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Business of Wedding Photography

a guide by photo.net wedding photographers, November 2007

Index | Next Topic

Topic #4: Wedding photography portfolios and making the sale

Jeff Ascough • Mary Ball • Bob Bernardo • Conrad Erb • Michael Mowery • Nadine Ohara • Josh Root • David Wegwart • Marc Williams

The Business of Wedding Photography is an extensive subject, best answered by a team of professional wedding photographers, who also happen to be star photo.net members. In this article, these professional photographers have contributed advice and personal experience gained from running wedding businesses. Not only have they provided advice on how to make a photo portfolio, but they've also provided examples of wedding photography, such as wedding dresses, flower girls, and ceremonies. Whether you are just entering the field of wedding photography, or are a seasoned professional, the tips and insights shared here should be helpful with your own business.

We asked our panel of experts the following questions:

  1. In your experience, what makes for a good portfolio presentation?
  2. How many and what types of images do you include in your portfolio?
  3. When meeting with a prospective client, how do you convince them to hire you?

Portfolio presentation

In your experience, what makes for a good portfolio presentation?

Marc Williams: Consistent work, and really insightful images that tell a story.

David Wegwart: Each image needs to be able to stand on its own merit while maintaining its place in the overall feel of your work.

Bob Bernardo: We use a selling technique, which we refer to as Wedding Photography 101. We spend a lot of time showing the clients why we took a particular photograph and explain the lighting and posing. We also look at B&W photos and sepia to get a feel for what the client really is looking for. In a sense, we are teaching the clients about the art of wedding photography. Most of the time, when clients come over they will zoom through the books. If you don't stop them and make a personal connection, they most likely won't book the wedding with you, even if your work is of top quality. Since most wedding couples are just looking, we take the time to educate them. Last year, only one couple did not book with us. This year, everyone who consulted with us booked. We are looking at completing about 100 weddings by the end of the year.

Jeff Ascough: Consistency and individuality. The best photographers can be recognized from their images. The average photographer tends to copy and never develop their own identity.

Nadine Ohara: Images that show an identifiable style, whether it's by image content, use of color, processing, and other techniques.

Josh Root: Showing the clients individual images that demonstrate your style, in addition to collections of images that show the results from a whole wedding. It's not necessary to show every single image from an example wedding, but 100 or so, enough to show the complete day. From the client's point of view, it demonstrates an honesty and confidence in your style and images.

Mary Ball: I agree with Nadine and Marc and would have said exactly the same thing, consistent work with a unique style and technique.

Michael Mowery: Size seems to matter. I show 11x14 prints in my portfolio. I also show clients a slideshow with music, and that seems to seal the deal.

Conrad Erb: Being in a relaxed setting. I always have my clients sit on my couch in my living room and I get them a cup of tea or something to drink. We chat for awhile and whenever they are ready, we look at some photographs.

Images to include in your photography portfolio

How many and what types of images do you include in your portfolio?

Marc Williams: Generally enough to tell the story of a wedding from start to finish.

David Wegwart: A selection of about 50+, as long as you are covering most of a wedding day.

Bob Bernardo: Usually one or two books: the traditional and the modern photojournalism style. We also like to show enlargements, up to 40x60, framed, retouched, sprayed, and in some cases canvas mounted. This shows the clients what can be expected from their wedding. Rarely do they ask to see more albums.

Jeff Ascough: In my studio portfolio I only show complete weddings. Online I present a wide selection of images from different weddings showing all aspects of the day.

Nadine Ohara: A selection of "greatest hits" and several complete weddings, either in slideshow or album format. I don't think number of images is important, as long as you show enough for a potential client to place your style.

Josh Root: I show a selection of my favorite individual images that also best illustrate my style, which is ultimately what the client is hiring me for. I also show 100 or so images each from two or three weddings that give the client a good idea of what they can expect.

Mary Ball: I filled a proof album with a very large variety of different brides, environments, detail and group images, portraits, candids, etc. I selected images that evoke emotion of some kind, as well as seem to attract the kind of brides I want to work with. Over the years, I update the album, adding some newer images, and removing older ones. I tend to keep the photos that couples ooh and ahh over every time. With the large variety, the couples see weddings in different lighting situations and seasons. In addition, I show them two finished albums of real weddings that are almost duplicates of a couple's final album. Framed prints are displayed on the wall as well.

