On average, portrait photography costs $190 to $200 per session. Pricing depends on a photographer's reputation, geographic location, the number of edited final digital photos, the number of prints, the subject of the portrait, the number of people in the portrait, the location(s) of the portraits, and the size of the photography business.
What's in this cost guide?
- Subject of portraits
- Individual portraits
- Family portraits
- Newborn portraits
- Senior portraits
- Boudoir photography
- Hourly rate
- Photo delivery
- Headshots vs. portraits
- Editorial portraits
- Hiring suggestions
Capture a special moment in time with a portrait session with a professional photographer. A portrait can be of you, your family, your cat, your group of best friends, your teenager before graduation, your newborn baby, your kids, your grandparents, your dog — really, anyone. Portrait photography is an artistic representation that uses lighting, background, pose and setting to showcase the personality and spirit of the subject or subjects. Unlike a candid photo — the spontaneous capture of a subject, characterized by its lack of formal posing — portrait photography is carefully planned. From outfit to colors to location, each detail is fully thought out. Your photographer will help you plan prior to the photo shoot, providing tips about what to wear and where the photo shoot can take place, depending on what you want to portray with your photos. This level of planning doesn't make portrait photography stuffy or create boring images. On the contrary, portrait photo shoots are often energetic and creative, with the final photos full of life and personality.
Portrait photos may be taken in the photography studio, at the subject's home or office, or in an environmental setting. The term "environmental" may conjure up visions of rain forests, but it refers to any kind of external setting — such as downtown city streets, a local park, a baseball diamond, and so on — that will help to convey the mood of your portrait. Almost all photographers are willing to do portrait sessions outside of their studio and will bring their camera equipment to your chosen locations. You may choose to have your portrait photography session in multiple locations. For example, many couples choose both an urban and a nature setting for their engagement photos. High school senior portraits are also often taken in multiple settings, with a formal-attire portrait in the studio and then environmental portraits that showcase the student's passions.
Pricing for portrait photography will vary depending on a photographer's reputation, geographic location, the number of edited final digital photos, the number of prints (if any), the number of people in the portrait, the subject of the portrait, the location(s) of the portraits, the size of the photography business and more. Common requests for portrait photography include family, solo portrait, graduating senior, newborn, maternity, children, professional headshots, and models' or actors' headshots delivered as digital files. Photo shoots can take place in a photo studio, outdoors, or in a client's home or office. A variety of factors affect the average total cost of portrait photography pricing and what a photographer charges, including the photographer's cost of doing business (codb) in a particular region of the country.
Subject of portraits
Portrait photographers often charge different rates depending on how many people will be in the photo, how long the photo session will be, and who the subjects are. For example, two young kids who are two and five years old may be much harder to photograph together than a retired couple who want a portrait to document their golden years. Photographers may charge standard hourly rates across the board or may vary their rates for different kinds of sessions. For example, photographer Luc Kordas, who specializes in beautifully lit high-end portraits with a cinematic feel, has a set rate of $200 per hour — regardless of subject. Shanta N. Covington Photography charges an average of $350 for a two-hour family photography photo session and $350 for a two-and-a-half-hour maternity or baby photography portrait session; both packages include 50 edited digital images and one 5x7 print.
Individual portraits run the spectrum from formal headshots to musician photos to lifestyle photos and beyond. You may want to have portraits taken to market your business, to frame and hang on your wall, or to print and send to your friends and family. Pricing for individual photo shoots will vary depending on session length, number of edited final photos, number of locations and outfit changes, and more. For example, Brandi McComb Photography offers individual portrait sessions for an average of $175. This price doesn't include business headshots, high school senior portraits, or bridal portraits. Some great reasons to schedule a portrait photo shoot include:
- Upgrade your headshot to boost your career search
- Commemorate a major life event such as finishing grad school
- Mark a milestone birthday, whether it be 16 or 96
- Up your online dating game with photos that capture your true nature (and ditch those tragic bathroom selfies!)
- Surprise that special someone with boudoir photos
- Improve your website or market your business with lifestyle portraits
From holiday greeting cards to framed pictures in the living room, family portraits mark the passage of time and capture the personality of each member of the family. The cost to have family portraits taken can vary based on a variety of factors, including whether you schedule in-studio sessions or environmental shots, shoot in more than one location, or change outfits. For example, Shanta N. Covington Photography offers a two-hour family session for $350. Her price includes 50 edited images and one 5x7 print. CameraKoala Photography charges $200 for a one-hour studio or outdoor session, including two outfit changes, access to an online gallery, and about 200 high-resolution, edited digital files on a DVD, with permission to print. J.J. Bentley charges $400 for a one-hour outdoor session and 25-30 fully edited photos accessible online or via CD/DVD. Brandi McComb Photography charges $200 for families of up to five people, with the average price rising to $300 for six or more people. Here are some suggestions to make the most of your family portrait session:
- Look on Instagram and Google website portfolios for a photographer with an aesthetic you love.
