Business + Marketing

How to Make Money as a Photographer: Six Figures and Counting

May 26, 2022

By Jenn Bruno Smith

Want to know how to make money as a photographer, specifically six figures (or more)? It is attainable! One of the first, and most important, things you can do to make money as a photographer is to know your numbers and automate your systems. This applies to everything in your business—from the inquiry process to the ordering appointment. I am a successful boudoir portrait photographer in Delaware and here’s what has worked for me (and can for you as well). Let’s get started!

1. Making Money as a Photographer: Know Your Numbers

How much does your photography business earn in a month? How much of that comes from shoots, products, payment plans? What’s your average sale per client?

Knowing your numbers—and knowing them exactly—is incredibly important. If you don’t know where you are financially, then you can’t know where you want to be or how to get there.

[Read: How to Boost Print Sales for Wedding and Portrait Photos]

Here are some of my numbers for you to ponder. During my best month ever, I earned over $70,000 overall, including almost $13,000 in retainer fees and over $57,000 in boudoir sales. I booked 17 shoots and 16 ordering appointments, but product orders made up most of my actual sales, averaging over $4,000 per client.

2. Automate your Systems and Workflows

When I first started out as a photographer, I heard other photographers talking about workflows. I didn’t know what a workflow was or how to create one. Now I realize how crucial workflows and systems are. Workflows keep your clients organized and prepared. By the time their shoot arrives, they are aware of it (less cancellations!) and fully prepared.

As a general rule of thumb, if you do something more than once, it should be systemized. I have systemized my email automations, inquiry process, phone script, IPS, even my shooting process! These systems make things quick, easy, and consistent for myself and my clients. There are plenty of programs to help you get started. The main programs I use are (a CRM that does all the marketing things), Dubsado (for client communication) and Proselect during IPS.  A lot of the other systems and processes I use I have created and are located in my CRM.

3. Six-Figure Boudoir: Engage in Multi-Tiered Marketing

Simply said, do not put all of your marketing eggs in one basket. Even if you find a marketing strategy that works great for one aspect of your business, don’t throw everything you have at it and expect it to profit in every aspect of your business. 

Take Facebook ads, for example. When you use Facebook ads correctly, you can target your ideal clients and attract leads. Still, Facebook ads are only one marketing resource you can you use to increase your sales. At the very least, you need an organized customer management system, an effective sales strategy, and a consistent booking system. Facebook ads are not the be-all-end-all.

I do use Facebook ads, but most of my marketing is through in-person sales. I meet with clients in-person every chance I get, for every shoot. Connecting with my clients face-to-face elevates the luxury of my brand and offers a higher level of service that allows me to personally relate with and understand my client’s needs.

I also use TikToks and Instagram Reels, which have really proven to be my secret marketing superpower!

I’ve shared a TikTok video every day for the last six months. Before you ask, yes, it really is necessary that you post every day (even if it’s not on TikTok or Instagram). Following trends and using popular hashtags will boost your content, but if you don’t consistently post on social media, your content won’t even be visible. To catch your followers’ attention, you need to pique and retain their interest with constant engagement. Mix up your marketing strategies to find out what works the best for your business. There are plenty of resources out there that you can play around with.

4. Want to Make Money as a Photographer? Lock down your In-Person Sales (IPS) System and Investment Menu 

I am a big believer in teaching by doing, so let’s start with looking at my studio’s revenue. My sales average per client is $6,506 and my associate’s average per client is $4,709. My monthly gross revenue is about $50,000-$100,000+. (Some months we are bringing in over 6 figures, especially in the fall—those months are crazy!) So far this year—only six months in—the studio’s gross revenue is $348,000, from 68 clients.

[Read: How to Boost In-Person Sales with Photo Product Upsells]

So, how did we get from ground zero to making money as a photographer, specifically six figures (sometimes more!)? 

There are two widely accepted ways of delivering images for photography sessions: Shoot and Share (the client pays a fee and the photographer delivers an online gallery) and IPS (in-person sales). IPS is a HUGE part of running a lucrative studio. In-person sales can be intimidating if you are just getting started, especially if you think you don’t want to “sell” to your clients (like many photographers do!). Here’s the thing that is the biggest misconception there is: During a well run IPS session, the photographer is simply guiding their clients towards their purchase. When the process switches over to selling, that is when you start to lose trust with your clients. A well run IPS process runs itself and the photographer is simply guiding clients towards their purchase. The IPS process, when matched with an investment menu that makes sense, will lead to large sales. 

When it comes to upselling products, I exclusively use Floricolor Albums. They are a game changer!  Specifically, I guide my clients towards my collection, the Jenn Bruno Smith Collection, because it contains a companion album as bedside art. My clients love that they can have an extra album and choose a different cover. I also upsell by images (I sell by image, not the medium they come on).

Now you have an inside view of how I make money as a photographer and specifically run my six-figure boudoir photography business. Making sure you automate all of the systems within your photography business is key. Making sure your marketing strategies are successful and systemized is a huge contributor to bringing in your ideal client. Lastly, IPS and a well thought out investment menu will lead to those larger sales. These systems worked wonders for me. Why not see where they can take you? 

Jenn Bruno Smith shows us how to make money as a photographer.

Jenn Bruno Smith is a six-figure boudoir photographer who runs her studio from Delaware. Prior to photography, she had a successful career as a speech pathologist and clinical liaison. She has since dedicated her career to empowering thousand of clients both in front of and behind the camera. Catch up with Jenn in her group The High Rollers Club-IPS, Business, Marketing for Boudoir photographers on facebook or follow her on Instagram (@boudoirbyjennifersmith) and Tiktok (Jenniferbrunosmith).