Business + Marketing

Heather Wanninger’s Tips for Growing Your Portrait Business 

January 30, 2023

By Abbey Pleviak

In this episode of The Portrait System Podcast, host Nikki Closser speaks with Central Illinois photographer Heather Wanninger about her portrait business that focuses on seniors, corporate clients, and coaching. Wanninger shares tips for growing your portrait business that, in just one year, grew her business from $20k to $100k.  

Before pursuing photography as a career, Wanninger was a stay-at-home mom with three boys and never imagined returning to the workforce. With the breakdown of her marriage and the beginning of divorce proceedings, she knew she was going to need to make a different plan. Wanninger had always loved photography and a few years prior, she had created a harvest album for a local farmer. When a friend of a friend saw the album and requested family photos from her, Wanninger’s business was born with a $50 all-inclusive shoot. 

[Read: How Kara Marie Built Two Thriving Boudoir Portrait Businesses]

Like many photographers, Wanninger began shooting everything she could but soon discovered her true passion in creating empowering photos for high school seniors, who are at the pivotal moment in life of transitioning out of childhood into adulthood. Since then, she’s been in business for 11 years, with the critical moment for her coming when she reached the $20k mark. At that time, she realized she was a success and had the courage to take a closer look to see how she could do even better. 

Wanninger says that raising awareness was key. She says, “I became more aware of my surroundings. I became more aware of the opportunities that honestly were always there.” 

For Wanninger, this started with figuring out her cost of doing business so that she was aware of how much she was actually taking home from each shoot. From there, she set a goal for how much she wanted to make in a year and broke that down into an attainable amount for each month. Switching to in-person sales gave her customers the opportunity to spend more money with her, and keeping her lowest package priced at her previous package amount of $500 eased the transition of having her highest package priced at $2,000. Additionally, she became proactive about reaching out to people who expressed interest in booking with her instead of waiting for them to get in contact with her. Along with her growing confidence in her ability to be successful in business, Wanninger’s bravery extended into looking closely at what had brought her so far and how she could go even further.

Heather Wsanninger on Growing Your Portrait Business promo.
© The Portrait System

To learn more about Wanninger’s work and how you can go about growing your portrait business, visit Sweet Lemonade Photography

The Portrait System Podcast helps portrait photographers navigate the world of photography, business, money, and much more. Hosted by Nikki Closser, the podcast is powered by The Portrait System, a comprehensive, online educational platform that teaches all aspects of running a successful portrait photography studio.