“The Dressing Room Sessions”

by guest contributor Terra Dawn

So…my sister and I had this epiphany a few months ago.  We were trying to figure out how to cut out time spent in some areas of our business in order to be able to focus more on what we do best! Photography and Marketing, right?

The conversation went something like this:

Niki: “Can you cut out the engagement sessions?”

Me: “Ummm….absolutely not.”  (I am pretty emphatic about the importance of getting to know your clients PRIOR to the wedding day!)

Niki: “Well, how much time do they take up?” She countered.

Me: “A lot. There’s the shooting which takes anywhere from 3-5 hours with travel time included.  Then there is the editing which takes another 3-4 hours.  Oh!  And the initial meeting with the couple which takes an hour!”

Niki: “Sooo…you’re talking 6-10 hours total on a product they will probably only use 10 images from?”

Me:  I shifted uncomfortably…”Maybe….BUT THEY ARE IMPORTANT!!”

She just gave me that stare she normally gives when I’ve said something reduntant and slightly beside the point.

Niki: “Well, is there a reason why you can’t shoot them at the first meeting for a shorter time period?”

Yeah…..you can say it.  DUH!!!  MY SISTER IS A GENIUS!!

So, we now offer what we call “The Dressing Room Sessions”.  When I sit down to meet with a client for the first time, I bring my camera.  I photograph the couple for about 30 minutes…and then for 30 minutes we sit down and talk logistics for their big day.

So far I’ve booked EVERY single client from the Dressing Room Sessions.  Why?  Because when they leave with images from me, they have nothing to compare with other photographers.  I come out the clear winner every time!!

There ARE a few rules that I follow to make sure I’m not wasting my time with clients who might just want a free photo shoot:

1. Within 24 hours of the meeting I send my clients a gallery of around 15 images from the mini shoot, resized at 72dpi and watermarked for Facebook.
2. If they decide to book me, I ALSO give them a gallery with these images in full resolution WITHOUT the watermark.
3. If they decide NOT to book me, but want a few of the images in high res to use for “Save the Dates” and whatnot…those files are totally purchasable!

PROS of “The Dressing Room Sessions”

  • Now I don’t have to work on 75 photos from a five hour photo shoot!!  Seriously!!  15!! Done in one hour!!!  ONE HOUR I TELL YOU!!!!!!!!
  • When you meet your clients, you get to meet them in fun places!  I’ve met clients for meetings at The National Zoo, Old Town Coffee Shops, at the Capitol Building…AT NIGHT!!! Plus, they ALWAYS come dressed adorably!!!  They are getting their photo taken…so they have to look goooood. It gives YOU a glimpse into their personality.
  • The client gets to know me both behind the camera AND in front of the camera.  I wear many different hats in my business, and it’s important they get to know all of my public faces.
  • I’m not trying to pull poses out of my butt two hours into a photoshoot.  You know what I’m talking about!  I put the couple through 3-4 different poses…which turn into motivation for a few “thought up on the spot” poses.
  • I’ve found that with the limited time we are shooting, my creativity actually pushes a little farther.  I prepare a little more before hand with shots that are a little more artistic!
  • You WILL book the majority of these sessions. Other photographers will sit down and talk a couple’s ear off.  “Oh yes.  We will be there to photograph every amazing moment of your unique…blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  YOU will actually SHOW them what they can get.  OH WAIT!!!  AND THEY WILL BE IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS THAT YOU SHOW THEM!!! Your potential clients no longer have to imagine what it will be like to work with you.  YOU are a sure thing, my friend! 

CONS of “The Dressing Room Sessions”

  • If you like photographing your clients for 3-5 hours and pulling poses out of your butt….this may NOT be the best idea for you!

I’ve been working with this new business model for almost a year and a half now, and couldn’t recommend it more.  It’s given me time to work on getting more publications, expanding the business towards the photographic community more, and even take on a few business partners for extra awesomeness!!  This one simple idea has helped create the freedom I’ve been looking for in this wild wedding wonderland of….of…..Washington?  (What?  I ran out of W’s!!)

