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chelsy weisz

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The Wise Photographer Podcast

The Biggest Secret to Strategic Portfolio Photoshoots

August 19, 2020

I'm the woman who transformed adversity into triumph: I left my economic development job, navigated through divorce, and built a business that realized my dreams. Blending support with strategy, I turn dreams into reality. My mission? To empower women to boldly chase their entrepreneurial ambitions every day!

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You just booked one of your first clients. You pull up to your session only to find your clients are wearing miss-matched clothing with big logos. One of them is in bright neon pink, throwing some seriously scary color casts on everyone’s skin. You had been so excited about these images to be the face of your new photography business. While you are super excited to be getting real clients, it’s just not the dream session you had hoped for. I see you; I get it. I’ve been there too. What if I told you the secret to attracting dream clients is who look and dress a certain way was through curating your portfolio.

Have you cringed too when editing photos of a client when they work neon pink and the color cast was blinding, yeah me too! After it happened a couple of times in a row I decided to plan and execute a portfolio building session to genuinely show my clients want I wanted them to wear for sessions.  The beauty in planning creative shoots or portfolio shoots is you get complete control over the aesthetic of the shoot.  The key to attracting your dream clients is showing your dream clients that you are the photographer for them, you have to show what you want to shoot.

Your portfolio shows the world through your eyes. Your portfolio is what potential clients want to see before hiring you. Your photography shows your unique angle on the world around you. Nobody else can bring the same creativity to the table, because no one else has had the same experiences as you.

Your portfolio is a chance to get others excited about your vision. Yes, you can tell someone what you do and explain how you do it, but your visual style will translate much better when seen rather than heard.

Yet when making a name for yourself as a photographer, putting together a portfolio can be the last thing on your mind. It’s hard enough to find new clients, engage with existing ones, and connect with the photography community. All the while, working on your skills and learning new techniques. Yet, when armed with a portfolio, you can take ownership of your work, creative vision, and set your business up for success. 

What if your images could look cohesive and polished even if you are just starting out? These tried and true steps to planning creative shoots will help you attract the right kind of clients from here on out. Regardless of if you shoot seniors, families, or couples, these 4 steps will help you plan, execute, and build a beautiful portfolio. 

 The beauty in planning creative shoots for portfolio shoots is you get complete control over the shoot’s aesthetic.  The key to attracting your dream clients is showing your dream clients that you are the photographer for them; you have to show what you want to shoot.


The biggest secret to planning and executing portfolio photoshoots is having a clear vision for your shoot. By spending time getting clear on your vision you can ensure you are creating a shoot that will attract the right clients, speak to who you are as an artist, and ensure you can pull it all together the day of the shoot. The first place to start is choosing a theme or aesthetic for your session. You want to spend time on this step.  This is where you will begging to start visually attracting your ideal clients. You get to let your creativity flow. The sky is the limit when it comes to finding the vision for your shoot. Just make sure that it speaks to the ideal clients inside your niche. For more information on finding your niche head all the way back to episode 2!  Sunset bohemian or soft pastels or maybe edgy tattoos. Just be sure it speaks to your niche. I love to create a mood board for my portfolio shoots. A mood board helps to get everyone on the same page and helps me to clarify the look and feel I want for my shoot. 

create a mood board

I have a little treat for you!  I created an easy-to-use mood board template to help you plan out your portfolio shoot!  This simple tool is easy to use and is ready for you to drag and drop images into it so you can get this concept out of your head and onto paper.  Remember, this mood board is your guiding light as you plan and execute a portfolio shoot! Head to the show notes below to get your own mood board! 

I love using Shay Cochrans Pinterest page as a starting point she and her team have created the most beautiful color boards to help you gain inspiration! You will find a link to her board in the show notes below!

You want to really narrow in the look and feel of your shoot, something that will represent your brand and speak to your ideal client. 


Now that you have a great feel for how your shoot will look it’s time to pick out outfits. There are two ways of going about this, you can either give your clients the style board and have them craft outfits that fit your vision, or you can provide the outfits yourself and choose clients that fit the clothes you choose.  I personally love working with local boutiques to create outfits. In exchange for the use of their clothing for the shoot, they get images that they can use for their own social media or website. I will also write up a blog post that highlights their boutique, then make sure to tag them wherever I share images. It’s really a win-win. 

Be sure to refer back to your mood board as you pick out or source outfits and props to help keep you on track. 


Now you have a clear vision for your shoot; it’s time to choose a date, time, and location for your shoot. Finding a good location may mean finding a beautiful park, going downtown, or renting out a wedding venue on a weekday.  Remember to look back at your mood board to help determine the look and feel you want for your shoot! You may be able to work out a deal with a wedding venue if they are in need of promotional images for their website or marketing. 


Once you have your outfits figured out you can put out a model call.  You can head to your favorite social media platform. I generally suggest Facebook for something like this since its generally easier for people to tag friends and family they know who might be a good fit.

You want to let people know you are doing a creative shoot and looking for models.  You want to be clear on what is expected, and what they will get in return.  If you are requiring them to bring their own outfits based on your mood board let them know upfront. I suggest creating an application using google survey. This is a great way to get all the information in one spot so you can choose the best candidate for the job. Remember you want to choose models that fit the vision you have for your shoot so be sure to refer back to your mood board. 


When it comes to compensating models, I personally provide models with 15-20 digital images that include printing authorization, delivered through an online gallery within 2 weeks of the session.  By wording it this way, people know how many images, what they can do with the images, and when they can expect to have them back from you. 

One of the most important things you need to ensure when you choose your models is that they sign a model release.  My favorite place for photography contracts is Shop Creative Law .com You can head back to episode 18 to meet Paige, lead attorney and founder of shop creative law. The entire point of this shoot is to use it for marketing purposes. So your models need to allow you to do that.  


Next, it’s time to execute your shoot before you go into the shoot have a clear plan of what you are wanting to capture.  Certain poses you want to do, ways you want to style things.  Remember, this is a shoot that is for your portfolio. You want to have a clear plan of what you expect from yourself. This might mean sketching out poses or layouts and having a shot list ready. 


Make sure after the shoot; you remind your models how they are being compensated for their time. Remember often this is through digital images so remind them how many and when they can expect to get images back from you! Now it’s time to edit your images and start using them on your website, and social media. Let these images showcase your talent as a photographer, and help you to attract the right clients! 

There you have it guys the biggest secret to planning and executing a portfolio shoot is to help you attract the right clients for your brand. You now have the tools to go out there and use your creativity to establish your place in the photography industry. Make sure you download your free mood board to clearly see the vision of your shoot, and make it a reality!

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