When you the way to commercial photography, you will definitely stumble upon this question: how to make my portfolio special, inspiring and in one style? Basically, you are going to want to know how to build a photography portfolio. There are so many talented photographers right now and you need to stand out somehow and be able to grab people’s attention. That is why it is necessary to have a quality material posted online. In addition, as soon as you develop your own style or distinct feature, you’ll be able to reach for the stars. But, first things come first, I’ll share my personal notes how to make your photography portfolio from scratch.

Make your first inspirational photo shoots free

When you picked your photography niche and style, find people for your inspirational shoot. You may want to check your Facebook friend’s list first. That is what I did when I started out, a lot of guys were super excited to help me out. It is also an awesome way to get great word of mouth! You never know where your first clients may come from. You may want to use same shooting conditions, like light characteristics, composition or even the same place. The most important note is that you should make photo shoots as often as you can.

Managing expenses for a photo shoot

Sometimes it is a good idea to pay for photo studio rent and additional decor. I advise to find make-up artists who seek to build up their portfolios as well. It is not that hard to do actually, social media has a large variety of groups and specialized pages where different artists and models support each other. Don’t be shy to make a post where you describe what kind of artist or model you are looking for. Ask your friends to share this post in their social media! Trust me, this is the best way to get attention and involvement, I’ve tried it many times and it works! 

Try simple ideas first

It’s easy to lose yourself in the diversity of the ideas you have, when you’re just starting out. It is best to create simple pictures at first. For example, take a family photoshoot. Ask this family to wear clothes of neutral color, so that you could focus on emotions and finding a creative point of view. After that you can gradually move towards ideas that are more complicated. Complicated ideas are more fascinating to work with, but are time consuming, it very much depends on what you want to achieve. Always keep in mind, that you need to build your portfolio fast. 

Control the process of a photo shoot

Try to give simple, but clear instructions on a photo shoot, otherwise your model might take control of the process. The result will be different from what you pictured in your mind. The best way to practice that is to create a page on your website, where you describe every detail of the process very thoroughly. There’s only one question a client should have after reading this page “what date is available for a shoot?” Time management is essential nowadays. Just imagine how much time you’d spend on texting with your potential clients if you didn’t have such a simple and informative page. Usually a problem on photo shoot may occur if photographer wasn’t informative enough. It is a part of your job, don’t expect any model to know or feel your idea of the photo shoot.

Photography Portfolio

When you have at least 10 photo shoots under your belt, get ready to review them. Take your time when you are doing this, it is the essential part of growing as a professional. Start with simple questions. What would I change? What point of view I should add? Did I choose right light conditions? Try to look at your pictures as if they belong to a different photographer.

You can always ask your models to be honest and tell what they did or did not like about pictures they got. This will help you understand your clientele; try to say that you want to make your pictures perfect and you’ll be happy to get any advice. Just remember that you will have to filter some comments, not everyone can express their opinion on the matter. 

The best reviews you should get from professionals – masters of the trade. You can get a portfolio review from a well-known photographer online, or when you participate in a master class or a workshop. These events can cost quite a bit, so you can try to find some help on photography forums. Whichever way you choose, be sure to ask about how to correct your mistakes and how to avoid them in the future. 

Before I went to master classes and forums I tried another approach that helped me along the way. I asked a lot of my friends what pictures or photographers they liked. Then I took all the info and tried to compare professional pictures with mine. It was a truly inspirational moment for me. This helped me to understand my own weak and strong points. 

Not every client is your client

I want to share a very simple note that came from my experience. Your portfolio is like a display of cakes, so clients will come to you wanting exactly cakes, they don’t ask for candy. However, if a client asks for candy, generally speaking, you can’t sell them what you don’t have. So if client asked for a photoshoot you don’t have experience in, I believe you can’t take money for that. But, if you want to try something new, you can always agree to do it for free, if you want to experience something new. Just let client know about it. 

Commercial photographer is a person, who loves his job with all his heart, and gets rewarded for that. So I wish my tips could help you along the way. Stay true to your style and keep developing in the chosen direction.

The picture you see in this post is from my first shoot with the professional model. The place for the photoshoot was awesome; filmmakers commonly used it to shoot westerns and historical pieces. I remember clearly how for first 30 minutes I could not get a good shot. The problem was that I was a bit shy and did not control the process, thinking that professional model will help me out. She has more experience, right? Turns out, as soon as I took over the shoot, everything started to click. It happened when my ideas started to flow and she was eager to realize them no matter how silly they seemed. This way I got this shot. It has been 8 years since that shoot and I still love it. Gladly, I saved my original raw file to try new Rockshutter presets. I love to play with blending modes when I do final touches. I used Duotone 14 with blending mode Soft Light and set layer opacity at 58%, boosted whites and picture’s done. So easy!