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DPChallenge Forums >> Business of Photography >> Profitable Photography Business Market Segments
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11/02/2009 04:05:36 AM · #1
What photography business market segments (niches) are the most profitable?

I look forward to reading all on point comments.
If you can direct me to any resources I would appreciate that as well.
Thanks

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JM
11/02/2009 11:26:37 AM · #2
I would say weddings have to be up there.
11/02/2009 12:55:41 PM · #3
Along with weddings, Family Portraiture has got to be up there. High end portrait artists charge hundreds and thousands of dollars for prints. I had one family of 15(grandma and grandpa and their 3 kids families) come in and spend $8,000 on images from a 45 minute photo session, the sale took about an hour and a half. My typical average sale in the summer here in Hilton Head is around $700 per group.

I was sitting next to a portrait artist(does all the photography and then paints them using corel painter) during the print judging at the 2009 PPNC State convention. We watched one of his prints get critiqued and ended up scoring a perfect 100, round of applause, blah blah...he leans over and chuckles and says, "That's great and all but, the real icing on the cake...that total order was $65,000 dollars!" My jaw hit the floor. THAT is high end. Granted thats obviously not the norm and this guys work is world renowkned but just goes to show that its out there. People with money are happy to spend it, especially on their kids.
11/02/2009 01:07:26 PM · #4
Originally posted by jjsterlng:

What photography business market segments (niches) are the most profitable?


Not that i have any experience, or interest, in it but paparazzi work would be fairly lucrative i imagine. Utterly soul destroying and tedious perhaps but i imagine you can make a pretty good living if you're based in the right area.

Message edited by author 2009-11-02 13:08:03.
11/02/2009 01:10:06 PM · #5
Commercial shooting (stills and video) for the oil & gas (or energy production) industry is not only quite lucrative, but also gives you the opportunity to visit some extreme and remote places.
11/02/2009 02:02:45 PM · #6
I think the overall jist of what were seeing is that any and all facets of photography can be lucrative if you tap into the right market of it, if that makes sense.

Portraits can be lucrative if you are selling to the right people.
11/02/2009 02:04:33 PM · #7
I hear blackmail is lucrative work if you can get it.
11/02/2009 02:07:37 PM · #8
In this era, blackmail work is quite easy to get.
11/04/2009 12:09:05 PM · #9
I think some of the key issues with professional photography, like many other creative professions, are the barriers to entry and competition to overcome. I'll use my town as an example... there are well over 25 portrait photographers listed in the phone book but I only know of three or four with thriving studios. I've seen their price lists and it's clear there is significant profit in their work. The challenge is breaking into the market and taking work away from these guys. This isn't like retail where you can simply use price to pull people in. Client have to believe you deliver an equal or better product before they will switch from the established professionals and building this perception while working against a brick and mortar studio with great work hanging on the walls is not easy.

I think the same goes for commercial photography. I hear the margins have been pushed down, but the big names are still making a handsome profit. The challenge isn't in the margin, it's in getting your piece. In many area a photographer needs to prove themselves with great editorial work first and the margins are very low, or non-existent, for that work. And when you delivery great editorial work will it be so much better that a big client decides to switch rather than using a more proven talent.

So, I do believe wedding, portrait, commercial and even fine art photography have great profit margins. But, there is no middle ground and you have to be the best in your segment to get those margins. Of course this is my opinion and there are professionals here on DPC with far more experience than me.
11/04/2009 12:33:34 PM · #10
Why am i wasting my time in university getting a BBA degree when i can just become a world renowned photographer and make oodles of money!
11/04/2009 02:32:59 PM · #11
Originally posted by cujee:

Why am i wasting my time in university getting a BBA degree when i can just become a world renowned photographer and make oodles of money!

Hope I didn't suggesting that anybody could "just become a world renowned photographer and make oodles of money." That's kind of like saying "I'll just become a rock star".... how many talented bands indie bands are floating around just making enough to get by? I was trying to suggest that the margins are there for those on top, the really to ask is how you get to the top.

