Mastering Session Capacity as a Photographer

Photographers who are new in business want some sort of ballpark to aim for when it comes to their capacity and availability, and it’s common for them to ask, “How do I determine my capacity to take on client sessions?” Or, to put it another way, “How many sessions per week or month is too many?”

While you may be looking for encouragement that you’ve hit a certain mark or that you’ve officially “made it” as a photographer, here’s the thing: mastering your session capacity as a photographer is a loaded question, and it’s different for every photographer.

Is there a “sweet spot” for an ideal number of sessions shot per month? Yes, there is. But it is a completely personal number, and if you’re battling exhaustion and burnout, it’s definitely worth investigating if the number of sessions you’re shooting each week or month has gotten out of hand.

To help you determine YOUR answer to the capacity question, I’ve got a five-step process for you. Let’s get started!

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1.Write down a task list. On this list, I want you to write down everything you do for each client. This means that for every session booked, make a list of every task that you need to complete for that one client. Include all the emails, invoicing, booking, texting, phone calls, driving, shooting time, culling, editing, gallery uploads, etc.

It’s important that you write down EVERY. SINGLE. TASK!

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2. Assign a value of time next to each item on your list. Whether the task takes you one minute or one hour, ensure that every item has a time assigned to it.

Next, total up the numbers above to determine just how much time it REALLY takes to serve each of your clients.

3. Take out your calendar. Before you do anything else, determine your days off, your must-do personal commitments, like carpooling, appointments, workout time, Bible study, kids’ activities, and more. All of your personal to-dos MUST go on the calendar first, before work even figures in! (This is my current favorite calendar)

After you’ve completed this process, it’s time to go week by week and figure out where you can take on photography sessions. REMEMBER what you learned in step two: For every session booked, there are additional HOURS of time tied up in tasks!

Pro Tip: Leave blank space on your calendar for reschedules. If you book every available slot, every week, what happens when someone has a death in the family, a sick baby, or bad weather? Keeping your schedule a tad lighter than normal allows you to accommodate reschedules easily. This is a service and a benefit to both you and your clients.

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4. Set your starting point. After you have completed these steps, you will have calculated a certain number of sessions per week or month. The key here is to test this number out for a month or two and see how you FEEL.

I fully believe that your “sweet spot” number of ideal sessions per month has more to do with how you feel than your actual schedule.

And in all the years I have been teaching, I have NEVER met a photographer whose ideal number of sessions is higher than their starting point. In fact, 99% of them feel like a lower number is more accurate!

After you have tested out your ideal number for a month or two, it is time to re-evaluate how you felt.

5. Re-evaluate. It’s time to re-evaluate your capacity! How have you felt with the number you set 1-2 months ago?

If you were frazzled, creatively stifled, or drowning in editing, that number needs to go down.

If you felt on fire and passionate, had ample time for self-care and for tending to your family, then you’ve found your capacity sweet spot. RESIST the temptation to raise that number: finding your sweet spot isn’t about cramming more in – it’s about BALANCE!

Mastering session capacity as a photographer is crucial to avoid being burned out. Want more support to set your capacity and commit to protecting your calendar? I would love for you to grab my FREE Photography Business Blueprint to learn nine ways to set your photography business up for long-term sustainable success. Click here to grab the guide!

This blog post was initially published in 2020 and was substantially revised in 2024.

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