PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY: AN EASY BUSINESS

If you do a quick google search for portrait photography in Tulsa, you’ll find a plethora of photographers out there. With high quality cameras and lenses becoming increasingly affordable, the barrier to entry in the portrait photography world has become very low. It’s arguably the easiest industry to jump into with no experience. Step 1: Buy a decent camera. Step 2: Start a business facebook page. Step 3: Make money. Very low start-up cost, zero overhead (if you don’t have a studio), and high profit margins (if people hire you – easier said than done, right?)

I hear established photographers groan about this all the time. “Everyone thinks they’re a photographer now.” I understand the sentiment. I’ve often felt frustrated just telling people what I do for a living. Saying “I’m a photographer” doesn’t carry near as much seriousness as it used to since the market has become incredibly saturated with portrait photography businesses.

But here’s the good news: if your work speaks for itself and you know how to market yourself and your brand, you can still make very good money in this industry. When I first started my portrait photography business, I was super frustrated by how much the industry was being devalued by unseasoned photographers. How do you compete with photographers offering full sessions with unlimited digital photos for $100?

TIME TO ENTER A NEW MARKETPLACE

For awhile, I kept lowering my prices to try and compete in this devalued marketplace. After barely scraping by for over a year, I was close to jumping ship. I was putting in a lot of hours, delivering an exceptional service and product to my customers, and not getting paid what I knew it was worth. After working alongside several photographers making a 6-figure income, I decided to change my mindset. What did I do differently? I raised my prices. I joined a new marketplace.

YEAH, BUT PEOPLE WON’T PAY THAT MUCH FOR PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY

I know what you might be thinking – “Yeah, but you can’t just raise your prices. It’s more complicated than that.” Yes you can and no it’s not. Because I did it and it worked. Trust me, I was skeptical when other successful photographers told me this same thing. I kept putting it off. I would try other marketing strategies, come up with new packages, write a million SEO articles – anything but raise my prices. I finally decided to make the leap after realizing I wouldn’t be in business after another year of the same old same old. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? I’m here to tell you that it worked. Plain and simple.

Two things happened when I did this. I started serving an entirely different clientele and my confidence in my ability to maintain a successful business exploded. Instead of dealing with customers that felt like $200 was a lot to spend because I was “just doing portrait photography”, I started dealing with clients and business that expected to pay my prices. I had a company that wanted full headshot sessions for 30 of their employees. A year ago I probably would’ve low-balled and charged $800. Instead I sent a quote for $4,150. They paid it without blinking. This was an eye-opening moment for me. It’s when I realized there ARE clients out there who will pay the prices a professional photographer should be charging. The best part? I no longer have to deal with the clients who don’t value the work of a professional.

I thought that by raising my prices I would lose money and job opportunities. I was right. What I didn’t realize is that I would make way more money working fewer jobs in this new marketplace. So to all the frustrated portrait photography business owners out there – take the leap. Raise your prices. You won’t regret it.

Andrew Barker

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