5 Tips for Building Your Photography Portfolio

1. Shoot for free
When you’re working to build your portfolio, you need subjects to shoot. Chances are pretty good that you’re working to build said portfolio in hopes that you will be able to get more clients, meaning simply that you don’t necessarily have subjects knocking down your door at this point. So offer your services to select friends and family for free.

2. Charge a minimal fee
Once you’ve started to get a little buzz around your work with all the probono jazz, start to charge a minimal fee. You’ll get to the point where you’re drowning in shoots because you are the right price. . . $0, and that is how you’ll know it’s time to charge. Be prepared to feel slightly uncomfortable at first accepting money for your services. Just remind yourself that you’re worth it, and then prove yourself right. 

3. Do a hard edit
Always, always, always edit down. Remember that once those images have been delivered, they’re out there. 10 years from now, when you’re the best photographer the world has ever known, those images may still be gracing people’s walls. . . a very poor representation of your work and perhaps a hindrance to gaining future clients. Maintain control over your portfolio by remembering that it extends beyond just what you compile in a portfolio album, blog or website.

4. Keep files well organized
A fail proof system for organizing your portfolio goes as follows: from each shoot, pull the images that you feel may be portfolio worthy into a separate file and an external hard drive for back up. Label both the file on your computer and the external drive with the same name. Within the file on your computer (and the one on the external drive if you wish) have sub files categorized by type of photography, ie. portraits, family sessions, weddings, landscape, maternity. . . bla bla bla, you get the picture. 

Then when you’re ready to compile your best images for a portfolio. . . guess what? It’s done already. Imagine that! It is a huge pain not to have a favorites file. . . digging through thousands of files to pick your best work once it comes time to say build a website, does not equal a pleasing way to spend the weekend. Not to mention the terror and dismay you’d experience should your computer crash without you being backed up!

5. Get an expert’s opinion . . . then be prepared to throw it out
It’s good to get another respected photographer’s opinion for 2 reasons. 1. They can help you improve by telling you where your images may fall short. 2. They can help you gain confidence because they may see things in certain images that you did not. They may love what you didn’t allow yourself to for whatever reason. It goes back to that whole “we are our own worst critic” thing. Be prepared for the criticism, and be prepared to process it in a healthy, productive way. Yet, also be prepared to throw it out. 

So, in the end, it doesn’t matter what you think. It matter’s what your client thinks, and just as importantly, if not more so, what you yourself think. Always ask yourself this question: “am I proud of this shot?” if the answer is “yes” then it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.

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