Thursday, March 27, 2008

Building Your Wedding Business Series – Part 1 of 4

11 Ways to Better Portfolio Development And Presentation

Where is your business right now? Are you cruising along without a care in the world? Business is great and there is never any need to look at the bank account flush with funds? Or, are you like so many businesses out there trying to be more profitable and build a better bottom line, and constantly looking for ways to do just that? This series is targeted for the business owner trying to build a presence in their community, book more clients, and put more money in the bank.

A lot of these ideas come from my own 30 year studio experience and we still incorporate many of these practices in my business today. As with any recipe for success, it’s like a diet – you have to stick with it to see any results. And just like a diet, once you start to see the results of your efforts, you must continue working at it even more. Remember, it’s easy to be the best – just work a lot harder than the next person.

For this first in the series, I want to discuss portfolio development or how to get some “dynamite” images in your sample set. Here we go.

1. Give it away for free. Everyone’s sample set of images can always use some help. At least to keep it fresh and updated, but more importantly to show excellence in your work. You need some new samples, or you need some more practice, then give the sessions away for free. So you accomplish both at the same time.

Hey, if you were like me in my early days, I had plenty of time on my hands, so I filled that free time with free portrait sessions of my couples who booked me for their wedding. It “killed two birds with one stone” as they say. First, when booking the wedding, it was a great incentive for the client to book with me because of the complimentary session worth $200, and secondly, it provided me with willing subjects for my portfolio development exercise, and increased my proficiency in portrait photography.

2. You want to get better at wedding photography too – then give the outdoor bridal session away for free too. Back in the early days, we usually planned the session after the wedding so the bride would have no concerns about the wedding gown.

We encouraged the groom to approach the tux shop and see if he could get the use of the tux for a few hours during the week – no weddings going on – and offer to pay the modest cleaning fee instead of the whole tux rental. You would be surprised how often this worked.

By the way, for flowers, we would put a little bouquet together of long stem roses with some ferns and baby’s breath. Remember, we are not trying to create wedding day images, but beautiful images of the bride and groom for a bridal portrait and additional sample images for myself.

The terrific benefits of this exercise were the finished images we produced. We were able to take these beautiful images without the time and weather constraints of the wedding day. Now it was easy and fun to produce a great set of images for our client and our own wedding portfolio. Hey, don’t forget to sell something from the session as well. I would offer the images at a special price - say 20% your regular price – that way you get to make a few bucks and recover your expenses from the shoot.

3. Still in search for clients at this point, but still need to get some images for samples. How about hiring a college student and maybe even some of her friends to be your models for a day? Offer to give them copies of images from the shoot in exchange for their time. You may even approach a wedding salon and/or tux shop and offer to do photography of their gowns and tuxes at no charge in exchange for the usage of the gowns and tux for the day.

4. Start your “brain trust” – a group of like minded photographers in your area. Collectively go out on shoots together. That way each of you will benefit from the collective ideas and expertise of the group. I did this years ago with about 3 other photographers – we are friends to this day and all operate successful studios.

5. Search out “Silent Auctions” in your community and donate a 16x20 and shooting session to the cause. This is about a $500 for us, but it results in about a $1000 average per donation.

6. Need more practice shooting families – call up friends, relatives, etc. and give it away for free again. Offer the finished images at a special price as before. It’s just one more way to get the experience you need while developing your style, building your portfolio and building your reputation in your community.

7. Use other photographer’s sites as your guide. Hey, you want to get good like the “big guys” in town, then hit their web sites and see what they are showing. Now you have a benchmark for your own work and some ides for your shooting session.

8. Search the Internet by topic – weddings, portraits, seniors, etc. for more good ideas to. I’ll give you a head start. Here are three links for weddings, family portraits, and seniors. Pick out your favorite images and try to re-create the same type of image excellence.

9. Showcase your work – make it stand out from the crowd. You can pick up some good looking frames a lot of places around the Internet. One of my favorites is Frames USA right here in Cincinnati, Ohio. They have some great looking value priced frames. Many frame shops have the “half-price” bin where you can pick up some deals. We even found some “one of a kind” frames for studio samples at Hobby Lobby. They run “½ off” sales too.

10. Use inexpensive “peel and stick” albums from Neil Enterprises – I’m talking under $20 here – for a quick presentation of your work. You will want to reserve a bigger part of the album budget for first class albums, say from Zookbinders, when you want to put your best foot forward. But, in the meantime, these “Neil” books are just the thing for quick, good looking presentations.

11. Get yourself an iPod or similar media player. Load it up with your best images, and keep it on hand all the time. That way if you find yourself in a conversation with a potential client, you can show you samples immediately.

