This is a common question often asked by both photographers and customers. How long is a photoshoot? The question is tough to answer unless it is qualified and you add that all-important information on what the shoot is all about. Some shoots can happen as quickly as 45 mins, depending on the number of looks you are trying to achieve, to sessions that can easily take the best part of a day.

A wedding photo session as an example is a photo session that takes the best part of the day because it is all about capturing different facets of the day. The venue, the event, the first look, and the party afterward can take several hours. Then again, if it is a simple portrait mini-session, it can take as little as 45 minutes, even less, depending on how many different looks you want to be captured. In this discussion, we shall find out the average length of a photo shoot. We will determine if outdoor location shoots can take more time than a smaller mini photoshoot.

How long does a photoshoot take

Portrait session with minimal makeup and looks

A portrait session can take several hours to less than an hour, depending on the number of looks the customer is looking for, or the photographer is looking to achieve. The most important thing is the more the number of looks the customer is looking for, the more time it will take.

If you are shooting a portrait session for the first time, you must set your target regarding the number of looks you will capture. If this is a shoot done on request of the talent (model portfolio etc.), you have to assess the amount of time your involvement will be. Keep in mind that your involvement will not end when the session ends. You have to spend much time finalizing the finished product (editing!), which produces the finalized photographs.

Interestingly, some professional headshot photographers have mentioned that they don’t want to finish a session too quickly and their customers feel they are being shoved out of the door! If you are good at what you do as a headshot photographer, your lighting and camera settings could be ready, and you could be ready to go right on the word go. It only takes a few minutes for you to fine-tune the settings and the lighting for the best results, and you are done unless the model takes a long time for the initial makeup and preparations.

Professional portrait shoot with a model

Professional portrait shoot

On the other hand, if you are doing a professional portrait shoot with a model, this can take slightly longer. Again, depending on the number of looks and the final result that you are after. Let’s say that you wanted a professional look for your portrait session. You arrange for a professional lighting setup and set up the shoot accordingly. You also experiment with the lights during the shoot to fine-tune the look and feel of the images. Examples can be using a single light to set up a moody lighting setup, experimenting with a two-light setup for a cross-lighting arrangement, or using a three-lighting setup for a bright high-key lighting arrangement. A professional portrait shoot with a model can take anywhere between a couple of hours to 3-4 hours.

Family Portraits

Family Portraits

Family portraits are slightly more complicated than taking a studio portrait or a model fashion shoot. Simply because a family portrait has many more dynamics to it than simple portrait sessions. Family portraits consist of a whole wide world of different sub-genres, including traditional portraits, lifestyle portraits, and environmental portraits, to name a few. Depending on the kind of portraits you are looking for, the turnaround time can be more or less. This includes the editing process as well as the shooting time frame.

Most of the time that goes into family portraits is spent on posing. Ensure that every individual is properly posed and they are all looking at the camera, and none of them blinked at the precise moment the shot was captured. If you can get the posing done fast, a family portrait session can be done in 1-2 hours flat. This also depends on the options the client is looking for. Let’s say that you were booked to photograph a day out, and during the process, you are to make some photos of the family having a good time. Then, of course, this can take a lot more time than the usual pose, click, and you are done with sessions.

Fashion shoots

Fashion photography shoots are very much like model shoots, except, in this case, the shoot requires several changes of clothes and changes of make-up. The time taken to complete a fashion shoot will depend on the total time of the shoot plus the time the model takes for each change of clothes and the makeup artist for the makeup. If the session requires dozens of changes of clothes, then each change will require at least 10-15 minutes, plus the time to retouch makeup and the shooting time to get the perfect look. Sometimes this is not even in the hands of the photographer. The session director will direct the shoot, and the photographer has to manage the photography bit.

Real estate photography

Real estate photography
Real estate photography

As photography and videography evolve at pace, the real estate industry is adapting quickly to it to give their audiences a better experience. A real estate photo shoot can take an extended period, often lasting for an entire day, depending on the kind of images that the photographer and the property owners are looking for. Real estate photos are meant for prospective property buyers (and renters), and these images must accurately depict a property’s exterior and interior. These images are used to accompany property listings, and there they must be able to grab the user’s attention so that they can convert into footfall. Real estate photographers are, therefore, under tremendous pressure to ensure that they get an image that is the best possible, given the conditions.

Sometimes photographers try and capture photos of a property in a way so that they get a positive response from the customers. As explained above, the whole point is to ensure that the images can get more interested customers to visit a property physically. As most prospective buyers scout for properties online, often the first impression is the one they get from the images.

Considering the expectations, a typical 1-hour shoot will not be enough for photographing properties. Sometimes photographers prefer to push the shoot towards the afternoon. This is done so that they can shoot the interiors during daylight, and then when the golden hour comes up, they can shoot some breathtaking crisp photos using the golden hour.