Message edited by author 2009-11-04 14:33:17.
11/05/2009 04:44:51 AM · #12
while there's money to be made in just about any segment, ultimately it depends on your commitment to your business model as to what is going to whether or not you'll be profitable enough to make it in the long run. i think the combination of the economy, the lower barriers to entry, and the incredible marketing hype by nikon and canon have flooded the market with available camera owners that want to live the dream without having to wake up to the reality that having a successful business does not happen over night.

if you take the time to learn the entire business process of photography, you can make a very nice living with your camera. regardless of market segment, it comes down to efficiency: how quickly can you get the job done correctly, how quickly can you get it delivered, how quickly can you get paid. the more work you do, the better you get, the more you can ask to be paid. the more efficient you are, the more you make.

sure, some segments, like weddings and portraits, seemingly have incredible margins, but they are not without very heavy costs, especially in terms of the amount of time required to simply master the technical skills for capturing, processing, and delivering the images. add to that the amount of equipment necessary to really be able to get the job done and you see your margins start to shrink. then add in the amount of time and money you'll need to expend on marketing and you realize the truth that the quickest way to make a small fortune in photography is to start with a large fortune...

for me, it's not as much a matter of "profitable" business market segments as it is a matter of "viable" business segments, and that comes down to the intersection as perceived value by the typical buyer and the availability of sustainable work. for example, photojournalism. the typical weekly paper puts very little value in the quality of photography and therefor pays very little for it; as newspapers are shrinking and dying, there is less and less of this low-paying work. unless you can find ways to be very, very, VERY efficient and find lots and lots and lots of publications to shoot for, photojournalism is not only not very profitable, it's also not very viable.

another example is shooting sports T&I ("teams and individuals"). the profits "can" be huge, when you look at how much you can realize per hour. if you know what you're doing and have the equipment, people, and processes in place, you can shoot a team of 15 in 5 minutes or less. you can do as many as 10 teams in an hour. you could generate over $3000 for an hour's worth of shooting. but then you have to back out the costs of the equipment, people, production, marketing, and then you take out the revenue sharing, and then you find what your margins really are. if you can line up enough leagues, you can make it worth it.

and that's the truth for just about any segment. once you get a handle on the business processes and the marketing required and once you can prove that you have the ability to consistently deliver quality product, you can make almost any viable segment profitable.
11/06/2009 01:24:05 PM · #13
That's the good thing about photography. All segments can be profitable. I typically bring in around 2k for a portrait session, and around 8-10k for a wedding. If you think that is expensive, it's not. I have friends who charge 30k for weddings and get it. It's all about how you market yourself and your products.

Remember there is no set pricing structure for photography, it is yours to do with as you wish.

Travis
11/06/2009 02:43:03 PM · #14
Originally posted by Skip:



another example is shooting sports T&I ("teams and individuals"). the profits "can" be huge, when you look at how much you can realize per hour. if you know what you're doing and have the equipment, people, and processes in place, you can shoot a team of 15 in 5 minutes or less. you can do as many as 10 teams in an hour. you could generate over $3000 for an hour's worth of shooting. but then you have to back out the costs of the equipment, people, production, marketing, and then you take out the revenue sharing, and then you find what your margins really are. if you can line up enough leagues, you can make it worth it.


$3000 an hour is defintely a reasonable pull with T&I Sports pics. Which is why we enjoy being up at 6:00am for half the saturdays during the year.
11/06/2009 02:44:02 PM · #15
Originally posted by Travis99:

That's the good thing about photography. All segments can be profitable. I typically bring in around 2k for a portrait session, and around 8-10k for a wedding. If you think that is expensive, it's not. I have friends who charge 30k for weddings and get it. It's all about how you market yourself and your products.

Remember there is no set pricing structure for photography, it is yours to do with as you wish.

Travis


Its also about your market though. IF you went to detroit and tried to market 30k weddings, you would get nothing. While there is no set pricing structure, there is a pricing limit that is dictated by your market.
11/06/2009 02:55:32 PM · #16
Originally posted by AJSullivan:

Originally posted by Travis99:

That's the good thing about photography. All segments can be profitable. I typically bring in around 2k for a portrait session, and around 8-10k for a wedding. If you think that is expensive, it's not. I have friends who charge 30k for weddings and get it. It's all about how you market yourself and your products.

Remember there is no set pricing structure for photography, it is yours to do with as you wish.

Travis


Its also about your market though. IF you went to detroit and tried to market 30k weddings, you would get nothing. While there is no set pricing structure, there is a pricing limit that is dictated by your market.


You are absolutely right, the market does have a major effect on prices. Not saying it's impossible to book a 30k wedding in Detroit. But certainly less probable. You don't have to be the cheapest around, you just have to be the best (marketer).

Travis
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