Day 3: Portfolio Building Shoots

Welcome to day three of 100 days of photography! Today we are going to talk about portfolio building shoots when you’re either just starting out or going through a re-brand. The first thing I would recommend is to setup an account at Pixieset. This is a proofing site where people can easily order prints from their gallery. One of the best parts about being a business owner is when you wake up and see you’ve gotten orders overnight. That’s money, honey! A huge lesson I learned in business was to make it easy for people to pay you. If you don’t have an easy method for people to buy your products, they simply won’t.

getting your first photography clients

I am all for waiving your session fee to portfolio build in the beginning, BUT you have to set clear expectations and come up with an outline of what your portfolio building shoot entails. For example, you can invite people to sign up for a one hour complimentary session at the location of your choosing. They will also need to wear clothing that fits your brand (giving them colors is enough). Then they can order prints at 30% off afterwards through their gallery. You can limit this type of session to five. Setting very clear parameters around a free shoot lets people know you’re not just doing this for fun, there is a goal and a purpose… additionally, it tends to cut out the people who tell you they were “Glad to help you out” at the end of the shoot. Like, friend, you just got a free shoot! I don’t talk about my pet peeves often but that’s like, a big one.

Whatever discounts or special promotion you setup, it has to have a firm limit. If it doesn’t, you make it very hard to establish yourself as a professional later on. After your set amount of sessions are filled, let people know! They’ve “Sold out” and now you’re booking sessions at your current rate. People will mark you as a “Free” photographer if you’re too lenient with the amount of discounted portfolio-building sessions you do.

Lastly, you must have them sign a contract. There is nothing worse than someone later saying they misunderstood the terms and either don’t want their images online or thought the whole session was free with the digital images. Having a clear contract outlining the terms of your agreement is to make sure both parties are on the same page and to maintain a good working relationship. To introduce a contract with minimal awkwardness, try sending an email that says,

“I am so excited for our shoot next Saturday! To make sure both parties are on the same page and there are no surprises, please review the attached info and if all looks good, sign and return by the end of tomorrow! Let me know if you have any questions and we’ll see you soon!”

Another way to build your portfolio in the beginning is taking part in styled shoots. This is where a variety of vendors team up to create a mock wedding for photographers to come in and shoot. So a florist, a planner, a stationer, a bakery and a venue might all collaborate on making the shoot come to life and then they open it up to ~20 photographers. This is usually a ticketed event with pricing ranging from $50-$100. The amazing part about styled shoots is that you get to see how other photographers work and direct which is infinitely valuable no matter what stage of photography you’re at. I’m constantly learning from other photographers and I love the community aspect of it.  If you’re in Arizona, you can check out this group to see what shoots are coming up! If you don’t have one in your community, girl, that’s a NEED that a lot of photographers want so this is your sign to create one!

Photos from a styled shoot:

After you have created a stunning portfolio, you will need a website! So tune in to day 4 tomorrow: Creating your first website!

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris