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Pros and Cons of 1 Hour Outdoor Sessions vs. Full-Length Sessions

Written By:

Maryam Salassi

Jan 4, 2022

What’s the difference between an hour long outdoor family photo session and a 2 hour full-length session? As an Oakland family photographer, I get asked this question a lot!

The answer is basically that it depends on what you’re looking to get out of your photo session. In this blog, I’ll quickly break down the pros and cons of both options to help you decide which is best for you and your family.

1 Hour Outdoor Sessions

1 Hour Outdoor Sessions are basic photo sessions – about an hour long – offered in one location in the San Francisco Bay Area. They are offered in various locations in Oakland and other San Francisco Bay Area locations such as the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Joaquin Miller Park, Albany Bulb, Morcom Rose Garden, Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, and Piedmont Park. The session itself leans more towards making beautiful photos of your family in a beautiful setting. They are less documentary and more lifestyle.

1 Hour Outdoor Session Pros

These sessions are great if you’re looking for something quick and simple. They’re perfect for first birthdays, maternity sessions, a gift for the grandparents, or to update a photo or two on the wall. These sessions are more focused on getting a traditional family portrait, and because of the short time frame it’s limited to one location. Because these sessions have a shorter time commitment, even the busiest family can typically fit one in.

These sessions tend to be great for really little kids with nap times or for families with limited time.

family of five on shoreline beach in alameda california

1 Hour Outdoor Session Cons

Because these sessions take place over a shorter period of time, it doesn’t leave much room to get especially creative with your images. These sessions tend to lean into a more classic lifestyle vibe and  less into the creative so if you’re drawn to my more artistic work that may be a deal breaker.

Outdoor sessions take place on specific days during the week with scheduled slots. This means less flexibility for you and your family, so if you’re looking for a more flexible scheduling situation a full-length documentary session might be what you’re looking for.

Also because these sessions are outdoors they rely heavily on the weather being good to happen. Yes, we live in California and the weather is typically pretty great but I don’t cancel for wind or fog, just rain or smoke.

Full-Length Sessions

Full-length sessions typically last about two hours and tend to be at home or start at home. You can expect to get anywhere from 60-100 images from a full-length family session.

Full Length Session Pros

More time in your session means more time for flexibility and creativity! You’re able to schedule a full-length session at your family’s convenience. Plus, we can usually mix in more than one location and activity, which makes for more genuine and fun images. Most of the families I work with choose to start at home, then head out to the backyard or a nearby park or coffee shop that they love so you get a ton of variety in your gallery!

While two hours might seem like too much time and you might think your child won’t be able to keep it together that long, you might be surprised that the longer time frame means there is less pressure for them to be “on” the whole time. Because there is no pressure to perform, kids and dads alike have time to relax and get goofy!

Full-length sessions give the whole family a chance to warm up in front of the camera and show their true colors—especially kids. For me, these sessions are more focused on getting images of your family being themselves. It’s all about capturing those fun, candid moments and the little things that make this time in your life so special. 

Some family photographers in San Francisco and the Bay Area offer future perks or discounts to families who book full-length sessions. For example, once I’ve photographed a family, they get an invite to join the Hi + Hello Yearbook Club!

Full Length Session Cons

Of course, full-length sessions are a larger investment, but the value you get is definitely worthwhile. I do offer split payments if needed, to help make the investment more manageable because everyone deserves to be able to look back and remember what it really felt like during this time in your life.

As a photographer, a lot of work goes into a full-length family session. I spend time getting to know you and really learning about your family (especially your little ones!) to get the most natural photos I possibly can. This means you and I both invest time before the session in the form of a pre-session phone call and a questionnaire.

While your session includes all the digital files, I do encourage every family to print at least a few tangible photos because kids love love love holding photos in their hands. Once you receive your gallery you’ll have access to an online shop where you can order prints, albums, and more with a discount code. One stop shopping for memories? Yes please!

This is just one decision you’ll have to make about your family photos. You’ll also want to consider whether or not you want to have an indoor or outdoor family session (or maybe a bit of both), what to wear to your family session, and how else you can prepare. It sounds like a lot but I will be there with you every step of the way and we’ll make some of these decisions during our get to know you call. 

If you have any questions about your family photos in San Francisco or the Bay Area, or if you’re ready to book your family session, let’s chat!

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