How This Photographer Made Six Figures in a Single Month With Less Than 20 Clients

How This Photographer Made Six Figures in a Single Month With Less Than 20 Clients

For many photographers, the pursuit of passion is often overshadowed by the looming fear of financial instability. Visions of artistic fulfillment are frequently interrupted by sleepless nights, wondering if next month’s bills will be covered. In a saturated market where every other person with a camera considers themselves a photographer, standing out and making a comfortable living can seem like an elusive dream. But what if amidst these swirling doubts, you came across a story so compelling, it reignites the fire in your belly and renews your faith in the power of persistence and innovation?

Enter Jon Meadows. His journey from facing unexpected layoffs to generating six figures in a month with less than 20 clients is the stuff of legends. It's a tale of turning life’s curveballs into career-changing home runs. An account of seeing potential where others saw mundanity. This isn't just a success story; it's a masterclass in resilience, adaptability, and business acumen.

Professional headshot of Jon Meadows. Captured by Tommy Collier of Denver Headshots.

For every photographer teetering on the brink of giving up, questioning their career choice, or wondering if they can ever rise above the competition, Jon's story is a beacon of hope. It serves as a vivid reminder that even in the most niche segments of photography, success isn't just possible; it's achievable. All it takes is a fresh perspective, unwavering commitment, and the tenacity to chase one's dreams, no matter the odds.

From Layoffs to Lenses: Jon’s Unexpected Journey

Life's curveballs can either shatter our dreams or forge them. For Jon, being laid off wasn't the end but a transformative beginning. While the initial taste of unemployment was undoubtedly bitter, it opened a window of introspection. Jon dug into his side hustle to make it his full-time thing. With each click of the shutter, he was focused on providing something beyond a picture of a human, to make himself a photographer worth a high price.

His journey into photography was, in a way, serendipitous. A younger Jon spent a semester in London. His mother was the one to plant the seed. She noticed how he composed his tourist photos and suggested he might be good at photography. Six years later, that was still bouncing around in his mind, so he bought his first interchangeable lens camera. Charmed by the world around him, he learned the exposure triangle by photographing bugs as a hobbyist. The insects were willing subjects, but they didn’t pay him a dime.

Jon’s first paid photography was for a portrait session. Jon would have told you that he wanted to start making money with photography, but he also would have told you he didn’t want to photograph people. It was $100, so he agreed, despite his fears. To his surprise, it was for one of President Obama's advisors. For many, the pressure of such a high-profile gig might be overwhelming, but Jon channeled his nerves into his work, producing images that not only pleased his client, but that eased Jon’s fears about photographing people. The headshots turned out better than Jon feared they would, and the client seemed happy.

The encounter with Obama's advisor was pivotal. He figured that if this person wanted headshots, others would too. He found a mentor in headshot photography, and dove in, specializing in close-up headshots, even though photographing people scared him. Through the education and practice, his skills ramped up, and he started producing high-level work. Each client, be it a corporate CEO, an aspiring actor, or a breast cancer survivor, brought their unique story. Jon wasn't just taking photos; he was capturing journeys, emotions, and pivotal moments in people's lives.

In a world where image is everything, Jon found his sweet spot. It wasn't just about a headshot; it was about presenting one's best self, and he had the talent to do just that. Armed with determination, skill, and a growing portfolio of satisfied clients, Jon embarked on a mission to redefine headshot photography. And as the numbers suggest, he’s well on his way.

Why Headshots? The Unconventional Path to Success

In today's digital age, personal branding isn't just an option; it's a necessity. As the line between the personal and professional blurs, the visual representation of oneself becomes paramount. This isn't just about having a presence but making an indelible impression. LinkedIn, personal websites, even social media platforms: they all demand a visual signature that tells the world who you are. A headshot, once a mere item on a checklist, is now the embodiment of one's personal and professional identity.

In such an evolving landscape, many photographers may wonder where they fit. The demand for capturing fleeting moments in weddings or the grandeur in commercial shoots often seems like the key to financial success. These avenues offer lucrative lump sums, no doubt. But hidden away in plain sight is a niche that holds consistent demand, offering not just stability but immense growth potential: the world of headshots.

