When I first started trying to expand as a photographer, I didn’t have much of a portfolio. I collected what I thought were my best photos and carefully made sure they expressed my style and skill. After that, my portfolio just sat there like a rock. It wasn’t until I started talking to friends, family, and co-workers that word got around that I was a photographer and began scheduling photoshoots.
One of the first photoshoots I scheduled happened in an unexpected way. It was a weekend night and a friend invited me to see some bands play. I headed to the venue with my camera and began taking photos. I was introduced to a local musician in the crowd and we got along instantly. He mentioned he was wanting some new photos to promote his music and he gave me his business card. We set up a photoshoot and it went incredibly well. The photos were fantastic, and it was a great experience. When I look back on that experience, I realize that this musician had never seen any of my work, yet he scheduled a photoshoot with me. Why is that?
Since then, I have received many referrals for photos through friends, co-workers, friends of friends, etc. Almost all my first clients that I photographed had not seen my work. They didn’t ask, they just scheduled. I think they chose me as their photographer because I possessed some qualities that were familiar and comfortable for them. If you’re at a lull in your career, or you don’t know where to start, I highly recommend working on yourself. I find it just as important to be polite and dependable as I do having the knowledge of shooting in manual mode or with low light.
When I first started taking photos for paid clients, I would try and act as professional as possible. I would keep joking around to a minimum and try to appear as suave as possible. I find that to be really lame. I love to joke around, and I prefer fun experiences to just about anything. I like to play laser tag with my friends and do weird dances in my living room. I bought a pair of cat sunglasses and a chain for my cat, Guillermo. I taught myself how to do the floss dance. I’m a nerd and a goofball and that is a big part of my personality.
Now I can joke around with clients and just try to relax a bit while I’m shooting photos. I like to bring a Bluetooth speaker with me and play music during the photoshoots. In my opinion, shooting photos is not a serious event and when the clients can relax in front of the camera, I can take some of my best photos. It’s awesome to capture the natural moments, the authentic laughs, and the few seconds between the clients posing and completely forgetting there’s a camera in front of them. I encourage you to show up to your shoots with your personality as present as your camera and lenses. Your personality is the portfolio that you wear in your everyday life.
Last, I do think having a reputable portfolio is important, but when you’re first starting out, you may not have a versatile and expansive portfolio, and that’s where your personality will do the initial work for you. Your personality is the gateway to a better portfolio. Many of the clients I’ve photographed, and will photograph, will likely come from meeting new people and showing my personality.