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Top Five Ways to Build Your Portfolio

Are you a new photographer who feels you are ready to start expanding your portrait and wedding portfolio to go pro someday? If you said yes, you are going to want to keep reading. Hi, I am Kate. And as a teacher turned professional wedding and portrait photographer, I can't help but lend my knowledge to those looking to start their photography journey. Whether you want to go full-time someday or run a part-time passion project, I have some real-life experience that you will want to read.

To launch this section of my blog, I will be sharing five ways to start building your portfolio and even make some money while doing it. Let's start with the given: you have a camera, lens, and you are versed in how to operate your camera in manual mode. (If you are still shooting in auto and want to go pro, I would strongly suggest you start understanding photography basics first before building your portfolio for professional purposes. Luckily, there are wonderful classes offered online -some are even free- if you do a quick google search).

Alright, let's get into it!



The Obvious | Capture Family

mother and daughter portrait session by katherine elizabeth photography
Capture of my sister and niece. (2013)

Starting with family is always a great option. It can be your immediate, extended, and don't forget about your pets. In my experience, your family can sometime's be tricky when you are first starting. (I mean, they knew you before you could wipe in many cases so that they may be less than trustful of your pro-level talent). With careful encouragement and positive reassurance, you can convince your family members you are worth their time.

The Easiest | Capture Friends

My childhood friend on her wedding day. (2018)

I found asking friends to be photographed was always the easiest way to build my portrait and wedding portfolios. Most of the time, I would invite friends I knew loved being in front of the camera, but it is always good to practice with those who feel less comfortable as many of your future clients will be less than confident when it comes to having their pictures taken.

The Mini-Money Maker | Portfolio Building Sessions

Teen Portrait Session (2012)

When I first started to go pro, I did it as a side business while teaching full time. To start making money, I offered "Portfolio Building Sessions" at a discounted rate. I chose to word it this way as when you are first beginning, asking for the big bucks can be difficult if you do not have evidence of your talent, i.e., client recommendations, a steller portfolio, etc. BUT, you also don't want to start your rates off at a super low rate and then hike it up within days after you feel you are ready, as people may say, "but so and so said they paid only..". The mention of offering "portfolio building sessions" makes it easier to explain why your rates were lower during the beginning.

The Best | Intern, Assist & 2nd Shoot

Second shooting under Molly Anne Photography. (2014)

Hands down, the BEST way to build your

portfolio and learn more about the business while doing it is to reach out and ask an established professional photographer if you could intern or assist them in some way. Building a relationship with others in the industry is vital! You will find out fast that the market is flushed with "pro photographers" (I use quotes here as pretty much anyone with a camera and an Instagram account can claim they are professionals these days). It will bring you to a new level if you have some schooling or assisting under your belt. It may seem intimidating to reach out to local photographers you have been following on Instagram or Facebook, but it can't hurt to ask. The worst that will happen is that they will say they are too busy to take on a new assistant or intern. It's more likely they will offer you either other photographers to reach out to, educational services they provide for a fee, or say yes and start figuring out how to best work with you. The best part about this path to build your portfolio is that when you become an asset to the photographer, they will most likely offer to pay you for your time and talent and become their go-to second shooter.

The Next Step | Styled Shoots

Styled shoot with By Emma B (2020)

The ultimate way to build your portfolio and refine your photography identity will be to develop a styled shoot with other creatives. Styled shoots may seem like the first and most important one, but it comes with a high level of responsibility and planning if you hope to push yourself to the next level. You will want to make sure you are well organized and have had some experience at these types of shoots, as the money and time you and others will be putting into it will make your final captures extremely important. You may want to either assist with a more extensive creative collaboration first or plan your own with just a couple of creative friends.


When I first started developing my portfolio, the most important thing I learned was finding any way possible to gain more practice, knowledge, and professional relationships to capture and create high-quality and diverse portfolio images. These five ways to build your portrait and wedding portfolio were the first steps I took to build the business I have today. Do you have any other's to add to the list?

Before I send you on your way, I will leave you with one of my favorite photography quotes when I first started,

"When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear."

-Alfred Eisenstaedt

Now, get out there and create some stunning images!

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