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How to Become a Photographer & Build your Portfolio! - 4 Tips

Updated: Dec 9, 2018

Getting started can be super intimidating, so here is a step-by-step guide that may ease the pressure and help you create an amazing portfolio!




1. Shoot Everything, Everywhere, Every-.. All the Time!

Basically, just get out there and start shooting. When I purchased my very first DSLR camera I was so excited that I literally came home, sat in bed, and started taking pictures of any and everything. At the time I had no clue how to use a DSLR camera. I had read somewhere that it was best to shoot in manual mode so that's what I did, or tried to do. All of the buttons and knobs just got super confusing so I gave that up and began to shoot in Portrait Mode. ( P.s. Don't be like me. I promise you manual mode will become your best friend later on in the game.) My images were whack, but the important thing was that I picked up my camera and started the process of learning my gear.

2. Friends & Family

When you first start out, it may be tough to get any clients knocking on your door or calling you for a photo shoot. So it's going to be so beneficial for you to use what you already have in front of you for practice.

After my "random objects" phase, I moved on to bigger and better things. "Actual, Real, Live People!" My boyfriend was my very first subject. Then my sister, my cousin, nieces, and basically anyone I could get in view of my camera. All of these shoots were done with basic equipment and no artificial lighting. My "studio" was my bedroom and my backdrop consisted of a white sheet and 2 pushpins keeping it in place on the wall. If you are just starting this would be my go to set up suggestion for you. I learned so much about my camera and how far it could go by using the minimum.

Using people who weren't professional models also taught me some things about giving direction and shed some light on how to interact with people to get the best possible shot. So, yea, use what you've got guys!

3. Collaborate with Other Artists in your Community

As a photographer, I've learned that it's definitely best to get out of your own comfort zone. You have to put yourself and your work out there.

Back in my hometown of Columbus, OH, I decided to join an artist collective which was basically a group of aspiring models, stylists, make-up artists, and photographers who all wanted to gain more experience in their craft and build their portfolios. (Sidebar: I did have to pay a monthly fee to join, which I wouldn't recommend starting out, but the experience was definitely worth it). As a natural born introvert, getting out of my comfort zone really opened my eyes to what was possible and how far I could go with my photography. I not only learned valuable takeaways from fellow photographers, but working with aspiring models, mua's and stylists provided me with some great new images for my portfolio!

So, start reaching out to various artists or collectives in your community, send them some of your work, and set a date to meet up or "collab"! Taking that leap can be extremely rewarding in the long run.

4. Shoot with Agency Models

After you have learned your gear and gathered a significant amount of images into your portfolio (8-10 quality pictures will do), you can start reaching out to modeling agencies in your city to Test Shoot their models.* A Test Shoot is essentially a TFP (Time for Print) photo shoot where both the agency represented model and the photographer test out concepts or ideas to produce images for their portfolio. This step is of course widely dependent on the type of photography you choose to focus on. You can just as easily build an amazing portrait, freelance, or landscape portfolio without taking this step. However, if your particular area of focus is in commercial, editorial, or fashion photography, this step is going to be essential in building an awesome portfolio and getting your work noticed by the right people.

The caliber of model you are shooting with has a huge effect on the quality of your image. Having a subject who is more experienced with posing and angles makes it a lot easier for you to get the shots you desire. Test shoots are also a super effective way for you to explore different styles of shooting, lighting techniques, and prop ideas that could take your photography to a completely new level!

All in all, the key to this is to just get started! Take plenty of pictures, use what you've got, and enjoy the process!

"This is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself accordingly"

- Amby Burfoot

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*If you're interested in a more in-depth how-to of how I was able to contact and start shooting with agency represented models leave a comment below and I'll be sure to make that my next blog! Thanks for reading!

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