At a time when many would be overwhelmed by the crippling anxiety of unexpected layoffs, Jon saw an opportunity. He recognized that while the world was rapidly digitizing, the need for personal connection remained more potent than ever. And he aimed to bridge this gap with headshots.

But Jon's vision went beyond the ordinary. He didn't want to be just another photographer in the fray, snapping predictable, run-of-the-mill headshots. He envisioned a transformative experience for his clients. For Jon, every headshot session was a chance to show the world in one — or six or 12 or 18 images — the essence of the individual. He wasn't just capturing a face but encapsulating their vibes, stories, vulnerabilities, triumphs, and even the hidden battles they've fought – to the world, and even to the clients themselves. His sessions became therapeutic revelations, much like the emotional journey of the breast cancer survivor who saw, in Jon's photograph, not just her face, but her enduring spirit and resilience. She didn't just see a portrait; she confronted her journey, accepted her scars, and celebrated her victory.

This is the magic Jon brought to the table. He made headshots more than just photos; they became poignant narratives. Personal tales of strength, endurance, and identity. Each click of his camera was a celebration of individuality, making every client feel seen, valued, and understood.

Redefining Client Experiences: The Art of Less is More

In the fast-paced world of digital content, there's an unspoken rush to produce more, faster. Many photographers get caught in the grind, juggling multiple shoots, sacrificing personal time, and often struggling to maintain a work-life balance. Jon, however, took a contrarian approach. He saw an opportunity not in the quantity of work but in its quality. His rationale was straightforward yet profound: Why not shoot less, earn more, and reclaim the time for personal passions and family?

Jon's pursuit wasn't just about increasing his income; it was about enriching his life. By redefining the client experience, he ensured that every session he conducted was not merely a photoshoot but a profound engagement. He was no longer just a photographer, but someone who revealed stunning images that captured people in ways they’ve never seen. This depth and intimacy meant that clients were not just paying for a photograph; they were investing in a transformative experience.

It's no surprise then that in a month where he serviced 16 individual clients, he grossed a staggering $115,000, including some groups, and booking fees for individuals pre-booking future months. This wasn’t the result of a lucky streak; it was the fruit of meticulous planning, unparalleled client engagement, and an unwavering commitment to excellence. He's continued that consistency with 45 bookings in the last 45 days.

Pearls of Wisdom from Jon's Journey

As we delve into Jon's successful blueprint, several key takeaways emerge for photographers and creatives alike:

  1. Carve Out Your Specialty: In a world inundated with photographers, standing out might seem daunting. But as Jon showed, specialization can be a game-changer. It wasn’t just about headshots; it was about redefining what a headshot could represent.
  2. Craft an Experience: A photo session isn't just about the final product. The journey, the conversation, the moments of vulnerability and triumph: these are equally, if not more, important. By focusing on the experience, Jon elevated the value he brought to the table.
  3. Champion Your Worth: In a competitive market, there's often a temptation to undercut. But Jon's success underscores the significance of valuing your craft. When you deliver unmatched quality, clients will recognize and reward your worth. He also believes in placing great value on the images in one’s pricing.
  4. Foster a Community, Not Rivalry: In an era where competition can be fierce, Jon chose collaboration. Through platforms like his Facebook group, he underlined the power of community. Sharing knowledge, celebrating peers, and collectively growing are hallmarks of a mature, confident professional.

In Jon's story, there's a resonance that transcends photography. It's about pursuing passion, reimagining possibilities, and crafting a life that's not just successful but also deeply fulfilling.

Jeremy Bustin's picture

Jeremy Bustin is a portrait and headshot photographer in Atlanta. He specializes in corporate photography and actor headshots. His work also spans event photography, commercial photography, editorial photography, and studio photography.

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This reads like a MLM post, written arrogantly by AI, also clearly fiction.

I agree, the article reads really strange and I am definitely skeptical about the truth of this.

Imagine talking down on someone and their work because they’re doing better than you. Not a good look, guys. Not a good look at all.

Evidently you have no clue what you guys are talking about, 1st it was written by Jeremy that is a PR writer so please Johnny, research before you speak. I have known Jon for years and He busts his ass and understands how to shoot, what do you make, are you shooting, oh wait you probably charge $50/img or give it away. Because of Jon, I am where I am...

