How do you price your portrait photography?

The average annual salary for a portrait photographer in the US is about $44,000, but the average in your particular city may be quite different. Having an idea of what you would like your take home pay at the end of the year can help you guide your pricing strategy. 

portrait of asian man holding two children and smiling at camera

Of course, your income goal for the year should be informed by what is realistic based on the specifics of your portrait photography business. Here are some of the most important variables to consider when coming up with a pricing strategy that is both realistic and will help you meet your financial goals: 

  1. Where do you live? Portrait photographers can charge more in expensive cities where their clients are likely earning higher salaries compared to the going rate in smaller towns or more rural areas. If you live somewhere with a lot of commercial or business clients that you can potentially work with, they may have bigger budgets than, say, families looking to get their holiday portraits taken. 
  2. What type of portrait photography do you specialize in? It will likely be easier to book regular gigs shooting professional portraits for people and companies, than if you specialize in art portrait photography. This isn’t to say that you can’t make money doing art photography, but your strategy may have to be a little different. For example, it might make more sense to focus on selling prints and showing your work in galleries rather than booking portrait gigs regularly. 
  3. Can you increase your average income from each gig with add-ons? If you’ve reached a point where you are regularly booking work but you’re not quite meeting your goals in terms of regular revenue, consider ways of offering your clients more value for an increased price. For example, if they are ordering prints from your portrait sessions, you can offer larger packages that are more expensive but overall a better deal per print.
  4. Can you fill downtime with mini sessions? If there is some seasonality to your work, offering mini sessions—shorter sessions offering one or a few shots at an affordable rate—can be a way to fill your schedule, earn some extra cash, and get the word out about your business. Potential customers who may not have the budget for your regular sessions can try working with you, and by booking a location or studio and scheduling multiple mini sessions in a row, you can have a surprisingly profitable day. 
  5. Can you get more word of mouth marketing? As you book more clients, encourage them to leave a review or tell others know about your business after their positive experience. To sweeten the deal, offer them a referral discount that they can share with others and use themselves the next time they book with you. This will not only incentivize them to return, but may result in new clients discovering you. 

One of the best aspects of working as a professional portrait photographer is that there is a lot of flexibility in terms of the type of work you can take on, and you can always pivot to another type of portrait photography if you want a change of pace or a new revenue stream. The skills involved in one type are transferable to the rest; just keep in mind that different types of portrait photography may need different pricing. You can find more tips from our experts in this article about how to price your photography services.

Portrait photography will always be in demand, especially in our increasingly digital world where individuals and companies have to represent themselves visually online. As a portrait photographer, you can play a key role in telling peoples’ stories. Now that you have the tools to get started as a portrait photographer, it’s time to start building that portfolio.

How can I get more clients for my portrait photography business?

If you’re asking this question, you’ve probably already shared your practice, taken photos of your family and friends, and even reached out to your personal networks. At this point, you should have your portrait photography portfolio and website filled with content. Things like SEO optimization, making more connections in your local photography community, even advertising on Google and through Facebook and Instagram, will get you more and more exposure. Just make sure you have a solid portfolio of photographs when your website traffic starts to filter in.

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