Running a small business is no easy task. It's messy and thrilling, and terrifying all at the same time.
But no matter what, it's definitely a journey worth taking. As a mom of two littles, I know the daily struggles, and I'm here to walk this journey with you. If you're ready to feel empowered, encouraged and on fire for the things you truly love, then you're in the right place. I'm Rebecca Rice, a pizza loving hot chocolate drinking family photographer and educator. And this is the business Journey podcast.
Hey, friends, welcome back to another episode of the business Journey podcast. I'm your host, Rebecca rice. And I'm super excited about today's episode, we are diving into how to build a portfolio of images you love, especially when you're just starting out. This is a question that I get all the time and people are always in my DMs or posting and asking about it in our Facebook community, which if you're not a part of go join, you can find the link in the shownotes or just search Rebecca rice education, you'll find it. People are always asking how if you don't have paying clients necessarily, how do you build up your portfolio. And so I wanted to walk you guys through a few like really practical things that you can do things that I did when I first started out, but also when I moved states. So I moved from Texas to Nashville, and I was starting from scratch, essentially with no client base there and no portfolio there. And so these are things that I've done twice in my business that I kind of learned from in the second time, I feel like I did it a lot better the second time. But that really helped catapult my business both times. So I want to walk you through a few practical things. But before we get too far, I wanted to let you know about a free class that I have, especially for those that are just starting out in your business, maybe 2023 is the year that you're like this thing is going to be legit, we're getting it going. This class is the five steps to launching your photography side gig, so it's completely free. And maybe it's a side gig, maybe it's something you're like a stay at home mom and you're wanting to do photography, whatever it may be, this class is going to walk you through the things that you're going to want to do to make sure that you set this thing up the right way. And so don't pass on that class, if you are brand new, like I said, or for the first time really taking this seriously, as a business. It's a completely free class, and it's going to set you up on the right foot to get going legally to get going, you know, all the things that I wish I would have done when I started my business. So go watch that class is linked for you in the show notes. Okay, so let's get into how to actually build your portfolio up when you're just starting out. Now, maybe you've been in this for a while, but you're still wanting to see a refresh portfolio, you're maybe you don't have images that you absolutely love, but you want to have images we love in your portfolio, you know, you're capable of creating those images, it's just those clients are not coming through, here are some things that you can do, the first thing that you can do is ask your family and your friends to be models for you. And I that I had, like so many friends that were totally willing to, you know, come with their families and model for me because it was a great way for them to support my business when I wasn't necessarily taking paying clients just yet. And so I got to give them a free photo session. In exchange for using their photos for advertising. Only thing that I would say is make sure that you give them some sort of style guide that they have to follow because it's not going to be helpful for you if your family shows up. And they're wearing outfits that are not something that you want to promote on your website and your social media and stuff. You know, my portfolio lends itself to like softer colors, softer fabrics. And if my family showed up in black shirts and jeans, that would not be what I want to showcase on my portfolio. And so if you don't have a style guide, you can check mine out I have one available it is my client experience guide. That's what I call my style guide. It's available in my shop you can go check it out, and it's like a drag and drop template. So it's already written for you you just drop in your own pictures, which would be great. There's also a just a written form if that you don't have photos to put in it yet totally fine. You know, have your family and your friends whoever it is that's modeling for you have them follow your style guide, but also make sure they are willing to go to a location that you choose. Especially because you're going to Want to capture photos that you want to showcase you want to book more of. And so thinking through locations that you want to shoot out with paid clients, those are the places that I would take your friends and your family to go photograph at. So don't do photos in their backyard. Because that's not something you probably unless they have a stunning backyard, you never know. But for the most part, that's not a place that you're gonna want to take clients. And so, think through your like dream locations, and I have a whole episode, I think it might be a YouTube video about virtual location scouting. So you can go search that on my YouTube channel, if you don't know where to, you know, have your locations have your sessions. But that's the first thing I would do is for sure, go to friends and family first, because those people are so willing to support you most of the time. Hopefully, if your friends are not willing to support you, you probably need new friends. But hopefully they would be willing to get their family dressed up and to support your business in a way that it doesn't cost them, you know, money for the session, I do believe that friends should pay full price unless they would be in your wedding party, then I would do free photos. But for you know, portfolio building, that's the only time that I will do free photos like that for friends. So once you get your friends and family, the next place that I would look is to host an official model call. So basically, a model call is something where you post online, that you're looking for models for whatever and model calls are best done when they're very specific. And so whether it's you're looking for models for specific locations, for maybe specific, like demographics of families, so I'm looking for a family with two older kids and one baby or something like that, that helps bulk up your portfolio. And with model calls. The way that I like to do it is I include five images for their time, I kind of treat it like a mini session, I include five images for their time, but we do a full session of shooting. So we're shooting for 30 minutes to an hour. And then I upsell the full gallery. And I have done this several times. And every time like I've never done a model call where somebody didn't buy the full gallery afterwards, because it was a free session. And once they see, you know 60 To 100 pictures that they fall in love with from the full session, then it's an easy buy for them. And I sell the full gallery for $200. So it's a discounted rate for sure for a full session. But it was something that started out as a free session. And so