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8-step Path: How To Build Up Skills And Portfolio Effectively

1/29/2019 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

Hustle is always present, lots of good stuff are being missed and it feels like you´re never there where you should be. Sound familiar? To me it does. If you are or want to be a maximizer of efficiency and you got a hint of an engineer within you, this article is for you.

I´m a part-time photographer-entrepreneur. I got a good amount of gigs and in my spare time I rarely get a grasp with photography even if I should. But why should I?

Knowledge + portfolio = High-performance

Your know-how is already at the point you can charge your customers. Does it mean you are ready as a photographer? Every self-respecting photographer knows the answer but to be on the safe side: no, you aren´t. Now, think your time consumption. How much time do you use in learning new things? Let me guess, not enough. Should you? Definitely yes.

Portfolio is the thing why your clients want you. They don´t pay you for using the newest camera bodies and lenses nor they pay you because you have the tag Photographer in front of your name (sure they do sometimes…). Your client likes what you produce and wants the same outcome.

Like I already painted the dark skies of hustle and hurry, now we are getting in the core of the problem. How do I find all the time for customers to be satisfied, for development as a photographer and building up an awesome portfolio? Problem solved: start being a full-time photographer. But what if that´s not possible? Do I have to dig down my high hopes as a part-time photographer?

How to improve efficiently?

If you’re photographing much just for fun and keep doing these Sunday-funday -shoots without planning and keep ranting about it, there’s the most important thing to do at first: stop it. You’re waste you’re time, if your goal is progression.

I have set goals and to achieve those goals I have reconstruct a productive habit. The pattern is the same every time.

Steps I used in 1960´s themed photo shoot:

1. Decide your battles 

Spotting many little things here and there is educational but you aren’t learning anything deeply. Take one thing, two things at a time, concentrate on those as long as you can put it into practice.

60´s shoot battles: Moody lightning and coloring in editing.

2. Study the tactic

Two-minute tutorials may work if things to be learned are small enough, but bigger issues need more time. Read, watch, reflect, discuss, repeat. Book time for this. Give yourself a license to leave smaller time-for-portfolio -gigs aside. Bonus tip: Quit complaining about time. Complaining is a real time-eating-monster.

Tutorials I watched just before I decided to make themed photoshoot:
  1. AliasEdu presents Iiro Rautiainen: Moody Lightning. (Sorry it´s only in Finnish.
  2. RGG EDU: Kate Woodman, The Science of Color

3. Contemplate your goals

Decide a theme for your photoshoot where you want to put everything learned into practice. Think over what kind of photos you want to show. What kind of photography do you want to make in the future? Show what you got, do what you are able to.

Sometimes the inspiration is just around the corner! When Tiina sent me these, I knew what I was going to do.

I also try to plan to color I’m going to use in photos. 

Pinterest is my walk-through -application. I plan all my theme shoots with it.

4. Gather your team

I could never do a single portfolio photo without my team. Before my team consisted of me and a model but after this 60´s-themed photo shoot I realized I´ve been missed one third: make-up and hair specialist. The team brings together thoughts and visions and strengthens your plans.

Awesome team of the sixties shoot: Make-up artist Laura Hänninen and model Tiina Winter

5. Blueprint again

I cannot emphasize enough the significance of planning. Blueprint your photos while makeup-artist is doing her magic. It can be frames on your mind, stick-figure sketches on a paper, whatever suits you. However, be free to shoot frames outside your blueprint. There might be some diamonds to take off.

6.Execute patiently

You have an idea, team, and props. Your team has made an enormous job for you. Don´t blow up by just popping up and start photographing with a hustle. Breathe. Go through your target and imagine finished photos in your mind. Do not hurry because you have all the time in the world (as a matter of fact you don´t. The model might have a tight schedule but don’t let it bother you, work precisely!). Put the final touches in lightning and remember to check final result now and then.

I want my team to feel good at the photoshoot. Music and food; those lead you long! In this photoshoot we got in the right mood with Nancy!

7. Finish with quality

If you used new techniques in the photo shoot, the most exciting work is executed. For maximizing the efficiency, I usually study two different themes: one related to photographing or lightning itself and one to editing in Adobe Photoshop. Those two are usually separated from each other so you can concentrate on both powerfully. There are always things to do better in editing photos. Do not settle for mediocre. If you think now it’s good enough, ask yourself: Good enough for what? Why is it not perfect? What could I do to make it better? If the reason is something you can correct, do it. If not, remember it next time and do it better! Of course, you have to remember “the best” is always an objective way to see things.

8. Sharing is learning

Introduce your work. Tell the audience what, why and how you did it. At the same time, you´re being helpful, nurturing your network and reinforce learned things. Did you do something wrong you should consider doing otherwise in next photoshoot?

The final results after these steps:


The Frustration 

The Verdict

If you proceed this path time after time, it´ll first end up being a habit and eventually, it´ll be your ritual.

You may also like to read her previous article: "The Forest of the Past. A Tribute to Lumberjacks"

About Sanna Vornanen:

I'm a photographer from Finland and I made a tribute to all lumberjacks around the world. My father and grandfather were lumberjacks and they raised me to appreciate nature and woods. These days I couldn't live without forest and forestry. Let's Get Connected: |  Instagram

This article and all the images were originally published on  and shared with permission

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