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Turning Pro Part I: Portfolio and Persistence

A few weeks ago I wrote 15 Tips About Turning Pro.  I thought it would be a good time to expand on some of those tips and add a few more. Today’s article is the first in that series. Hope you find these new suggestions useful.

Part 1: Portfolio and Persistence

There has never been an easier time to show your work. Whether you shoot portraits, weddings, food or interiors, a professional looking website is a must have and can be built and published in minutes. When meeting with a prospective client you can also present your work on the crisp screen of an iPad or other tablet. Some of you may still want to show a print portfolio. Whatever you decide to do, the important thing to remember is to be discerning when putting that portfolio together. Only show your best work. Quality over quantity!

But how does one build a solid portfolio without clients? The answer is simple: Self assignments! When you build a portfolio from self assignments, the images will show your creativity and truly reflect your style and vision and that is what the client wants to hire you for. Of course, once you start shooting professionally, you will add some of your best client images to your portfolio. You will have access to subjects and/or locations you may not be able to shoot on your own. That said, do not neglect the self assignments, even if you are a busy pro photographer. They will not only fuel your passion for the craft, they will also help you grow.

How do you know if your portfolio is solid? Photography trade shows and mini conferences often offer portfolio reviews, so be on the look out for those opportunities. If you are in the US, check your local ASMP chapter for events offering reviews. Do not send your portfolio to professional photographers and expect them to do a review, they get dozens of requests a day and cannot possibly spend hours honoring them. Some may offer it as a service for a fee, so check around.

Don’t quit your day job! Achieving success is hard work and no one becomes successful overnight. Okay, that could happen, but so is winning the lottery…  It takes years to gain experience and to build a good reputation. Start your photography business on the side while keeping your full time job. This will give you the time to decide if that is really what you want to do full time, and you will find out if your work is good enough to sell. Set a goal for when you want to quit the day job and work toward that. You can always adjust that goal later.

More often than not, it is the fear of rejection that prevents artists from reaching their goal of turning their passion into a profession. The most successful pro photographers all got their share of rejections. Yes, rejection hurts and you will need thick skin in this business, but are you going to let one person, or even ten, steal your dream? If this is what you want to do and you know you have the skill set to make it happen, then fight for your dreams. You will have good days and bad days, more bad days than good ones at first for sure. Not everyone is going to like your style, every client is looking for something different. Be persistent! Set a goal and stick with it. For several years, at the beginning of my career, I made a point to contact at least 5 potential clients a day, 5 days a week and it paid off. Although a lot of people ignored me and I suffered a lot of rejections, I also got some attention and many of those contacts are still clients today.

Work hard, stick to your plan and be persistent. If your work is good, someone will notice. Good luck!

Want more tips on Going Pro as a Photographer? Check out the dPS eBook kit – Going Pro: How to Make Money Through Your Photography.

Turning Pro Part I: Portfolio and Persistence

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Valerie Jardin
Valerie Jardin

I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it’s an obsession, almost an addiction. When I’m not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! I am also thrilled to be an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Visit my Website
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