The biggest mistake photographers make – and how to fix it


Photographers Don't Make Mistakes

Let me start by saying that I’ve always been a fan of photography. Actually, I’m a fan of having my picture taken… as long as the right photographer is behind the camera. Grandma holding a Polaroid demanding the whole family “squeeze in” just before the “say cheese” isn’t really the best experience, but we oblige because it’s Grandma (bonus points to Uncle Joe for making the same “cut the cheese” joke time after time). If that is a person’s only exposure (bad pun) to photography, it’s no wonder some people are “camera shy”.

The right photographer can make you feel like a celebrity on the red carpet. It’s the connection… but not just the connection between the photographer and the person being “shot”. It’s the total package; location/backdrop, gear, knowledge, light, positioning, rhetoric, and of course THE MOMENT.

To me, photography is a moment. No matter if it’s manufactured or spontaneous, photography captures a moment and preserves it FOREVER. That’s why people hire photographers! You aren’t paid to “take pictures” (grandma can do that with her Polaroid). Photographers are known for their keen eye and ability to capture that one split-second where everything is absolutely perfect.

The problem is photographers do all the work; then give up and leave the big money for someone else! Here are a few reasons why you deserve to earn more money for your service… and how to start collecting!

You’ve invested in quality gear

It’s all about image! Not just the quality of your photographs, I’m talking about perception. Let’s be real, the camera on an iPhone can capture some sick photos, but how serious will people take you if you show up armed with nothing but your phone (hold that pose, I gotta take this call). Even an amateur can whip out the newest DSLR and look like a pro.

When I say investing in quality gear, I mean everything from the camera to backgrounds, light modifiers, stands, and lighting to add that little extra to their photos. I should also remind you; purchasing the “bargain basement” accessories is still buying gear to improve the quality of your image capture.

You’ve invested in learning (experience and education)

Look back at some of your earliest work and you will immediately start thinking about how you would take that same image now. Your eyes wander over the image and you see things you missed the first time. Bonus points if you schedule a “redo” to get the image you want.

Even if you’ve never taken a formal class on photography, I bet you read blogs, follow other photographers on social media, and look for ideas or inspiration in other people’s work. On top of that, you’ve taken hundreds of pictures of everything. Translation = you practiced!

Photography is an art, I don’t have to tell you that. Art uses a collection of resources to tell a story that makes an emotional connection with people. Photographers tell that story with angles, lighting, and poses. The wrong setup looks unnatural, uncomfortable, and can absolutely destroy a shot. Experience has taught you how to capture the right image!

Check out these videos for an example of what I just mentioned

Leaving money on the table

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Many amateurs and “hobbyists” pass up the strongest opportunity to make the kind of money that will allow them to be a full-time professional photographer. It should be known that I use the term “professional” to describe someone who is paid to perform a service. The talent level determines how much people are willing to pay for that service. Remember earlier, I said, “photographers are known for their keen eye and ability to capture that one split-second where everything is absolutely perfect”? (it’s in like the 3rd paragraph, in case you missed it). People don’t pay you to snap a great photo, they pay for the preservation of the memory, and the ability to see it whenever they want.

Do they talk about the awesome photo that’s on a CD the awesome photographer burned for them? Or do they print the image and hang it on a wall, put it on a shelf, or in a photo book? If you aren’t selling the print you are giving away the money that will push you over the top and allow you to be your own boss! Let me put this into numbers for you. The photo section of a well known “pharmacy” chain sells a 16″ x 20″ canvas print (gallery wrap) “starting at” $59.99. They have other sizes as well (the 8″ x 10″ gallery wrap starts at $29.95)

They aren’t earning money. They aren’t stealing customers. YOU are GIVING it to them (along with your reputation… read on)!

Most ads I see are $50 – $75 for a “mini-session”. You schedule the shoot, use your expensive gear and vast knowledge, position your client, capture fantastic images, spend time editing, then burn a CD. You collect $50 and a “thank you. They go straight to the pharmacy photo counter and give them $60 for the gallery wrap. YOU did the “hard work” and someone else collects your paycheck. If you shoot senior pictures, weddings, car shows, pets, landscape, or countless other categories – printing your images will more than double your revenue from your shoots. Imagine making twice what you make now, for doing the same work.

The bigger the print, the bigger the price

Think about the last time you went to the doctor’s office. Did it have 4 blank walls or large decorative photos? If you are a landscape photographer looking to earn more money – I just gave you a whole lot of prospects.

The reality is, a 20″ x 30″ photo or gallery wrap has a market value of about $125, while a 30″ x 40″ print can fetch $220. Print has a HUGE markup. A print of that size costs just a fraction of the sale amount to produce. A landscape photo of the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, taken while on vacation, can be sold to many different clients at a price tag of $125 each (and they don’t just buy a single print). Turn old images hiding on a hard drive for $1,800 right now. Think BIG – Print BIG – Earn BIG!

Giving away your reputation

Photographers value their reputation… it’s what gets them hired! When you give away a digital image, you give someone permission to ruin your reputation. The high school senior that just paid you for senior pictures can take your CD home – open up YOUR image in their pirated version of Photoshop, edit it with ridiculous settings they think are “cool”, then send it to the other high school student working at the photo counter of the pharmacy. They pay $60 for YOUR image to be haphazardly mounted by an inexperienced person, and it looks nothing like the image you shot. Once hung on a wall, they tell EVERYONE – YOU were the photographer.

Long story short, offering printed images to your customers is a money maker and a reputation builder. If you have been looking for ways to turn your passion into a career, this is the next step! Printing in-house is where the money is hiding from you.


To find out market opportunity and how much money you can make, download our “print for pay” guide

It has helpful tips on setting prices for different services, appropriate markups, and more importantly, it gives examples of where to look for new customers. There is plenty of money waiting for you – print is the way!

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About Ron Rodgers

Ron Rodgers is an Imaging Ace & Print Industry Hotshot with a passion for helping people turn print into profit! Aside from being the founder of ProPrinting Systems, he is a marketing machine, funtrepreneur (like entrepreneur but more fun), blogger, YouTuber, podcaster, musician, husband, father, sales expert, and all-around nice guy.


  1. Christine on at

    This is so helpful, and TRUE! My photo shoots fall right into the price range you mentioned and they all include a cd with a limited number of edits. After offering my clients prints from a quality printer and including it in a package deal with the shoot itself, I was finding customers were more satisfied with the quality of my prints rather than their local print place. They were happy with their print and I was happy to put my name on it, plus who doesn’t like making extra money! You hit the nail on the head with this one!

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