As a photographer, you have a wide variety of services you can offer.
Everything from your traditional portrait and wedding photography all the way down to your very niched services.
When I first started my photography business I did what most photographers do, say yes to everything, and didn’t focus on one type of service.
It wasn’t until I was introduced into the dance world that I realized all the amazing opportunities, as a photographer.
I want to give you a little glimpse of this industry and show you 4 ways to make money as a dance photographer, (from $1 to $100,000).
1. Dance Recital Portraits
Ok so I’m a little biased here but I can personally say this is my go-to dance photography service to provide.
Every year dance schools put on either a spring recital (performance) or a holiday, Christmas show.
All the dancers dress up in cute outfits and show off to their parents what they have learned in class for:
Because these kiddos are dressed up in REALLY cute outfits, parents want professional pictures, so they can remember that moment in their child’s life.
As a dance photographer you setup up a backdrop and lighting at either the dance school or at the recital dress rehearsal, to take pictures.
The key to this service is your photographing a lot of people in a very short amount of time.
Last year I was able to generate $100,000+ in revenue (Income Report) just photographing dance schools 2 months out of the year, in only a few weekends.
The crazy part is, I’m not some world-famous photographer, or even feel like I take amazing pictures.
My work is already cut out for me with having kiddos in cute costumes and eager parents to buy my photos.
You just need a system and blueprint that would allow you to grow.
This type of photography service allows me to earn a great living and spend the rest of the year focusing on the things I like to do (family time and travel)
If you want to learn how to photograph dance recital portraits yourself, I have a FREE 5-day Bootcamp to help get you started.
2. Recital Performance
So now you know what a dance recital is and the amazing opportunity you have just photographing portraits, what else can you do?
Well, you can take pictures of the dancers performing on stage.
I typically take pictures during the dress rehearsal, while the dancers are practicing.
This allows me to have a lot of flexibility and gives me room to roam around the auditorium, without it being crowded
You can also take pictures of the actual performance, but you’ll have to be sitting in one spot, with everyone else.
Parents don’t just want professional portraits of there child in a pose, they also want pictures of them on stage with there friends.
When it comes to the older more experienced dancers, they want a photographer to capture them in mid-leap or jump.
So you’re wondering how much can a photographer really make taking pictures of dancers on stage?
It all depends on how you sell your pictures.
I have found there are 3 options:
- Online Ecommerce Website
- Pre Printed Photos
- Bulk Set Rate
All you would need to do is pass out information to the audience letting them know where they can find and purchase the images you take.
I have found that asking the dance school to e-mail out a link, is the easiest and best way to remind people where to find images
The name of the game, with this option, is to remind people to purchase pictures and view on your website.
You want to make sure to set a deadline for ordering, so you have a sense of urgency and people don’t forget.
With this sales option, I have made on average $1000-$3000 selling performance pictures online, without having to mess with processing orders.
The eCommerce site and Photo Lab does all the work!!
Pre Printed Photos
Ok your probably scratching your head wondering what this is all about.
Hear me out though….
If you are able to photograph the dancers at the dress rehearsal (usually the day before), then you have an opportunity to print all the pictures out, to sale at the performance
Most dance studios will have their performance at a Performing Art Center (PAC) or school auditorium.
These PAC’s have lobbies that are sometimes quite large.
All you would need to do is find a local photo lab (Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, etc) and have them print all your images in 4×6 size.
Yes, I know, it can be a lot of pictures and you might be thinking, the cost can really add up.
But, think about it for a moment.
You are trying to tap into all the emotions parents have on recital day.
Also, play into society’s need for instant gratification, and you will see that you can do quite well selling pre-printed pictures.
Yes, at the end of the night you will be recycling pictures that weren’t purchased, but you need to look at the big picture
I typically sell 4×6 prints for $5 and then walking away profiting more than $3000-$5000, depending on the size of the dance school.
Not bad for a day or two’s worth of having fun taking pictures.
