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For Photographers…building a portfolio

For an aspiring photographer building a portfolio is one of the first things that you need to do. You can’t make a career out of being a photographer if you don’t have some great images to show potential clients, but how do you get from just starting out to building a successful business. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I can share what worked for me!

1. Practice, Practice, Practice! It may seem simple, but it is really the key to becoming a great photographer. You need to learn your camera and how to work it and you need to learn to pose people and work with those in front of your camera. Whether it is photographing a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter or having your best friend model in all different lighting situations, practice is key.

2. Learn to shoot in Manual! I know I say it all the time, but it is SO important, this combined with practice is really the key to taking your pictures from “Ok” to “Amazing”. Learn the relation of Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO and learn to nail the perfect exposure straight out of camera.

3. Shoot for Free! I am fully aware that there are lots of photographers that don’t think you should ever shoot for free, but I am just telling you what worked for me. When I was first starting I asked friends to let me photograph them and I was able to get images that were the beginning of my portfolio. Ask newlywed friends to put their wedding attire back on so that you can shoot them as if it was a wedding day and give them the disk of images for free.  You can also get in contact with wedding photographers you look up to and offer to 2nd or 3rd shoot for free to gain experience. When you are starting out, every great image you can show is a valuable asset to your portfolio and to me it was worth doing things for free to build up my website.

4. Present your photos online in a professional way! People are looking for a photographer online, so that is where you need to make sure your images are seen. I LOVE Showit and ProPhoto Blogs, but there are other ways to present your photos in a professional way. Focus more on quality than quantity, and try to have a variety of subjects.

5. Stop Shooting for Free! You may be thinking that this contradicts what I just said, but I promise it doesn’t. After your initial portfolio building stage, which the length of will vary for each person, it is time to stop doing it for free. You may start out with fairly low prices, but you need to put value on the work that you do and others will too. How do you know when it is time to stop giving free session? It is different for every person, but I would say that when you feel like you have enough photos online to show your talent, you know how to work your camera, you are comfortable directing and posing subjects, and you have a good number of people asking to be photographed by you, it is probably now time for you to start charging.


As always if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at  and I will get back to you as soon as possible!

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