clients all in hair and make-up at the same time. You’ll all get roughly the same experience and end up with roughly the same pictures. As mentioned earlier… This model hasn’t hurt McDonalds. We still eat their Big Macs just the same. Where the analogy with McDonalds breaks down though is surprisingly – The end cost.

Make-over studios tend to employ large numbers of staff. Photographers, make-up artists, receptionists, telesales people, salespeople etc. They need to offset those clients who come and buy nothing with those clients who come in and buy everything. They work on averages. The simple fact is, all studios, no matter what their business model, end up costing roughly the same for their clients.

So, expect to pay this

Something small for around £300

A book of your favourite images around £600 (depending on size, leathers etc)

a sizeable frame (slightly bigger than A3 which is small, for a wall) around £700

Something digital for around £500 (small files are just suitable for the web, large files are suitable for printing and the cost can vary depending on how many images and what size you want but really you’ll expect to pay around £500 whatever)

Most people don’t want the minimum and if you want more pictures then expect to buy a package of products and that will start from around a grand.

Whichever studio you choose, if you love your pictures, you should budget at least a £1000

So, the bottom line – Choose a studio that produces images you love. (they’re all different and you get a good sense of what they can do by looking at their websites) and expect to pay roughly the same cost as any other studio.

A quick final point. Some studios specialise in producing digitals. (fast again) Digitals are what you want right? Sure, but do keep in mind that the lifespan for digitals is only a few years. (however long the storage medium for your digitals is. USB and DVD are all but obsolete now, facebook’s future is uncertain, the cloud may well last but who can be sure?)

However, quality, archival, printed products will last 100 years.

So, whilst all studios will probably end up costing you the same, choosing the wrong studio may well end up more costly in the end.

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