Most real estate photographers also use the blue hour to photograph real estate properties. I feel the best shots are shot using a combination of natural lighting and artificial lighting. This can be achieved by using the soft light of late afternoon to illuminate the property and then turning on the interior lights to create that magical combination of ambient and artificial lighting.

Product Photography

Product Photography
Product Photography

Product photography is a time-consuming genre because it takes an awful amount of time to prepare the product and then arrange the lighting for the shoot. Each product has a different requirement, and no two products have the same lighting setup. A lot of time, the basic lighting setup is the same, but there are fine tunings that have to be done that professional photographers have to complete before they can start the shoot.

Every product requires a thorough cleaning process. This is because small dust and dirt are easily picked up with a high-resolution sensor and a sharp lens. These are very difficult to get rid of during post-processing. Therefore the first step for a product photography session is to get the product readied. That means cleaning it thoroughly. The next step is the lighting bit. A specific shot requires a specific approach, meaning fine-tuning is invariably involved when setting up the shot and post-processing. Product photography lighting is a vast subject and one that warrants a dedicated article like this one. However, I will briefly state that extra time is required for the lighting to be properly arranged. A smaller number of test shots are always involved to verify if the lighting is perfectly arranged.

Pre-wedding shoots

Pre-wedding shoots
Pre-wedding shoots

Pre-wedding shoots can take anything between a few hours to half a day. Sometimes, a portrait photographer can take more than that, depending on the shot list, to complete a pre-wedding shoot. Often, a beginner photographer makes the mistake of not establishing the shoot’s expectations, which can easily lead a photo session to meander around endlessly. It is always best to have a clear idea of the final images in mind and, accordingly, get the thing started on the right footing.

Wedding Shoots

Wedding shoots take anywhere between 8 hours to an entire day, depending on the wedding and the contract signed between the couple and the photographer. The main reason behind this is wedding photography is nothing like your normal photo shoot. As has been stated at the start of this discussion, wedding sessions take much longer because the events take place over a longer time frame. It is normal to hire a photographer for 6-8 hours. If it is an Indian wedding as an example, the ceremonies can last over three days and require the photographer to be at the venue for at least 10 to 12 hours over these three days.

Tips for signing the wedding contract for the budding wedding photographer

Establishing the couple’s expectations during the first meeting is always a good idea if you are a wedding photographer and you wish to avoid hassles at a later date. If you have a signed contract with the expected photos or a list of photos that the couple wants, it helps immensely when planning for the shoot. Establish the photos that they need. For example, if they need a portrait image of every invitee posing with them individually, then have that mentioned in the contract. Mention if they need a group photo of the bridesmaids and the groomsmen with the couple before the wedding, and have that mentioned in the contract you sign.

When you have a list of the images the wedding couple needs, you can prepare your shot list in advance. Entry-level photographers or budding wedding photographers often don’t do that, which can lead to issues after a wedding. Plus, when you have the shot list, you can also plan how much time you need to conduct the wedding shoot and charge accordingly.

Editorial shoot

Editorial shoot
Editorial shoot

Editorial photography is completely different from any of the photography genres out there. Even if some elements of street photography are involved in editorial photography, it is different from a normal photoshoot because the photographer has much more flexibility in managing the shoot. Editorial photography is all about storytelling; photographers can use any tool or technique to achieve the shots they need to tell the story. There are no brands or commercial aspects involved in this. These images find their way onto different news mediums, including print and electronic.

Editorial shoots can take a few hours to days, depending on the subject you choose to document. The actual time is hard to fathom. It is not like a portrait photoshoot or a typical 30-minute photography session where you set up, pose the model, and are done. Editorial shoots can take hours and often days, especially when the subject is dynamic and constantly evolving.

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Final Thoughts

Hopefully, the points we cover here were helpful tips for you. We expect budding photographers to be able to quickly and accurately assess the amount of time that is necessary to conduct a photoshoot. We have discussed most major photography genres and given you an idea of the required time for each genre. As you have read in this discussion, some photography pursuits require a full session involving an entire day. Others, like a simple portrait photography session, can be just a 1-hour session that involves a simple setup and shooting procedure.

Often the editing process is also dependent on the shoot and the expectations of that shoot. So, a typical real estate photography session that lasts for several hours also has an elaborate editing process. Hopefully, you have been able to have a decent understanding of how shoot times vary and be able to accurately estimate a time frame and quote your price to your clients.


The Photography Revision team are a group focused to simplifying the world of photography through revision tools, info sheets, product reviews and many more. We are an experienced team of photographers looking to help people who share the same passion.

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