by Harry Flashman
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 6x6 cm,
and 5x4 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
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.
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