How To Find The Right Photography Clients: A Shift In Mindset

Knowing how to get the right photography clients can be challenging in the beginning. This is because photographers are too focused on how to connect with clients and less focused on who they’re actually connecting with. In order the find the right clients for you, you need to connect with your most important client first… yourself.

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photography clients

Finding The Right Photography Clients

When I was first starting out in food photography, I didn’t know how to find the right clients for me. I reached out to everyone and I was excited to hear back from anyone who liked my work. And, because I love what I do, I thought I wanted to work with everyone. I was worried that the word “no” would hurt my business. Oh, how wrong I was. 😉

Shift Your Mindset

When it comes to finding the right clients (not just any client you can get), you have to shift your mindset.

In the beginning, my mindset was, “Please hire me.” It seems like you should try to get any client you can in order to build your portfolio and make money. But, this mindset gets exhausting pretty fast. It also demonstrates a lack of boundaries for your business and runs the risk of you becoming completely burned out… and if I’m being completely honest here, probably underpaid.

It’s important to shift your mindset from, Please hire me and ask yourself, Is this a good client for me?

Finding the right photography clients starts with truly connecting with yourself as a business person. And, in order to connect with yourself as a business person, you need to work through these three things:


Know Your Numbers

Making the decision to turn your creative passion into your business is super exciting. But, behind the scenes of it all, learning to think like a business person can be a really difficult transition for creatives. You aren’t just creating something beautiful for yourself anymore. Now you need people to pay you to create something beautiful for them.

Finding your ideal clients starts with knowing your numbers. This should not be a guessing game. Start learning your numbers by asking yourself these questions:

  1. What are my business expenses?
  2. What are my personal expenses?
  3. What is my desired annual income?
  4. How often do I want to be working?
  5. What should I charge (per shoot) to support questions 1 – 4?

Getting to know these numbers will help you charge prices that make sense for your business.

Not all creatives take the time to do this type of number crunching. It causes them to guess and ultimately, undercharge for their work. Whenever someone tells me that they’re “too busy,” I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing all the time. It makes me think that they’re not charging enough for their services.

If you’re too busy or stretched too thin in your business, it’s time to learn (or re-learn) your numbers. Knowing your numbers helps protect you from spreading yourself too thin.

food photography backdrops

Know Your Value

Knowing your value is different than knowing your numbers. Your value is what you bring to the table for your clients. It’s your expertise, your professionalism and the quality of the work you deliver.

How do you know your value?

Knowing your value is having confidence in yourself as a business person. It can take time and experience, but ultimately, it’s about knowing what you bring to the table. When you take the time to learn your numbers and figure out a pricing model that makes sense for your business, you’d be amazed at what an eye-opener it is.

Once photographers realize they need to be charging more, it can feel a little uncomfortable to actually start charging higher prices at first.

How do you get comfortable charging more?

The best way to approach higher prices with potential commercial clients (anyone who will use your images to promote their business) is to get as much information as you can about their project before talking numbers with them. You may have a rough idea of your creative fee, but there are always more costs involved with food shoots beyond your fee alone.

There’s the time preparing for the shoot, the time during the shoot and the time after the shoot, which can be bundled into your creative fee. But, there’s also image usage fees to take into account, team fees (when applicable) and expenses which are all separate from your creative fee. Don’t talk numbers until you get more information, because if you don’t account for the extra costs in your estimate, those costs will come out of your creative fee, which may not leave you with very much in the end.

Asking relevant questions demonstrates your expertise. It also gets your potential clients thinking more critically about what they actually need. And, when you can draft a fair estimate for their project that clearly outlines the deliverables and the time involved, your confidence will get stronger.

Remember, the more a client wants, the more time it will take. And, more time equals more money. If what they want is out of their budget, try to negotiate the deliverables down to better align with what they can afford.


Know When To Say No

As you learn your numbers and gain confidence in your value, it gets a lot easier to say no. I used to think saying no would hurt my business. But, the truth is, saying no has actually helped my business. Saying no allows you to be available for the projects that are right for you.


Lack of money is a very common reason to say no to a project. A lot of clients will want more than they can afford. You can try to work with them on adjusting their wishlist to better match their budget, but sometimes, the money simply isn’t there. If the project isn’t worth your time, it’s absolutely ok to say no. Don’t be mislead by things like exposure, social media credit, gift cards and free products. Those are a nice bonus for sure, but they should never act as payment for your work. You are a business and businesses need money to stay in business. Your ideal clients will pay you.


Sometimes a client will want something done faster than you know is possible. It’s up to you to try and educate them to your process and the time you would need for their project. If they are strict on their timeline and it simply doesn’t align with what you need to complete the project, it’s ok to say no. Let them find a “faster” photographer. Your ideal clients will want a project done right, not just fast.

Unrealistic Expectations

Not all clients are going to understand the time and expertise that goes into photography. If a client comes to you with an unrealistic project, you can try to help them understand your process and what is realistic for what they can afford.

Some clients will appreciate the insight, because they see photographers as experts and will work with you on the project planning.

Other clients expect you to accommodate every request they have, because they see photographers as service providers. While collaboration is incredibly important in any partnership, being treated as a service provider is a red flag. Your ideal clients will treat you like an expert, not a service provider.



Your availability is a very good reason to say no. I’ve seen photographers get incredibly burned out because they are constantly saying “yes” and working on every project that comes their way. It’s important to set aside time for your own personal projects and take a break when you need it. Creative burnout is real and it’s up to you to take care of yourself. Your ideal clients will work with you on a timeline.


What kind of projects do you want to be working on? Sometimes projects are a mismatch and that’s a very good reason to say no. A lot of people hear the word “photographer” and will assume you take pictures of everything.

It’s very important to say yes to the projects you actually want and say no to the ones that you don’t want. It’s the only way you’ll stay truly happy in your business. Your ideal clients will have projects that excite you.


Professionalism is assumed in business, but it isn’t always practiced. How do your clients treat you? Are they responsive? Do they communicate clearly with you? Do they pay you (on time)? Are they respectful to your process?

A client could have the right project, the right timeline and the right budget – but if the client is not good to work with, this is another reason to say no. Your ideal clients will treat you well.

No Contract

Contracts are really important in any business. It protects the photographer (and the client) to the terms of the project and the deliverables. Unfortunately, a lot of photographers aren’t aware of how important contracts are until they’re in a not-so-great situation with a client. The contract terms should be discussed early in the project development so there’s time to negotiate together if needed. A good reason to say no to a project is if you can’t agree to the terms of the contract. Your ideal clients will sign your contract.

Finding the right photography clients isn’t about trying to work with everyone. It’s about discovering yourself as a business person and asking yourself, “Is this a good client for me?” And, once you do a deep dive into your numbers and gain confidence in your value, it gets a lot easier to say NO to the clients who aren’t a good fit and yes to the ones who are. And, believe it or not, when this shift in your mindset happens, you’ll be amazed at how your ideal clients will actually start finding you.

Happy Creating!

This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click or make a purchase through my site, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products that I actually use and support. 

All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.

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