by Christina Greve, Contributing Editor

If you want to evolve your photography into a successful portrait business, you need to start thinking in terms of business. From this is there no room to doubt your qualifications or your abilities. 

I know it can be difficult, but you need to move beyond thinking, “I´m not sure I´m good enough to get paid or to raise my fee. I’m only a novice or I´m not a real photographer!”

Ask yourself the following questions:

Do I really want this? Do I want to make a living out of being a photographer? 

Know that it is OK to say no and to keep your photography passion as a hobby or weekend business.

If the answer is yes and you can feel you want this with all your heart, despite your insecurities about your future success, then you need to know the following truths:

No matter how great an artist or photographer you are, you will never make it if you don`t think in terms of business – you need to learn how to ask for what you are worth!

I have been an entrepreneur since I was 15years old and if there is one thing I have learned it´s this:

If you are able to combine confidence in your artistic ability with some simple business knowledge and some networking, you will quickly grow into a successful business owner – aka. professional photographer.

One of the core fundamentals in business leading to your success is your pricing structure.

Let´s compare your photography business with an exclusive fashion boutique. When I was a child, I would walk past expensive shops with my mother. She would “window shop” (as we did not have much money) in the most exclusive stores in town and tell me that these shops would pay their rent by selling only one coat a day. These shops did not work under pressure and they had time to give their best service to their customers. Their business branding promised this! The same holds true for photographers!

You can set a low fee, get lot´s of price-shopping clients to book you, work your butt of and possibly burn out!

Or you can decide to charge a fee that will make sure that you don´t work under pressure and support the amount of time you spend on a client. That way you´ll feel happy when you work and have more time with your family.

The higher your price, the more time you have to spoil your clients, do your finest post processing, and brand your business.

And let´s be honest here: price-shopping clients often do not value all the work and effort you put into it, but maybe you already know that? Been there, done that – never again :-)


How much work do you actually do for each client from start to finish?

Think about the following:

* Mail correspondence and phone calls: Time spent telling your clients how you work, what they should bring and how they should prepare for each shoot.

* Preparation and planning: location (including possible studio rental fees), styling, set up, and packing up gear.

* Transportation: to and from locations

* Pre-shoot time: to make clients relax for the camera.

* Styling your client: doing this yourself or, perhaps, hiring a make-up artist.

* The Photo shoot: probably 1-2 hours.

* Image selection: Time spent sorting through hundreds of images to select the best ones

* Post processing

* Creating an online gallery for your client to make their selection

* Printing – if this is a service you wish to offer.

* Packing and posting CD-room or prints for the client.

* Payment handling

* Marketing

* Customer service follow-up


How many hours do you think all this will take you? Be realistic. It does take a lot of time to do your best in each of these areas. If you want enough time to do good and set yourself apart from the competition, then you must set your price accordingly to take this into account.

The old saying, ‘time is money’ is very true.

When you work, you spend time away from your family – so make sure you get paid well. Make it worth it!


So HOW do you deal with price-shoppers?

Strategy 1:

Educate them! Explain your value and how that value translates into the photo session and the final result. Talk about the experience they will get with you, how much fun you´ll have, how they should prepare for the shoot, tell them why you love doing what you do.

Show excitement and enthusiasm. Nothing sells like honest passion that comes straight from your heart! You don´t even need to be a mean sales person  - isn´t that just wonderful? :-)

Strategy 2: 

Don´t deal with them! Most photographers can smell price-shoppers from far away. The best way is to be upfront quickly. Let me give you an example; sometimes I get an email saying something like this:

“Hi, we love your work and we own a shop (clothing line, hat shop, jewelry or similar – you name it). We would love to hire you to shoot our new line. We know some non-professional models that can model who can do their makeup themselves. We can not pay you, but you will get free food and good exposure.”

This is where I must laugh out loud! And believe me I do!

As we all know free food and good exposure does NOT pay rent, school tuition, heat…ect., true, right?!

I always give them a nice answer back, thanking them for thinking of me, kindly letting them know that it´s not how things roll in my little business.  I don´t care how cool or how amazing their products are – I don´t work for free, it´s as simple as that! Voila!


The more you value the work you do, the more the customers will value your work too. 

Whenever I have a client, I put aside two full days of work to ensure I don´t get stressed and ensure I perform my best. On the day of the shoot, I prepare, plan, and pack everything I need. Then, I drive to the location. I shoot the session, go home, and unpack everything in my studio. The next day, I sit in front of the computer and do the post processing.

I really don´t want to rush things – as getting great, timeless pictures in good quality for my clients is the most important thing for me.

Each of these hours must be accounted for in my fee. Therefore, I set a price that makes sure that I´m happy during ALL my working hours. It keeps me very motivated to know I do what I LOVE and that I get well paid while doing it.

I want you to consider all of these things when you decide on your price. Of course, you have to begin somewhere. In the beginning, you might need to charge less to get the ball rolling. I did this, too. But don’t let this period last too long. Make an effort to raise your prices more than once during your first years.


The happier you are with the money your clients are paying you, the better you will perform!

To run a successful business, you need to avoid stress and make sure that you are happy and relaxed. Remember, an over-stressed mind cannot think creatively and your inner passion/creativity battery will shut down. (I know this happens tomany photographers).

There is no business if you don’t take care of you!

Take some time now to think about how you will charge for your work. Then commit to raising those prices every month, or every second month, until you are at a level that is perfect for you. Only you can decide what that price is. Ask your heart (not your insecure mind) what that price should be. Now write down your payment plan and stick to it.

If you still feel that you are not good enough to get paid, then let me tell you: all art is work! Often many hours of work! All the work that you do is worth something. Your time should count for something.


Written by  Christina Greve – Professional Portrait Photographer, Life Coach and Founder of Divas and Dreams





  • Imene says:

    ;o) Been there and back. I had clients that offered to barter my work for hours of IT services and when i kindly refused I was accused of taking people for a ride. I think what makes it hard is the “photographers” who offer a CD with all pictures for $250. If I account for all the hours I work plus taxes I have to pay. That’s less than $18 per hour and I am not even considering paying for anything (camera, templates…). I just decided i wasn’t going that way and I only work with people that value my work.
    When I get an email or call I am upfront about my pricing and what people get for it. That way if they hire me we will both be happy.

    July 24, 2012 at 5:42 am