How to get a portfolio together


You have gone into 2014 by buying an expensive DSLR camera.  Would you now like your expensive camera to start paying for itself?  I am sure that for many of you, the answer is a resounding yes.

Well, the good news is that anyone who is at least half proficient with a DSLR will find there are plenty of people willing to pay for your images.  At least once a month I get asked if I could take a photo of someone’s wedding, or a golf tournament, or a charity event, or someone’s daughter or take a shot of some products to be sold on the internet.  At least once a month I turn down these requests, and then answer, “And no, I’m sorry, I don’t know of anyone else who might be able to do it for you.”

All this means is that there is scope for some enterprising young photographer to make a little money on the side.  The clients are out there with a need that is not being met.  Can you do it?

If you are a keen amateur, then you just need some experience, and self promotion.  What you have to do, while waiting for the clients beating the proverbial pathway to your door, is get yourself a portfolio.  Something you can show to clients.  A mini ‘showcase’ of your talents.

Back in the pre-digital days, we all produced portfolios with individual transparencies mounted on heavy card.  The trannies were a minimum of 6×6 cm, and 5×4 inch were even better.  You lugged a portable light box around that you plugged into the power supply in the client’s office.  Showing your wares was a hassle.

Not so any more.  In the digital era, it’s a breeze.  You store your good shots in your computer in Photoshop or whatever, and when showing your work, you just email suitable samples to the clients or display the images on an iPad.

So what should you have in your electronic ‘virtual’ portfolio?  Go back to my opening paragraph where I stated “photo of someone’s wedding, or a golf tournament, or a charity event, or someone’s daughter or take a shot of some products to be sold on the internet”.  That is a reasonable start.  I’d also throw in a couple of food shots, as there are always restaurants looking for someone clever enough to make their food look appetizing.

So how do you go about getting these shots, when nobody has given you a commission yet?  Again this is simple.  You pretend to yourself that you have been asked to cover a golf tournament, so you put together your shot list which would include golfers teeing off, putting, someone in a bunker, a ball beside the pin in the hole, a nice shot of a pretty caddy.  Starting to get the idea?  By the way, nobody will complain about you being there, especially if you offer to send them a couple of shots.  And, you never know, they might ask you to do some more – that is how I got my first commission.

Now offer to do a wedding at no charge.  OK, so you just used up a Saturday afternoon, but you now have some more portfolio items.  And I will wager that someone at the wedding will want to buy some shots from you as well.  Do the same with some food photographs and product shots, and you are on the way to putting together a working portfolio.

Now some of you will be saying, “But I don’t know the best way to shoot food, or product, or weddings or whatever,” but this is no giant hassle either.  There are more ‘how to’ photographic books published than just about anything else, other than cook books and how to make a million dollars.

Countless thousands of photographers have learned the same way.  You read, you try for yourself and you review your results.  It actually does not take long.  Once you can produce consistent results, you are almost there.

The final steps?  Display your photographs in a gallery, and advertise in this newspaper.  Then they will ring you, instead of me!

Best of luck in your new career.