Whenever I walk into a store and a salesperson asks me “can I help you find anything?”, like most people my first reaction is to say “no, thank you” and shrink away as quickly as possible to go hide in a dark corner somewhere. But the truth is that at least half the time I am actually looking for something and I could use some help from an expert after all. Most people just don’t like feeling as if they are being sold to, right? I know I don’t.

But in order to be a successful professional photographer, you have to learn how to sell your work….otherwise you’re just a hobbyist. So how do we sell to clients without feeling as though we are pushing our work on them?

family portrait photography by justine ungaro

The answer is by preparing them to purchase from you before there is even any work to purchase. There are many ways to do this but what I feel is the best way is through an in-person consultation. You might find your own way to go about it but you need to figure out ways to educate your clients. Here are a few ways that I use the in-person consultation to enhance my portrait sales and to do most of my selling before I’ve even shot a single picture:

1. Location scout. Since I shoot almost all of my portrait sessions in or around my clients’ homes, this gives me the perfect opportunity to visit their home ahead of time to get ideas, see their home and to decide what the look of the session might be. This way I can be sure to bring the right variety of lenses and lights if I think I’m going to need them.

2. Discuss clothing. How often do your clients ruin your beautiful portraits by wearing terrible clothing? I’ve had it happen plenty of times. Discuss clothing suggestions at your consultation and remove one more barrier between you and a nice, healthy portrait order.

3. Learn about the family’s personal and decor style. Seeing what type of home your clients live in, what type of furniture they love and how they live their daily lives will give you vital clues into what types of images they might love. Don’t forget to keep this in mind as you shoot.

4. Plant ideas for products. If you visit your clients’ homes ahead of time and see big, blank walls, this is a perfect opportunity to suggest wall canvases, clusters of framed portraits or other large pieces. If you see a lack of wall space, you could gently suggest that an album might be a good fit for their lifestyle.

5. Be the expert. Remember that your clients have come to you for a reason. They want your photography, they want to buy from you. Sometimes they don’t know what they want. This is your opportunity to ask them the right questions to find out what they are looking for and then find ways to fill their needs.

Written by Justine Ungaro

photographer justine ungaro

Justine Ungaro has been photographing weddings in her own clean, classic style since 2003. A second generation photographer, Justine grew up in the Washington DC area and moved to Los Angeles in 2006 where she expanded her business to include children’s and music industry portraiture and soon after began giving workshops and speaking at photography conventions. She currently maintains studios in Los Angeles and DC.


  • Jashim Jalal says:

    Justine! You are brilliant! Simple things that are overlooked that make a huge difference in sales.
    P.S. Thanks for the website suggestion!

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  • Hi Justine! I have a been a HUGE fan of your work and approach for many, many years. Quick question as a follow up to this blog post (and an issue that I am struggling with right now): what do you do with inquiries? It seems like you are talking about clients that have pretty much already hired you (right?). What do you say/do with a portrait inquiry? I have the same old tired “thanks for your inquiry, here is a link to my online brochure” etc. I feel like I’ve priced myself right out my market, but I feel like if all my initial consultations happened in studio, folks would be sold. Ideas?? Thanks so much!!! One of these days I WILL attend your seminars too…WILL! 🙂

  • Thanks Jashim!
    Jim, you know I love you. 🙂

    Geneve, excellent question. Since I work mainly from referrals from my past clients, I do feel that many of my client consultations are a formality/ information session. If you feel that your potential clients are being scared off by your prices too early to even know what they are missing, I would suggest not offering too much information up front. When someone inquires, give them a general range or a starting price. If they don’t balk at that, tell them that you go over full pricing information during the consultation. Then when you are face to face with them, it is much easier to convey the quality of your work and your products and show them what a great service you provide to them as opposed to “here is a disk, knock yourself out”.

    It is much easier to sell in person than it is via a piece of paper so just do whatever you need to in order to get them in the door.

  • Jim says:

    Great post Justine! Timely for me as I’m heading to scout a client’s home over the weekend for their family portraits next week.



  • Asha Lea says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! What better way to figure out a client’s style and plan a shoot than to see their house and the way it is decorated! I am really enjoying your posts. 🙂

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