5 Tips to Successful Photography Portfolio Building

Aug 19, 2014

Topic: Business, Portfolio Building
Time Investment: 8 minutes
Suggested Product: Model Call Photography Contract


Portfolio building is a great way to get your photography business off the ground, propelled into offering a new type of photography, or simply getting yourself out of a rut by getting creative. However, in order for portfolio building to be successful for you, there are come key things to understand.


How can I portfolio build?

Oh man – there are so many different things you can do!  You don’t have to call it portfolio building or even a model call – use other language!

  • Model call – “I am in need of two models…”
  • Session type call – “Seeking a couple for an awesome sunrise session….”
  • Freebie gift sessions – “Looking to gift some awesome clients with a free session…”


Does portfolio building have to be free?

No way! You can charge regular prices to “build” up a portfolio – if you’re able to provide a consistent and quality result for those that will be engaging your services.  Just because one puts out a model call out, doesn’t mean that you have to give the images away.

Consider though – going for free model calls can be a GREAT way to learn your camera and client interactions before being on the hook for all the business stuff (formation, taxes) and money complications (See: My ultimate photography business checklist). When money is involved the pressure goes up – are you ready for it?


5 Key Tips to Successful Portfolio Building

  • Don’t pull a bait and switch.  Let the model know up front if there are any costs involved and what the compensation for their modeling will be
  • Always require a model release.  While paying clients may decline a model release, that defeats the purpose of portfolio building so GET THE RELEASE BEFORE SHOOTING. (see: What if my client doesn’t want to sign a model release?)
  • Make a game plan.  Don’t just show up at the session and shoot. Make a game plan and be purposeful. You have a model who is at YOUR beck and call – make the most of it.
  • Set expectations.  Set expectations with your models through communication (including a contract!) NEVER EVER shoot without a contract. Ever. Contracts help to prevent issues, outline expectations, and give a legal leg to stand on if issues occur.
  • Publish the heck outta it.  Are you proud of it? Have plans for those images more than sitting in your portfolio.  Get onto your social media feeds, website, and feature it on your blog!


How do I legally protect myself?

Make sure you have the proper insurance and contractual protections.  For contracts make sure you use these documents to educate and protect:

  • Model Call Photography Contract – to govern the core of the modeling transaction (whether they are compensated with money, products, or nothing at all!)
  • Photography Contract + Model Release – for the portfolio building sessions that are still regular sessions – treat is as such!
  • Print Release – make sure you’re giving a print release with ANY files that are transferred, whether they were purchased for monetarily by the model/client or given as compensation for modeling



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