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See I told you, this would help!

Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

Going Nuts? I can help you understand coupon terms and abbreviations

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Deciding where to have professional photos taken can be tricky. There are freelance photographers as well as portrait studios to consider. Deciding which is right for you all depends on what you want out of the shoot.

If you want head shots, printed photo packages or solid backgrounds then a portrait studio is the way to go. If you are looking for authentic scenery, natural poses or digital copies to print yourself then you may want to go with a freelance photographer.


Privately run freelance photography companies are generally more flexible and sometimes you can even snag a ‘friends and family’ discount. I would recommend asking around to see if anyone you know does photography as a side business or hobby. Professional photographers can charge up to several hundred dollars for a single shoot while those who do not rely on it for primary income may be just as talented but much more reasonably priced. Many have online portfolios that will give you a reference to the quality of their work.

It may take a little hunting to find the right photographer but it will be worth the effort. Most freelance photographers are happy to provide the customer with a digital copy of the images as well as legal rights to print the images. This means you will be able to print the photos as many times as you like. Instead of purchasing pricey prints from the photographer you can save big by keep your eye out for online photo printing deals!

Another benefit to this option is that you can usually have input on the location of the shoot. Unlike photography studios you can even have photos taken outside, which provides natural light and real setting as apposed to a backdrop. These settings can help to make your poses look more natural and a tad less staged.

Portrait Studio

Going to a studio can often be cheaper than using a freelance photographer, especially if you have coupons or snag packages from daily deal sites. If you want prints asap then this is the way to go. There is generally a sitting fee per person in addition to the cost of the photo package you select. Cheaper packages usually only come with prints of a few images, to get a package which includes a digital copy you may have to pay a good bit more.

Studios are a great place to get professional portraits or school photos. You are however limited to the backgrounds they have available. You can always bring in your own props to spice things up to give your photos a more personal feel. Keep in mind you will have to coordinate your clothing and props with the back drops the studio has available. It may be worth it to call ahead or stop by to see what you have to choose from.

Things to Consider

– Time length of session
– Location of photo shoot
– Number of images you will receive
– Number of clothing/scenery changes
– Digital copies vs printed packages

Reasonable Prices for Basic Shoot

Hobby Photographer: Free-$150/hr

Professional Photographer: $150-$300/hr

Studio Photography: $25-$50/hr

Do you have any other tips for saving on professional photos? 

Check out more Photo Deals!

    • nchoneybee

      I’ve had great experience at JCPenny Portrait studios. We bought the 2 year portrait club membership fo $30, and when my card arrivied, it had 3 coupons for $10 off any purchase. So it paid for itself over 3 visits. With 3 kids, it saved so much on sitting fees anyway. Their regular price for individual sheets right now (subject to change of course) is only $3.99 and they allow you to combine that with any package specials that they have.
      We got a photgrapher that we liked and request her every time now.

    • I am a professional photographer in the Triad of NC. I am glad you wrote a post about this. However, I am not sure I agree with the hourly rate for a studio. I guess it really depends on what you purchase OR get pressured to purchase at the studio. The last time I used a studio (Portrait Innovations) I wanted to get the $9.99 deal they had going on. One pose and you get a ton of prints. When I first saw them I was like OMG I love them. I could not decide on the spot what I wanted and they said, “We do not keep the digital copy so if you do not purchase now you can not decide later.” My $9.99 turned into over $200 and they were not that good. I charge a flat fee of $150 for the 1 hr session and the rights to your images. (normally 40 images). However, I know in the area photographers charge $200+ just for “their time and talent” and you have to purchase prints or the digital collection separate.

      It really depends on how much photography is worth to you. I would rather get good, quality pictures of my boys several times a year then spend a ton of money on one session. I would also like to spend money on quality, pictures that are really show who my boys are than pay for the $9.99 and get the same picture and pose they got 6 months-1yr ago and everyone else has the same “pose”. It takes time and money to get my boys and family ready to a session. I do not want to waste that on cheap pictures just to get them done.

      • Me

        So True! And I’ve used M. Gioeli Photography (she’s in NC) and HIGHLY recommend her….Hi Megan!

    • I use Monica Parkkonen out of Taylors SC and she is awesome. I have used her several times now. Most recently for Easter/spring pictures with live bunnies. She charged me $105 for 30 min and she give me the rights to all my pictures at best quality. She always gives me over 50 pictures. i have to drive a ways to get to her be well worth it!!!! She has her on studio plus her back yard is set up for different pictures.

    • Lucy

      Thank you for this post. I do use both studio and professional photographers. I go to Target studio 5 minutes away from me, several times a year, such as for kids’ birthdays and holidays. They send very nice coupons on birthdays, I always recieve $10/$25 with free sitting fees and $3.99 per sheet. I spend $20-$30 to get pictures of my growing kiddos, and keep some, mailing the rest to relatives. I think it is an awesome deal, and at this price, I can get relatively good pictures of my kids several times a year. I would not be able to pay a professional photographer that many times a year. However, we do get professional pictures of the whole family once every year (my friend is a photographer, we still pay her full price because she is awesome). We pay $200 for a picture CD for all the pictures she took, including retouched, color, and black and white photos of all the pictures. Then I use those photos to make Xmas, Valentine cards, invitations, etc., and of course, these are the pictures that go in the frame. So I agree – every place has its benefits and disadvantages. I completely respect the amount of money that professional photographers charge, but I want good pictures of my kids several times a year, because they grow so fast – so I still use the portrait studio.

    • Angela

      I LOVE JCPenney Portrait Studio. I go for individual shots of each of our three kids every three months during their first year then on their birthdays after that and we go for family shots every summer. By using coupons and joining their Portrait Club I can spend less than $100 per year and get enough prints to share with all our extended family from every session. Their backgrounds and poses are pretty generic but they have always gotten great shots of our kids. The wait times aren’t bad, you can schedule online, they work quickly before the kids get too bored, and they don’t try to pressure you into buying the huge packages. I’ve used them in SC and now in OK and continue to have great experiences.