Alright, the last option to sell your photos is to just negotiate with the dance school a set rate that everyone pays in order to have access to all your images to download.
Normally, in order for dance schools to help pay for all the expenses to put on a performance, they charge a recital fee, to all the parents.
You would just have the dance studio add in an extra fee ($5-$10) or whatever you want to charge, and then the dance studio would just write you ONE check.
This is WAY easier than having to individually charge each person.
In other words, you are charging a fee to the dance studio, in order for you to take pictures of the performance.
This is just a better way of presenting this offer to the dance school, so they don’t feel they are personally paying you, but the parents are.
After you take pictures of the performance, you would just then organize all the images and then upload to a hosting site (I use Dropbox)
The dance school would then e-mail all the parents a link, so they can download and view images.
They can either post their favorite images on social media, or they can print pictures at there favorite lab.
Yes, you are not making any additional sales from your images and people can do whatever they want with them, but you shouldn’t CARE.
You just had a guarantee, walking in the door, knowing that you are going to be paid for all the work you are going to do.
So let’s run a few simple numbers.
You have a dance school with 500 dancers and you charge $5 per dancer.
You just made $2500, GUARANTEED!!
If the performance only took you 6 hours to photograph and 4 hours to organize and create a download link.
You just made $250 per hour.
Now, isn’t that a good return for your time!!
3. Competition Action Photos
Ok, so with this option, its almost just like a dance school putting on a performance, but you have companies that are not dance schools, that schedule competitions throughout the year.
You have dance schools and drill teams all come together under one roof, and compete to see who has the best team and performance.
These competitions draw in very large crowds and dancers.
They want a professional photographer to capture teams performing with all dancers leaping and jumping.
In order to be successful photographing competitions you need to either sale your pictures the same day as the performance (with computers and viewing stations)
Just like with a dance school performance, you sell your pictures on an eCommerce website
The name of the game with competition action photos is to take LOTS of pictures of LOTS of people and sale your pictures at a reasonable rate
I have photographed multiple competitions and average anywhere from $3000-$10,000
But I want to warn you.
The days can get VERY long. I’ve been at competitions for multiple days starting from 7 am and lasting well into the night.
4. Outdoor Custom Sessions
Drum rolls please,
If you have made it to the end you have come to the fourth way of making money as a dance photographer and probably know oh too well about this option.
This is just like any other portrait session, you might have experienced.
Similar to photographing senior high school portraits, but the main difference is you’re photographing a dancer.
It can be a VERY rewarding and creative way to express your photography passion.
If you have a dancer who has a lot of experience dancing then you can get some AMAZING photos (can I get a little Instagram love here)
They will be able to get in some unique positions or you might be able to capture them in mid-leap.
The possibilities are endless with everything you can do with dance portraits.
You can photograph them on a bridge, beach, grungy warehouse, at a park, wherever your creativity takes you.
Now when it comes to making money from this option, it all really depends on how you charge for your talents and service.
I know some photographers who charge $300 for a session and there are even photographers who charge $1000+
But just like with any portrait session, you are customizing it for every person, which takes up a lot of your time.
But hey, what do I know, most photographers out there chase after the next Instagram worthy photoshoot.
If that is your calling, then more power to you, and can be a very fulfilling service to offer.
How do you get Started
I hope I haven’t scared you away yet!
The first step is to figure out what dance service you want to offer and then take action!!
There are tons of successful photographers out there photographing every one of these options.
You just have to know, are you looking to grow your income and business or are you in it for the creativity and art.
Once you’ve decided on what direction you want to take, the next step is to get STARTED!
If you’re feeling a little unsure about Dance School Portraits and need more time, I recommend signing up for my FREE 5-Day Bootcamp for Beginners.
I show you the step-by-step process I take when photographing dance recital portraits.
You’ll get each lesson one day at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed and have more time to process everything.
Okay, that’s it for this article on the 4 ways to make money as a dance photographer. I hope you enjoyed it!
If you know of other ways to make money as a dance photographer or you liked this article, please feel free to leave a comment below!