This article is from Jamie M Swanson AKA “The Modern Tog”. Click here to see the original post on The Modern Tog Blog.


When I was first starting out in photography, I had no idea what I was doing.

I think I charged something insanely low like $50 for a session plus a disc of all the digital negatives. I put the images in an online gallery, but I didn’t really sell many prints. I got lots of compliments about how people loved that they got the disc and could do what they wanted with it.

I told myself this was simply a case of meeting my clients’ needs and giving them what they wanted, so it was a good business practice.

The problem was, my ideal clients, the ones who valued photography and really wanted to preserve their memories didn’t just want the disc. They wanted someone to walk them through the photos, help them decide which ones would look best on their walls, and suggest products that would truly help them preserve this time in their lives as best as possible. I just didn’t believe that.

Not only that, but sometimes life gets busy and sometimes people simply don’t do what they intend to do. Eventually I stopped just giving the disc away and started charging for it to help encourage print sales, but then I’d get clients who raved about their image but never actually bought anything. Life just got busy and they never got to it.

That made me a Sad Panda. See?

My Sad Panda Face from No Online Gallery Sales

I wanted to keep this from happening in the future and find a better way to make sure that clients placed their orders. I had heard that projection sales were the way to go, but I didn’t have a studio so that didn’t seem practical.

I made excuses. I even believed them.

Honestly, I was afraid to do in-person sales. I didn’t want people to feel pressured. I didn’t want to offend them or annoy them.

I was even afraid they’d hate the photos and I’d have to sit there with them in person and feel their disappointment the first time they looked through them.

There were SO many things that kept me from wanting to do them. They were inconvenient, and I’d have to drive to their homes or meet in a coffee shop and find a way to go through everything without the luxury of a studio.

Not doing in-person portrait sales is a HUGE mistake, and almost every newer portrait photographer makes it. Including me. So here’s what moved me to start doing in-person sales and what you can learn from my mistakes.

The first in-person portrait sale

Eventually, I realized that I was putting far too much time into portrait sessions to be making only a few hundred dollars and that I needed to increase my average significantly in order to turn a profit.

I raised my prices, mostly to prints, and thought I’d give in-person portrait sales a go. I didn’t have much hope in it, since I live in a small, blue-collar town where average salaries are low. But I talked to other photographers, and they assured me that it was going to be awesome.

And it was.

My first in-person sale was triple what my average sale was in the past.

My next one was even better.

And it blew my mind.