Catering to Clients: The Key to a Successful Family Portrait Business


by Gregory Daniel

Running a successful photography business that is geared toward family portraits can be rewarding but it also involves a certain degree of discipline and planning. Over 20 years ago, Lesa and I were fortunate to have a mentor, Tom McDonald, who taught us valuable technical skills and marketing principles that have been essential to our current business. While some may be obvious, others are often overlooked by some photographers who decide that family portraits are a thing of the past. So, what are some tips for running a successful family portrait business?

One of the most important elements in the family portrait market is developing a style. Clients are looking for a recognizable brand in today’s experience-based economy. Your best leads are derived from incredibly happy clients that are in love with you beyond reason. You and your products must stand out above the crowd in order to catch their attention. But it is up to you to make them aware of your style. The old saying, “Does a tree in the forest make a sound when it falls?” is true with your marketing. If you are not out in your target market creating product awareness, no one will know how wonderful you are and what they are missing.

The key to making this successful is listening to what they want. Try the method of peeling the onion back one layer at a time to reveal what the client’s needs are. Typically, they will not know how to tell you what they desire but, with a skillfully developed set of questions from you, they will reveal what makes them tick.

Too many photographers forget that, when it comes time for decisions, clients rely on your expertise. Clients are not familiar with what is available or actually which products will work best for each application. We recommend the “interior designer” approach. Suggest complete products including size, style, finish, use, and frame that would work best for them.

We enjoy photographing families. Why? First of all, they are challenging. Family portraits can be one of the most difficult types of portraits. Each family member should be taken into consideration of placement in the portrait in terms of flattering, personality, and relationship to others in the group. In addition, the overall composition should implement proper design elements with consideration to color harmony, intended size, and use for the final product. When planned and executed properly with an over-the-top client experience, the benefits are emotionally powerful and plentiful.

It is also imperative that we learn from our mistakes along the way. Technical and artful education is critically important to ensure repeatability. Without proper understanding of the tools of our trade, it is nearly impossible to feel comfortable taking on such an important task as creating what is often a once in a lifetime portrait of someone’s family.

Without proper consideration of where the portrait might hang or be used, many errors occur. Therefore, planning for the final use will ensure the proper location, color harmony, and time of day for the making of the portrait.

If family portraiture is the focus of your business, I highly suggest that you consider studying with a Master Photographer who specializes in the family style that is in line with your interests. Trial and error can be frustrating and time-consuming. Learning from someone who has already developed a style of their own and who understands institutional awareness can set you on the proper course for a rewarding career where you are recognized as the expert in your field.

A nationally recognized husband and wife duo who create exquisite portraits, Greg and Lesa Daniel are also masters in sharing their knowledge and experience. They make it look so easy, but their secret is behind the scenes’ preparation and planning that result in timeless original portraits and a highly successful business. Greg and Lesa are internationally recognized for their artistry. Though he is one of the most awarded photographers in the United States, Greg has the utmost privilege of living out his passion every day alongside Lesa in operating their portrait photography galleries in both Indialantic and Titusville, Florida. He has achieved both the title of Master of Photography and The American Society of Photographers Fellowship. In addition, Greg is was one of the youngest members to be inducted into the prestigious Cameracraftsmen of America in 1991, proud founding member of the International Society of Portrait Artists (ISPA) and on the Board of Directors for Professional Photographers of America.