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Creating an Effective Photography Portfolio

August 3, 2015 11:13 am

In order to be a successful professional photographer, whether it’s a full-time or part-time occupation, you need an effective portfolio that makes a strong impact when potential clients view your work. If you don’t have a portfolio yet and don’t know where to start, we have a few helpful ideas that will inspire your creativity.

Photograph for free

When your work isn’t at a professional level and you don’t have a thorough understanding of all your camera setting, you shouldn’t be charging for your time. Shooting for free is an easy and fast way to build a portfolio of work and gain valuable experience. To improve your photography and understanding of your camera, look into taking online tutorials and courses that can help you master camera settings.

Engage in portfolio building activities

When you know the specialty you want to work in, start photographing for free in that specialty. If you’re not sure what you want to specialize in, the following portfolio building activities can help you narrow it down while adding to your body of work.

Wedding photography

Contact an area wedding photographer or two and talk to them in person for some great one-on-one insight. Offer to second shoot for free if the main photographer allows you to use the images in your personal portfolio. Make your wedding photography portfolio stand out with some unique shots including those suggested by our previous post, “8 Tips for Natural Wedding Photography Poses.”

Portrait photography

Employ the help of family and friends to build your portrait photography portfolio. Find suitable locations such as a local park, beach or main street and tell your subjects that you’ll give them prints, discs of photos or access to an online album so they can order their own prints.

Commercial photography

When building your product and commercial photography portfolio, work for trade instead of for free. Approach the owners of favorite establishments like restaurants and small businesses and offer your photography in exchange for credit toward their services. Ask the business owners what images they want and their intended use before you start shooting so you know exactly what images to take.

Event photography

Event organizers are often in search of no or low cost photography, which is a great boon to building your photography. Non-profit fundraisers, dog shows and horse shows are all great photography opportunities.

After you have several shoots in your chosen photography area (or several photography areas if you’re still deciding) you need to transform that work into an effective portfolio, which is usually harder than the shoots themselves.

Very best work only

Following each photography session, do a strong edit and while it hurts to eliminate images you worked hard on, potential clients judge the quality of your work on the weakest image. Eliminate mediocre photos ruthlessly and select you very best work only for your portfolio. Limit your selections to 1-2 of the BEST images per session for a highly effective portfolio.

Second opinion

Once you have a collection of work you’re proud of, ask for second opinions from family, friends and other photographers. Let them know that you want their honest critique and feedback and prepare yourself for criticism. Use suggestions and feedback to improve your work and learn from it instead of feeling discouraged.

Online portfolio

In today’s digital world, you need an online portfolio or blog to show your photography. As you transition into charging for your work, you need a strong, professional and clean online presence that clients can trust. Building on and improving your website knowledge is a valuable tool in modern photography. Feature your preferred style of work on your site and in your main portfolio and separate the other styles you’ve shot to avoid confusion.

Charging for photography

When you’ve mastered using your camera and have an effective and stunning photography portfolio, you can start charging for your photography. Your skill level and goals determine if you’ll be starting small first or establishing your business and going for it and it’s ultimately your decision whether you charge appropriate rates right off or raise your rates as you confidence and skill level increases. However you go about it, make sure you have the mastery of composition, lighting and camera settings to justify your rates.

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