FAQ : How to Build a Photo Portfolio


I often get asked how I started my business. And to be honest, I don’t know. How, that is. I just did. But this is how most people start their business, right? People take what they have, make it work, and strap on combat boots for the long road ahead. Oh, and the combat boots was just a figure of speech…please don’t think I have a closet full of knee-high Doc Martins. That’s so 1991.

I didn’t have steps to take, a business plan, or even the right gear, I merely started. Somewhere. While I knew I needed to buy pretty much everything, I started with a Canon 20D and a 24-70, 2.8 lens. And business cards. That’s pretty much it. I realized I needed to build my portfolio, so I began asking people in my immediate network if I could take their picture. Much to my disappointment, most people said no. Flat out. I tried to not let it get me down (UH, WHO WOULDN’T WANT FREE PICTURES?!?), but I realized my co-workers and people at church viewed me as nothing more than a girl with a nice camera. Not a photographer.

So then I was stuck. I needed a portfolio, but had no one to practice with. So I called my best friend and asked if she’d be willing to pose for an engagement session. Sure, but I’m not engaged…and I don’t even have a boyfriend, Brianna said. We hatched a plan to convince her roommate, Bashir, to pose with her…and he agreed as long as I bought him dinner! 🙂

I drove down to La Jolla and shot my first ‘engagement’ session…which lasted 22 minutes. I was terrified and–quite frankly–had no idea what I was doing. But I bought Bashir a few margaritas to make up for it…in fact, he probably thought I was the best photographer ever! I drove home having accomplished my goal. Kinda. I wanted to practice shooting an engagement session and I wanted photos to blog. At the core of it, I did this. And it made me proud. Of course the photos are quite different than what I shoot now, but here are a few from the shoot….

J* Advice for Building a Portfolio
*Reach out to your inner circle of friends and ask if they want their photos taken.
*Cajole your best friends into a photoshoot…they can never say no.
*Volunteer your services at church/community events. People will begin to ask you to take their photos when they see you documenting events at a venue of authority. This is awesome because you’re sharing your gifts with non-profits, as well as building your business!
*Shoot for free. If you’re just starting out, you gotta give a lot….in fact, my mother told me I could never out-give God, so I held onto this notion when I began my business. I photographed people and kids for free in exchange for their time to pose for me. Yes, I gave them a disk of images, but these opportunities allowed me to practice shooting manually and forced me to learn my camera. All without the pressure of Oh-my-gosh-they’re-going-to-want-a-refund looming over my head.
*Word of Mouth. When you’re building your portfolio and shooting for free (or very cheap) and doing a good job, your name will spread like wildfire. Why? Because you’re good and free! Once the ball gets rolling, you’ll have a ton of business lined up. But be careful…once you have too much demand, it’s time to start charging for your services. I started charging $250 per session, and once the demand grew again, I stopped accepting portrait and children’s sessions. Why? Because I didn’t want to be a portrait or children’s photographer. I used the free sessions to hone my skills for wedding photography, so I needed to make sure my focus was always kept on weddings…even if it meant turning away business. Trust me, as a new and struggling photographer, this was HARD. But I have no doubt I made the right decision.
*If all else fails, buy them margaritas!

I hope this information helps a little bit, and if you’re still interested in the inner workings of how I started my business, feel free to check out my my first photo blog…and you can also check out other FAQ Posts here. Happy Thursday!

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  1. Chris Ellis

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Jasmine, You had talent right at the start! Great advice and inspiration to us guys, AND our wives (who we are slowly convincing to come along on these weddings)! You could also cook for them…LOL

  2. faye

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    AHH i love you! i was actually stressing about starting/building a portfolio this morning. thank you so much!

  3. jamie delaine

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    aw love this jasmine! i STILL do these shoots sometimes and love it. that’s exactly how i started… well add on a little $100 bludomain website to that, but let’s not go there: coulda done with just a blog! 😉

  4. imthiaz houseman

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    what great advice. i’m sure its a lot easier to do it that way instead of charging right up front without a lot of work. wish we had that advice 6 yrs ago. 🙂

  5. avianca wong

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this . I consider myself a new photographer to the natural light (i worked in studio) and i have been struggling on what to do THANKS AGAIN! you ROCK.

  6. Jenny Duffy

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I like what your mom told you!

  7. abriana

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    awesome post! thanks for the advice!

  8. Sarah Alston

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    This was really inspiring to me…Plus, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your moms quote! Care if I make it my next Facebook Headline? LOL You keep rocking, girl…you are one of my idols!

  9. Crystal Chick

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Nice info! Though I’m still less than a year into my business, I took this approach first too. Started out with my best friend who was pregnant at the time. And, I got a lot of "rejections" for a "free portrait session" too. (I’m with you, who wouldn’t want a free session?! lol)

    Things have been building up slowly, and it’s exactly the way I want it. I’m still learning, so not rushing the business to grow faster than my skills. Though each month I get a little terrified looking at the month ahead … what if no one books me? So far, things are going well, and I’m very grateful.

  10. Jessica Rensch

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    As always, THANK YOU JASMINE! I read your blog daily as my little nudge of inspiration! I really appreciate you taking the time to blog so often!

  11. Emily Dobson

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Very informative and helpful. I really appreciate you taking the time to help those of us who are just starting out. I LOVE your work and your blog and your personality (as it shows through each blog post). Again, THANK YOU!

  12. Diane - www.sagephoto.com

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Great advice Jasmine! I couldn’t agree with you more about everything you said. Practice, practice and practice some more. Never stop learning new skills and take free jobs if it means having the chance to see what you would do when you are getting paid for the jobs you really want. Great advice!

  13. Audrey

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    this post is exactly what I needed! its like you crawled into my head and spoke to every fear/concern I have about jumping into the photography world. thanks for your insight. 🙂

  14. Michelle Guzman

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    These posts are so encouraging! Thanks for being so real. I love your stories!

  15. Christa

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Ha! Hit the nail on the head again! You never cease to amaze me how you’re posts are exactly where I am with my photography. I’m at the point now where it seems everyone wants cheap photos of their kids but still no weddings. Thanks for reminding me to keep my eye on the ball and that it’s okay to say no.

  16. Catie Ronquillo

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing and thanks for keepin it real. 🙂 Happy Thursday!

  17. Monica Guerrero

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    I loved the last bullet in this post! I am in that exact position now! I’ve been told… okay Monica you’ve give away enough session for free START MAKING MONEY. And I get A LOT of baby sessions which isn’t what I want to focus on! I love taking pictures of couples! Thanks! I needed this 🙂

  18. brianna

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Oh my goodness…I’m SUCH a good best friend! Not because I let you take my picture (let’s face it…it’s me we are talking about here. In fact, I think you should take some credit for the awesome modeling jobs I landed later on), but because I am letting you post pictures of me with what can only be described as straw coasters in my ears. Oh…and orange hair with black roots. THAT is why I’m the best friend ever. I love you and am so glad that I was able to be your first client. I hope that entitles me to free photo shoots for life. It’s the least you can do.

  19. Oliphant

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    *If all else fails, buy them margaritas! ….I’m lovin’ this…

  20. Liz Brander

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Hello, so i definitely needed someone to tell me how they started they portfolio, it helped alot. Also reading about how people just looked at you as "a girl with a nice camera", thats how people look at me!!! You made my day, hearing a women so successful started like I’m having to start out! inspiring!!! =] thank you.

  21. Renae J

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Thanks J* you da best!!!

  22. rachael s

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    thank you so much for this post. it is uncannily timely for me + has given me just that extra little push i needed to keep going towards building my dream. i have had a lot of people say no to free photos as well, and i try not to let it get me down, but it does some days. this has given me a new determination. thank you again!

