How to establish your portfolio as a new photographerIdeas on how to build your portfolio

When you decide to become a wedding photographer, you need to build your wedding photography portfolio. The first thing you look to do is to become a second shooter for someone more established (that’s exactly what I did!) You look for any second shooting jobs that might come up – paid or unpaid – and often end up overwhelmed by the amount of photographers looking for that very same experience.  You might reply to a Facebook Post or thread, along with so many others – hoping that you’ll get a chance. That they’ll pick you… but even if they do – there are other questions you need to ask.

  • Will the primary photographer let you use the images in your portfolio?
  • If they do, what restrictions will be in place regarding image use?
  • Will you have to wait to use them or can you use them right away?
  • Can you link to other vendors if you blog the images?
  • Is this the best way to build your portfolio and if they don’t let you use the images, what’s in it for you?

Well, the truth is… regardless on who you second shoot for, the answers to these questions will differ. Some primary photographers will be relaxed about sharing/using images and will encourage you to – others, may offer image use instead of financial payment. While some, will have a strict no use policy – which is their right. However, the point I want to make is this: the only person responsible for building your portfolio is you. You can’t rely on second shooter jobs in order to build your wedding portfolio – you need to use your initiative & create your own opportunities as well. I’m a huge believer that hard work will win over talent every single time… so if you’re willing to put in the hard work now, instead of just waiting for second shooting gigs to come your way – it is only a matter of time before you are on your way to becoming the successful photographer you dream of.


Now let me clarify, it is important to do some second shooting as it allows you to put REAL wedding images into your portfolio and hopefully on your website (which you need before you go booking any real weddings!) but these jobs are only one small elements of your portfolio. I took some time to brainstorm some other ways you can begin building or adding to your portfolio (and you can do this right now):

Contact one of your friends and do a couple shoot for them – they don’t need to be engaged, just keen to be loved up in front of your camera for 30-60mins one day. Send them the photos (and maybe a bottle of wine) as a thank you… and blog it!

– Get in touch with a florist that might be starting out and offer to shoot a bouquet the next time they create one… then create a blog post about the florist and what you loved most about the bouquet!

Is one of your friend’s recently married? See if she’ll put her wedding dress back on and be your model for a session with you… I don’t think she’ll need much convincing!

– Have a wedding venue close by that you’d love to work at? Email them and organise to meet the coordinator – go say hello, take some photos of the grounds… and then write a blog post about how you would LOVE to photograph a wedding there one day and why.

– Notice a celebrant or makeup artist that doesn’t have up to date headshots? Get in touch and offer to do it for free in exchange for a coffee! Send them the photos and blog about them and what makes them unique in the industry – they’ll love you for it.

– Is there an upcoming wedding fair or expo coming up? Buy a ticket and take your camera along – write a review about it on your blog and use the images to showcase the event! Better yet, send them to the organiser as a ‘just because they might find it helpful’

– Brainstorm & purchase some items to create flatlays with – practice your styling! You could use bath bombs from Lush, with some silk ribbon and engagement style rings from cheap jewellery stores. Be thrifty, but use these items to practice, practice, practice – then blog!


All of these things, I have done – not once, but many times over. Why? Because they work. Sure, establishing your portfolio can be difficult – but it takes more than just second shooting opportunities to build your portfolio.  As an entrepreneur, it’s your responsibility to take the bull by the horns and create opportunities for yourself.  There are no excuses.

Have you tried any of those ideas above? I’d love to hear how you found them – and if you have any advice for other photographers trying to grow their portfolio, leave it in the comments below! Remember, let’s encourage community over competition! K xx