Creating a Portfolio That Works

Lesson 2/6 - What if you have zero portfolio?


Creating a Portfolio That Works


Lesson Info

What if you have zero portfolio?

We're going to talk about the dos and the don'ts. How to compile a portfolio that works. Before we even get there though, cuz' I bet there are some people watching that like, just started out. What do you do when you don't have a portfolio? Right, what do you do? You're like, maybe you are that photographer who's like this is week one for me I'm here for photo week I'm excited to jump in, but I just don't have anything yet. What do you do? So I want to help with that right. Start from the bottom, and now we're here. Like, everyone started from the bottom right? Everyone started with nothing and so there's only one way to build a portfolio and that's to shoot. Shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot. You all should have your cameras with you at all times, shooting, shooting, nonstop shooting. I'm going to give you more details than just shooting like uh I'm going to spend some time on this just briefly to kinda give you some ideas on ways to actually build your portfolio when you are in that ...

stage of month one, week one, year one early on right? Obviously if you're doin' it, you're doin' the thing, you're out there shooting gigs then great. You should have portfolio stuff from there, but if you're early on here's some things you can do. You literally have nothing, if you're starting out at ground zero, family and friends. It's like the first move, it really is. Your first go to should just be your contact list, an email blast, 50 text messages, pull up Instagram start dmn' people right? See who's willing to step out and be in front of the camera, on your terms right, on your terms. I wanna bring you in and I wanna photograph something on your terms, this is not yeah okay Aunt so and so I'll come and take picture at the lake house. Like maybe if it's nothing, it's better than nothing I guess. Um, I do remember this. My sister-in-law was one of the first people that stepped in front of my camera right. This was another time that I brought her out with her now husband, they looked fancy one day and I had my camera on me and I need portfolio images and I'm like, hey you guys look fancy, come outside. Right, and I'm just like shootin'. They may be basic but again if you have nothing, then start shooting right? Before this I convinced my sister-in-law to put on this now kinda awful looking dress and go out in the rain and we went to some abandoned house and shot. Um, and we did this thing right? So this is a great kinda starting point. Quick advice, even though they're family, even though they're your friends get a model release. The last thing you want to do is spend all this time and do this thing right and then someone's like ooooo I don't like the way I look. And it's not about anything like weird or legal, it's just like I don't like the way I look can you take that out of your portfolio? So get a model release to make that happen. Um, even better than friends and family though is to do like a style shoot. Organize something, and collaborate with other people right? Bring in other people's talents, that way you're not just relying on yourself. You get to network. Some pro tips at the style shoot by the way, not going to unpack all the benefits and the ways to host a style shoot, but just some quick pro tips. Be very clear on expectations, prior to the shoot. What are you providing for everyone after the shoot is done? What did they expect from the shoot, and when did they expect it right? What do you expect from the shoot? You know, that kind of stuff. Um, and again, get a model release. Get a model release, don't get yourself in these pickles where you spend all this time and then someone, I mean, I don't like my chin I'm gonna take it out right? Get a model release. Second shooting! Right? This is obviously the best way to gain actual experience but if you go into it and properly negotiate ahead of time this is also an opportunity to potentially build your portfolio. So let's kina talk about some dos and don'ts of trying to build our portfolio while second shooting. Don't go second shoot for someone and expect to be able to use every single picture in your portfolio. It's not likely, it's not the way that the industry kinda works, it's not the standard. You don't get to go shoot on your own cards and go home and post a blog post. Don't do that, you'll burn bridges okay. Also, don't second shoot for someone without working it all out in advance and then being like, hey I can use this right? It's probably not a good assumption to make. Um, and so again if you haven't kinda gathered this number one, make sure that everything is agreed upon before you take on the shoot in writing. Like, I'm not a big contracty guy. I like handshakes, I like looking people in the eye and being like you're a good person I'm a good person, cool. But this is one of those things that it's probably smarter than not. To actually have a contract to work this out. The second thing is approach it with tact. Approach the request with tact and humility. I've had second shooters come to me and they've said something like so I'm going to bring my own cards and I would like to use the images in my portfolio probably going do like a blog post or something, maybe submit it, I don't know. Um, that'd be cool right? And I'm like, eh let's hold off. It's not a black and white thing, let's pump the breaks for a second because before anyone sees anything the client's going to see everything right? Um, and so instead maybe a better way to go about it, I'm not saying this is the end all be all, but maybe a better way to go about it is with tact and to say hey I would love this opportunity. If there are one or two specific photographs that I take that I'm really excited about. I'm trying to build my portfolio that I'm really excited about would I be able to use in my portfolio, obviously after the client receives all their images, after you've published everything, would that be okay would that be appropriate to do that? They might tell you no and that's their right but you're probably better off asking for one picture that you're really excited about after everything's said and done. They'll probably be able to level with you a little bit and be able to do that. If someone came to me and asked that, yes, yes of course you shot it let's do that. So, but if they don't, don't throw a fit right? It's their prerogative. Alright, Gifts, you can give gifts. You could give gifts, but again on your own terms. So here's what I mean when I say you could give a gift. When I say a gift I mean you could give an engagement session, a portrait session that you don't charge for. Now notice I haven't said free yet, I didn't say free shoot. Give gifts on your terms. You would like to give someone a gift that you're not going to charge them for, a gift that your going to cover okay? And so there's a couple things in regards to shooting as a gift. At this point we'll kinda pull back the curtain to say shooting for free you're not going to make money right up front on it right? This is a little bit of a touchy subject. Again to remind everyone I'm talking about this if you're week one, day one, and you've got nothin' and you need somethin' right? So two gifts, er sorry, two keys to gift giving. Number one is, it is a gift. It has value. It is not a freebie, define it as such. This is a gift, it has value, it is