  23. michelle sidles

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Thanks! It’s reassuring to read that what I’ve been doing is basically what you did. While I’d love to buy a cool website or cool lens or better camera right now I’ve just got to work with what I have. And you know… it does seem to be working! 🙂 Thanks for opening up and sharing your wisdom. 🙂

  24. Ms. T Prescott

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    I rarely comment, but I do read faithfully Jasmine. I started my business a little over a year ago, and I did everything as well! My family and friends turned me down constantly, and until I started shooting things for nothing did I realize how much I loved photography. I told myself for an entire year "I’m not a wedding photographer", but honestly, those were not my words, I was just afraid. I shot my first wedding September of 2008 and will have 15 by September of this year, which is my same sister that never had the time for help me learn my camera. I am so glad I found my calling. Reading this just told me I was on the right path, and maybe one day I will have the honor of even reaching half your caliber. Thank you for your encouragement and openness in all you do!

  25. Tira J

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I love your transparency! And I did exactly what you did in order to get my business off the ground. Have a wonderful day Jasmine!

  26. Miz Booshay

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful advice!!!

  27. Neha

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Very inspiring, Jasmine! I also believe in thinking positive! You seemed to have figured that out! Congrats on all of your success!

  28. Karisa J.

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! It’s encouraging to see that you didn’t have many people willing to pose for you either! I’ve really been needing to post something at my church for free photos but I’m almost too scared too. It’s also encouraging to hear how you dropped the children and portrait sessions to focus more on the ‘couples’ sessions. I really have a passion for wedding photography NOT children or otherwise, but I know I need the experience and just want SOMEONE to pose for me! Thanks again, Jasmine.

  29. Claudia

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    I am loving this post. You are very honest, its funny how people act when you asked them to take their pictures …. it happened to me too!! 🙂 — Happy Thursday!

  30. Jessica Fike

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks for this post and for the advice. I am actually building my portfolio as I type this. I am offering my services and for free and taking my camera to all exciting events! Eventually, I’ll start charging and eventually I’ll have a big, wonderful portfolio! Your advice reasures me that I am doing something right! 🙂

  31. Jackie Beale

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Thank you a thousand times Jasmine! I asked myself this a million times a couple of months ago and I was so scared that I’d never be able to build a portfolio. I did exactly what you did, and started asking everyone if I can shoot them for free. LoL, I sent out a MASSIVE email to everyone I knew and even to people who’s email I had, but didn’t remember who they were, and I got great responses and support from that email. I started with a film camera but quickly realized that I need a digital one since buying film was getting really costly. I’m still so new at the business side of things but thank you so much for sharing your story. It lifted my spirits 🙂

  32. Megan Welker

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you Jasmine! Your words are always so helpful 🙂

  33. Brad Peters

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Great stuff, Jasmine, thanks. But here’s the million dollar (or at least six-figure) question … how did that "First" wedding arrive? I would assume most brides don’t want to take a chance on their big day with someone completely green, even if they love your portrait work. Did you have another Brianna who was willing to let you shoot for the first time? Did you shoot it for free or way discounted? I got an inquiry to do a wedding based on my portrait work, but when I admitted I haven’t done a wedding, it naturally ended there. Any advice?

  34. Otto Rascon

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks for opening up to how you started. So many people hold onto this information and guard it with their life. I truly appreciate it. Rock on!

  35. Shirley V

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    OMG… Jasmine thank you for writing this post and giving hope to us newbies!! 🙂
    Your strength and faith in yourself are truly commendable!

  36. ERIN

    June 25th, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    WOW! You nailed it! I’ve been the free, well not free, but SUPER CHEAP gal for a long time. And now, I’ve been struggling with the demand that I have and not charging enough. Just this last week, I updated all of my prices after starting a blog and going all out with a logo, business cards and brochures are almost ordered. Almost….because I started having second thoughts about raising the prices.

  37. Cortney

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Thanks for the great advice! This is exactly where I’m at right now so and it’s so intimidating so it helps to know that I’m somewhat on the right path!

  38. Christine (Artemis Clover Photo)

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    thanks for the post!! i have been doing sessions for friends for years now and now i have a nice portfolio because of it!

