Are you ready to take your photography business to the next level? Are you excited to show potential clients what you can do and grab their attention? Here are some simple, yet very important steps toward achieving your goals of becoming a professional photographer.

How to Make a Photography Portfolio – 10 Simple Tips for Success

  1. Set Your Terms and Communication Expectations
  2. Use Your Family and Friends
  3. Take Advantage of TFP Model Calls
  4. Pick a Platform
  5. Set a Theme and Tone
  6. Decide on Content
  7. Make Frequent Updates
  8. Ask for Ratings and Reviews
  9. Charge Clients Your Worth
  10. Maintain an Online Presence

Every successful photographer had to begin with this one essential step: building a photography portfolio. Your portfolio plays an integral role in not only showcasing your best work but also in establishing a clientele and an unyielding reputation. Photographers around the world consider this aspect of building their business to be vital to their success.

Photography Portfolio

There are many ways you can accomplish this, but first and foremost you’ll want to have a professional website with an eye-catching design. A website is standard for professional photographers, and therefore a key component in establishing yourself amongst your peers. These days, there are many website templates and photography WordPress themes available which make the design process simple and effective.

In addition to designing a business logo, creating a photography website should be one of your top priorities. Also, make sure it has a friendly design for mobile devices. If you need help with web design, there are many other design portfolio template options available as well— which can be a good step towards having an advanced website design. A photographer portfolio site can come in many forms, and this in-depth article will discuss some of those avenues for you.

Here are some tips that’ll give you an action plan to move forward with building your own photography portfolio.

1. Set Your Terms and Communication Expectations

The beginning stages of building a photography portfolio usually involve shooting at either a discounted rate or for free. If you don’t have much work to show yet or want to try a new idea or theme, a test shoot is a great way to accomplish this. When shooting people, your best bet is to make sure to fully communicated the terms to your models, and don’t make any promises you can’t keep! Transparency is key at this stage, and the people you shoot will be grateful for it. When setting these terms, be clear about where the images will be used. (i.e., an online portfolio, photography blog, professional website, or simply to improve your photography).

2. Use Family and Friends

One of the most effective ways to work on building your photography portfolio is to take advantage of your inner circle. This is especially useful at the beginning stages of experimenting with your personal style. Ask family or friends if they’ll let you shoot them, chances are they’ll be happy to help you out during this crucial time of learning. Shooting family and friends can be especially helpful when trying out new lighting techniques and compositions. You’ll have room to play and experiment without the added stress of trying to be perfect!

Photography Portfolio Cole's Classroom

3. Take Advantage of TFP Model Calls

TFP stands for Trade for Print. This is a commonly used method of getting to work with a model without either of you having to pay each other. It’s strictly collaboration, with the promise that you’ll deliver retouched final images for building both of your portfolios. As the photographer, you should take the lead and set the terms of the shoot and final image delivery. Once again, transparency is key here.  There are numerous platforms to utilize when putting a call out for TFP shoots at your disposal (i.e., Facebook groups, Social Media, Casting sites, etc.). Be thoughtful in your posts and include all pertinent information, expectations, and goals. For an added edge, include a mood board of your vision for the shoot!

4. Pick a Platform

There are many different photography websites you can use to showcase your work.  A physical, printed book of your prints is very helpful to have. However, a digital portfolio is the most common and cost-effective ways to show your work. The best thing to do here is research! Find which sites you’re drawn to, which design you jive with creatively, which online communities you might want to join, and show your work there!

Photography Portfolio

There are many peer-driven sites, where large communities of photographers encourage each other’s work and growth. Additionally, social media sites can play a huge role in getting exposure and the interest of potential clients. A great way to get started is to use your Instagram as a platform to show your work. From there, research specific photography portfolio websites and see how much traffic they get. Be thoughtful when choosing your platforms and be diligent in keeping it sleek and professional. Keep in mind that while social media offers wonderful tools for showcasing your photography, it’s important to have a professional portfolio website of your own to act as your main business portfolio.

