Own business: is it possible to make money with portrait photography


Our portrait business is not yet developed, there is almost no demand for high-quality works. For most compatriots, the minimum amount of 50 dollars for a portrait is serious money, with their salary of 300-400 dollars.

The situation with model photography is the same. It is not as profitable as many people think. Firstly, novice models are obliged to shoot with agency photographers, this is stipulated in the contract. And so the models are also a problem. Many photographers find a compromise – they shoot a good model for free in order to replenish their portfolio, but the model also poses for free.

Novice portrait painters should go to theatrical universities to the acting departments, to the selection of girls for modeling agencies.

At the initial stage, it is difficult to determine your prices. Of course, for reference, you can climb the sites, explore the price lists, but this is not a panacea. When setting the price, you need to take into account your minimum for life, equipment wear, consumables, rent. Only after summing up all the expenses, you can understand how much you need to earn per month, and only then, having estimated how many people per day will be filmed, calculate the price for a portrait.

Desire and talent do not guarantee success. For a photographer, the basic economic law sounds different – – SUPPLY determines demand. You need to come up with something unique that will attract customers.

For corporate clients, the name of the photographer is of great importance. When communicating with such clients, you need to tell about what famous people you worked with, what projects you participated in. A customer who understands these “regalia” can pay not 50, but 250 dollars for a portrait. And professionalism is a stable quality level. Even 4+ points should ALWAYS be.

For portrait shooting, you need your own studio – not always the conditions in nature allow you to do what you need. But it’s better not to get into debt, but to accumulate money gradually and then only open a studio. The minimum set of equipment is two light sources, a background and a semi-professional camera, preferably a digital one. The area of ​​the room for the studio must be at least 40 sq.m. It is advisable to paint the walls in the studio in gray – then there will be no extraneous shades on the faces.OPINION OF A GRADUATE “Academy of Photography” 

You can make money with portrait photography – if you take it seriously. You can start without large investments in equipment and premises, having only one camera. Everything is decided by desire and interest. The main thing is to experiment, try and achieve the goal.

You need to LOOK for models, don’t be shy about asking people to pose for you. It is necessary to create ALL possible conditions when shooting, so that the model feels relaxed – and after all, children, girls, and elderly people can be models. The photographer must be a psychologist. A person with ambition cannot work as a portrait painter. You always need to spend some time with a person, communicate, observe. The main thing is that during the shooting people are passionate about music, action, so that they are PARTICIPANTS of the process – this is the most important thing for them. And you always need to know the purpose – why the portrait, for friends or in the interior. This determines the spirit of what will be radiated from the photo – warmth, melancholy, sadness, joy, tenderness …

Starting work, it is important to find out your level – and it is known in comparison. It is necessary to participate in various events, competitions, exhibitions. It is very useful to visit photo sites: there are enough such resources, and this is a real chance to show your work, style, individuality.

At the initial stage, you can do without expensive equipment, one light source is enough, even a halogen one, which is not difficult to recoup. You will also need an umbrella and reflectors (you can use tulle curtains) to diffuse the light. Usually the room footage is not enough for full-length shooting, the minimum studio area should be at least 50 sq.m, and the ceiling height should be at least 3 m. You will have to look for a place either in a suitable interior or shoot en plein air.

But in portrait shooting, even the equipment is not the main thing – it is important WHAT MODELS and what kind of eyes they have. If they are “alive”, the portrait will turn out the first time! There is a beautiful body, but there is no soul in the look, the soul is empty. Therefore, it is better to let the models be “poor, but interesting”, this allows you to dig deeper. And rich people are very capricious, it’s hard to work with them. If the client does not have very good taste, then it is better to offer your own versions of the portrait. IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONVINCE THE PERSON THAT THE PHOTOGRAPHER IS THE CHIEF, that he makes decisions.

