Every now and then I miss a point, and today's post is a great example. I've got to thank Brian C. Idocks, for his comment, because wedding photography is a completely different application. Brian wrote: "Any images you show to a potential client need to be from weddings, since weddings are what you sell. It's essentially false advertising to show off with models, and things you didn't set up - just to have something in your portfolio."
And, to my point about shooting over an instructor's shoulder at a workshop; I don't think I was strong enough in my comment - you should NEVER use those images on your website. Why? Because they're not yours - they belong to the instructor!
Every day I look at dozens of websites belonging to professional or aspiring professional photographers. I'm always amazed when I find a website with galleries that are underwhelming!
Often I'll read a comment from an artist in a Facebook forum who's asking for help because business is slow and they're not sure what they're doing wrong. When I look at their websites it's often the same scenario - a weak presentation of images. Then there are those of you who are relatively new photographers. You have the passion, are doing your best to get the right gear, but are struggling with how to get experience and images for your portfolio.
The challenge seems especially hard for photographers interested in building a portrait or wedding business. Taking a scroll through the SCU archives I found this set of ideas and decided to give them an update, starting with ShutterFest. See what you think:
1) Attend ShutterFest: Here's a convention with two primary purposes; hands-on shooting and networking. More information is just a click away, but in short it's great education loaded with your ability to build your portfolio and experiment with your technique, all while growing your network. ShutterFest is like on giant Photo Walk with some of the most talented artists in photography today. The convention is April 3-4 this year, but you don't have to wait to build stronger images for your galleries.
2) Friends/Family: Friends or family involve renting a gown and a tux and finding a place to shoot so you can add images to your portfolio. Look to create images that show your skill set. Work on having a variety of lighting situations and poses. Work to capture the interaction between the couple. If you want to take a shot at building images without the cost of rental, approach the tux shop and bridal salon and offer them their choice of some of the images. You can do the same with the florist, a venue, even limo companies. They all need images for their own marketing.
3) Attend a few classes. Virtually all of the major icons are at some point on the road teaching. You want a live hands-on event with an opportunity to shoot. However, be careful! Shooting over an instructor's shoulder and getting spectacular images you then claim as your own is totally unprofessional and will eventually catch up to you, especially if a client goes to another photographer's site and sees the same images. Use the hands-on time to listen to the instructor and capture images of him/her showing the process of setting up the shot, then work on creating it from scratch yourself.
4) Spread the word. Get the word out with your friends you're working to develop a business and you might photograph your first wedding for expenses only. You’ve got to walk before you can run and you need the practice, but you also need to know what you’re doing. Don’t offer to photograph someone’s wedding if you don’t have the skill set to get decent images. Being a newbie doesn’t relieve you from the responsibility of still doing a good job or the trust and faith the bride and groom have in you!
5) Second shoot for another photographer, but ALWAYS ask the photographer if you’ll be allowed to use some images in your portfolio! When you assist like this the images are ALWAYS owned by the photographer who has the contract!!! (Notice the three exclamation marks.) And if the photographer does not allow you to use the images, don't worry about it - you're priority is to get the experience.
6) Hire models for the day. Most relatively new models will often work with you in exchange for images they can put into their own portfolio. If you've burned out your family and friends, look into local models. I've had good luck at a few workshops using ModelMayhem.com and also just searching Google under the word "models" and then the city I'm in.
7) Online Critiques: There's a Facebook forum for virtually every interest in photography, but be careful! First, you need a thick skin, because there's always going to be somebody whose parents never taught them to "play nice with others!" Second, learn to listen to what people are saying and then experiment to see if you like their suggestions. There's an incredible wealth of talent in this industry. Learn to accept different opinions while developing your own style. Last on the list remember my old buddy Dean Collins who said, "Beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder!" If a client loves the image it doesn't matter what everybody else thinks!
8) Work with your lab: It's directly related to building your portfolio, but it's so relevant to your business. Print some of your images and experiment with different papers, sizes and printing techniques. For example, I'm a huge fan of Marathon Press and their relatively new Bella Art Prints. Here's an example Chamira Young talked about in a post recently.
The point is there are lots of opportunities out there to help you get started and plenty I've missed here, but if you don't work on getting started you'll wake up tomorrow in the same spot you went to sleep in!
"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." Walt Disney
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.