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Portrait Photography Work

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 14 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Portrait Photography Portrait

One of the first steps when establishing a photography business is to work out what your speciality will be – if, indeed, you will have one.

It is obviously necessary to work in a field that provides sufficient job opportunities for your business to continue to operate. Many photographers fall into portrait photography, but few find that it provides a significant enough income on which to survive. As such, it frequently complements other core business elements.

Portrait photography is a very wide discipline, ranging from straight-up family portraits to editorial portraiture. Most editorial portraiture, however, is carried out by freelancers as opposed to companies, and it is an extraordinarily difficult discipline to manoeuvre oneself into.

There is, however, a fairly significant market for family portraits. Although this market has shrunk since the advent of the digital camera, with many people thinking they can ‘do it themselves’, many families wish to have a lasting, professional document of a particular time.

Family Portraiture

Family portrait photography can either be done in a studio, or on location. Clearly, there are advantages and disadvantages to both of these: studios cost money, even to hire; you will also require lighting, reflectors, soft boxes, backdrops and so on. Location photography requires little or none of this equipment, but presents the portrait photographer with an unpredictable set of environmental variables.

That said, a competent professional portrait photographer should be confident enough in their own abilities for this not to be an issue. There is no reason why location photography should be a ‘second choice’; you might want to consider marketing it as a selling point in itself, advertising yourself as a portrait photographer adept at capturing subjects in the environment in which they are most comfortable.

There are other opportunities in portrait photography aside from family portraits. A major high street photography chain has begun to open portrait studios in their shops, and is offering franchises on these studios. This may be an attractive option, as the requisite equipment will already be available.


Aside from this, you may wish to consider specialising within portrait photography. Another area in which there is always work is headshots for actors, dancers and musicians. These individuals require portraits for inclusion in programmes, for presentation to agents, and so on. While you will certainly require a lighting rig for this, you may not require a studio; many headshot photographers travel to their subjects’ houses instead.

If you are considering this route, you should try to identify the drama and music schools in your local area. Final year students require headshots for presentation to potential agents, and this should be a particularly busy time for a local portrait photographer. Consider asking the institutions in question whether you could stick up posters or hand out business cards.

Any potential client for your portraiture photography business will wish to see some evidence of previous work. As such, a website is an absolute necessity. This need not be complicated or expensive to set up; further information on this is available in another article elsewhere on this site.

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