Very early in my photography career, I remember when I was thinking about getting into the wedding industry. I was still in college and wasn’t 100% sure what the best way was to even get started, let alone find a couple who would want to hire me! After all, I had absolutely zero experience as a wedding photographer and no portfolio to show my work and potential. Luckily, I soon found a local wedding photographer who I could be an assistant photographer for. That season I gained plenty of valuable knowledge, and had the very beginnings of my wedding portfolio!
I know not everyone will have the opportunity to start as a second photographer without any experience, so today I’m sharing some easy and attainable actions to start building your wedding and engagement portfolio. Before you know it, you’ll have a body of work to show your competence and skill as a wedding photographer!
Find a Local Photographer to Assist
There’s nothing like on-the-job experience. Though I went to college to earn a photography degree, many of the skills I use in my business practices and on wedding days were learned on the job! Keep in mind that some photographers only need an assistant (not an assistant photographer). An assistant often carries bags, holds lighting, etc. It’s not the most glamorous job, but it does give you a front row seat to watch the photographer work, giving you the opportunity to walk away with plenty of valuable photography knowledge!
Offer Complimentary Photography Services to Friends & Family
This is a great way to build up your portfolio, plus people will see you are busy and experienced. You can experiment with posing and work on your client experience with people you’re familiar with (engagement sessions are especially great for working on your posing and photography techniques!). When the time comes that you have a paying client, you’ll have worked through the initial challenges we all face while starting out in the wedding industry.
Plan a Styled Wedding Inspiration or Editorial Shoot
Styled shoots are another fantastic way to build up your portfolio, while also networking with other wedding vendors in your market! Editorial shoots also give you the creative freedom we all crave, PLUS you can plan something with a wedding style that would appeal to your ideal couple. For example, if you’re drawn to classic black tie weddings, plan a shoot with that style and specific elements in mind! In the end, you walk away with plenty of marketing material, new vendor friends, and portfolio images!
*Tip: Submit your styled shoot images for publication to wedding blogs. Getting published online helps to boost your website’s SEO when the blog links back to you!
Become a Second Photographer
As your portfolio grows, the more you’ll have to show off your photography skills to lead photographers you could potentially shoot for. Though I went to college to earn a photography degree, many of the skills I use in my business practices and on wedding days were learned on the job! Be sure to join Facebook photography groups local to your area. These groups are filled with photographers looking for assistant photographers to help them on wedding days. If you’re based in the Connecticut, New York, and/or New England areas, be sure to check out those types of groups HERE, HERE, and HERE! When I was still building our business and looking for second shooting jobs, I had plenty of luck finding assistant photographer jobs in those groups! Better yet, I walked away with some additional work for my portfolio AND new photographer friends in my area. If you missed it, take a peek at our blog post, How to Be the Best Assistant Photographer. Arturo shared all of his best tips on being a second photographer to the primary photographer. The more you can do to assist the lead photographer you’re working for, the more you’ll stand out among other second shooters they could potentially hire!
*Tip: Always, always, ALWAYS ask each photographer you work for if they’re okay with you using the images you take for them. This varies from photographer to photographer. Some won’t mind you using the images for your portfolio or blog, but may not want you using the images on social media. Others may not want you to use the images you take at all. Remember, you’re working for them and their company so always check with them before making any moves.
I hope you’ve found these tips for building your wedding and engagement photography portfolios useful! Comment below with some additional ways you’ve been able to gain photography experience!
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Shaina Diaz is one half of a husband and wife team at Shaina Lee Photography serving couples in Connecticut, New York, Hawaii, and worldwide. She has been photographing weddings since she was 20 years old and a sophomore in college. Shaina loves each wedding season a little more than the previous one, and is excited to share her knowledge with other wedding and boudoir photographers!