How to Build a Photography Portfolio | Pt. 2

Five Points

Morgan Williams

March 20, 2017

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Hi I’m Morgan! I’m a photography educator and Raleigh, NC newborn photographer and family photographer.

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Last week we talked all about how to scope out that ideal client and prepare for your photo session in order to build your portfolio the right way.

But what do you do now that you have it all set up? How can you ensure that everything will run smoothly, and you’ll capture the images you’re envisioning?

Well, let me be real with you. There’s no foolproof way to go about this. There’s never a 100 percent guarantee that things are going to go just how you want them to.

BUT (yes, there’s a but), there are ways to prepare ahead of time so that the likelihood of those images turning out beautifully is much higher.


How to Build a Portfolio

1. Study poses. I want you to go to Pinterest right now, start a new board titled “Poses” and pin your little heart out. Any photo that you see and like – add it to this board. 

Don’t stop there, though. Once you have a board and variety of poses that you’re comfortable with, really look at them.

Think of the verbiage you need to use to get your subjects into these positions. I think this is a step that we often overlook but is so important.

Take this photos below for example. It’s one of my favorite photos ever. The pose is something a little different, the connection between them is obvious and the light just makes my heart pitter patter.


But look at all of the details. The way their hands are placed on and around each other; how she’s pulling him in ever so lightly; the joyful yet soft expressions on their faces.

Of course, part of that is just the way that they naturally interact with one another. But people need direction. So when you look at a pose that you really love, think about how to clearly direct your subjects to get to that point.

Find 3-5 key poses that you feel comfortable with and can use in your session.

2. Think of ways to encourage movement. People stiffen up really easily when they’re in front of a camera. I don’t know why, but it just happens. 

Encouraging movement is a great way to combat that stiffness and allow people to look more natural in their photos.

Having your subjects walk towards and away from you or having them walk towards each other to embrace can produce a very natural feel in your images. Even a little to and fro sway can work wonders in loosening people up.

No one teaches this better than Justin & Mary, so if you’re looking for a deep dive into posing and movement, I’d definitely recommend their Art of Authentic Posing course. It’s PURE GOLD, y’all.

3. Study light. If you know my work, you know I LOVE LIGHT. I see how it falls on everything whether there’s a camera in my hands or not, and I have been known to cry tears of joy when I capture the dreamiest of light during a session or wedding.


Suffice it to say, I think it’s super important. It can truly transform your work if you learn how to use it correctly. 

Go back to that Pinterest board you created with all of the poses, and pick out the photos you see where the light really catches your eye.

Now look at where that light is coming from. Is it backlight? Can you see the actual sun in the photo or do you just see the light from the sun? Do you prefer photos where the light is softer? How are the highlights and shadows falling on the subjects and on the foreground and background?

Figure out what it is that you love and what you want to see in your photos and learn how to create it. This will take some trial and error, and truth be told, I’m still learning about light every single day. But once you get a good handle on it, you’ll see some drastic improvements in your work.

4. Practice. I know you’ve heard it before, but practice really does make perfect. So before you jump into your carefully planned session with your hand chosen ideal clients, PRACTICE.

This could be your one and only chance with this person, couple or family, so do your homework ahead of time and be prepared.

Learn those three to five poses and know them like the back of your hand. If you get the chance, practice on a family member or friend, and use those cues to encourage movement in your photos. Actually observing how people respond to your verbal cues will teach you how to adjust them to get the result you’re looking for.

To practice capturing light, you can literally use an inanimate object. Take a stuffed animal outside during the same time of day your photo session will be, and practice on it. Your neighbors might think you’re crazy, but who cares?!

Evansvillematernityphotographer 1

Once you’ve rocked out that photo session, make sure you’re sharing the images on social media and your website. Tag your clients, and ask that your clients tag your business if and when they post the images to social media.

And feel free to rinse and repeat this whole cycle as many times as necessary. It can take a while to get your portfolio to a place where you feel comfortable, especially when you’re patiently going about it the right way. 

But I promise you, doing it the right way will pay off in the end!



Featured Post

Photography Education

Maternity Photography

Family Photography

In-Home Newborn Photography

Top Categories

Hi I’m Morgan! I’m a photography educator and Raleigh, NC newborn photographer and family photographer.

Meet Morgan

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