- Ask about the photographer's experience if you have special circumstances, such as a family member with autism.
- Think about where you will use the photos and what colors will work best. For example, if this portrait will hang in your hallway, what paint and carpet colors are there, and what clothing in the photo would coordinate well with the setting? Ask the photographer for suggestions of how to plan for color and style.
- Know that kids will be kids and photographers often get the best family portraits when children are allowed to be silly and free.
- Feed and hydrate your children (and yourselves) before the shoot so no one looks cranky in the final photos.
- Don't be afraid to include the family pet(s).
- Bring along any props you might want to incorporate.
- Relax and have fun!
Newborn photos are a special niche in family portrait photography. Many photographers take special safety training classes to ensure that the utmost caution will be taken during newborn sessions. There generally are no regulations governing newborn photography, but it may be wise to find someone who has experience and training specific to the genre. Most photographers encourage parents to book newborn sessions as soon as possible, with one pro suggesting you book by the end of the fifth month of pregnancy. Pricing can vary depending on how many photos you want, the photographer's reputation, how much post-production editing occurs, and more. For example, Shanta N. Covington Photography offers baby photography for $350 for a 2.5-hour photo session, which includes 50 edited digital images and one 5x7 print. Brandi McComb Photography offers a newborn session for an average of $300; this price includes up to two hours in the studio for infants less than two weeks old. McComb says that newborn portraits turn out best when taken at around five to 10 days after birth.
A tradition for high school seniors who are about to graduate, senior portraits are often package-based photo shoots that include a variety of settings, outfit changes, a formal senior portrait for the yearbook, and different prices depending on the number of prints and features you select. Many students choose to include lifestyle photos that showcase their hobbies and extracurricular activities, such as basketball, chess club or cheerleading. Here are some examples of package pricing:
- Senior portraits from Memories in a Flash Photography:
- Five poses for $300. Package includes only casual/lifestyle photos.
- Five poses for $325. Package includes casual photos and formal cap-and-gown photos.
- All package options include USB flash drive with all edited digital images (for sharing via social media and download); three 8x10, three 5x7, and 112 wallet-size prints; and one 4x6 senior folio, which includes eight images. Students may rent a cap and gown for an additional $25. Additional wallet prints of a single image come in boxes of 48 ($20) or 96 ($35) and are die-cut with student's first name and graduation year.
- Senior portraits from Brandi McComb Photography:
- 90-minute, two-location photo shoot including outfit changes for $350. This option also includes a 16x20 print for framing.
- 30- to 60-minute, one-location photo shoot for $200.
- Both packages include image editing and an online gallery for viewing and downloading proofs or ordering prints.
Boudoir portraits capture your intimate and playful and possibly risque side. You can choose to have boudoir photos taken as a gift to yourself, as a way to remember this part of your nature for years to come, as a gift for your special sweetheart, or as a photo shoot with your special sweetheart to celebrate your romance. Boudoir portraits often take place at the photographer's studio, and special lighting, props and poses are used to help convey the intimate mood, although most photographers can also shoot in your home if you prefer. You may choose to wear lingerie or go bare, strategically draped in silk or another luxurious fabric. Costs for boudoir portraits can vary based on the photographer, your geographic location, the number of retouched photos you want, makeup and hairstyling, and more. Here are some examples of average boudoir portrait photography price ranges from Digital Merit Photography:
- Two hours with five retouched photos, one hairstyle, one makeup look, one outfit change, two setups, and a six-page album: $225
- Three hours with eight retouched photos, one hairstyle, two makeup looks, two outfit changes, three setups and a 10-page album: $400
- Four hours with 12 retouched photos, two hairstyles, two makeup looks, three outfit changes, four setups and 14-page album: $600
Scheduling multiple shoots over time with the same photographer can decrease the cost per session overall. For example, Memories in a Flash Photography offers a $620 Milestone package that includes a full session each for maternity photos, newborn photos, six-month-old photos and one-year-old photos. This is a great way to save while also marking the major changes that happen during your baby's first year of life. Working with the same photographer over time, such as for yearly holiday family portraits, is another way to get discounts. If you love your photographer's work, ask whether they have any deals available for loyal customers. Many photographers also offer special package rates for specific types of portraits such as company headshots, family photos or school photos.
Many professional photographers charge a flat hourly rate for standard portrait photography jobs, plus travel costs if they come to you. These hourly rates are based on the cost of doing business in a particular region of the country. Be sure to ask about a photographer's hourly rate if you want portraits in an office or in a special location.