Michael Mowery: I show photographs relevant to the job I am pursuing. Ten images is more than enough. I want to show my very best.

Conrad Erb: I have about 24 prints in a leather book, which I show along with a few albums. The photographs are representative of what I do, showing a variety of styles from photojournalism to still life, with a few traditional portraits thrown in the mix.

Prospective clients

When meeting with a prospective client, how do you convince them to hire you?

Marc Williams: I don't. Either they want my style and approach and see its insightful and emotional power, or they don't. If they don't, then it's best that I not convince them of anything.

David Wegwart: I don't try to convince them. The first thing I advise potential clients of is to choose someone whose images inspire them and with whom they feel at ease. Both of those aspects will determine if they will be happy with the end results. Next, I share a few slideshows of recent work and as they watch, chat with them about their plans. Everything else is details.

Bob Bernardo: We don't try to convince them. We also do not offer anything special, such as a discount, to book the wedding. Usually clients hardly ever book that day, but will book within a week. If we haven't heard from them within a week, we always do a follow-up call rather than email. Emails seem very cold to me, whereas a personal phone call seems to let the wedding couple know we are sincerely interested.

Jeff Ascough: I very rarely meet my clients before booking them.

Nadine Ohara: I am very "soft sell". I present my work, and when the prospects are reviewing my work, I ask questions and invite comments. The conversation takes off and in the process, I find out if they are suited to me and vice versa. I assume my personality is revealed at the same time. I don't even ask for the sale, as one is supposed to.

Josh Root: Oddly enough, I spend as much time making sure that I want to be hired by the clients I am talking to. I learned really quickly that it is not any fun working for people who were hiring me simply for value or because they didn't feel like looking any further. I want clients to hire me because they like what I bring to the table. If they are looking for someone who approaches wedding photography differently than I do, it's better for all of us to find that out early on.

Mary Ball: I want to work with clients who really, really love me and my work. If I have to convince them, it won't be a happy marriage (pun) of client/photographer.

Michael Mowery: Thankfully, the photos speak for themselves. If you have the talent, the proof is in the pudding.

Conrad Erb: I don't have any sales pitch. I ask the clients questions about their wedding plans and converse with them about what they are looking for. I make sure they have checked my references. Most of the potential clients who check my references will be surprised by how strong they are. Often, that is what makes them book during the initial meeting. They have established that they like my photos and that I am trustworthy with a solid history in making couples happy (information obtained from my references). Some couples will sign on the spot, and some take it home, think about it, and call me in a few days. There's no point in putting pressure on people. The entire experience should be relaxing, not stress-inducing.

Next Topic: #5 Pricing structure for the professional wedding photographer


Text contributed by: Jeff Ascough, Mary Ball, Bob Bernardo, Conrad Erb, Michael Mowery, Nadine Ohara, Josh Root, David Wegwart, Marc Williams, ©2007. Edited by Hannah Thiem. All photos are copyright the photographer, and may not be used without written permission.

Article created November 2007

Readers' Comments

Add a comment

Dena Rosko , December 21, 2007; 05:12 P.M.

I appreciate your comments here because it can be a discouraging and helpless feeling to market work to potential clients who may not be a good fit (i.e. they want budget rather than a good fit). Your combined suggestions to communicate expectations with clients and to let my work speak for itself encourages me to adjust my approach. There are some clients who take advantage by labeling the "new" and "starting out" photographer as there are those who have genuinely been a good fit for me, and have enjoyed the images (with lots of print purchases) I provided for them. Thanks again.

Hannah Thiem , January 07, 2008; 05:33 P.M.

We welcome you to add your own valuable insight and opinions on the topic of portfolios and tips for gaining new clients for the professional wedding photographer.

Thanks for reading!

Angela Smith , August 15, 2008; 11:36 P.M.

This is a great article. I have struggled with my Portfolio in some area due to too many pictures I'd like to include and in other area's not enough. It's hard to strike a balance.

Theresa Cox , November 17, 2009; 11:35 P.M.

Temecula photographer

I generally show my albums using real weddings. Some may have a 110 images, while others have 50 or 60. But I totally agree with the photographers who say "enough to tell the story of the day." That's pretty much how I put together my wedding photography albums.

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