Print Gift

Print Large Posters

Print Business Cards

Print Unique Calendars

Print Photo Books


7 Tips for Building Your Photography Portfolio on a Budget

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook says that freelance photography jobs are probably going to be on the rise over the next few years. But photography is an incredibly competitive field, since there are plenty of part-time and full-time freelancers, as well as professional companies of photographers, out there today.

So if you want to launch your photography career forward, the first step is to build your portfolio. But if you don’t have a ton of cash available to do so, you need to be able to build a portfolio without taking out a huge business loan. Here are seven tips to help you get started:

Getting Photos

Obviously the first and most important thing you need for your photography portfolio is photos. If you don’t already have plenty of portfolio-worthy shots, these tips will help you get them...


  1. Shoot for free / TFCD

If you’re interested in business, portrait, wedding, or family photography, consider building your portfolio with some free or uber-cheap shots. See if you can take photos of friends and family members for free.

Outdoor shoots are great if you don’t have money to buy props, backdrops, and flashes just yet. If you want to get into weddings, offer your services to a friend or family member. Even if they’ve already hired a photographer for formal shots, they might invite you to do some photojournalism style photos before and after the wedding.


2. Shoot what interests you

Even if your primary goal is to build a business as a portrait, family, or wedding photographer, you may want to add some landscape, nature, and still-life photos to your portfolio.

You can do this really easily by just taking photos of things that interest you. Whether you want to take killer pics of your classic car or cute portraits of your beloved pet, shooting what is interesting to you is a great way to practice your skills and to let your personality come through in your photography portfolio.


3. Always edit photos first

A common mistake of rookie photographers is letting their subjects see every shot they take. Even if you’re doing a photo shoot for free, you have the ability to control what gets out there. Don’t let shoddy shots and unedited photos off your own computer, as they could end up being linked to your portfolio in some way in the future. (How to use Photoshop)

Physical Portfolio

Having a traditional, physical portfolio that gives potential clients an overview of your work is a good idea, even in this digital age. With these tips, putting together a physical portfolio isn’t difficult or expensive.


4. Choose a budget portfolio cover

You don’t need some fancy leather or metal portfolio cover. Go for a standard black option. It’s affordable, and it looks nice and professional.

While you don’t need to spend a ton of money on a portfolio cover, you should choose one that looks nice, feels durable, and will set off your photos well enough. Some nice options are available here.


5. Order online prints cheaply

color management

Some of today’s best online photo printing services actually offer very high-quality photos for a lower price than services that cater to professional photographers. If you aren’t sure of which service to use, check with photographer friends about the services they use, or order a single 8x10 from a few different services to see who offers the best quality for a decent price. (check Photography Art Cafe's recommended services)

Online Portfolio

While a traditional portfolio is an important marketing tool, in today’s world, having an online portfolio is probably even more important. Luckily, setting up your own online portfolio might be even cheaper than putting together the print version.


6. Try a Wordpress portfolio site

Wordpress is widely known as one of the best blogging platforms out there, and it’s great for building sites with static pages, as well. Several free Wordpress themes are created with photography and design portfolios in mind.

With a free Wordpress site, you don’t even need to worry about paying for hosting, although it's a good idea to pay the $10-15 required to get your own domain name (e.g. instead of As your business develops, you can pay a freelance designer to create a more customized portfolio site for you. (Tips for promoting your portfolio online)


7. Trade services with a designer

If you want to use a more complicated service than Wordpress or would prefer to start out with a photography site that really shows off your individuality, you may not have to pay a designer a fortune to put together an online portfolio site for you.

Instead, see if you can find a local web designer who is just getting started. Offer to trade a photo session for head shots (important to nearly all online freelancers!) or photos that the designer can use in his work for a design for your website.


Working as a freelance photographer, whether full-time or part-time, can be a fun and fulfilling career, and it all starts by putting together the perfect portfolio.

About The Author:

Daniela Baker from CreditDonkey never leaves the house without her camera. She helps small businesses get off the ground by comparing business credit card offers on her blog.  You can visit her blog at:

Where Next?

How To Build A Photography Business Plan

How To Become A Photographer

How To Sell Photos Online

Return To Photography Art Cafe Home

Untitled Document

New! Comments

Have your say and share your thoughts below!