  39. Katherine Bowman

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Great info! Thanks for being so open! And Brianna, I like your straw coaster earrings! 🙂

  40. rachel darley

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    hahaha. i second that…Brianna SHOULD get freee photo sessions for life!! And thanks for all the awesome and useful advice J*. In my book, you rock. =)

  41. Chelsea Nicole

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    This is an awesome post Jas! Such a cute ‘getting started’ story. I’m so glad you shared it. 🙂

  42. ohana photographers -david & kimi

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    you can never "out give God" love this!

  43. Dawn B

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    These posts are so cool for all of us who are just "hoping" one day to become a photographer! Just because I’m curious, can you guess about how long it took before you felt comfortable enough with your camera to start shooting your friends for free? I still have this fear of taking forever to figure out settings, etc. and looking like a boob!

  44. Tonya Riggs

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Hi jasmine. Have come to admire your blog and work. Thanks for sharing. I’m in he same begining boat as you described however I LOVE baby and children portraiture. I have plenty of work for a portfolio so I’m ready to make some money. I think my biggest fear is that my regular client base will drop up if I raise my rates. Question..Do you recommend sending out an email to clients explaining why you have raised your rates? What do I stick with saying? Need help getting over that hump.

  45. Thao Tran

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Jasmine, thanks for this post, you are always willing to let us pick at your brain and you never fail to give us a great deal more back. Thank you.

  46. Kevin

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Hi Jasmin, I’m a long time reader but first time poster. This is such a great post as I am just starting out in my own photography business. This is quite hopeful to build up my portfolio and my name as a photographer. Always love your work!


  47. yolanda diaz

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Jasmine, Thank you, thank you sooo much for sharing this information. I completely relate to this post.

  48. Crystal

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Thank You for this post. This is truly inspirational for me. I just got my business cards and I ready to rock and roll! Practive makes perfect. This post helps us newbies out there.

  49. Michelle

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! That is exactly how I have been starting my own dream at this hobbie turned business that I love. I had a very good friend, or so I thought, in this industry told me it was wrong to do this and that I needed to charge what I thought was way too much. I just wans’t comfertable knowing that I wasn’t at that level yet, so thank you for reassuring me of my decision! SO glad I found you recently! You rock!

  50. Judie Zevack

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Thank you so much for this post Jasmine. This is exactly the motivation I needed. You rock mama!

  51. val

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    GREAT post! Thanks : )

  52. Bobbie Brown

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Seriously, you never fail to inspire me. People used to say no to free pictures from you… and look at you now! WOW!

  53. Amy

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Thank you for making things seem attainable and not impossible!

  54. Sarah

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks Jasmine. You are such a sweet heart-thanks for sharing your success with us! You always share such great tips and I really appreciate it.

  55. Regina

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    It’s so nice to have someone who I and others look up to write and share what they have gone through to get to where they are today.
    I look back at your old blog and notice you have very few comments and look at you now! Just a big baller! Love it. Love your so down to earth and share your heart, life and professionalism with fellow photographers or wannbe Jasmines out there. Thank YOU!

  56. Yvonne LeBrun

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    J* you truly are an inspiration! I knew from the first time I saw your photos there was something magical about you. Thanks!

  57. Manuella Pararas-Hulbert

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Ok, so you wrote this for me, didn’t you? lol. I read your old blog long ago and was surprised to find that we both started off the same way. I’ve only been in business for 2 yrs and now need to decide which area to specialize in but its hard saying no to other work. Thanks for the words of wisdom, I love your pep talks.

  58. Syreena B

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    you are AmaZinG…. I thought I was the only one who wondered why peepS wouldn’t want free photoS :0

  59. Becky

    June 25th, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Great advice Jasmine! Thank you! I’m in the process of building a portfolio for my pet photography biz. I spent a week putting together a really fun/professional looking e-brochure to send to friends & family along with a link to a Flickr gallery of images I’ve snapped of my own dog, neighbor’s dog, and pictures from pet events I’ve attended w/ my camera. All of which helped in enticing my friends to contact me about setting up more free sessions. My calendar is now overflowing with sessions for the next month!

