Building a Photography Portfolio: What I wish people knew from the start
I have been extremely blessed to be able to build my Dallas Photography portfolio with some amazing people. I’ve worked with models, photographers, MUAs, and stylists from all around the DFW area. Keeping constant communication via Facebook/Instagram has allowed me to stay inspired and see what others are doing in the industry. I have been shooting since January 2016, and I have gained invaluable knowledge along the way.
Building a photography portfolio with TFP shoots (Trade for Photos)
Building my portfolio was fairly simple once I learned about a term in the industry called TFP or Trade for Photos. This is a term used to describe a shoot where a photographer and model come together and do a shoot where no money is exchanged. Only time and resources are exchanged for mutual benefit. The photographer gets to work with a model/subject and the model gets a certain amount of high-quality photos for free in return. Many people refer to these as test shoots or TF shoots, but in the end, they are great for building your portfolio when money is tight.
A few key things to keep in mind:
- Don’t put so much pressure on yourself – One of the key things that were holding me back was comparing my photography to others online. It can be discouraging, but can also be inspiring. Don’t let the work of others get you down. Keep practicing and find your own style.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to others – I always thought to myself that other people would never want to work with me. I didn’t have enough experience, so I was scared to ask for shoots. This is far from the case now. I have no problem reaching out to models and other creative professionals because I worked on my communication
- Join Photography groups – This is key to collaborating and networking. Get on Facebook and do a search for TFP groups. They are usually filled with beginners that want to build portfolios. Just stay professional and build your network.
- Just because it is popular, doesn’t mean it is good – I have seen some great photos be ruined by bad editing and filters. I have no doubt people just click a button and add a filter in Lightroom or Photoshop and call it a day. This should never be the case.
- Communication is key – Every shoot has gone well except for 1-2. Miscommunication and misunderstandings ruined those shoots from the start. Make sure to state your intentions before you ever reach a location to start shooting.
- Find Inspiration – Social media makes it easier than ever to find inspiration for your next shoot. Do a little research and get a small team together to help you execute your concept.
Building a photography portfolio with rented equipment
If you are interested in learning photography and trying it out, the best thing to do is practice. You don’t have to have an expensive camera. You can rent cameras online with good lenses to try over the weekend. There is no need for a huge investment up front.
Do your research and try out a few different systems. I shoot with a Sony A7, and I have still to upgrade. I am reaching the limits of this camera, and I will upgrade in the future, but not until I believe I can’t do anything else with my camera.
A Few online places to rent camera equipment and have it shipped to your doorstep:
Connecting on Social Media
Instagram has brought me more models and collaborations than any other platform so far. You can connect with me at http://www.instagram.com/jasonxpena if you want. I keep my profile updated constantly with new images. With the combination of images and targeted hashtags (#’s), I have been able to slowly grow my audience and followers.
Facebook groups have also been just as effective. I joined the DFW TFP group last year and it has helped me grow my network quick. Being able to post photos and get instant feedback was great. I can also ask general questions to more experienced photographers to help with my learning.
Continued online learning
Just because you are out of school, this does not give you a reason to stop personal education. It doesn’t have to be specifically about photography. I personally believe continued education is invaluable and we should all strive to learn new skill-sets. Business management or communications are a great place to start if you don’t know where to begin.
If you don’t learn anything from this article, I hope that one thing sticks with you and refuses to be forgotten. Your personal photography and work is art. It is a beautiful art form and you should never allow others to establish your self-worth.
Happy shooting and best wishes.