When having a portrait session done, you may want to shoot in more than one location — for example, in front of a mural you love on the streets of your city as well as in a nature park. The more locations you want for your portrait session, the higher your cost will likely be. Additional locations mean added travel costs, time and energy to move equipment, set up lighting and stage the scene. Location can also affect the average cost if you want portraits taken at your home or office and the photographer has to travel beyond their standard service range to reach you. For example, Memories in a Flash Photography offers a newborn photography session that starts at $300 and includes four hours of studio time; the same package at the client's home starts at $400. Conversely, photographers with private studios may charge higher fees because they have office overhead expenses as well as potentially more equipment and props to use with clients.
Bridal and maternity portraits
Many women like to have bridal portraits taken in advance of their wedding day. It's a special photo shoot that captures their gown, hair, love and excitement. Scheduling a bridal photo shoot in the weeks leading up to the wedding allows for beautiful photos that showcase the dress and accessories without the stress of the big day — and often, there simply isn't time for a full portrait session on the wedding day. Brandi McComb Photography charges $250 for bridal shoots, with additional costs if the brides opt for hair or makeup services.
Maternity photo shoots are another special form of portraiture. Often taken in the home or out in nature, maternity photos highlight the mother-to-be, or sometimes both parents, and allow their joy to shine through. Expectant mothers often select more than one outfit. Brandi McComb Photography charges $250 for maternity photo shoots.
It's always important to determine how the photos will be delivered and what your printing rights are before contracting a photographer. If you are not allowed to download photos but must purchase prints through the photographer, this can greatly increase the overall cost of having portraits taken. Other delivery methods include online download of digital photo files and CD, DVD or flash drive delivery of photos. Clarify how photos will be delivered when signing a contract. Having access to all the photos from a photo shoot is not always a standard practice; some photographers will charge significantly more for it.
Headshots vs. portraits
Make sure you know whether you want a headshot or a portrait, because they're not the same thing. A headshot is a type of portrait that's typically a formal photo of your face and head, used for business and networking purposes. The image is closely cropped to showcase the subject from mid-chest or shoulders up. Headshot photography often uses a simple backdrop; you may be photographed in profile or may face the camera. The result is a very engaging face shot that stands out on business cards, website directories, and networking platforms like LinkedIn. For a less formal approach, you can choose to have a lifestyle portrait taken and use that in lieu of the traditional headshot. As more and more people have personal websites and use social media to market their business services, the use of portraits instead of headshots can be more appropriate in some fields, especially if you want a visual representation that has a more artistic or personalized vibe. Many people also choose to have portraits taken for online dating purposes, as a way to express their personality visually.
Renowned photographers can command higher rates than those without an established following. Photographers who have celebrity clients and work for national publications will have more competition for their work. Similarly, photographers with extensive training and experience will typically charge higher rates. Your geographic location can also play a role: Photographers in more rural areas typically have lower rates, and those in metropolitan areas generally have higher average prices. New photographers, students in photography schools or newly relocated local photographers who are trying to earn reviews may temporarily lower their photography pricing as they try to build their business.
If you need portraits for online or print publications, you can hire an experienced editorial portrait photographer. Often, rates are higher for editorial work than for personal portrait photography. Editorial work may include fashion and beauty shoots, alumni publications, national magazines, business magazines, local print publications, commercial photo shoots, and more.
Finding the perfect portrait photographer doesn't have to be overwhelming. Following a few simple tips from the pros will ensure that you find the style you love at a price you can afford, and that clear communication occurs from start to finish.
- Before you begin, make sure you love their work. Review their Instagram and visit their online portfolio to find someone with photos that convey a style and aesthetic you love.
- Read customer reviews and make sure they have a positive track record with clients.
- Clarify costs by reaching out to the pro and asking about portrait prices; it's helpful to get everything in writing.
- Confirm how many edited photos are included in the cost, how many photos you will have access to, and whether you have printing rights.
- Confirm whether your price includes any print photos or whether you will receive deliverables such as a CD or USB.
- Ask for a contract that includes all these details, and be prepared to pay a deposit — often 50 percent of the total.
- Ask about the photo delivery time frame.
- Make sure you get along with the photographer! Having a portrait taken can be intimidating for some people, so make sure you find a pro who puts you at ease.
- If you need help honing your vision, find a pro who offers guidance in the way of mood boards, wardrobe suggestions and location ideas.
- Photo sessions often require a deposit, such as the $100 down payment that Memories in a Flash requests. Owner Kristi Butler explains that the retainer is applied to the overall session fee. Brandi McComb says that her session fees are nonrefundable, so it's important to plan accordingly. Photographers typically ask for the remainder of the fee once they deliver all the finished photos.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right pro for your photography project. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.