Hmmmm…where do you get that? Insulting not only the author but the subject of the article as well. Clearly you have sour grapes….

It's a real story and if you knew Jon, his business, the revenue, and the clients are real. As as far as cheap knock off's of Peter Hurley, Jon is an associate photographer within Peter Hurley's headshot crew which means his portfolio of work has been personally endorsed and approved by Peter. Maybe instead of knocking what others are doing, you should find inspiration in it instead.

The story is cleverly written to give the impression of Jon being an overnight success. To that extent, it does indeed read like an MLM spiel.

There's no indication in the story of how long it actually took Jon to reach the point that 20 clients in a month "... including some groups, and booking fees for individuals pre-booking future months" resulted in a six-figure month. It also tells us nothing about his normal months.

The revelation from an earlier post that "Jon is an associate photographer within Peter Hurley's headshot crew" suggests Jon has been on the job for quite a while.

Jon's also had some unusual luck, such as the serendipitous occasion early on to photograph a White House staffer.

Cool story, though.

It took 6 years to have that month.

My average this year per month is $66,000.

The White House staffer did not prove to open any doors. I haven’t shot anyone else from the White House that I recall. Only one politician. It wasn’t an “in.”

It’s amazing how many people think that 1 opportunity, one job, one shout out or whatever it is catapult someone overnight to success. If it does even happen at all, it’s a rare occurrence.

So, as I suggested, you're not an overnight success (which I said the article implied). Nothing wrong with not being an overnight success, nothing wrong with having worked hard to get where you are.

Nice work Meadows!

Jeremy Bustin - Jon's start date would help the article!

It's all about where you live and who you know. As simple as that.

Nice article Jeremy, and if you know Jon, he is a man of his word. Jon works hard and builds relationships…. People want to work with him. It’s nice to see a fellow Virginia photographer gain momentum in our marketplace…. Using talents and drive! Cultivating clients is ever an overnight process- it takes skill and years of dedication and drive, Jon has begun to build a dream for himself and his family. Kudos!

There must be a huge fee discrepancy between the U.S. and the UK. There is no way you could generate that kind of income here for what really to me look like pretty standard headshots. A little over retouched (actually, way over retouched), just my opinion.

Even at the height of my career working for all the major magazines, newspapers with clients such as Conde Naste, H&M, M&S did I get anywhere near what would be over half a millon a year.

So all credit if you can pull that off. I just know in the UK nobody would ever pay £500 for a headshot not even £5000 which is what you must be charging to get those kind of figures.

I don't know, I can't see a single story in any of those shots.

I’m so impressed at so many photographers in the UK who know every person there and how much they would spend for photography!

Awesome Jon! Keep it cranking, your business success is a huge inspiration for many of us.

All the images look overprocessed. Like AI generated. I personally do not like them and if someone is ready to pay 5000 for such photo, for me he/she is crazy.

Amazing! How do you get connected to the folks who spend this type of money? What slid your ideal client demographic?

Finally, someone who thinks they might have something to learn.

I get a lot of my clients through my work on LinkedIn. You can follow me there to see what I do publicly.

The idea is that I post content that helps people know and like (personal) and trust (as a photographer -- I post photos) me.

A lot of my clients have started to come from the government contracting space. That's bigger in DC than anywhere else probably, but I think you can get into any industry with successful people that are paid well.

I post people's headshots, especially in this industry, tag them, and connect with people who like the photo of that person who like/comment.


Clear example of todays "market". 99% marketing 1% skill sprinkled with the need of most photographers to make the work as simple as possible but at the same time claiming "rocket science". Big part of that "marketing" is pure "sucking up" to "colleagues" and the clients simultaneously. Which brings me to potential zumbuls claiming "sour grapes" case. I don't suck up to no man for no amount of $ earned. There is a saying in my country, "daleko mu lepa kuca". Oh and yes, this article is just another "commercial" for the "The Art Behind the Headshot". Because after all, he was the "mentor" to this success story, which was conveniently linked to the course.

Agree that it’s easy to dismiss this as a fluke situation, and the article could have been more informative- rather than so fawning. Better to learn from the success than run it down.
And come on, over processed? They have a polished look, not over precessed. Stop being dicks