How to boost your portfolio and build credibility
One of the predicaments many new photographers find themselves in is quite painful — they don’t have a robust portfolio of images to get new clients. Yet, they need new clients in order to fill their portfolio. It’s kind of a chicken and the egg type of situation, isn’t it?
In this post, I’d like to share a few ways to get high-quality, targeted images in your portfolio without having to bang your head on the wall.
Be strategic about your “free work”
In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with doing a limited number of free sessions in order to begin to fill your portfolio. As long as you’re strategic about the process and limit the number of free sessions you offer, it can be a good way to kick-start your business.
Establish “normal” pricing
However, make sure you carry out this crucial step: determine your normal pricing beforehand and make sure to communicate it to the client you decide to do free work for. I would even recommend walking them through the normal contract and invoicing process, making it known up front in the documentation that they are getting a deep discount on a professional service that normally has a fee. This helps ensure when they spread the word about you to their friends, they will have your normal pricing in mind, as opposed to spreading the word that you are a “free photographer,” which can kill your business quickly.
Request a video testimonial
Also, since they’re getting a free session from you, consider asking for a marketing trade of sorts. Don’t be shy. In exchange for the complimentary photo session, you could ask for a video testimonial of how great the experience was (granted they actually enjoyed their session). Or you could ask them to become an informal ambassador for you, recommending you to their friends and family when the topic of photography comes up. Or they can post about you on social media or leave a positive review on your Facebook page.
Throw a portrait party
For the brave, a portrait party is a great way to both build a portfolio in a day and bring in some income while you’re at it. In order to attract clients, you can offer a mini session type of price, and be sure to market your portrait party toward the type of clients you want to work with. Having a portfolio full of relevant, well-done images goes a long way toward attracting similar clients in the future.
However, keep in mind that even with a portrait party, there will be a limit to how many sessions you can fit in (and be sure to mention this when you spread the word about it). There are many benefits to a strategic portrait party, and it’s a great way to launch a photography business.
Tip: Your “behind-the-scenes” footage is powerful too
As you begin getting your feet wet with photo sessions, be sure to get some behind-the-scenes footage to build your credibility. For your photo sessions or even your portrait party, have an assistant document the evening with photos and videos so that you can later post that material on social media and your website. While your photography portfolio should be powerful in and of itself, this additional behind-the-scenes footage can be just as powerful in convincing potential clients that you are the photographer to work with. As they watch footage of you interacting with happy clients, it allows them to insert themselves into their shoes.
There are no excuses for not getting BTS
By the way, not having an assistant is no excuse. Simply ask your client beforehand if they don’t mind you taking a few “candid” photos of them getting settled into their portrait chair. Or you could even flip your DSLR to video and take some fun, informal video of your client interacting with the camera. You can even ask them questions about themselves for a fun informal interview, which you can later post on your website and social media.
A few final thoughts
As you fill your portfolio with images, be sure you are only showing THE BEST images on your website. As tempting as it will be to show every single image that you are emotionally tied to, vomiting excessive images onto your online portfolio will only serve to dilute the impression you make. Even if you only have a dozen strong images to show, display them as large as you can, and proudly. More will come with time.