not free. And number two that there be clear terms that you have defined about this gift right? So here's the advice I would give you in terms of terms. Number one is that you only give this gift to your absolute ideal client. Don't waste your time, don't waste your gift giving on something that's going to attract clients that you don't want to be shooting. Give this gift to someone that fits your absolute ideal client okay. The second thing is this, have this gift be given with purpose, with reason okay. I'll explain what that looks like in a second. There has to be a reason. I would like to give you this gift because why right? There has to be a reason, I think there should be a reason. And number three is that there be a defined duration or quantity for the gifted. The reason that these kinda parameters are here is so you don't get in this situation where you get everyone knocking on your door being like, hey I heard you the gift to so and so I would like that too. You doin' free shoots? Cool, this guy is doin' free shoots, free shoots homies. They hop on their little like suburban thing, hey moms free shoots with the kids go check it out right? So here's what this would look like, here's what this would look like. Maybe do like a post right and you're saying like hey, attention everyone I'm looking for an adventurous, outdoorsy, expressive couple like the more romantic the better, the more intimate the couple the better. To give a session in order to build my portfolio for this coming season. Comment below, I'm going to be giving away three of them if you or somebody you know who'd be interested okay. You've clearly defined, you've pin-pointed exact words for your ideal client for someone that's adventurous, they're outgoing, they're expressive, they're going to interact, they're romantic right? You've said, you've got three of em' there's a duration that you've given it and the intent, there's intent behind it. I'm looking to build my portfolio for this coming season. And a side note too, just maybe, just maybe, let's say that I'm the wedding photographer my example will be as such. Just maybe you give and engagement session right, and you blow them away at every level. Every experience, the photographs, everything. You might be able to land a gig. Just sayin', I've turned gifts into paid jobs in the end. There's all kinds of ways you can go about doing that. But, we'll talk about that another time. Hey side note, get a model release okay cool get a model release. You can do a model call right? You could actually, straight up bring in a model for a shoot and this is really great too when you're doing something like a commercial gig right? It's not like a just a portrait shoot or an engaged couple. The really cool thing about bringing a model in is you get to hand pick the exact type of look that you're goin' for right? You get to clearly define what you want. Again pro tips, define what the expectations are what compensation is, what they will receive from the shoot right. Avoid the bait n' switch game. I've kinda seen this around a little bit. This kind of idea that's like, hey you get a free photo shoot I'll wave the session fee you get a free photo shoot you come and stand in for me as a model. I'll give you two files afterwards and then you do the shoot and then you bring em' in to show the pictures and you sit down and you're like hey check out these pictures. Do you want any? Because it'll cost ya. I've seen this kind of idea of like this is how you can make money on the back end of still building your portfolio and still. It feels bait n' switch, I really recommend just not doing that. I think the best move to do is actually to pay a model. Turns out they're also creative and they're trying to make money too at a living doing what they're doing just like us, let's compensate someone for what they're worth right? And so I find it's best to just pay a model for their time and their talent, and a really great bonus when you pay a model for the time of the talent it means that when 100% of the creative control is for you. When it becomes a little bit of this like yeah I'll do this thing and I'll give you some pics for your head shots and that kinda stuff. Like I get bartering has value, tax reasons and all that kinda stuff. Um, but then they start layin' in like well I'm going to bring this outfit, you're going to do me in this outfit right? Actually I want to go downtown to do some stuff, and you're like ah well that's not really what I was looking for, for my creative. So when you pay someone, you boss right? Creative, you have full creative control. Um get a model release, get a model release right? You guys Rachel Brenke is the Law Tog, she's actually going to be here for photo week! She's a great resource, like man she's just got it together. It's a great resource to be able to go and get a model release from her. Don't go googling it and trying to make something up. Go buy a model release, get it from the Law Tog, it's the way to go. Cool, let's go back to handsome 2005 Ben. Back to my portfolio review at the Columbus College of Art and Design. Do you guys want to see that painting? The why are you showing me this, I mean you guys wanna see that? Okay, I'm going to show you. Um, here it is. My orange dog with the cerulean blue background. Peering at me with sad dog eyes right? So he asks me, why are you showing this, like why are you showing this? And I'm like I-I-I, and he's like take it out. It belittles the rest of your work, so take it out it belittles the rest of your work. I'm like, not my dog! You want me to take my dog? I mean here's the thing, he was right. He was right. Um, and I also learned something that day too. I learned something that we need to address very early on as we're talking about portfolio curation, as we're talking about a portfolio that works. Is that you will be judged by your worst work.

Class Description

Your portfolio is the body of work that most defines you as a photographer. It showcases your creativity and helps to convert potential clients to paying clients. The selection process, however, can be daunting! In this course, wedding photographer and educator Ben Hartley walks through how to make all the uncomfortable decisions easier. He'll discuss how many images you should display, which ones have the most impact and the best way to showcase your work. He'll take you step by step through the process of locking in your ideal selection of portfolio images and provide creative ideas on how to best show off your talent to get the jobs you want.


user ec6295

This course is really helpful to give you another perspective when looking at the work we're showing. We fall in love with images and like to show the "hero" shots but Ben makes great points on how to add to that to make more impact. What I really love about Ben's style of communicating is that there is always something concrete and actionable.


Ben Hartley is engaging, knowledgeable, a great storyteller, and so personable. His class was truly a pleasure to watch. You know that moment when you learn something new, and once you know it you'll see your work differently, and without which you'd really (still) be in the dark? And you think, Wow good thing I was right there to learn that thing? That happened to me a bunch of times during this class. Recommended!

rob rob

This course was so helpful!! I love your passion. Thanks Ben for your amazing insights and willingness to share your knowledge with the photography community.