  60. marissa moss

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    i cannot tell you how much i appreciate you sharing your knowledge! i am exactly at the place you are speaking of – the place where you cannot even GIVE away FREE sessions!! thanks for the encouragement! : )

  61. Roxy

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Wow, thanks for being generous with your advices Jasmine. I really like reading your blog because I am sort of still in the starting phases of my photography and its good toknow that someone as good as you went through the same pains…

  62. Matthew Saville

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Very well put, and you covered all the bases! =Matt=

  63. Jocelyn

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Wow, thanks for this post! I love how honest you are in your FAQs! And I LOVE your old blog – thanks for leaving it out there – it has been a huge source of inspiration and encouragement for me… and I’m sure for many others also.

  64. Stephanie Stewart

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Awesome advice! I’m still building my portfolio, and my best friends have been great models. Now they even ask if they can model again! Thanks for the inspiration and words of wisdom! Have a splendid day!

  65. Linda

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement. It was fun to go back and look at your old blog and see how far you have come in such a short time. Truly amazing. Since I met you almost a year ago I have done all the free/cheap photog. and many events and it really is working for those who might wonder.

  66. Roxy

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Jasmine. I am writing again. I have a question about the "freebies." I don’t know how to say this but how do you deal with friends that you took photos of (for free) and then those friends just kept asking you over and over again for more free photo sessions (for them, then their kids, then another family shoot and then their kids bday…etc). I am a person that has a hard time saying NO but I know that at some point, I would have to draw the line.

    I realize that you probably receive a lot of emails and comments on a daily basis so its ok if I don’t hear back from you.

    Thank you though, your blog is always inspiring!

  67. Feuza

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    I love these posts! I have been a year in portrait business and trying to get into wedding photography, have only done 2 civil weddings and have my first After Session this weekend, excited, scared and hoping to do some real weddings soon, thanks for encouraging us newbies.

  68. L Finau

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks, it sounds like what I’m going through.. Begging people to let me take their pictures.. But in the end they thank me for it.. Thanks for the advice now I kinda know where I’m headed..

  69. Kia Gregory

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Can I just pull a Martin here and say,"Damn, Gin." My hubby and I were just discussing how to grow my business/increase my portfolio. I think a lot of people (like me) struggle/struggled with taking that first step. I just started my photog business (like late last year) and I am still in the process of portfolio building. But everything you just posted…SPOT ON.

  70. Brittany Sattel

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Thank you SO much for this post! As I read it, I see that it’s the same path I’m taking…and at times I get SO discouraged! I’m always like "When will I get to stop shooting family sessions all the time and get more weddings" and "When will people stop asking for it to be free, before even asking me for a price?!"… So, thank you for the encouragement… I may be on the right track after all! Haha.

  71. Nicole Glenn

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    It’s like you KNOW what I need to hear (or read haha). Thank you, thank you, thank you. 1) for being you. 2) for leaving up your old blog. 3) for continually and generously sharing your knowledge, experiences, and zest for life. Thank you.

  72. Becka @Studio222 Photography

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Love it. That’s exactly how I started. LOL. Down to buying people margaritas! LOL!

  73. Melissa

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Thank you for posting J*!
    This is exactly what I am doing.
    I started out practically begging for someone to pose’ infront of my camera… slowly but surely, now I am having so many of my friends wanting a session with me, and I am so happy to do it, and I am learning and growing everytime. Now, if I only dared to start a blog!!! I think I need to take out my Doc Martins from underneath my Bed =)

  74. Krista Cardoza

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    I love this post! It’s great to hear how some photographers started out and see how far they’ve come. Thanks for sharing!

  75. susan

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    what great advice!! and yeah I hear ya, nobody seems to like being photographed, even if it’s for free! hahaha

  76. TERESA

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    THANK YOU J* 🙂

  77. Karen

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Thank you for leaving your original blog live so we can learn from it!!

  78. Becky

    June 25th, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    So true, even now friends and family are the worst clients. I think it is best to go the stranger route.

