Styled, Portfolio building, Giveaway, or Practice/Test Session…What’s the difference?

Hi friends! Welcome to my new blog post where I’ll be answering one of the most confusing things for clients that are receiving the all too special, DISCOUNTED or FREE session that we occasionally give out!

Many of you may have heard the terms: Styled, Portfolio building, Giveaway, or Practice/Test Session and some of you may be a little confused as to what the difference is between all of these and why we do them in the first place. Well, you’re in luck because i’ll be explaining them all today!


The first one I’d like to discuss is the special, mythical unicorn that is a styled session! The reason that these are such a great deal and the best that you can get is because whether you pay a fee or get it free, you’ll be a part of either 1 photographer or a team of creative artists vision for a photo session. The categories for these sessions vary greatly but include many things such as wedding, family, baby, and even ideas that are more artistic and/or theatrical such as a themed session.

The purpose of a styled session is to bring the artists vision to life and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful images for your participation. However, keep in mind that because it’s usually more about the artists vision, there’s usually a few requirements because of the enormous expense (either of time, money, or both) incurred by the artists. We try to be flexible and accommodating but clothing, locations, and the overall mood and feel of the session is essential to it’s ultimate success and will be predetermined.

Even with all of this, they are truly amazing and usually turn out much better than the client/model could’ve ever imagined and are so much fun to be a part of!

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The next type of discounted session that you’ll score big on is a portfolio building session. These are typically done by professionals that need to update their portfolios for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s because we’re working on a new genre of photography, have moved and need a new feel to our portfolios, or even just want to photograph a specific style or location. These are amazing opportunities for clients because they’ve been well thought out so you’ll receive a limited number of fabulous images for a huge discount and will still receive a great client experience.

I’m actually hosting a newborn portfolio building session day on September 21st which should be a lot of fun and will be more of a parent and baby experience!


Giveaway sessions! Okay friends, so these are very limited as well because they’re usually tied to the photographers personal mission or their “WHY” for their business. These vary so drastically depending on what is important to a photographer.

For example, as a military wife and mother of four, my biggest priorities in life are my children and my marriage. Being a military spouse comes with more stress, heartache, and fear than some people can imagine so whenever I do a giveaway session, I typically offer it to military families as a gift to preserve special memories when they’re all together.

Another massive thing that tugs at my heartstrings and is a charity that is very near and dear to my heart is HUGS Hawaii. Being a mother has been such a blessing and as many parents can relate, there’s nothing in life as scary as having a sick child. Thankfully, HUGS Hawaii is there to help families in these tough situations which is why, I love doing giveaway sessions to this organization.


Now onto the sessions that are always free but not guaranteed: the practice or test session! When photographers are just starting out or get new equipment, they sometimes turn to the public, friends, or family to either practice on or test their gear with. The skill and experience level of the photographers for these types of sessions vary widely so you just have to trust that it will either turn out great or, you helped a budding photographer learn some new things. Either way, you’ll likely end up with at least one or two good photos so if your budget is $0, this may be your best option.

We ALL start here (even the masters were once beginners) so please be kind because usually, the student or beginning photographer, or even advanced photographer is nervous and feels a lot of pressure to remember all of that information for settings and also deliver good images, good poses, find the right light, get all of the shots, and still seem calm. It’s overwhelming and takes practice and a lot of time so that’s why they’re not charging! 🙂

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Well friends, this is the 4 types of discounted or free sessions that are most common! We sometimes also do “model calls” and “travel sessions” which can be free or discounted just to get specific images to feed our souls!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little guide and will now know what you’re signing up for when a photographer is offering a styled, portfolio building, giveaway, or practice session!

As always, please email me if you have any questions and I hope to answer them in a future blog post!

Jailyn Untalan is a portrait photographer based in Oahu that specializes in celebrating all of life’s moments, the big ones, the little ones, and all the ones in between!

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