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Dance Studio Photography (Pricing and Packages)

Anthony Williams , Apr 27, 2011; 11:09 p.m.

I have been asked to photograph both individual and group shots for a local dance studio. The instructor has scheduled the shoots to take place over two separate days. We both agreed that dividing the shoot into two shorter sessions would make the process slightly easier. I'm guessing that each shoot will last between three to four hours. The largest group I will be photographing consists of around twenty students.

My prior experience consists of shooting high school senior portraits, headshots for actors/musicians/performers, and some fashion work. I've never dealt with shooting larger groups of people, and my usual procedures for proofing and ordering images are not going to work in this instance. I'm also unsure of what products to provide for the parents to choose from. I assume that most photographers who work in this field provide print packages. A majority of the individuals I photograph purchase prints and other products à la carte. I have never dealt with selling print packages to my clients.

My normal rate for a two hour portrait session is currently $150. To give everyone an idea of my print pricing: I charge $25 for an 8x10, $8.00 for 4x6s; and 24 wallets (single pose) runs $25. My overhead (rent, bills, etc.) is fairly low at the present time. I live in Kansas, and the dance studio is located in a smaller community here. With this information in mind, I'm wondering if others here could suggest some appropriate pricing, and also what specific packages I might offer to the parents. If you happen to be a photographer who shoots this type of work on a regular basis, how do you manage proofing/ordering?

Thanks in advance for any advice you are able to provide.

Responses

Diane McG , Apr 28, 2011; 12:42 a.m.

Greetings,
I have provided dance studio photography for one dance studio for 10 years. Over the years, we have learned the following.
I offer 3 packages, with a few "add ons". The package includes a group photo and several options for individual prints. Add ons are 1 8x10 or 2 5x7s or a page of wallets. There is also a group only option. For example, 1 group 5x7 and 1 individual 5x7 is $24, as a package. An add on 8x10 is $16......same image only and only with a package.
Group only 5x7 $15; group only 8x10 $22.
I decide which image is the best image for the package, of both the individual and the group, and only one image is used. If I have several good ones, and PLENTY of extra time, I allow the teacher or parent to choose the image directly from the camera preview. Many times this is not possible due to the number of kids and the time needed to photograph the group and the individuals. While I have a website for proofs and ordering, I do not use it for the dance photos. It proved to be too time consuming.
I am at the dance studio for at least a week, photographing the classes during their regular dance class time. I can have 2 groups, including individuals shots, that need done within the dance class 45 mins. The teachers are suppose to plan several group shot poses, so the kids are ready when it is time for the group photo. (Some time this works, sometime not......) I suggest 2 or 3 poses per class, as suggestions to the kids, so they know what the pose is before we shoot.
The studio has between 130 and 160 students depending on the year......
I prepare a letter from the dance studio owner that goes out 2 to 3 weeks before Photo week.....all details are explained and order envelopes are available at that time. Pre paid envelopes must be sent with each student..so I know who wants photos of what....
My print prices are less than my senior photo prices, but I spend much less time per student. I still send the entire order to my pro lab and get wonderful prints. I include the studio name and year printed on the front of the prints.
This is very time consuming, and not all that profitable. I cover my expenses, but my time is certainly not compensated like other photography. My average order is only $30...
All students are photographed in group photos, regardless of purchase, and group photos are provided to the studio at no cost.
I have tried both mailing the packages and pickup at the dance studio. There are pros and cons for each.
I would be happy to provide more details if you need them.....email me if that helps.
Good luck
Diane
dinskeep@comcast.net

Ted Suss , Apr 28, 2011; 02:59 p.m.

You need to price your packages to sell and the parents already have an expectation of what to pay based on previous years. Do not compare this to any of your other types of photography. You have to work with small margins in these volume situations and don't spend too much extra time on the images.
Diane has wonderful information in her post. The only thing I never do is let the client choose their images. This just opens up a whole can of worms. You're better off refunding the occasional unsatisfied client need be.
Remember, this is all about volume.

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