Portrait Photographers – How much profit are you losing each sale?

I was chatting with a well-known Brisbane portrait photographer today and he said something profound… “Most photographers would not spend the same money on their own family photography that they expect their clients to.”

Now this fellow charges more than almost anyone else in the business and he still thinks his work is not expensive. He deserves every cent he gets because his work is world class, he’s jumped through all the right hoops over a very long career and he says he’s still learning. His clients enjoy the experience of being photographed and purchase a selection of fantastic images (in print form, not as digital files) and an outstanding finished product, works of art to be proud of when they are displayed in the home.

The prints he collected were of a portrait session of another photographer and their family. This client spent more money on these portraits than they could have imagined and were delighted to do so, they even put money away for a year for the experience because they knew they would want the images. They spent more than it would have cost them had they ordered the same product from their own studio!

Why would they do that? They did it to experience how a real, professional portrait photographer operates his business so they could improve their own business.

If you are a photographer new to the industry and believe that your clients only want digital files or that you can only sell digital files, then I believe you are doing both yourself and your clients a disservice.


If that’s all you think your clients want, you are asking the wrong questions or don’t have the skills to sell more and having a successful photography business is much more than simply taking photos. The most important skill to learn is how to sell.

Homes still have walls to be decorated. People will always be vain enough to want their images in print form and on display so others can compliment them – it’s simple human nature. If you are going to all the trouble to photograph them and work on the files, why not go that one step further and supply them with the true finished product.

If you don’t believe people still want these things, then why are artists still painting art and selling it – something needs to go on your clients walls, why shouldn’t it be your images? Why let profit walk out the door with those files you give away so easily and cheaply? Why not add value to your art by showing them how wonderful it can look when presented properly. Why give them the chance to degrade your work when they head off down to Hardly Normals or Officewants for some cheap product printed by a shop assistant with little photographic knowledge or understanding of quality?

Why shoot your business in the foot? Can you imagine a plumber coming to give you a quote… “Certainly Madam, we can supply you that new toilet with all the piping, nuts, bolts and glue required for installation for a great price. I’d recommend you get your non-handy husband to install it or go down to Bunnings and see if the checkout chick can come round one Saturday afternoon and do it for you. You’ll save heaps from me compared to those rip-off plumbers that actually go to all the trouble of installing it for you!”

Imagine if you came to me for a canvas print and I said to you “I’ve got a great deal for you today, you can save heaps because I’ll supply you the canvas, ink and lacquer to print and coat it yourself and one long length of wood you’ll need to cut and join for the frame, then stretch your print.” I can see you all climbing over each other to order, right?

combo2Photography is a professional service industry. Be professional and service your clients beyond their expectations. Show them what’s possible. If you don’t know what’s possible, come in and talk to me.

If you don’t have wall portraits on your wall, how can you expect to sell them? I don’t care if they are 7″ x 5″ prints in a frame or 40″ x 60″ Floating Acrylics – your clients will buy what you show them. If you’ve only been showing files, then open you mind to the possibilities, put some display on the wall and see what happens. If you need help with the task of selling them, come and talk to us, we have a really good reason to help you don’t we?

Theres an old  sales saying “You Sell What You Show”. Back in my portrait photography days, almost every client purchase 3-5 wall portraits. We had combinations for every occasion, here’s a couple that were popular, they are so easy to sell when you know how!


Tell me what you think

2 replies
  1. Annabel
    Annabel says:

    Very true, thanks for the article. Last portrait session I did, I took up an offer with a print lab who were supplying large canvases for an offer price. I figured if the client didn’t buy it, it would look great on my walls.
    I left it half out of the case when I was showing the client their images and he asked me what that was. I showed him, he dropped all the smaller prints and wanted everything on large canvas for several rooms of the house and for Christmas presents. Deep, deep joy. 🙂

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