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I posted a repeat episode last week because I didn’t have enough time to put one together. We’ve been getting our home ready to sell, and it’s a big job. Plus we have purchased a large Victorian house that we will move into and run the family business from. So, it’s a little hectic around here.

The good thing about this move is that I’ll be able to get a room just for my photography and podcast.

Okay, so this week, I want to talk about “What’s stopping you from getting your first customers?”

So many things can prevent you from getting your first bookings. Now, don’t think you have to have all the things I’m going to mention nailed down and perfected. But you do need to work on them as you move forward.

Right, let’s get started with …

Building a Portfolio
When you are just starting out, putting a portfolio of images on a website is a big deal. How can you expect a potential customer to know how good you are without a portfolio?

The world needs to see what you can do.

When choosing photos to put in the portfolio, just use what you consider your best images. Don’t compare them to anyone else’s photos, just your own.

If you are trying to get portrait customers, don’t use photos of any other genre. Customers who want a photographer to take portraits of their family don’t want to look at photos of your car, however cool it looks.

Only show what you sell.

Now, for a lot of photographers out there, choosing images for their portfolio is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

These guys suffer from perfectionism.

I hear it all the time. “I’m still putting my portfolio together.” “I don’t think my photos are good enough for a portfolio.” “Could you look at my portfolio? I don’t think it’s very good.”

This year, I have been asked to look at websites and portfolios probably over 100 times. About ten of them needed some work related to composition and editing.

All the others were great, and the quality was above average. One lady had six photos in her portfolio. All six were incredible. I mean, they were amazing. I asked her to show me some of the photos she didn’t use. She showed me about 20 more, and they were all incredible. She could have a portfolio of 50 killer images, no problem at all.

I told her she was good enough to charge big money and wouldn’t have a problem getting bookings. The sad thing is she is a major perfectionist and probably still hasn’t started her business.

She also has all the signs of …

Imposter Syndrome
Everyone suffers from it from time to time. My last experience of imposter syndrome was when I started the podcast in 2021.

Just remember, anyone can become a photographer. There is no entry exam, and you don’t need to be accepted by any other photographer.

All the top photographers in the world were once in exactly the same place you are now.

Okay, next is …
Establishing Credibility
Lack of experience can make it difficult to gain the trust of potential customers. Many of them prefer photographers with proven track records and positive reviews.

To establish credibility, you need to get some customers who accept that you are inexperienced and like your low pricing or offer of a free session.

Your aim is to get some free sessions under your belt so you can build a portfolio. Then, you start to charge a little for each session with the same aim of building your portfolio.

The number of images in your portfolio and the quality of your work will give you credibility in the eyes of potential customers.

Marketing and Promotion
As a new photographer, you need to get the word out that you are a photographer and taking bookings.

Most photographers offering free sessions tend to work with family and friends first. So, worrying about a marketing plan to get your first few sessions isn’t necessary.

Marketing and promotion will be needed once you have built your portfolio.

Now, there are a lot of photographers out there trying to get bookings. If you concentrate on improving your quality you will soon leave most of your competition behind.

Even though your first sessions are probably going to be for family and friends, you need to try to impress them. If they post your photos on social media, you must have done a great job.

When you do a free session, ask them to mention your name and website if they post some of the images on social media.

Think about it: if you did a free shoot for a couple, and they posted your photos on Facebook. Hundreds of their friends would see your work.

Okay, next is …

Client Expectations
Managing and meeting your client’s expectations is essential. New photographers often struggle to understand and deliver what clients want.

This is where using a simple contract works. Ask the customer what they want from the photo session. You might think you are going to shoot a family session when what they really want are some great photos of their child.
Write everything down in the contract, and make sure they know what they will get from the shoot. I constantly hear photographers asking if they have to hand over the RAW files. Or the customer wants to see all the culled photos.

If the contract says they get, say, a minimum of 100 photos, and you give them 135 images, they will be happy.

A contract doesn’t need to be complicated. Just a list of what they can expect. Then, you exceed their expectations, and everyone is happy.

And that brings me to the next one …

Clients look for consistency in the quality of work and reliability in meeting deadlines. As a new photographer, you need to establish a reputation for dependability.

You need to produce work that is the same quality as your portfolio. Now, I don’t mean that everyone has to be beautiful in a stunning location. I mean, the photos need to be properly exposed, and the focus is sharp.

Also, if you have it written in the contract that you will deliver the images or prints in 14 days, then you need to do that.

It’s better to overdeliver whenever you can. If the editing will take you 5 days, tell the customer it will take 10 days, but deliver in 5 days.

Impress the customer, and you’ll get a testimonial or a referral.

Okay, last but not least …

Technical Skills
This is a biggy for new photographers. You need to be able to understand and use the light and your equipment. Plus, you need to know how to edit your images.

It will affect your final images if you struggle with any of these, and you portfolio will suffer.

I am not saying you need to be an expert. Just above average.


Right, so that is episode 162, “What’s stopping you from getting your first customers?”

If you have a question that needs answering, get in touch.

I’ll be back next week with more photo waffle.

Talk to you soon, bye.