3 Mistakes that will Crush Your Profits

Most photographers go into business because they want to make money doing something they love. And though it’s important to love your work, it’s also important for your work to support you!

My business has taken on many forms in the past 20+ years, and there is NO way I could have built this multi-six figure business without learning how to make money the smart way. Luckily for you, I’ve already learned (sometimes the hard way!) the mistakes many photographers make when trying to grow their business and earn money, and now I can share with you what they are and how to overcome them:


MISTAKE #1: MISCALCULATING YOUR COST OF SALES

Photography is a not a one and done event. There are a number of steps that go into each session. Not only do you have to market to find your clients, you then have to communicate with your clients to book a shoot, photograph the session, and THEN spend time editing the photos afterwards and preparing them for delivery. All of these things make up your cost of sales. Many photographers only think about the time spent shooting when thinking about their prices. 

This is a HUGE mistake if you want to make money in your photography business!

Giving away a shoot for $150 and providing all of the digital images is NOT a sustainable business model. If you break down the time it took for you to find the client, book them, take the photos, edit them, AND deliver them, I bet you’d be appalled at what you’re working for as an hourly rate.  In order to be profitable you have to charge for ALL of the time it takes to do ALL of the things.

MISTAKE #2: NOT OFFERING ANY PRODUCTS

The second mistake I see happen all the time is this: many photographers don’t offer any products to their clients. I’m going to tell it to you straight….if you are a shoot and burn photographer then you are leaving money on the table. People WANT to purchase beautiful products from you. They actually WANT to give you more money. You just have to show them what they need. If you limit yourself to only offering the digitals included in your session fee, then each of your clients turns into a ‘one and done’ experience, and as soon as you’re finished with the shoot, you need to find another one to make your next buck. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

If you’re trying to build a sustainable business, you need to offer products to your clients. Think of it this way… they’re going to have their photos printed somewhere (heaven forbid it be Walgreens!) so why not HELP them get the most out of your services by providing them with everything they need? Beautiful prints (from a professional lab) – framed artwork that’s ready to hang – gorgeous coffee table albums…all of these things can turn a $300 project into a $3,000 project.  I don’t know about you, but I would certainly prefer a $3,000 client!

MISTAKE #3: BECOMING A “DISCOUNT” PHOTOGRAPHER

The third mistake I see photographers making time and time again is positioning themselves as mini- session photographers (or as I refer to them – ”discount photographers”). The sad part is, this isn’t always intentional. Many photographers will offer mini-sessions from time to time to book more clients in at a discounted rate.  There’s nothing wrong with mini-sessions, but if they become the bulk of your business, and your only way of bringing in new clients, then you’ll become known as a ‘discount’ photographer who only does short, cheap sessions and you’ll draw the type of clients that want to pay as little as possible.

Don’t get me wrong, mini-sessions-done-right can be VERY lucrative. But you have to be strategic about them in order for them to be a success. I’ll be diving more into how to make sure your mini sessions are a success in future blogs. For now, just be careful about offering mini-sessions to grow your business.  There are other strategies that are better worth your time and energy!


If you are guilty of any of the above mistakes, that’s okay!  Mistakes are how we learn!  But, I also want to leave you with a challenge, something to think about:

What’s really keeping you from moving forward and making more money with your photography?  Is there a chance you could adjust your strategy or mindset to avoid these mistakes and make more sales?

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