Now armed with some great looking samples, how can we get those prospective clients knocking on our door? We will cover that in next week’s segment on marketing.


  1. Thanks for these ideas. It's one thing to think of these myself but an assurance that someone else thinks the same way and writes about it for others to read. I try to read this blog everyday. Keep it coming.

  2. Great ideas, David. Greatly appreciated.

    BTW, has anyone considered joining the national organization, LeTip? I was invited to a meeting and it seemed like a great way to garner leads. It's a little expensive to join, though.

    David, you may start a discussion board for all the great content you're providing.

  3. Those are refreshing ideas. I am a struggling photographer myself who has been trying for months to have my feet wet in the wedding bz. Boy, it's not easy. i even post free weeding shoot on craiglists, no call. i am going to try those ideas and hopefully something will come up.

  4. Hi David, I attended you last seminar in LA, and truly appreciate all of your wisdom. This was a great blog entry and I thank you so much for all of your help. You are an inspiration to myself and many others.

  5. You read my mind! I've been thinking of how to really break into full-time photography and, ultimately, weddings seem to be the best way to generate income for most photographers. That being said, I was considering giving away a lot for free just to get my name out there and build up my portfolio. Your article contains a lot of really cool ideas for doing so that I hadn't thought of before.


  6. Very Inspirational. I love the idea of the Ipod. I have seen one or another photographer doing this, but it was good that you mentioned it again.
    Paulo Jordao

  7. Very impressive! Building Your Wedding Business Series. You are an inspiration to myself and many others.


  8. Inspirational and a great article, well done.

  9. Concerning models: I have a friend who used to rep wedding gown manufacturers. He put on productions, of course, at bridal shows and I asked him where he got his models. He said,"High School seniors, but they have to be busty with hour glass figures." In other words, make sure they make the gown look good!

  10. So did Parts 2, 3 & 4 ever come out?

  11. 8. Search the Internet by topic – weddings, portraits, seniors, etc. for more good ideas to. I’ll give you a head start. Here are three links for weddings, family portraits, and seniors. Pick out your favorite images and try to re-create the same type of image excellence.....where are are the links?

  12. China Wholesale has been described as the world’s factory. This phenomenom is typified by the rise ofbusiness. Incredible range of products available with China Wholesalers “Low Price and High Quality” not only reaches directly to their target clients worldwide but also ensures that wholesale from china from China means margins you cannot find elsewhere and buy products wholesaleChina Wholesale will skyroket your profits.

  13. Women’s nike tn Shox Rivalry est le modèle féminin le plus tendance de baskets pour le sport. tn chaussuresConcernant la semelle : le caoutchouc extérieur, l’EVA intermédiaire et le textile intérieur s’associent pour attribuer à la.ed hardy shirts pretty fitCharlestoncheap columbia jackets. turned a pair of double plays to do the trick.Lacoste Polo Shirts, , Burberry Polo Shirts.wholesale Lacoste polo shirts and cheap polo shirtswith great price.Cheap Brand Jeans ShopMen Jeans - True Religion Jeans nike shoes & Puma Shoes Online- tn nike,Thank you so much!!cheap polo shirts men'ssweate,gillette mach3 razor bladesfor men.As for

  14. David: Thanks for all of the great information that you provide!

    Nashville Wedding Photographer

  15. What great info! These are some great ideas on getting your wedding photography business started.

    Toledo Wedding Photographer

  16. Great info there as always. Really usefull at all stages in a business!

  17. These kinds of posts were a great resource for me when I first began shooting weddings. I think the best advice I could give would actually be about the relational aspects of photography.

    1. Do an engagement shoot before the wedding.
    This helps the couple to be comfortable with you and being in front of the camera. You are with them ALL DAY. If they don't like you and feel like they know you well, they will not smile pretty ;)

    2. Beware the mama.
    The bride and groom want one thing, but everyone else wants something different. If you can't please everyone, please the bride and groom. Ultimately, it is their day and they signed your contract (that should be #2 part B. Always have a contract).

    3. Stick to the schedule, but don't stress.
    Weddings run behind. This is normal. The wedding planner usually doesn't even have the ceremony begin until 10-15 minutes after the time on the invitation because guests are notoriously not on time. Maybe back in the day, this was not the case, but it is now... unfortunately. Your main job as the photographer is to get the amazing shots and then LET THEM EAT CAKE. Don't keep shooting because you have pretty people in pretty places. Just get what you need and get them to the reception.

    If you're interested in my photography, check out

    -Rachel Skye