About the Author:  Terra Dawn is a destination wedding photographer, writer and workshop host located in Washington, D.C.  She’s been featured in print and online publications such as The Knot, Destination Weddings and Honeymoons Magazine, Style Me Pretty and Brides Magazine. Check out her blog for more humor, snark and crazy awesome!

Visit Terra Dawn at her WEBSITE | FACEBOOK today!

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Jamie - March 19, 2012 - 9:25 am

What do you do if one of them is unable to attend the consultation or they both live out of town and just consult with you over the phone?

Tara - March 19, 2012 - 9:27 am

I love this idea!! Fantastic!

She does beautiful work!

Erin P - March 19, 2012 - 9:29 am

This is brillinat! I am totally implementing this. I don’t have a studio space so it also solves my problem of where to meet people!

Sheri Allison - March 19, 2012 - 9:45 am

When arranging for the consultation/session, how do you “pitch” it to them? How do you describe what to expect and what’ll be happening?

Joanne C - March 19, 2012 - 9:51 am

I love your concept!

Sarah Crespo - March 19, 2012 - 11:43 am

Oh my goodness! This is brilliant! Thanks for sharing! Do you download the images during your meeting and select a few right then and there to show your clients or do you only show them all in the online gallery 24 hours later?

Tina - March 19, 2012 - 2:24 pm

With the exception of out of town clientele, this is a fantastic idea! So many great reasons to do this, I love it.

Photography by Shutter D'Light, LLC - March 19, 2012 - 2:25 pm


Terra Dawn - March 20, 2012 - 12:51 pm

Yay!!!!!!! I’m so glad you all like the idea!! I’ve been doing this for almost a year now…and it’s booked me nearly every client and saved me a TON of time on editing!!!

To answer a few of your questions…

Jamie – As far as them both being able to attend the consultation, if they both can’t attend…then I make sure we REALLY try to re-schedule it for a day when they can. I want to meet BOTH of them before the wedding, regardless of if we are shooting that day or not.

If they live out of town, then that is definitely an aception. If it is a destination wedding, I will usually include an additional wedding session or trash the dress session with the package. So unfortunately this type of session wouldn’t work.

Sheri – It’s actually a SUPER easy pitch to do!!! 😀 A majority of the time, the bride is SUPER excited to be photographed…but the groom is less than enthused (or vice versa). So, I usually pitch it to them as thought they are getting a FREE session…a shorter session (versus the 2-3 hours monopoly of their time), AND they get a few Facebook images the same day!!

I also stress how important it is that they really like how I work with them behind the camera and that we connect. If the images they’ve seen in your online portfolio portray a sense of connection with your subject…your future clients will latch onto that right away and understand why the connection with them is so important.

Sarah – I don’t, for the soul reason that I want them to get images that are “HOLY COW!!! HOW DID YOU DO THAT????!!” awesome. I DO get them 4-5 images by that evening…fully edited and ready for facebook.

caitlin elizabeth - March 20, 2012 - 1:01 pm


i’ve been wrestling with the thought of giving away a free engagement session with every wedding i book, and it just seemed like i’d be doing a TON of work for a little bit of outcome (that doesn’t really make that much sense… oh well!) and this is a fantabulous solution!!

thank you for sharing :)

Melissa - March 22, 2012 - 2:34 pm

This is genius, I can’t wait to start doing this!

jeni - March 23, 2012 - 11:01 am


connie weston - March 25, 2012 - 12:29 am

enjoyed your ideas .

Jennifer - March 26, 2012 - 3:51 pm

I’m starting this on Wednesday with my first ever “Dressing Room Session”. Totally excited and pumped!
I will let you know how it goes and thank you so much for this brilliant idea!

Karen - April 3, 2012 - 12:36 pm

Love, love, love!! You (and your sister) are brilliant!

Daniel - July 17, 2013 - 12:27 am

Awesome idea. I’ll try it with couples that won’t want an esession.

Tegan - July 17, 2013 - 2:19 am

LOVE it! I have had so many bookings for weddings that I have done a portrait sitting for and have been trying to figure out how I can connect with the client in the initial meeting as much as I do during the shoot. This seems perfect! Is there a reason you meet with them after the shoot as opposed to before?

Michelle - July 17, 2013 - 8:02 pm

Excellent idea and I love how your personality comes through in your writing. Great and enjoyable article!

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