Pricing Strategies for Portrait Photographers

September 29th, 2016
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by Shari Warren

At some point, you decided to take your passion and talent for portrait photography from being a hobby to officially starting a business. Or maybe you have been shooting for a while and have relocated to a different area of the country where you need to reestablish your existing business. You’ve invested in your camera equipment and accessories, computers and software, education and a new Zenfolio website. To make sure your business will be successful and profitable, you’ll need to plan your pricing strategy for your photography services and products.

Research Your Competition

With any business, it is important to know who your competition is and their prices. You can then decide, based on your own level of experience and the services and products you want to offer, how to choose your pricing. You should also consider, based on where you live, the socioeconomics of potential customers in your area. For example, a bigger city, more affluent suburb, or tourist area might have more customers with higher incomes who are accustomed to paying higher prices for photography services as opposed to a rural area where customers’ incomes might be lower and can only afford lower prices.

One way to research other photographers in your area is to ask friends and family what local photographers they have hired for their portraits. You can also go to your local camera store and talk to the staff about their customers who offer portrait photography services.


Once you have some names, go online and search for your competition’s websites using a search engine such as Google or Bing and business directory websites, such as Yelp, and Thumbtack. Also research the main social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Enter pertinent keywords such as portraits, children, baby, newborn, seniors, teens, family and event photography. Use additional keywords in your search such as the town, city, county, state or region. When you do those searches, take note of the portrait photographer websites that come up on the first and second pages. These photographers have done their homework to be sure that their websites are being seen, and if they also have paid advertising that indicates that they are doing well with getting new customers.



Visit those photographer websites that you think most closely resemble the same services that you offer. You can then check out their portfolios to compare styles and see if they publicly show pricing for their sessions and products. If they do, bookmark those websites so you can refer to them later as you plan for pricing strategy.

Decide on Your Session Pricing

Whether you have a little or a lot of experience, you probably have a general idea of the amount of time you will need to prepare, drive, shoot, post process and upload your photos sessions into your private client galleries on your website. And each of those sessions will vary in time depending on the subject.


Once you have a general idea of the hours per session you will need to do a great job, you then have to decide how much you need to make per hour to cover your time, costs, overhead and profit to have a successful business and price your sessions accordingly. Meet your new best friend, a certified accountant or CPA. They specialize in working with businesses to help plan for pricing, cash flow and taxes, and can provide some helpful formulas to use to be sure you will be making a profit. Make an appointment with one of them and bring your competition research, list of services and even your own rough estimates of your pricing. Doing this will give you the confidence that you are planning for your goal of having a successful photography business. 171313658851914.quRMtnHlAADx0GHZAWWL_height640

On your business website, you could then create webpages to list your sessions pricing to let prospective new customers know your price range. Because each session might have additional costs based on the customer’s needs and desires, you could write something like “Portrait Sessions starting at $xxx.” This way you are giving a minimum price, yet have the flexibility to add to it in case you have additional time and costs (such as far away locations, clothing changes, props and additional people to be included in the photos). For each of your specialty sessions, list your details and locations you shoot, what is included and the amount of time. Consider a call to action Book a Session button or link at the bottom of the page that links to your contact page.


Get a Session Deposit

Have you ever had a customer book a photography session with you and then not show up? It’s even worse if you hadn’t asked them to pay you a deposit upfront. Your time is valuable, and you simply must ask for a deposit.

You can set up a custom gallery page with an attached price list on your Zenfolio website to accept deposit payments for your sessions. You can even include your policy and terms on that page. Simply create self-fulfilled products just for your sessions deposit payments and then create a Sessions Price List. It’s that easy! You will need to create a JPEG image, using a graphics program such as Photoshop, to show the name of the session and the deposit price (usually 50% of the session fee), upload those images into the client’s own gallery then link them to your Sessions Deposit gallery page.


Price Your Products for Profit

Whether you are using your own lab or one of Zenfolio’s trusted partner labs, you will need to add your markup to the base price of each product you offer to ensure that you earn a profit.

There are a couple of different ways to figure out the amount you want to add for your profit for each product.

One option you can use on your Zenfolio website is to plan your markup by using a formula and apply that formula to all products. Typically, when selling a retail product, the markup might be 100-300% (or more, depending on the price sensitivity of your customers) more than the base price. Here are some examples:

An 8” x 10” print: Base Price $2.29 + 100% Profit ($2.29) = Selling Price $4.58

An 8” x 10” print: Base Price $2.29 + 200% Profit ($4.58) = Selling Price $6.87

An 8” x 10” print: Base Price $2.29 + 300% Profit ($6.87) = Selling Price $9.16

Zenfolio gives you a tool to customize your own pricing formula that includes adding a “fixed markup” and you can round your prices to the nearest $1.00, 99 cents or 95 cents.

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Another option is to manually enter either your desired profit price and Zenfolio will calculate the selling price and vice versa. Use this method when, based on your competitive pricing research and experience, you know what the selling price should be appropriate to your customer demographic.

You can use the formula or manual pricing options for any products you want to offer, whether it is a product through a Zenfolio vendor, a self-fulfilled product or digital products.

Seeing Sales Results from Your Pricing Strategy

The best test to see if your pricing strategy is on target for your customers is the amount you are receiving from your orders. At any time, you can adjust your profit in your price lists if customers are mentioning that your prices are too high or low. Having the right pricing strategy for your photography business will also allow you to offer packages and create coupons for holiday and seasonal specials when you want to generate more product sales and still have your profit built in.


Shari Warren of Warren Creative Design has provided design, training and business consultations to hundreds of Zenfolio photographers since 2011. With her background as an art director in the software and publishing industries, she brings a creative, objective eye and marketing savvy to help portrait, wedding and fine art photographers showcase their photography and set up their websites and shopping carts to help accomplish their business goals.

*Promotion valid until March 31, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. PST. Promotional discount off the subscription price of a new Portfolio, PortfolioPlus, ProSuite annual plan will be automatically applied at checkout with code ZENFOLIO50. Discount applies to the first year only. Cannot be combined with any other promotion.

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