What should my photography business sell?

It seems that these days we’re constantly arguing about whether we should offer digital images or not and forgetting about the bigger picture….. what else do you have to sell?

It depends on what type of business you are and if you’re in the business of selling images or products.

If you’re a product photographer for example the debate over if you sell images digitally isn’t the issue…. it’s how you sell those images.

Are you charging a day rate or are you charging per image?

I like to be paid for the work that I do……. for me that means that clients have to pay for the work that I do on individual images….  so per per images pricing works for me.

Why this works better than charging an hourly rate? Clients still think that photography is involves the click of a shutter and two minutes in Photoshop. The client is never really going to appreciate how much work and skill goes into properly finishing an image. Don’t waste too much breath explaining it…. they don’t really care. In fact all they care about is how much it will be and if it looks good enough.

In regards to other types of businesses like wedding and portrait photographers, there’s no reason why you can’t apply the same principles of per image pricing. Here’s the bombshell though…… it’s not easy selling digital wedding images individually (at least not for a decent amount) so don’t bother trying.

So what should the average portrait or wedding photographer sell?

What type of business are you?

I’m going to use a bit of a restaurant analogy for this one (I dip in and out of it so sorry if it gets confusing).

Business A – You are McDonald’s

Affordable for everyone, you don’t have any expensive products and people have an expectation of a low spend. You probably offer prints either online or ordered in person. The rest of your product range is very limited to affordable photo-gifts such as mugs or greeting cards. You rely on saturated adversing and a great location with a heavy footfall.

Business B – You are an established family owned restaurant.

You have a good reputation and have a regular client base. You cater for all types of client and have a large ‘menu’ of products offering a wide range of quality (from fried cheese to lobster in other words). Your clients have a slightly lower expectation of spend than the actual average spend. You have an average adversing spend but you also focus more on return and referred customers. You have a fairly good location with an average footfall.

Business C – You are a Michelin star restaurant.

You have a very limited and refined menu and offer only the best products. Your clients are referred to you by reputation rather than your paid adversing (which is minimal). You have a good location with a slightly lower footfall than a high street might offer.

So which one are you and which ones are better?

There are of course many of you that fit somewhere in between each business model but you get the idea.

There is no business type which is inherently better (or in fact more profitable) and each business type has it’s bonuses and pitfalls.

Some business types might thrive in one type of economy whereas others might dwindle.

When giving advise on anything regarding products or pricing the line I’m constantly bombarded with is “that’s not going to work in my area”. Maybe this is because people are trying to run a business like business C in an area which is surrounded by predominately business As.

Once you realize what type of business you want to (or have to) be, then choosing products gets a whole lots easier.

Business A

You are playing the numbers game so it’s important to have products that have low material costs. Prints are of course perfect for such a business.

You need the footfall and the numbers for this model to work. There’s no point in selling cheap product to just a couple of clients a week.

The advantage this model is that you have very low product costs. You will end up spending more to get the numbers in though.

Business B

This is probably the type of business that most people fall into whether they’re leaning more to the affordable or high end.

There is always the danger that if you try and be everything to everyone then you’ll end up falling flat on your face. There’s also a chance the you’ll undercut yourself, so make sure your cheapest products have some of the lowest material costs.

What’s important is that your products aren’t the worst (or the cheapest) but they’re not quite the finest (or most expensive) either.

Rather than selling individual prints sell ‘print packs’ or prints in an affordable slip in album.

You could also offer affordable photo-books but make sure you have a consistent mark-up on all of your products. I would suggest a gradual sliding scale of material costs from 5% (low end) to 25% (high end).

Definitely focus more on wall art than prints but make sure you can make enough profit on these. This might mean making canvases in house or finding a cheaper supplier. In house framing is also an advantage to your bottom line.

You’ll also want to have plenty of affordable add-ons to boost the lower sales….. extra framed print for Grandma or seasonal gifts for example.

Business C

Exclusivity is a must so you can’t be seen to be selling similar products to other businesses that don’t occupy the same price bracket.

This means that prints and cheap canvases are out!

The focus certainly has to be on wall art and the bigger the better.

You’ll want to use the finest suppliers but always make sure that you have a descent mark-up on your products.

It’s important not to have many (if any) add-on products as that will take away from your final sale. Why would anyone order two $1000 pieces when they can have one wall art and a cheap print?


Putting things simply….. sell what your clients can afford. There’s no point selling $500 wall art if you’re making more profit on $100 of prints.

Sometimes there’s a difference between what type of business we perceive ourselves to be and what type of business our clients perceive us to be.

Once we know who we are it certainly makes it easier to know what to sell.

Michael has been working as a photographer for the last ten years. In that time he has shot over 100,000 peoples’ portraits and worked in four different continents. In 2001 Michael graduated with a degree in photography from Manchester Metropolitan University.

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  1. Thanks! I am a new photographer and have booked a wedding next month. Your articles have both calmed me down, and opened my eyes to a better way to go about making profit beyond my time and talent. I will then use the photos to make examples of the products I offer. I want to be able to be A&B with a goal of becoming C with a few years experience.

  2. I have been a professional photographer since 1974…I have worked for a National daily as a senior photographer for over 14years ..I have been freelance since !989. Now I’m considering slowing down and selling my client list, at least hoping to introduce  a photographer to my clients with the intention of selling my contacts and methodology of supply. My contacts include several multinational Companies , that have kept me in work for all these years.  What’s my next move? and am I being realistic , after all I have nurtured , and retained with a constant reliability since first working for each of these clients? 
    Are there keen and competent people out there willing to takeover a very lucrative with heaps of ongoing potential clients on?  

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