How To Build A Photography Portfolio When You Don’t Have Clients Yet
Are you wondering how you can build a photography portfolio when you don’t have any clients yet? If so, this post is for you!
Starting your new photography business can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Give yourself time and space to learn, practice, develop your own style and process, and improve over time.
Perfection may not exist, but progress certainly does. And you know how progress is made? With practice, which is what we’re going to be talking about today so let’s get to it!
How To Build A Photography Portfolio When You Don’t Have Any Clients Yet
1. Practice with friends and family. And then strangers!
Start with your friends and family, the people you feel most comfortable with. And people who feel comfortable with you as well!
It’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice: your angles, lighting, location, communication, posing, timing, etc. There are a lot of things to consider as a photographer when you’re doing a photoshoot with a client. It’s not just as simple as clicking a camera, right?
So by doing practice shoots with friends and family, not only are you going to have a solid portfolio by the end of it, you’ll also know gain a lot of knowledge and skill in the process of doing so.
After you’ve done a few test shoots with those you love and know, it’s time to practice with strangers! Why? Because you’ll gain the experience of working with strangers (your new photography clients later on will also start out as strangers) and you’ll end up with a stronger, better looking portfolio.
You want a portfolio that showcases that you know what you’re doing -- and the more galleries and photos you have, the better, right? But also make sure that everything you put out there is good and something you are proud of showing.
2. Take the time to develop your own style, technique, aesthetic, and voice.
What makes you stand out from all the other photographers? It’s you. Your style, your personality, your voice, your story, and the way you capture people and moments.
While it may be tempting when you’re first starting out to copy other people’s style, I have one word of advice: don’t.
Embrace who you are, where you are. We all had to start out somewhere. It’s okay if you’re not further along like this or that photographer. You don’t know how long they’ve been shooting or if they had any industry experience prior to this. Comparison is a losing game, my friend.
By developing your own style, technique, aesthetic, and voice, you set yourself apart. People have something to remember you by, instead of being “just another photographer with pretty pictures”. Substance goes a long way.
If you set out to do your own thing, you don’t have to worry about “an oversaturated market”. It’s like that restaurant who does their own thing and doesn’t worry about what everyone else is doing, because they know that people will want to go there.
And trust me, there are enough clients and customers to go around. Think about it:
People are buying new clothes all the time, from different stores.
They’re eating all the time, from different restaurants.
They’re visiting different places, instead of just going to one.
In other words, don’t operate your business from a lack mindset. Trust me, it’s not going to help.
Work on yourself and your skills, put yourself out there, believe in yourself, and don’t give up. Starting and growing a business takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight.
3. Figure out what kind of photography work you’d like to do and build your business on.
When you’re working on building your photography portfolio, I suggest doing a variety of shoots (portrait, lifestyle, couples, families, etc.) to figure out what you actually like doing.
Do you like shooting in the city, out in nature, or at home?
Do you like shooting one-on-one or do you enjoy working with couples more?
Do you like doing more candid shoots or are you better at posing people?
The only way to find out what you actually like doing (and don’t like doing) is by doing the things.
Pro tip: Don’t put every picture you end up taking on your portfolio. Curate your portfolio > see the next bullet point.
4. build a portfolio around what you’d like to offer and who you’d like to work with.
If you find out you really enjoy doing home photoshoot sessions with couples, guess what your portfolio should be based around? Exactly that, couples in their homes.
Why? So when someone who’s looking for a couples photographer comes to your website, Instagram, Facebook page, etc., they clearly see right away what kind of photographer you are (couples), what you’re really good at (shooting couples in their homes), and they can imagine what it would be like to work with you and what kind of photos they can expect.
Maybe they really like your style and the emotions you capture in your work and want to work with you right away. Or maybe they take a look at your portfolio and decide you’re not the photographer for them.
Both scenarios are okay, because you want to attract your ideal clients and turn away the wrong ones.
If you’re thinking “Why would I ever turn away any clients? That’s crazy!” — by saying no to the ones that aren’t a good fit, you are creating space for the ones that are. When you work with your dream clients, everything will feel in alignment and a hundred times better. Seriously.
Trust that your ideal photography clients are out there, because they are. And they’re looking for you.
I’d love to hear what you think!
Did you find this post on how to build a portfolio when don’t have any photography clients yet helpful? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!
Molly Ho is a branding and graphic designer for photographers and creative entrepreneurs. Her mission is to help you create a brand that will give your dream clients the confidence and clarity they need to hire you.
She believes in being (and becoming) the kind of person you want to see more of in the world, because change starts with you. And you have the power and capacity to become the person you want to be.
On the blog, she talks about topics including branding, marketing, social media, body image, and personal development.