Four Business Models found in the Photography Industry


 In April, I attended ShutterFest in St. Louis. As I sat in classes, learned, listened, and talked to people at our booth, I became aware of four very different but effective business models in the photographic industry. These are shoot and sell, shoot and share, shoot and burn, and shoot and refer.

Let’s take a look at these four business models.

Shoot and Sell

Shoot and Sell is the traditional well established model. The photographer shoots the session. A few weeks later your client come back to the studio for a sales appointment. It is at this point the client chooses which images they want for their wall portrait, wallets, gift prints, etc.  This is a tried and true model for photographers. In-Person sales sessions work. Sales averages go up. Money begins coming in the door. Your clients walk out the door with professional products they can cherish forever.

David and Whitney Scott of Whitney Scott Photography use the shoot and sell model for their business. 

Here is what they have to say regarding shoot and sell.

‘Shifting to in-person sales changed everything.  The biggest change?  It doubled our sales.  Immediately.  We didn’t really know what we were doing at first in terms of using the software (we use ProSelect); we didn’t employ any special sales techniques – this was just the impact created from us sitting down with our clients when they saw their images for the first time and walking them through the process of choosing portraits and products.

We’ve come a long way in perfecting our sales techniques in the last 5 years.  We’re no longer happy with a $200… or even a $500 sale.  Our sales average is now closer to $2500, and this is in a city whose median household income is $37,000.  It’s been so worth the small time investment in our clients to sit down with them to help with decisions.’

Shoot and Share

Shoot and Share is a new term for online sales on steroids. In this model, photographers shoot the session and share it with their clients via an online gallery service like ShootProof. ShootProof allows the photographer to create online galleries, set their own prices and sell any product, control image sharing and download options, and print through professional labs, like Black River Imaging.

With ShootProof, photographers can even take their clients favorite images, up to 40, and make their client a mobile app (share). The client will install the mobile app on all their devices and share with all their friends and family.

Amanda Reed of Amanda Reed Photography loves ShootProof! I love selling fine art wall portraits and folio collections from Black River Imaging but I don’t want to be in the studio selling petty prints when ShootProof can do that for me. Once my clients meet my targeted investment level this will determine how many images I will upload into their ShootProof shopping cart for 85% off my regular prices. Spend $1000 with us and have 10 of your files available at discount. While I am playing with my kids, ShootProof is hard at work handling the orders that would have me in the studio. Now I can Shoot, Print and Play.

Shoot and Burn

We all know what the shoot and burn business model is. Shoot the session, burn the images to a disk/usb drive, and give client the storage device. This model has worked for many photographers over the last several years. But what I have found is the shoot and burn segment is shooting sessions, editing too many images and handing the disc over for a small amount of money. After the disk of images has been handed over to the client the relationship ends. There is no way of know if the images were ever printed. Which brings us to Shoot and Refer.

Shoot and Refer

This is the newest business model in the industry. Photographers using this business model are shooting the session and receiving all their money up front, like a wedding photographer, transmitting the image files to their client either through an online transfer like ShootProof or DropBox, and then referring their client to a professional lab like BRI for printing services. 

The train of thought is ‘my client has spent $2000 on the image files, they should have quality products to match the imagery’.

This model is gaining momentum as the number of photographers who have full time jobs and families increase. Simply put, they do not have the time or the want to manage a sales session or the back end work that comes when running a business with the traditional photography studio model.

The shoot and refer photographers are fulfilling a creative need within themselves during the session and while post processing the image files. The shoot and refer photographer does not have time or does not want to give up family time or shooting time to run a sales session therefore, they refer their clients.

Kristy Dickerson, owner of Kristy Dickerson Photography is a wife, mother of 2 under 6 and a business owner, finds her time very limited. Shoot and Refer works for her, ‘I do something that can be considered controversially in our industry. I actually teach other photographers on this topic.  Some can call me a “shoot and sharer” but really I am a Shoot and Referer!  I actually take shooting and sharing a step further and I give my clients the option of ordering directly with my professional lab or they can order through me at an increased price.

Yes seriously! Hear me out! First why do I sell digital images? Because I feel like they should have the ability to archive them. It is their family, wedding, etc. I also explain that digital is not forever and therefore 95% of my clients choose to print.’


Where does your business fall with in these catagories?