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Louisville based wedding, senior portrait and brand photographer 


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Reasons why it may be worth paying a private photo fee for your session

May 23, 2024



A high school senior twirls in her dress in front of an ivy covered stone cottage

When it comes to choosing a location for your photo session, there are so many options in Louisville and Southern Indiana that I love! While there are many free locations to choose from, some parks, gardens, and private venue spaces charge a fee to take photos at their venue…but is it worth it?

In this blog post, I’m sharing the top reasons it may worth paying a location fee, as well as free alternatives if you decide you’d rather splurge on something else!

A high school grad tosses her dress behind her as she stands in an open row of trees

Although you can take photos at free locations with no reservation required, it’s likely that everyone else who knows it’s free will also have the exact same idea. This means in popular seasons, like fall and spring, you’ll be competing with other people who are having their photos taken there at the same time.

At private venues that require a photo fee, they only allow one photographer or a set amount of people to reserve the space within a certain time frame. When you pay a private photo fee, you are granted exclusive access in a location that fewer people are likely to frequent at the same time. This is also a plus for introverts who don’t want the entire world watching as they have their photos taken! 

Another perk of booking a private location for your session? The photo fee goes towards the care and maintenance of the property or venue. This means you can expect a clean space that will make a picture perfect background with minimal clutter in the background. In spaces like museums, your fee also goes to supporting the arts!

If the venue you’re booking is indoors, you’ll have the added comfort of not having to worry about the weather on the day of your session. For anyone booking a hair and makeup appointment, I highly recommend an indoor private option like this, because you won’t have to reschedule multiple vendors in case of a little rain.

A couple embraces in the middle of the glass staircase at the Speed Art Museum

You often get access to restrooms or changing areas, take photos at times that aren’t always accessible to the public, and sometimes the venues will even have someone on-site to move furniture or other items for you. At places like the Speed Art Museum, your photo fee also includes access to the museum, so after your session is over, you get to enjoy the exhibits!

For couples getting married at a particular venue, you may also get exclusive access to have engagement photos taken there with no fee when normally the venue may either charge a fee or not allow photos for other guests.

Two engaged men play chess wearing neutral colored suits in the historic Brown Hotel balcony area

My favorite reason to book a private location for your photo session? It’s a unique experience! Getting to explore a whole space just for you with no crowds and playfully create photos is not something everyone has the chance to do. There are a few locations I get a permit for yearly, because I love them so much – like the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork and Mount St. Francis.

You might be wondering, How much is this going to cost me? The answer is: it varies by location. Some locations with a photo fee charge as little as $50, while others require a fee of $150-250 depending on the duration and type of photography session. For up to date information, visit the website of each location for accurate price info. Most of the fees allow you to access the private space for 1-2 hours.

It is important to note that there can sometimes be drawbacks to private locations, like hotels that don’t allow photo sessions during busy seasons, museums that don’t allow use of flash, places with signage in the background that can’t be moved, and gardens with time restrictions that aren’t ideal for lighting. For locations where I have already photographed sessions, I already know what the restrictions or challenges are, so I am sure to share that with clients with those locations in mind!

A high school grad wearing a white dress dons her cap and gown in front of the wooden and glass architectural building at Waterfront Botanical Gardens

Now, there are also PLENTY of beautiful locations that are free to the public as well. I have an entire location list for my clients to choose from for any look or occasion. 

If there is a private location you have your eye on but it’s not in the budget, I can suggest a similar location that is free. Our downtown areas and public parks are spacious and offer scenic views you’ll love! And of course – your own home or backyard can make a great location for your session too!

You may not get the perks of private venues like exclusivity, so the general public can access the free locations anytime. If public events are happening, you may be out of luck with that location and have to go elsewhere. Distracting background objects like trash cans, cars, or other people in the background may be difficult to avoid. 

It’s also worth noting that some locations may allow free photography, but still have rules in place to not disturb other patrons or have limited hours of availability.

Private locations for photo sessions offer a level of exclusivity and comfort for anyone wanting to avoid crowds of people or someone with a specific aesthetic in mind. The fees charged by these private locations often support the maintenance of the spaces, which means it’s going to be picture perfect! You may also get additional perks like access to unique areas of the venue and a comfortable place to change outfits or get ready.

There’s likely to be a similar free alternative to a venue you have in mind that charges a photo fee, so if you choose to be more budget conscious this time around, share that info with your photographer to learn about what other locations might be available at no extra cost to you.

If you are ready to book a session with a photographer who already has the info on private and public photo locations as well as a list of resources for you, click here to visit my website and inquire!

A couple sweetly embraces in front of the beautiful Ohio River and the Big Four Bridge

See some of the beautiful locations mentioned above featured in previous blog posts!

A springtime garden wedding at Whitehall Mansion

Editorial hotel engagement shoot at the historic Brown Hotel

My favorite outdoor locations for senior pictures

A smiling photographer holds a camera in her hand

Johanna Hribal is a wedding photographer based in Louisville, Kentucky. She enjoys traveling to other states and countries for weddings and elopements whenever possible! People love her colorful and vibrant edits and the way she captures their love in a natural and non-intrusive way. Click here to visit her website to learn more about current wedding collections. Follow along on Instagram to see recent engagement sessions, weddings, senior photos, branding sessions, and more!

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