Let’s chat about how to build a diverse photography portfolio when you’re just starting out as a photographer!
I’ve recently welcome dozens of new members into our photography Facebook group, most of whom are in the early stages of their business. One of the most common questions I get from newer photographers is:
“How do I build a diverse portfolio if I don’t have any paying clients yet? How do I start out?”
Here are the exact things I did in the early stages of my business (that you can do too!) to have enough work to share daily on social media to show that my business was in demand.
1. Photograph family and friends.
If you already have family and friends willing to let you photograph them, then you’re already one step ahead of where I was. I took an interest in photography shortly after I moved to the States from Europe. Needless to say, I could count all the people I knew on this side of the ocean on the fingers of my hands. I didn’t really have many people I could ask to take pictures of. But I did it anyway!
One of the first sessions I ever did was for the daughter of a friend’s sister. Yep, it was a lemonade stand themed session for a 7-8 year old. Their friend who was getting married saw the pictures, and asked if I’d be wiling to take her wedding pictures… for free. I said YES! That’s how I photographed my very first wedding.
Then, I asked a few other recently married couples that my husband knew if they’d be willing to let me take pictures of them in their wedding attire. I basically created my very own (un)styled photoshoots. Haha. That allowed me to showcase 4-5 different wedding sessions online. Which leads me to point #2!
2. Attend bridal shows and do a giveaway.
When I felt confident enough, I booked a bridal show and ordered prints, canvases, and albums to showcase my work. This put my business in front of hundreds of potential brides. I got to talk and interact with them at the show, and I also offered them the option to enter a drawing for a free engagement session. I chose 2-3 winners the next day, and planned their engagement sessions. Each of these couples loved their photos and ended up booking me for their weddings. That’s how I got my first paying clients!!
3. Partner up with local vendors to create styled shoots.
At the bridal show, I also had the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing vendors. I introduced myself and later interviewed them for my blog. One of my very first blog posts was an interview with a new venue at the time. We were at the same stage in our businesses and we quickly connected. They ended up referring my business to all of their couples for years. That’s how word of mouth got started.
4. Attend workshops.
At this point in my business I had some clients of my own, so I was bringing in income. So, I decided to invest in my very first workshop. I met some amazing photographers at that workshop, some of whom are very close friends to this day.
At this point, I was sharing consistent work, so people started to see me more as a business owner than just a hobbyist.
5. Do a model call.
Remember tip #3? I also teamed up with an event planner from the bridal show to offer styled engagement sessions. We promoted a Valentine’s Day special and offered a free session to one lucky couple. They loved their images and started sharing them all over their social media, so both the planner and myself got a ton of free exposure.
6. Start a 365 photography project.
A 365 project challenges you to take a photo a day for 365 days. As you participate in a 365 project, you will strengthen your photography skills and capture all the little moments in your life that might otherwise pass by. The best thing is that you don’t have to wait until you have a session booked, you can start TODAY. If you simply do a search for a 365 photography project, you are going to find all sorts of prompt lists that you can use to help guide yourself on what kind of photos to take each day.
7. Share photos of yourself (personal branding)
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the 365 project allowed me start marketing my business through personal branding. As I started sharing more about my everyday life through photos, people started connecting with me more. These days, I like to use a lot of behind-the-scene images from weddings, as well as set up sessions for my family and I in order to be in front of the camera more often. Whenever I share personal images on my social media, they get the most engagement. Try it, it really works!
And there you have it: 7 easy ways that you can build a diverse photography portfolio when you’re just starting out as a photographer. I have spent the past decade of my life building a successful photography business in order to get to where I am today — helping you create a sustainable business that gives you freedom and joy!
My hope is that it’s going to take you a lot shorter to start a profitable business because you don’t have to take the long road of trial and error trying and figure things out on your own. I like to share what worked and didn’t work in my business so that you can get where you want to be faster.
If you found this blog post valuable in helping you achieve big dreams, will you please join our photography group and let me know? I’d love to hear from YOU how I can serve you better going forward!