Do you ever shoot for you?
I have a lot of students that I mentor and teach tell me that what they’re photographing isn’t what they envisioned they’d be photographing when they started their photography business. I ask them, “Who are you shooting for? Are you shooting what you ‘think’ other people want to see? Are you shooting frames based off of work you’ve seen from other photographers? Or are you shooting for YOU?” If the answer isn’t you, then it’s time to revamp your way of doing things. Photography isn’t your standard 9 to 5 job. It’s a lot of evenings and weekends spent shooting and a lot of time sitting in front of the computer processing those images. At the end of the day, if you’re not happy with what’s in front of your lens, you won’t be happy to sit and edit those images either…and that can make for a long day and a full time photographer burn out.
When I first started my business, I learned a lot of things the hard way. The most valuable thing I learned is that whatever you put out there is what you’ll get back in return. With that I started thinking about what it was that I really wanted to be photographing. Once I decided that I was going to shoot for me and no one else, I started attracting the clients who had the same style sense as me and in turn was much happier in my photography career.
There are a few things you can do to make sure your portfolio is a true representation of you.
1. Shoot what makes you happy!
There is no rule that says you have to shoot everything. If you’re not comfortable shooting weddings, don’t shoot them! If shooting children and seniors is what makes you happy, you should most definitely stick to shooting those types of sessions. Whatever it is that makes you happy when you view it through your camera is what you should be photographing. I love shooting stylized sessions for children, seniors, and families so that is what I stick to. I feel 100% percent content with the sessions I schedule and 100% happy with my photography business for this reason.
2. Don’t be afraid to say no.
If you receive an inquiry for a session that you know doesn’t mesh with your style of photography, don’t be afraid to refer people to another photographer you know would suit them better. Everyone will be happier in the long run. From my own personal experience, I have found that if a session doesn’t fall into the realm of my own style, I’m not truly present in the moment while shooting during the session. I also have a hard time editing those images. I have often times referred people to other photographers that I know they’ll be much happier with and it was a win for everyone involved!
3. Be comfortable in your surroundings.
A large majority of your session revolves around where you’re shooting! If you’re the photographer who likes to show up and “see where the session goes”, great…but you should still have a game plan. If you’re not that kind of photographer, location scouting is a sure fire way to make sure you’ll be happy with the final product. Personally, I don’t like to shoot in the same location more than once if I don’t have to. This means a lot of location scouting for me, but I’m always happy I pushed myself to do something different. I also love shooting into the sun so I’ll typically choose locations based on where the light drops. Whatever it is, make sure you’re comfortable with what you’ve chosen. There’s nothing worse than showing up and trying to figure out where you’re going to photograph your clients. Their time is important and so is yours!
No one ever said that everyone has to be posed the same way all the time. There are several amazing posing guides available to photographers these days, but you can even tweak those to make them adhere to your style. Gone are the days where everyone had to stand in a line and look at the camera. Don’t be afraid of movement and using different angles to build an image. I shoot what moves me. I don’t over-think it…whatever comes naturally to me in the moment is how I pose people. Again, do what makes you happy and you’ll be much happier with the final product.
5. Don’t try to be someone else.
The photography industry at large is saturated with so many photographers. I always tell my students, “If you want to stand out, do your own thing!” Anyone can figure out how to use a camera and push a button. It’s the “coming up with your OWN style” that people struggle with. No one benefits from photographers copying other photographers. People start to catch on. The photographers who consistently stay true to their own creativity as an artist are the photographers who will get the business. There’s a lot to be said for authenticity.
There is nothing more confusing than looking at a portfolio and seeing images edits 100 different ways. Your clients begin to wonder what type of gallery they’ll be looking at with their own session images. If you haven’t found an editing style that truly makes you happy…practice, practice, practice. The only way you’ll find out how to truly edit in a way that is reflective of your style is to edit images until you’ve found what makes you happy. Of course the editing process might vary slightly from session to session based on where you shoot and what you’re shooting, but your overall editing style should also remain consistent so that people know it’s your work!
If you can follow these simple guidelines you’ll be on your way to amassing a portfolio that will attract the clients that share your same style! Krysta Manthe is a portrait photographer and teacher at The Define School. Krysta’s 6-week class, Through the Looking Glass, is for photographers looking to further their photography career while remaining true to their own artistic visions. Registration for her October 15th class is now open. You can sign-up here.