Portrait Photography Pricing: What To Know

Photography is both an amazing creative outlet and a lucrative business. Portrait photography is one of the most popular niches to specialize in. Plenty of photographers can earn comfortable livings shooting portraits with no prior training or experience. There’s no set career path as a photographer, and anyone can learn to become a pro with enough time and dedication. If you’re wondering how to price your services as a portrait photographer, Peerspace has the answers you’re looking for. Here’s our guide to portrait photography pricing for absolute beginners and experienced professionals alike. 

Curate your gear bag

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Source: Unsplash

You’ll need plenty of professional equipment to capture high-quality portraits. Decide early on whether you’d like to specialize primarily in indoor or outdoor portraits since this will affect your gear choice. You can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to upwards of $5,000 for a professional full-frame DSLR camera body, like the Nikon D850. Not only does this model offer image resolutions of 45.7 Mp for the clearest portraits possible, but it also has a unique tilted touchscreen for flexibility while shooting. 

Also, stock up on a selection of lenses, depending on the effect you’d like to capture in your portraits. Most photographers use lenses ranging from 85mm to 110mm for portrait photography, thanks to the flattering perspective on human faces and bodies. Due to their low depth of field, they’re also ideal for creating portraits with artistic background blurs. As with camera bodies, you can expect to pay upwards of $1,000 for top-end portrait lenses, like the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art or the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G

Don’t forget other photography essentials, such as lights, diffusers, a tripod, a flash, extra batteries, and plenty of spare memory cards. You’ll likely spend years putting together your ideal setup based on your experiences in the studio or on the street. As your business continues to grow, you can invest in higher quality equipment, which will, in turn, allow you to raise your prices.  

Other photography business expenses

gorgeous natural light studio in LA
Source: Peerspace

One of the biggest aspects to portrait photography pricing is the cost of doing business. Besides the cost of your equipment, you’ll want to consider the cost of your editing software, travel expenses, professional website, courses to hone your skills, and the cost of your photography studio or venue — like this gorgeous natural light studio in LA (pictured above) that’s only $30 an hour.  

Remember that you’re also required to pay a self-employment tax as a small business owner, which can eat up as much as 30% of your gross income. Your fee as a photographer should be enough to cover all of your basic expenses and still make a comfortable profit. You can track your income and expenses using software like Intuit Quickbooks

Portrait photography pricing options

best vancouver portrait photographers
Source: Instagram / @katewhytephoto

Your portrait photography pricing will vary greatly depending on where you’re located, the scope of your projects, and, of course, your experience level. There are two basic ways most photographers choose to price their services — by the image and by the hour. 

Charging by the image allows you to offer a single package price for your services. Most clients enjoy the simplicity of paying for a package with flat fees and a clear set of deliverables. This can also increase your profit margins if you spend less time on the job than you anticipated. However, the reverse can also be true if you spend longer on the shoot or in the editing phase than you anticipated. 

On the other hand, charging by the hour ensures that you’ll always be compensated appropriately for your time and effort. Charging hourly wages is also an excellent way to safeguard against “scope creep” — when a project starts simple but quickly spirals into something much bigger. However, some clients might not like the unpredictability of paying an hourly fee. Always make sure that you properly brief your clients on how long you anticipate the project to take so that there are no surprises when your clients open their invoices. 

Both methods offer their own set of pros and cons. It often comes down to personal preference when choosing which portrait photography pricing method to choose. Here are some suggestions for rates depending on your experience level as a photographer. 

Portrait photography pricing for a beginner photographer

best indianapolis portrait photographers
Source: Instagram / @casaliniport

If you’re brand new to the world of portraits, charging on the lower end of the scale is a good way to get your foot in the door. Anywhere from $50-$90 an hour or $25-$50 per image is an appropriate rate for a beginner portrait photographer. 

If you need help finding local clients, try putting your profile and portfolio on Thumbtack or UpWork to find local clients. Starting an Instagram page is also an excellent way to get the word out about your business and show off your work. 

Portrait photography pricing for an intermediate photographer

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Source: Instagram / @elenasblair_photography

As an intermediate photographer, you’ve been at the portrait photography game for quite a while, and you’re ready to move beyond beginner clients. Charging anywhere from $150-$300 an hour or $50-$100 per image is an appropriate rate to reflect your skills and experience. 

If you’re looking for a way to up your game into next-level pricing, try polishing your work at an advanced studio booked on a platform like Peerspace. You can find tons of amazing photography studios available to book by the hour in cities all over the globe. It’s an awesome way to give yourself an edge over the competition without investing in your own studio. Since you’ll be paying for the rental yourself, you can charge a higher fee to cover your expenses! 

Portrait photography pricing for an expert photographer

best newark portrait photographers
Source: Instagram / @photos.mn

If you’ve been in the game for quite a while, you’ve probably got an extensive portfolio and a wide range of client referrals. Professionals with several years of experience under their belts often charge anywhere from $300-$600 an hour or $75-$350 per image. 

It takes years of hard work to reach top-level prices as a portrait photographer, but you can do it if you have time, energy, and a willingness to work for your dream!

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