Photography Money Making Cash Machine

What would you rather do?

A. Turn over a significant portion of the monthly revenue from your fledgling portrait business to a landlord?

B. Fill your bank account with business stabilizing profit and actually earn a living from your portraiture?

Time and again I get emails from members on my website expressing their desire to “open a portrait studio” and I naturally assume their intention is to have an actual “physical” portrait studio. As my sister likes to say, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt”. I’m here to tell you ladies and gentlemen – you just don’t need one.

All the world’s a stage.

Shakespeare’s Jaques said it first and he was right – although I’m taking it a bit out of context;-) Why limit your creativity to one small space when you have the world at your doorstep.

For years my wife and I looked for a home in the country on a small acreage.

My dream was to have a separate small building for the studio, a nice home and then my own outdoor portrait park. I could build sets, plant gardens, even erect permanent gobos and reflectors to create perfect light at any time of day.

The search proved fruitless, the perfect property more elusive (read as expensive) than I imagined. But then everything happens for a reason doesn’t it. (At least I think so) Over the years I came to realize how limiting working in the same area would be. Yes I could tear down and create new sets and plant different plants – but it would still be the same five acres.

Why are fishing lures such pretty bright colors?

To catch the fisherman who come to the sporting goods store to buy them – why else! Have you ever in your life seen an oblong shaped fish, silver on one side, red and white stripes on the other, with a little devil’s head at one end? I didn’t think so.

To assuage any and all fishing fans reading this article – I too am a fisherman. And while I know full well some of the brightly colored patterns are meant to and do catch fish, it’s also reasonable to assume the bright colors and fishing lure package hype are bait for the “walking-upright” human fish.

I think the same holds true for photographers and the allure of a “portrait studio”. Read any professional photography magazine and you’ll see interior pictures of beautiful, elegant studios; furnishings right out of Home & Garden or House Beautiful. More money spent on a glass topped contemporary coffee table than on our entire IKEA bedroom set. (Which I happen to think is pretty nice thank you very much.)

We see images of portrait studios that could be featured in Architectural Digest and wonder how we’ll ever attain that. Certainly those photographers must be making a wonderful living. Or they’re in debt up to their eyeballs.

Be careful what you wish for.

We’ve had our own studio – a rented space – for more than 15 years and it has been wonderful. We remodeled about four years ago and our 1100 square foot space is a model of efficiency. That model of efficiency also costs us $ 2,600 each month for rent, heat, light, phone, internet and parking.

Consider that number for a long, long minute. Our direct cost of goods sold runs about 25%. So even with 75% net profit able to go towards rent and utilities means we have to average $ 3,500 each month in sales to cover our hard costs.

And that’s before we pay ourselves a single thin dime. Add in a fairly meager hourly wage for my wife and I, the employer’s half of social security we’re required to pay, maybe some health insurance and those monthly costs balloon to nearly $ 8,000. In terms of monthly revenue that’s over $ 10,000 – EVERY single month.

Am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah – marketing. $ 10,000 a month doesn’t just walk through your door via word of mouth, Facebook and Twitter. It’s going to take some serious marketing effort and expense to get to that level.

Do it like Disney.

Families today are looking for “experiences”. Every mall and big box store has a “portrait studio” and that’s what most people are familiar with. They want something different, of which the final portraits are but a small part. They want a unique experience and the only person who thinks not having a studio is a disadvantage is you.

Concentrate instead on creating a wonderfully unique experience for your clients. Market the fact you provide personalized service, home delivery, even hanging the portraits for them. Show up at their door on Halloween with a free pumpkin – your business card attached to the stem. Drop off a small flag around the fourth of July; send them a Thanksgiving Day card.

Marketing YOU

You are the photographer. The product you sell did not even exist before you created it. Work on developing a marketing program and a way of doing business that emphasizes you and your talents and no one will even question the fact you don’t have a physical portrait studio.

Please feel free to use this article on your website or blog. Please remember that the article must be used in its entirety and this bio must remain intact.

Dave Meir has been a professional portrait photographer in Rochester, Minnesota since 1994. He and his wife Kate specialize in High School Senior portraiture and have photographed in excess of 1800 seniors. They also photograph babies, families, sports teams and – at exorbitant rates – the occasional attorney.

Dave also owns The Portrait Expert website at  helping new photographers develop profitable and successful portrait businesses. If you’d like to learn more about the high school senior portrait business visit  You’ll receive Dave’s special FREE report “Seven Steps You Can Take RIGHT NOW To Get Your High School Senior Portrait Business Off The Ground” as well as his FREE 282 page high school senior portrait posing guide.

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