When you’re a new photographer trying to establish their portfolio, the first thing you look to do is to be a second shooter.  You scour the internet, various facebook groups and organizations for second shooter jobs in your area and you often end up overwhelmed by the amount of people looking to be second shooters.  What are the odds that you’ll even get a gig as a second shooter?  And will that primary even let you use the images in your portfolio?  And if they do let you use the images, what caveats are in place regarding image use?  Will they let you use them right away or will they ask you to wait for them to showcase first?  How are you ever going to establish your portfolio without getting a lot of second shooter jobs or if your primary puts caveats on image use?

Well, the truth is… no one is responsible for your portfolio other than you.

berkeley church wedding photos 191 - Establishing Your Portfolio: Who is Responsible for a New Photographer's Portfolio?

Relying solely on second shooter jobs in order to create a wedding photography portfolio shows a lack of motivation and a lack of responsibility.

Why do I say that?  Well… it’s simple: you’re relying on another person to provide you the opportunities and you just shoot them.  You can be a great photographer, but if you’re a poor business person who lacks in motivation and initiative, you’ll have a very difficult time establishing yourself in the wedding photography market.  I’ve said it a thousand times and I”ll say it again, hard work will always trump talent.  Always.

Yes, second shooting jobs are important because it allows you to put REAL wedding days into your portfolio – but they are not the be all and end all of your portfolio.  Get some friends and go out and shoot some faux engagement sessions; they don’t even have to be engaged – they just need to be a couple!  Have a friend that was recently married?  Ask her if she wouldn’t mind putting her dress back on and being a model for a bridal session with you.  Give them the images in exchange for their time and you’ve got a great deal (don’t forget to have them sign a model release, though!)  This is something I have been preaching for years; it’s what I did when I started, it’s what many others did too.  Why?  Because it works.

If you find yourself having a difficult time getting friends to participate in these portfolio building sessions or if you find yourself making excuses as to why you can’t get it done, this will tell you a lot about what your future in the industry will be like.  Being self-employed takes a lot of perserverance and initiative; if you’re making excuses as to why you can’t get your portfolio built it may be a sign that you’re going to struggle to establish your business.

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.