How to Charge for Overtime While Keeping Photography Clients Happy

The other day a client took longer to shoot than the allotted time for a five-look package.

She was super sweet but she just didn’t have a sense of time. It was as if she came to park her life in my studio for the day.

Also, I had a feeling that would be the case because while sometimes clients prove me wrong, often when they call in advance and need to have a special discussion about their session, even though we offer a mini consultation the day-of… it’s usually a sign they are going to need more time.

Her mini day-of consultation took 40 minutes, that’s in addition to the 30 minute phone call. She was also 10 minutes late so 50 minutes in, we started makeup.

Makeup also took a long time due to her needs.

So two hours in, we started on our first look when normally we would already be done with two looks.

Three hours in we were only starting our third look when we’d normally be done with four.

So needless to say we went overtime and this is how I handled it.

First my contract explicitly states that each package is allotted a specific time frame.

If we go over that time frame we charge for it and I lay out the fee.

My contract is setup so that each policy line is initialed by the client. This is a great way to ensure that more often than not, clients actually read the contract.

When I need to charge for overtime, I don’t need to explain my policy because I assume they’ve read what they signed. No uncomfortable discussion necessary.

Instead, I handle it by pointing out what’s happening from the beginning.

When the client goes into makeup, I say to the makeup artist (in front of the client) that we got a late start and that she needs to work faster so we don’t go overtime.

When we start on our first look, I mention to the client that we would normally be done with two looks so we should try and catch up on time but I don’t want to rush her.

When we start our third look and there is only a half hour left but the client needs five looks, this is what I say.

“We have three more looks to complete but we only have a half hour. It’s not possible to do three at the pace we’re going so I can add another half hour to the shoot if you like. We can try and get through all three in that time but if we don’t, I still need to charge you for five looks plus the time we add. Of course I’d rather you get exactly what you’re looking for than to rush through all three and have you end up not happy.”

In this case I couldn’t add more time to make sure we finish all five looks because I had another client coming in and couldn’t push them back.

This is when the client agreed to the additional half hour and promised she’ll go faster because she really wanted to get all her looks done.

Fifteen minutes before my next client was to come in, I had just started to click the shutter for look four.

We finished five minutes before my next client and that’s when I said “Okay I’m going to rush you now because I have someone coming in… let’s take care of payment.”

Needless to say we didn’t do look five but the client was still charged for the five look package she purchased plus the additional time.

As she left, she thanked me profusely.


Because throughout the process, I made sure her needs were considered and I never made her feel rushed or like she was a bother.

I repeatedly mentioned that I’m happy to take as much time as she needs so that she is 100% satisfied with the results.

Because honestly, I give a shit, I’m not faking it and my client could sense that.

That kind of positioning makes clients feel like you have their best interest in mind and therefore they are happy to compensate you for the additional time and effort you’re giving them.

Communication is key.

And nothing can make you better at enforcing your policies than to have a pre-planned script and process for yourself.

You’ll never be ready to have uncomfortable discussions so don’t. Have a clear policy, create your plan, script out what happens “if this” and what happens “if that” and then make the decision to enforce your policy.

It takes making a decision, not practice.

But you’ll see that as long as you don’t spring anything on to your clients that would surprise them at the last minute and as long as there is build up, with the right positioning, your clients will pay you AND thank you for your time.

Do you have a hard time enforcing your policies? Or maybe you don’t have policies? Let me know below, let’s talk about it.

Hi, I’m Vanie!

Pronounced like Bonnie… and I blame my parents for the misspelling of my name! I went from having $300 in the bank to building a six-figure headshot photography business doing what I love. I’m here to teach you how to do the same!




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