  79. Lauren @ That Girl

    June 25th, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Bet all those folks who turned you away for free photography are kicking themselves now…

  80. Nicole Monique Photography

    June 25th, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Thank you Jasmine for sharing a little bit of insight. I have often wondered how you built your portfolio! Even way back when you shot with a style that is just you. The picture of Brianna and a peek of Bashir just screams J*.

  81. paul romero

    June 25th, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    thank you again for your wisdom…so true…

  82. Rick

    June 25th, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Thanks Jasmine. This is exactly the kind of blog post I’ve been looking for from you (and other full time photographers). I recently emailed you about consultations and although you do not offer this service, this is the next best thing. Thank you.

  83. Brandi

    June 25th, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I’m nowhere near where you are in popularity, but I just wanted to echo.. SHOOT FOR FREE! And do it plenty before you start asking for money. I’ve shot probably.. 30+ sessions for free.. and a wedding for free.. and a couple weddings for really cheap.. I wanted to make sure I was never taking money for something I didn’t actually know how to do. And you know what? A large portion of those free sessions hired me later for a paid session or referred people to me.. I’ve booked several weddings off of free WOM! Besides.. I still like to give portrait sessions sometimes.. just because I like to see people happy. Though, I DO want to phase everything out that isn’t wedding related, at some point.

  84. April

    June 25th, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Oh Jasmin, I just love you!
    Thank you for showing us your old blog. Thank you for writing about your first time to meet Becker & Jessica Claire, Thank you for saying how intimidated you were by them and how you adored their work.
    I am in your old shoes, Thanks for handing them down to me! You are them, and I adore you and your work.
    Thanks for all the tips and tidbits! Please keep them coming!

  85. beth

    June 25th, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Hi Jasmine, You are fabulousness incarnate! This is how I started out as well about 2.5 years ago, but instead of saying NO to children & families (or really saying NO to anything) I just kept expanding my business. I didn’t want to be a wedding photographer, but do maybe 4 weddings a year with my main focus on families and kids. I love doing it all and would have such a hard time deciding on only going with one portion of the work!!
    You know I adore your work and check your blog every day for inspiration of all kinds. And just so you know, I’m paying it forward too. Not that I’m anywhere even in the atmosphere of your level of artistry, but a local just starting out photographer asked me for my help (MY help? Still can’t believe that) and I’m passing along all the info I can.
    Thank you. Seriously.

  86. Chris c.

    June 25th, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Thanks for this REAL post! You are human after all. Super -now!

  87. sarah skow

    June 25th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    how great! I just did a free session 2 nights ago for a couple that wasn’t even a couple because i wanted to shoot in the rain so bad. 🙂 ya gotta do what you gotta do!

  88. Jackie

    June 25th, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    It is amazing to see and read about how you got started. Gives me inspiration to keep going and not forget my goals! You are such a great inspiration 🙂

  89. Magdalena

    June 25th, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Great FAQ as always! i have a quick question that i don’t think has been asked yet… What do you do about cleaning your gear? i have destroyed my 1st camera body by scratching the sensor while cleaning it (or so i think).. i don’t have the $ to be able to buy multiple bodies so i don’t change lenses.. so there is always a lot of dust that creeps in. What are some of your tricks? especially since your images look spankin’ clean -no dust bunnies around! amazing.

  90. Khedra K. Gipson

    June 25th, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    My goodness!! I get a kick out of your blogs. I so enjoy your candor! I "lol" while reading this particular blog…as I got started the same way…a point and shoot…and a good friend and her boo..lol! May God continue you to grow you and your business.

  91. joan solitario

    June 25th, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    awesome post thank you for always sharing!

  92. Mo

    June 25th, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Excellent post as usual!

  93. Kathryn Brown

    June 25th, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks for sharing- it is so refreshing and encouraging to know that everyone goes through the same little battles when starting thier business…I bet those who said "no" are wishing they had taken you up on your offer! Take care, J*!!!

