Photographers come in all shapes and sizes. While experience, styles, and packages offered may vary, one thing remains the same… every photographer is in business to make money.
We know, this subject makes a lot of folks blush and tends to be a little taboo for general conversation, but unless you are independently wealthy or just received an enormous inheritance from a great aunt that you’ve never met – chances are that you’ve gone into business to help provide for your family and that means that you need to figure out the secret formula for making money.
Here’s the fun part. The formula isn’t all that secret. In fact, there are a few simple rules that you can follow to ensure that your business is profitable from the beginning. Ready to start?
How to Make Money as a Photographer
The invention of digital cameras completely changed the photography game. Anyone can pick up a camera, sign up for a free Facebook page, and claim to be a pro photog these days. Here are a few tips you’ll want to follow to help set yourself apart from the crowd and present yourself as a professional:
- Pick a business name. Yes, it should reflect your style but it doesn’t have to be all rainbows and butterflies. Whether you use your actual name with the word ‘photography’ at the end or come up with something completely unique, choose wisely and stick with it.
- Set up an actual business. There are so many options (think Inc., LLC, S Corp, etc.) and you’re likely going to need some advice from an account or attorney here, but being officially registered with the state where you do business will be a huge benefit in the long run and add a sense of legitimacy to the business that you’re creating.
- Create a logo. Or have one created for you. Either way, this will be the absolute core of the branding for your business. It will be used on your business cards, website, Facebook page, you name it – your logo will be there (or at least it should be!)
- Gather a portfolio. Whether you’ve been in business for one month or ten years, you’ll need a collection of recent work that serves as an example for potential clients. There are a million ways to present this to clients, but pulling together all of your favorite shots is a great place to start.
Once you have your basics covered, you’ll want to actually create marketing collateral. This package typically consists of the following items:
- Business Cards
- Facebook Page
- Brochures or Digital Ads
Great, now how do I actually make money as a photographer?
That’s the million dollar question, right? Okay, the answer is a basic formula. Generate more money than it costs to operate the business. When you’re at square one, this answer is SO NOT HELPFUL. Right? Let’s dive in a bit…
Making money as a photographer means bringing home some income. Your gross income includes every dollar that you collect for your business. It can be made up of session fees, product sales, other upgrades, etc. You need to generate income in order to be a profitable business.
To generate income, you’ll need something to sell. This will likely begin with photography sessions and end with products like prints or other items. Start the brainstorming process by researching your market. Find out what other photographers in the area are selling and their associated prices. This will help you build your own packages and determine which items you want to make available to your clients.
Here are the items you’ll want to consider when building your photography packages:
- Amount of time in front of the camera.
- Number of final edited images that will be delivered.
- Type of delivery – digital or prints.
- Number of prints included, if any.
- Upgrades – additional digitals, prints, large format prints, etc.
From there, you’ll figure out how many sessions you need to book and start reaching out to your friends, family, facebook groups, etc. in order to fill those slots. More on that a little later! 😉
Mini Sessions are our favorite! Read more about those here.
How much money do you want to make as a photographer?
Before you assign an actual price to each of the packages you want to offer, think about two things: how much income you want to generate and how much time you have to dedicate to the business.
For example: If you want to bring in $1,000 of income but only have two hours, you’ll need to cater your packages to meet this goal. Maybe you offer two one hour sessions that cost $500 each and both include 30 final edited digital images.
Please remember that if you’re looking to generate a full-time income, you’ll need to book a full-time schedule. You’re going to be busy, busy, busy, and don’t forget – your services require way more than time spent behind the camera.
AKA don’t forget about editing and that whole customer acquisition/service part. Yipes! If you build this time into your schedule in advance, the process will feel much less overwhelming. Trust us!
Interested in a complete photo session booking platform that will save you time and keep your clients happy? Click here to sign up for a 14 day FREE TRIAL with Session today.
Are you a newby photographer who is just in the portfolio building phase? Your prices are going to start off lower in order to start getting clients. Now if you’re established and have a solid client base, the flexibility in packages and products you offer, along with their associated prices, is much greater.
Having reasonable expectations is a great way to avoid stress. Just sayin’!
What’s next? I want to make money!
Of course you do! Just hold your horses for a minute… we’ve got your list of next steps ready.
You’ve set up a professional business, created basic marketing collateral items, set a goal for the amount of income you want to generate, and created packages to sell that will help you reach that goal. Right?
It’s time to acquire clients!
Here are a few tips you can follow in order to spread the word about your new venture and start booking more photography sessions:
- Shout it from the rooftops! In all seriousness though, tell your friends and family that you’re in business and ready to start taking on clients.
- Invite your personal connections to like your Facebook page.
- Share a link to your Facebook page or website on your personal social media accounts.
- Add a link to your website on your LinkedIn profile that announces your new venture.
- Start a referral program that gives your current clients an incentive to share your business with their friends and family. It’s a win-win situation!
- Work on your website’s SEO. This is a totally different approach than those listed above, as it allows you to reach organic traffic rather than requiring a personal referral from you or someone you know. Totally free if you take the DIY approach!
- Run ads. Print or digital, traditional media or social media, advertisements still work. This is a pay to play situation, so if you’ve never run an ad before it’s important that you connect with a professional to at least get a few words of advice before you start spending.
- Set up an eNewsletter. Way cheaper than paying for postage to send info via snail mail, an eNewsletter allows you to connect with current and potential clients on a regular basis. Services like MailChimp and Constant Contact allow you to do this for free so long as your distribution list contains under a specific number (somewhere around 2,000) of recipients.
- Offer coupons or specials during the holiday season to entice new clients to try your services. Spread the word using one of the methods listed above.
- Don’t forget about mini sessions. If you haven’t read about why we love mini sessions yet, we totally recommend you check this out.
Doing the items listed above are not going to put dollars in the bank. They will, however, spread the word about your business and allow you to start selling the services and products that you’ve designed.
One step at a time, one day at a time, you can do this. Focus on refining your skills while you build your client base and do everything you can to serve any current clients well. Every ounce of effort that you put in will pay off in the long run.