The cost of a portrait varies: not everyone can afford $200 for a subject. Sometimes you have to cut prices to keep a customer. It is sometimes beneficial to shoot models cheaper, because it is also beneficial for the photographer, so he will replenish his own portfolio. Good models for a portrait can often be found on the street. They go to vernissages and exhibitions for the best faces, they are completely different there – there is an idea in the eyes … In general, the theme and reason for shooting can be everywhere, you just have to walk, look and look for it.

To learn to “see the face”, you can shoot banquets, parties, sports. This both trains and allows you to meet the right people and earn extra money. Be sure to carry at least some selection of photos with you: you can always find a potential client at the shooting, having a portfolio.

And lastly, you should not go to work at any cost – you can lose yourself in such commerce. A photographer is first of all a creator, and then a craftsman. Cultivate your artistic taste – study painting and graphics, go to vernissages.

The main problem for beginner photographers is poor marketing training. They hardly determine their prices and easily slip into dumping. And this is absolutely impossible to allow – it is worth losing ground, and you will receive the status of a “cheap photographer” for the rest of your life. We must learn to ask for money for slides and insist on our price. It is also difficult to make money on portrait photography because no one seriously specializes in this genre, does not make enough efforts to promote themselves. You need to participate in exhibitions as much as possible, distribute promotional materials to potential customers, and remind yourself of yourself to everyone and everywhere.


I decided to organize my own studio immediately after graduating from photography school. First of all, it was necessary to buy light. The question arose, which one to choose: generator or monoblocks? Generator is more expensive, but much more convenient – all control is concentrated on the generator itself, to which light sources are connected. Monoblocks are not connected to each other in any way, each lamp is connected to the outlet separately, but they also have to be adjusted separately, personally running up to each lamp. With experience, I learned that it is more convenient to use a generator in the studio, and monoblocks on the road, 3 monoblocks can easily fit in a special suitcase and are quite mobile.

In general, branded equipment is very expensive. Some things can be completely done by yourself, such as: reflectors, textured backgrounds for shooting a portrait, a “wind blower” for hair (a branded one costs 1400 euros, and a homemade one will cost a maximum of $150).

At the initial stage, you can partner with another photographer to split the rent and other costs of the studio in half. It turned out to be very useful to make your own website, thanks to which anyone can see your portfolio on the Internet. In addition, it is necessary to develop your own price list, after conducting a preliminary review of the market for photo services.

Since it is difficult to make money on one portrait shooting, you should not refuse other shootings, for example, staged, advertising, catalog, traveling, reporting.

After 3 years, I found a studio closer to the center and metro. The equipment has increased – there is a digital Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro and Mamiya RB 67 + lenses for it (180mm, 90mm, 50mm). Elinchrome light, 3000J generator and three lamps, computer, Nikon Coolscan 8000ED, which allows scanning slides from 35mm to 6x9cm. Many tripods, “crane” – to hang the light source above the subject. Softboxes: 2 pieces 1x1m, one 50x50cm, a strip 1m long, nozzles for lamps – “honeycombs”, filters and more. There are also reflectors and light panels. Backgrounds – paper rolls 2.8 meters wide in different colors. Rag growth backgrounds are beautiful, but not very convenient in that they need to be ironed before shooting. Therefore, it is better to have backgrounds on a wire frame: they look very impressive, and besides, they do not crumple. In addition, rag props: clothes, wigs, accessories,

With a digital camera, the process is faster and easier – there is no need to scan, and most importantly, the customer sees everything on the monitor and the result of the shooting is not a surprise to anyone. Cons: autofocus is much worse than, for example, on Nikon, batteries are spent at such a rate that you can only shoot with a power supply.

The most difficult thing for a beginner photographer is to find clients. It is best to get a job in an advertising or design agency – the money may be small, but constant. You just need to call everywhere, walk around and offer your services. The main thing is to make yourself a high-quality portfolio, which you will not be ashamed to show to serious customers. It is very useful to place your pictures in photobanks, Russian and foreign. In the course of work, a constant circle of customers appears, and orders will become regular.


