Top Tips for Building Your Photography Portfolio

When you’re starting out as a photographer, one obstacle that you’ll need to overcome is how to build a photography portfolio. If you want to attract new clients, you’re going to have to showcase your experience.

Very often photographers will use stock images in their marketing material because they don’t have images of their own. This is not the best approach. The reason for this is because if a potential client inquires about one of the stock images or asks for something similar, would you definitely be able to replicate it?

A good portfolio is an essential tool for all photographers; it’s what you’re selling. Your portfolio is the physical product that potential customers will look at when deciding whether or not to hire you.

Top tips for building a killer portfolio

Below are a few ideas to help you build a portfolio that sells:

  1. Sign-up for a workshop. As a photographer, you never stop learning. There’s always a course or workshop that you can attend to improve your skills. If you’re looking to attend a workshop or course, try and choose one that offers a shootout or model photo shoot so that you can leave with images to use in your portfolio. Just remember to find out whether you’re workshop host allows you to use the images in your portfolio or for marketing purposes. Even though the other workshop attendees might be using these images in their own portfolios, at least you will have something to show potential clients.
  1. Use what you have. There’s a good chance that some of your family and friends represent your target audience. If they do, ask for their help in building your portfolio. Do you know of a friend who’s getting married soon? Ask if you can shoot some engagement photos for them. Have a sister who’s having a baby? Arrange a maternity or newborn shoot for them.
  1. Hire models. If you have the budget, hiring one or two models for a shoot is a great way to start building your photography portfolio. You’ll find a few websites where people who are new to the modeling scene will be willing to exchange time in front of the camera for prints. While this can be an affordable route to take, these models don’t necessarily have enough experience to give you really good results. It’s best to approach a professional modeling agency about hiring models for the day. Make sure that your model’s hair, makeup, and outfits look impeccable and stylish, and ask that they have a few different outfits ready for the day so that you can get several different shots. You may want to select the outfits for them ahead of time to make sure the look resonates with the target market you are trying t reach. And don’t forget that model release form!
  1. Shoot for free? As a new photographer, you need to find a balance between building your portfolio and still earning an income. Offering to shoot photos for free doesn’t mean that you’re giving everything away for free though. Try offering the “sitting fee” or “session fee” only for for free (and use the word “complimentary” instead of “free”) and then give the clients the opportunity to purchase prints from you. This way you’re still making some money for your time. Put a time limit on the shoot to make it worth your while and don’t forget to setup the in person sales meeting with them afterwards so that you can sell them the prints, albums or canvases. This approach helps get potential customers through your door and gives you invaluable experience, plus helps you make some money at the same time.
  1. Arrange a styled shoot. Successful photographers know how important networking and industry partnerships are. Make a list of vendors who compliment your area of expertise and arrange a shoot with them. This way everyone is contributing something to the shoot and benefitting from it at the same time. You’ll also make some great connections for any upcoming shoots or events. For example, if you specialize in weddings, partner with a venue and a caterer for some great shots that you can all use in your portfolios. As an added bonus, create a small welcome guide or brochure that includes the images and the details of all vendors involved so that everyone can use it for marketing purposes.

Building a photographic portfolio isn’t difficult, it just requires a bit of planning and some creative thinking.

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