It’s actually very difficult to establish who are the world’s most expensive portrait and wedding photographers.
Because the photographers who aren’t competing on price don’t put their prices on the website.
However, over the years I’ve come across some photographers who are extremely profitable (earning $1,000,000 per year) through their wedding and portrait photography businesses.
You can check some of them out below.
Being the most profitable photographer is a much more sensible goal than being the most expensive photographer anyway. Assuming you’re not working yourself to an early grave of course.
There’s a balance.
Ultimately you need to figure out how much money you want to make and how many portrait sessions and weddings you’re prepared to do to reach that goal. Once you’ve factored in all your costs you can then figure out how much you need to make (on average) to reach your target income.
FREE photography pricing calculator!
It’s actually quite surprising to most people how much photographers need to charge to even make a modest living. To prove this I’ve created three complete annual schedules for you to download in one big Excel file. The document lays out the annual schedule for three photographers at three different price points. I show what each photographer does every day of the year, how much money they make each day, the costs they incur and ultimately the profit they make.No Way! A photography pricing calculator! Click To Tweet
And, because it’s an Excel file you can actually try out different figures so you can tailor the prices and costs to suit your business and your area. Grab it below:
OK, so here are some of the World’s Most Expensive / Profitable Photographers
Bradford Rowley runs 3 very high end portrait studios in Beverly Hills, New York and Palm Beach in Florida.
He also runs Million Dollar Photographer – a blog to help portrait photographers dramatically increase their profits. I’ve personally invested in his sales course for several hundred pounds and share many of his strategies with our members.
Bradford regularly gets family portrait orders of over $20,000. Apparently he gets at least one that size every month. $5-$10,000 is very typical for him.
He’s done many clever things in his business. Here are just 3.
- He’s set himself up where the money is! His studios are in 3 of the most affluent areas in the United States. He uses charity auction events a lot to get new clients because these events attract the high end clients he’s looking for. However, don’t assume that if you live in a less affluent area that you can’t earn a nice living in photography. I live in Peterborough in the UK where the average income is £24,000. This is below the national average despite being in the more expensive south of the country.
- Bradford has created a very distinct style that (broadly speaking) appeals to people with money. It looks like the kind of paintings we see in grand old English country houses. His style is also hard to copy because he has digital artists give each portrait a painterly feel.
- His system is incredibly efficient. He only uses a couple of different backgrounds and a couple of different frames. Therefore every client knows exactly what to expect from their session. So, ultimately he’s not only earning a lot from each client, he’s also able to photograph a lot clients because every client gets the same kind of photograph. There’s virtually no planning required and he doesn’t even meet his clients before the session.
Sarah has been voted by PPA as one of America’s most profitable portrait studios. She’s extremely skilled in sales and marketing and is another photographer who shares their knowledge with other photographers.
Again, I’ve followed and implemented many of her ideas. We also both shared the same mentor – the great Chuck Lewis.
Her business model is similar to mine (she meets clients before she lets them hire her and she always shows clients their photographs in person). Like Bradford Rowley and myself Sarah Petty specialises in wall portraits of a decent size.
She’s based in Springfield Illinois which is the capital of the state. I believe her sales average for family portraits is around $3000
Dina’s portrait studio makes around $1,000,000 per year out of Tallahassee Florida. She proves that you don’t have to live in Beverly Hills to earn the big bucks in family portrait photography!
She’s a great example of a photographer who sets her business up the way she wants it to work and then sticks to her principles. She takes great care of her clients, but she’s happy to let enquiries go if they aren’t a great fit for her. That’s a lesson we all need to learn. Don’t feel that you need to book everyone who calls.
Jerry is widely regarded as one of the world’s top 5 wedding photographers. The awards page on his website is a 10 minute read!
Although he’s Australian he’s another photographer based in Beverley Hills. Along with Dmitri Markine he’s one of my favourite wedding photographers.
Honestly, I don’t know what he charges – although it must be a fairly significant since he lives in a Penthouse in Beverly Hills! I wanted to include him in this list of successful photographers because aside from his phenomenal photography I feel it’s his wonderful personality that has helped him be successful. If you check out his excellent video on Youtube about posing wedding photography you’ll see how much he cares about his clients. He helps clients get in touch with their emotions so that he can capture stunning images.
More photographers need to work on their interpersonal skills because at the end of the day ‘ESP’ (expressions sell photographs) and if you can’t elicit great expressions from your clients then you’ll never get to Jerry’s level.
Ryan became famous for creating his own photographic effect called the Brenizer method.
He’s constantly pushing the limits of what’s expected from photography.
He’s photographed 3 US presidents and Mohammed Ali and he’s still only a young man.
He’s based in New York and photographs around 70 weddings a year at around $10,000 each. How does he have the time? He outsources just about everything except the photography. Retouching, album design, admin etc. is all outsourced. This leaves him to focus on his photography. The cunning thing about that is he gets to do a lot more photography than almost any other photographer. This means his skills improve more quickly than other photographers. Think about it. He’s taken Malcolm Gladwell’s notion that to become an ‘outlier’ (someone who’s world class in what they do) you must invest at least 10,000 hours into your craft. That’s roughly 1000 weddings!
Ryan’s business model allows him to become the best photographer he can possibly be.
As with most of the photographers I’ve mentioned Ryan shares a lot of his knowledge in seminars. It’s helped build his name. Again, like all the other photographers he has an excellent understanding of sales, marketing and pricing.
These photographers prove it’s not enough to be good at photography. You must have a clear business strategy.
Isn’t it interesting that they’re all based in America. The reason? American’s seem to be natural masters of self promotion, which is why most of the photographers I come across are American. That’s what you need to become – a master of self promotion. YOU ARE THE BUSINESS, so you must be able to promote yourself.
That’s how Get Pro Photo Club can help. Steal my 8 favourite wedding photography marketing techniques right here.
Also, don’t forget to download your free Excel spreadsheet pricing calculator above. You’ll finally be able to understand what you need to charge to earn a decent living.
Finally, I’d love to hear your nominations for the most expensive photographers in the world using the comments box below.