You can definitely make money with portrait photography. First you need to find a room. It is advisable to find a “non-practicing” artist or sculptor and agree with him on the permanent lease of suitable premises.

A portrait painter cannot do without a studio. If finances do not allow you to rent a full-fledged studio, then you can rent it at least by the hour. On average, an equipped studio of an acceptable level costs about 10 USD. at one o’clock. BUT THEN you don’t have to buy light, which costs a lot of money, you don’t have to buy backgrounds that are torn, wrinkled, dirty. After all, you do not have to pay money for renting a room when there are no customers. With a rental studio, you will never lose money and at the same time check the possibility of making a profit.

The minimum floor area must be 30 sq. m, ceiling height – from 3 m.

You don’t have to be famous at all. We have 2-3 dozen “famous studio photographers” who have a name. But they are known only in certain circles: in the world of advertising, printing, design, etc. Therefore, the quality of your work is most likely more important here.

You can place your work on the Internet, customers sometimes drop in from the network. The Internet generally helps a photographer a lot – just give the address, and the customer will be able to see the work and make a choice. But most of the orders come on the recommendation.

Prices can also be formed by studying the work and prices of others on the Internet.

As for the equipment, it is better to choose monoblocks, the main thing is that the heads have the possibility of multi-stage power adjustment.


Demand for the portrait has been growing since beauty contests, modeling agencies, various studios and circles began to appear, where attention is paid to the image.

The photographer, in addition to technical skills, must have an aesthetic perception, knowledge of composition. But the most interesting thing in my experience is that photography has moved from photography as a document, even from an artistic image, into the field of psychotherapy.

This idea of ​​psychology appeared a long time ago. I realized that the number of plots, compositional solutions, techniques is limited, and if there can be diversity in something, then only in the person himself. Man himself is infinite, his manifestations of feelings, thoughts – all this is infinite, so it was necessary to shoot a person more.

And photographers for the most part are engaged in self-expression. They make a kind of “painted cardboard”: they come up with some kind of plot, in this plot, as in cardboard, they cut a hole for the head and insert the client there. Some furnish it with some kind of clothes, accessories, interiors and so on. But the principle remains the same: I am an artist, I create a work, and I don’t care about the client. I am a creator, I will earn a name for myself and then I will earn money through this name.

And by and large, the client absolutely does not care about the name, he pays money for a good portrait of himself. A person wants to hear something good about himself, and if he is scolded, he is unlikely to like it. And would he want to pay for it?

Therefore, the main principle is to turn your face to the client, stop taking care of your photography and start taking care of the person. You need to feel a person, learn to read his thoughts during the shooting, understand the mood.

At first, I just looked at people, tried to see the beautiful, good in them – and fix it. But the difficulty was to capture this moment. I realized that it is necessary not only to see, but to be able to read body language. Alan Pease described him in his books: his poses are large letters, banners, and there is also small text that fills everything else. When you understand what it all means, you can learn to “write” as well. You create a pose that can evoke a mood. A person expresses his state by posture, facial expressions, gestures. And if you create this pose, then feelings may appear. Knowledge of composition and makeup skills helps a lot.

In order to change your life, you need to change yourself. And a portrait can affect this, because looking at your photographs a person can perceive himself differently. Of course, there are different people: some make themselves a new make-up every day – such people live in different ways. Others do not like novelty, they cannot get out of their problems. Nevertheless, photography has the opposite effect on a person. It’s like the advice in How to Succeed: hang a portrait of the person you want to be on your wall. You can see yourself differently and really change!

Therefore, in the end, communication with the viewer is important. The photographer creates this communication with the model, so she must express emotions freely. To arrange a person, you must first of all become interested in him, and then he will show interest and sympathy in response to you. In life, we are usually “closed”, restrain our feelings, behave at a formal, etiquette level.

