Craigslist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the greatest barriers for newbie photographers is the lack of a strong portfolio. In the first segment of the Free Doesn’t Always Mean Free series I talked about how there is a benefit to doing events where you merely turn over the images, how there is the opportunity to network. In this segment I am going to explain how you can apply this same philosophy to build your portfolio. Last week I tuned into a fashion crash course taught by Lindsay Adler and the information she offered on this topic was more than beneficial.
No matter your photography niche there are others in the beauty and photography industry that need to build their portfolios as well. If you live in major cities such as DC, New York, Chicago, or L.A. you can find any number of schools with full access to up and coming industry students as well as people moving into the city looking to make it big. There are modeling agencies you can reach out to; fashion and portrait photographer Lindsay Adler suggests requesting their “new faces“.
You may then ask what you would do if you live in a rural area where this strong industry presence is not available. Building a strong portfolio is not impossible, it just means you h e to be willing to go to greater lengths to be creative. Sites such as Model Mayhem and Craigslist are invaluable and I have used them many times for my own creative projects. But what else is there? I have a few suggestions.
I cannot stress how important research and industry news is to furthering your career. This simple rule is one that I myself do not utilize no where near enough. Nevertheless, big shoots, movie productions, and trade shows do not always take place in the middle of Hollywood Blvd. Many times these events are taking place in a smaller, less busy area of a city where the likelihood of obtaining a permit to block streets off is greater. It may then be beneficial for you to look into the photography presence in areas around you and make that day trip when applicable.
In another respect, you too could utilize Craigslist and Model Mayhem to locate a crew in a larger city. Once together, you could plan a day trip to their area where you can not only have a photo shoot but also do some networking making it a win win situation.
Another avenue I rarely utilize is LinkedIn. If you do not know much about it, LinkedIn is a business hub made up of all types of professionals, students, and advocates. For the most part it can be difficult interacting with those not connected in your circle but there are groups you can join which I would recommend. Post a discussion asking for assistance or information in a certain topic. Join grits which would contain individuals you hope to work with. If you know you will be traveling use these groups as opportunities to meet people and host or take part in shoots wherever you will be at any given point.
In reality the opportunities are endless, many of them being through non conventional means. Every photographer is taught the traditional means but rarely are we challenged to think if those outside the box. The key to building a strong portfolio that places it in the Free Doesn’t Always Mean Free series, is that you can use the measures listed above and pay nothing. Lindsay has a stern philosophy of not paying for anything where she is not being paid and I have to say I agree as well as understand her position. The payment then becomes the images. As a collective group we all take part in this photo shoot and we are all paid with images for our portfolio. Seems fair correct? As new photographers we cannot expect to make any type of profits if we spend everything we have on session to build our portfolios. When you begin getting paid gigs that own the copyrights on, you will then have those images to utilize in your portfolio as well. However, paid shoot or not never forget about the opportunities to do it at no cost that come along with the benefit of networking.
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