About a week ago I was scanning through my personal email account that is pretty much just used for junk email lists these days and came across a photography session offering on one of the daily deal sites, like Groupon or Living Social.  It’s like a car accident, you just have to look, and unfortunately choosing to do one of these deals for your business could quickly steer your business into the hospital and onto life support.

This particular deal was one of the least profitable that I have ever seen, a one hour on-location shoot INCLUDING the CD with 30 retouched images.  The deal price was…….   $49.    This was a 50% discount from the normal price of $100, which is a post for another time.   The way that the majority of these sites work is that the business gets approximately half of the deal price and the site keeps 50%.  That means that this photographer was doing an entire session and giving the files away for a grand total of $25.

dog yawning

Let’s break down the time involved.  These times are bare minimum, I know many of us spend more time in each of these areas:

20 minutes to book the client and do your administrative work

15 minutes for your pre-session consultation

30 minutes to drive to the session (location could be up to 30 miles away in the offer)

60 minutes to shoot the session

30 minutes to drive home

60 minutes to download and edit images

30 minutes to mail out CD, archive images, and finish paperwork

Total of: 240 minutes or 4 hours

You would be earning $6.25 an hour.  This is before you buy new equipment, purchase marketing materials, join a professional organization, pay for your health insurance, car, liability insurance, salary, and income taxes.  Although, you don’t really need to worry about those last two, as I highly doubt a business can ever show a profit with numbers like this…no matter how many clients they have.



Let’s debunk some myths one by one shall we:

A daily deal site is GREAT exposure! 

Sure.  If you want to have great exposure to clients that think photography is a commodity and are looking for the cheapest price.  These clients do not value you as an artist, they often are very nit picky and challenging to work with, they are not going to come back to you in the future as they are simply looking for the cheapest price right now.

For instance, one of the things that I often buy for myself off of these sites is cheapo photo books for my family snapshots.  I have purchased from quite a few different retailers and they’ve all been pretty similar.  They have NOT built brand loyalty in me, as I will continue to purchase whichever one is easiest and most affordable for this particular need of mine.

Say it with me, “my target market, the client that values me and my work, is not shopping for photography on daily deal sites”.  Your target market can be found at local businesses or through their friends that have worked with you and speak highly of you.  Your target market values photography, a great experience, and will pay more for it.


But I can upsell and earn more money then the daily deal session fee! 

The majority of photography deals that I see include the disc of all final images.  There is no upselling when you include the disc.  They have the images.  They have the files and they will print whatever they want themselves.  Even if you create a package of just a few prints, I feel that you will be hard pressed to upsell enough to make something like this worth your time.  This is because these are not your target market, they are price shoppers. They bought your session because it was a great deal….not because they valued it.


Here is the kicker.  I went to this photographers website, and she was actually fairly good.  There was NO reason to be charging this little for her time.

Dog on couch

I would be interested to hear from anyone that has ever done one of these and felt that it was a good outcome for your business.  If you have done one successfully please consider sharing in a Guest Post.  I’m not saying that it can’t be done, it’s just that I haven’t seen a situation that has had a profitable outcome for a photography business yet.

I would also love to hear from any of you that are struggling with pricing, marketing, or sales.  Let me know if there is something specific that you struggle with and I’ll try to write a post on it in the future.  If you would like some one-on-one guidance in moving your business forward in one of these areas then consider a mentoring opportunity.