In order for a picture to appear, there must be a transition from a formal, etiquette level of communication to an intimate one. A person should stop being afraid to express himself, to play himself in front of the camera. Getting a person to stop hiding their feelings is the most important thing. When this happens, the shooting becomes completely different, it is interesting for both the photographer and the client. Because he begins to experience some other situations, another life.


It is known that very few amateur photographers become professionals as a result. The first reason is that they don’t try very hard to succeed. And someone who knows how to make their work profitable is not necessarily a really good photographer – so what is the essence of success or failure? In this case, we are talking about people who had a permanent job, who were suddenly struck by the idea that they would be better off doing photography for money than sitting like this in the office, or at least combine these two activities. They would like to turn their hobby into a source of income. Especially for those who want to go into the field of professional photography, below are some useful tips.


It is not a great studio, the most expensive equipment and even the best photographs in the world that makes a professional photographer, but the presence of customers.

Issues related to lighting, computer, software, studio interior are completely under your control – and of course they are important. But it is much more important to understand what market you are going to enter, where exactly, in what area of ​​it your photographs can be sold, will customers in this market be able to buy your photographs at a sufficient price and in sufficient volume to make your business effective?

A good place to start is to make a list of your potential customers. It’s worth showing them your work and getting feedback on whether your shots meet their requirements.

To understand HOW MANY works you will need to sell, you need to find out the state of prices in the market you are interested in, as well as what works are in demand and why. This must be done BEFORE you declare yourself a professional photographer.


They will probably ask such a question, and it is better to think about the answer in advance, because it is not obvious. Perhaps your competitive edge lies in the style of your photographs; perhaps your approach or skills set you apart from others. The reason may be equally in the service, in the “packaging” or in you personally. And sometimes a photo has to say everything for you. If you plan to sell pictures to the media, calendars or postcards, your work must be DIFFERENT – and this will be the main condition for success. Pictures must be DIFFERENT and do not require any additional effort on your part.

In case you are more attracted to commercial work, portraits and weddings, then the potential client chooses YOU, your approach to doing the job, your full service. And here much depends on you personally, on your ability to communicate. If you figure out what makes people want your services, what “initiates a request”, and you are in the right place at the right time, your business is sure to become profitable.


Your sense of life will be positive only if the work brings you pleasure and is combined with other important elements. The life you are about to lead may very well take you away from home for much longer than you plan. Your income level will never be stable – and this can kill the whole thing, especially if the costs are high. This uncertainty is endless: even if the business is flourishing today, in a few months everything can change. Successful photographers perceive such situations as a stimulus, an incentive to action, and not as a barrier to the path. Of great importance is not only your personal stability and endurance, it should equally have your subordinates or those who are financially dependent on you. You will not maintain a high level of energy for a long time if you do not receive the support of others.

At the same time, you need to be clear: “life as a photographer” does not mean that you will shoot every day. A lot of time will be spent on attracting new customers, on technical support, on managing your affairs. Personally, I am happy if I can shoot at least 100 days a year – and this became possible only after I entrusted printing and file processing to other people and stopped sitting in the laboratory and at the computer myself.

In many ways, amateur photography has its advantages. You go to shoot when you want and what you want, on a rainy day, allowing yourself to lie in bed. PROFESSIONAL photography, on the contrary, implies the realization of what OTHERS want from you and in a time frame that is set by them and seems acceptable to them.


Most British photographers who do not have a studio make their income from various sources. Some combine filming with full-time work of a different kind. Those who are completely dependent on photography sell pictures to publishers, stock agencies, hold exhibitions, make calendars and postcards, write articles and conduct courses, take portraits. This means that the markets cannot provide jobs for all specialists – people need skills in different areas in order to succeed.

The same is true for portrait studios. It all goes to show how flexible you can be to fill your time and organize your studio for maximum impact and efficiency.

The work of a photographer is not the most “comfortable” profession, but since you are engaged in photography hard and with passion, there is a chance to achieve your goal and earn money doing what you like. Experience shows that difficulties can be overcome – if you love your job and are not afraid to work and take risks.

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