5. Set a Theme and Tone

If you’re wondering how to make a portfolio, your theme and tone are important things to consider when getting started. Once you’re beginning to showcase your work, think about your specific photo choices. There should be some element of cohesion within your photography portfolio that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. For instance, if you ricochet between dark moody shots and bright commercial shots, order them in such a way that the juxtaposition is handled with ease and there’s some common element or theme throughout. The design and layout will play an important role in how your work is perceived.

If you enjoy shooting people, then your portfolio should highlight these shots. Avoid showing work that is unrelated (such as a landscape photo from a recent trip). It is important to show your work in a way that provides future clients with a view of what you can do, and how far your creativity stretches. Although you must have a common theme and tone, you should also not be afraid to show variety within that space. Give your future client an indication of what you can do and let your portfolio show the kind of work you offer.

6. Decide on Content

This can’t be stressed enough– only show your BEST work! The worst thing you can do for yourself is to choose quantity over quality. Even if you don’t have much work to showcase yet, only stick to your best shots. First impressions mean everything, and you don’t want a potential client seeing work that’s anything less than your best final piece. In addition to showing your best work, choose photos that highlight the kind of photography you want to be doing, whether it’s portraiture, lifestyle, event, etc. Don’t forget to show variety in aspect ratios and composition, with both landscape and portrait orientations.

7. Make Frequent Updates

Once you’ve compiled your photography portfolio images and are showcasing your work, don’t forget to add the best of your newest work. A portfolio requires constant updates and maintenance. Updating your portfolio often shows potential clients that you’re busy honing your craft and technique. It shows that you’re constantly working on your skills and experimenting with new ideas and concepts. The more fresh faces that potential clients see in your portfolio, the more active and in demand you appear.

Photography Portfolio

8. Ask for Ratings and Reviews

When you begin working with models, even if on a TFP basis, provide them with a link they can follow to leave you a rating or review of their experience with you. If the shoot went smoothly and they’re happy with the results, they’ll likely leave a positive review about their experience with you. This can go a long way in establishing your reputation as a professional photographer and could be the deciding factor for a potential client in choosing you over someone else. Bear this in mind when working with people and following up for a rating or review after a successful shoot. It’s never too early to start building a good name!

9. Charge Clients Your Worth

When you’ve reached the point where you begin charging for your services, remember not to undersell yourself! When it comes to pricing, it’s important to do research on your competition. Find out the going rate from other photographers in your area. What do they charge? What sort of deals do they offer? How can you be competitive while not underselling or overselling yourself? Have your main rates memorized, in case of an impromptu meeting with someone in person. You don’t want to get flustered and not know how to answer their specific questions. Be bold and authoritative when speaking of your rates, because this is also your chance to show that you are a professional who values yourself and your work. Confidence goes a long way here!

10. Maintain an Online Presence

We’re in the age of social media, and so it is an important aspect of your business and your work to be seen and showcased frequently across all platforms you participate in. Instagram is probably the most popular, as it is strictly image based, and therefore a great avenue for photographers showcasing their body of work. As you update your portfolio websites, don’t forget to update and engage on social media sites as well. Let your followers know you’re consistently working. Let them see your recently uploaded images. Engage with them as well and continue to grow your network. This is a positive step toward staying current and up on new trends, so you can gain new clients!

Photography Portfolio

Taking the First Steps

Establishing a well-rounded and effective photography portfolio takes time and hard work, but it is worth the effort! Chances are, you’ve already taken many of the essential steps toward building your portfolio. If you’ve begun compiling your best photos in a folder on your desktop, you’re already well on your way to getting your portfolio online and visible to the public. If you feel unsure where to take the first step, Instagram is a great place to start while you work on something bigger and more professional.

Research will play an important role in discovering what you like and don’t like in terms of your personal style. Study established photographers as a way to get your own creative juices flowing and deciding how you might want to showcase your work. Additionally, research the photography communities online and see which portfolio sites are the best ones to join for your particular style.

The more you research, the more you’ll find yourself drawn to certain styles and inspirations. This will help aid in building your photography portfolio and ultimately lead to your own unique branding. Your photography portfolio is a crucial step in building a business, and now you’re equipped with an action plan to start booking clients!