I mentioned that I moved from Texas to Nashville, Tennessee. And when we made that move, I didn't have any photos in my portfolio of Nashville locations. And if you're not familiar with Nashville or Dallas, they look very, very different. You know, Dallas is super flat. And most of the like greenery turns brown really fast, whether it's too hot or too cold. And in Nashville, they have beautiful rolling hills, there is lots of greenery, lots of beautiful fall colors in the fall, things like that. And so I remember I joined a couple of like local mom groups, and a lot of mom groups don't let you advertise. But when you do a model call, they usually let that slide because you're not technically selling it. It's free. And so I remember I posted I think in two mom groups basically saying hey, I am hosting this model call. You know, I'm looking for three families to shoot I have locations selected already. If you'd like to apply fill out this form and I used it as an opportunity to grow my email list. So I required that they fill out my flow desk form which flow desk is my email system I preferred email system I have a discount code listed in the show notes for you if you want to check it out. But so I posted in the Facebook group and basically said hey, you can apply I'm doing this model call. It's totally free. And then I went through and selected a handful of families I said I was doing three I think I ended up doing closer to five or six. And some of them I treated as like mini sessions. I did several at one location just so that I can like bulk up my portfolio. And I was having to make a trip for this because we didn't live in Nashville yet. I knew we were moving to Nashville but we still had a few months. So I made one trip to Nashville and scheduled. I think I did six I scheduled all six sessions in like one weekend. And I went to these different locations and did these photos. And the coolest part is of course I sent them my my client experience guide so they followed my style guide all the things and I still have photos from those very first model call sessions that are ranking on Google. They are in the top posts Local hashtags, they all this stuff like, it's so cool how those images have gotten me so much work because I was very intentional with curating the portfolio that I was wanting in Nashville. So you can do the same, you can post in a local group, hosting this model call that includes five images and upsell the rest, make sure that you're selecting locations that you want to shoot at, and that they have to follow your style guide. And sometimes photographers asked me, should we have a contract for this or not, because it's free, I would say always, always, always have a contract in place, I do have a portrait contract template available in my shop, if you don't have a contract. Mine is was written by an attorney, it's approved by an attorney. So it's actually going to hold up in court if something ever happens. But in that, I would mention, you know, what's included that it's a free session, five images included, you know, for their time and whatnot. And the requirement is they have to follow your style guide. So when you ask friends and family to model for you, you host model calls. The third thing that I would say that is super important as you're building your portfolio, is be really strategic about what you are sharing on your social media platforms and your website and things like that. Some things you want to keep in mind is, you want to show what you want to shoot more of. So like I had mentioned that example, if my family showed up in black shirts, and blue jeans, I wouldn't show that on my social media, because that's not the you know, the outfits that I'm trying to book, I'm not going to show shooting in my family's backyard, I'd rather show locations that I want to shoot at. So make sure that you're being really intentional to curate your portfolio well, because think about it for every single session that you're going to shoot. Not every photo from that session is going to be stellar, and not every photo is going to get showcased. So you want to showcase the best of the best. I know that there are some sessions that I shoot that only one photo from the entire session gets plastered everywhere, because it was like the one shot that was amazing. Hopefully, you'll have more than one. But sometimes, you know, I only have a handful of images that I'm like, Yes, this is what I want to showcase my work as I want to shoot more just like this, then that's what is going to be advertised. And so think of yourself like a museum curator, and I have a whole masterclass in behind the lens about curating your Instagram feed. And what that looks like, if you're not familiar behind the lens is my monthly membership for family and portrait photographers, you get behind the scenes video every month, as well as access to master classes and all past content. And in there, I have a masterclass where I walk through curating an Instagram grid, and I literally am showing the process of going through the gallery and saying which photos I would choose and which ones I wouldn't, and why, and how I would, you know, organize them on the grid and all of that. So if you're not a part of behind the lens, here's your sign to go join. So you can watch that episode. But you want to think of yourself when you're, you know, posting your portfolio, think of yourself as a museum curator, if you're not familiar with museums, in the way that they work, only a very small percentage of the art that museums actually have are being showcased the majority of the art from the the museum is underground, or wherever their extra storage is. And they only pull out the best of the best. And that's how I want you to think about your portfolio as you're curating it is only pull out the best of the best. And so you know, just because your cousin over there loves you know, a certain photo, if it's not the best of the best of your work, it's not going to get showcased and that's okay because your goal right now, when you're building up your portfolio is to curate in a way that your ideal clients see it and they want to book with you. So I hope this episode was helpful for you kind of short and sweet, super practical things that you can do to build up your portfolio whether you're just starting out or maybe you're moving or things like that, that you know this can make a world of a difference in you know, growing your business and things like that. So if you have any questions about anything that I talked about in this episode, you can always find me on Instagram at Rebecca rice photography, shoot me a DM and I would love to chat with you about it. See if I can answer your questions.
I have people literally every week that DM me and say okay, Rebecca, I've been listening to your podcast and you always say to DM you so here I am. I'm actually DMing you finally. So please be that person like I would love to Have that conversation with you and help you however I can. Don't forget to watch that free class that I mentioned. It's linked in the show notes and I can't wait to get another episode to you here in a little bit. So with that, we'll go ahead and sign off and I'll see you next time. Bye guys.

93. How to Build a Portfolio of Images you LOVE (when you're just starting out)