  94. Denise

    June 25th, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I was actually thinking how to start a business in photography since I’m going to take basic photography courses in the Fall semester. Thanks again.

  95. Linden

    June 25th, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    You were even awesome when you started out 🙂 I’m making my sisters pose for me! hahah I hope one day I will be as awesome as you!

  96. Shang

    June 25th, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Jasmine, you are truly, truly an inspiration. I am wrapping my first year of serious photography – I offered free sessions at first, and then got soooo inundated with requests that I started charging a little, then had to keep raising prices. Every time I did so I felt bad, but I realized that people still had a demand and I was also saving myself from going crazy from doing so much, and it’s good to know that I wasn’t alone!

  97. Kaysha

    June 25th, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    This is great! Thanks for leaving your old blog up, its wonderful to see how much your photography has grown in only a few short years! I was wondering at what point did you decide to go legit with your business, licensing and all? Was it soon after you had already had business cards printed, or later on when you were making a good profit from your photography?

  98. Christine AKA FandangoChica

    June 25th, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Awesome, and muchas gracias, Jasmine! My dad keeps reminding me that I am still starting out – I can’t expect my business to be the same as someone who has been building their business for 3, 4, or even more years! Sooo, less blog-stalking and more shooting for me! 😉

  99. Jasmine*

    June 25th, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    @Kaysha: I shot my first wedding in October 2006 and I went FT with photography in summer 2007, which was the year I booked about 40 weddings. I know…I was crazy. Literally. @Magdalena: I have my sensors professionally cleaned at the Canon Service Center in Irvine. @Roxy: Well, this is tough to answer because the people I shot for free, I’d likely shoot again for free…because they were friends and family. However, you should totally feel comfortable letting people know your current prices and if they want to pay, then that’s awesome! @Tonya: Of course you’ll lose some of your base when you raise your prices, but that will happen all the time! When I raise my prices, I lose clients too! But I simply have to trust that as my business grows, as I learn more, and as I invest in my development, my photos are better. And–hopefully–worth the higher investment. @DawnB: I just jumped right into shooting. I mean, yes, the photos weren’t the best, but I needed practice. And they knew that. Just jump in and try REALLY hard! 😉 @BradPeters: Oooh, I think that’s another FAQ blog post I need to write about because the answer is long! 😉 Thanks so much everyone!

  100. Jamie

    June 25th, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Thanks so much for this advice! This makes me feel really good – this is exactly what I’m doing. I’m not sure it will ever blossom into a business like yours, but it makes me feel good that I’m on the right track 🙂 And that I started with the exact same equipment!

  101. Lucero

    June 25th, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Interesting, interesting. It reminds me of one of my life verses "I (WE) can do ALL things through Christ who Strengthens me (US)." Phil 4:13. We just have to believe and the Lord will totally let us Bloom where he has Planted us.
    Gots ta Love Ya.. Mad LOVE!! : D

  102. tish

    June 25th, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    WOW! I followed your old blog and thought your initial photos were super hot …so it’s cool to compare them to the photos on this blog and see how much your images have changed as your developed your style and honed your skill.

  103. P

    June 25th, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    I bet those first ones that turned you down are KICKING themselves now! I would be. ;o)

  104. Missy Joy

    June 25th, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Hi Jasmine, as always a great FAQ! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m just starting my business as well and you’re a great inspiration to me 🙂 One question I have for you – how do you get the copyright permissions to use mainstream music for your slide shows? Do you email the artist and ask for permission or how does it work? I just purchased show-it sites and love it – so do my clients. Thanks for the recommendation. Thanks again and keep the great work coming, I love reading every one of your posts!!!

  105. Missy Joy

    June 25th, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Hi Jasmine, as always a great FAQ! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m just starting my business as well and you’re a great inspiration to me 🙂 One question I have for you – how do you get the copyright permissions to use mainstream music for your slide shows? Do you email the artist and ask for permission or how does it work? I just purchased show-it sites and love it – so do my clients. Thanks for the recommendation. Thanks again and keep the great work coming, I love reading every one of your posts!!!

  106. Cristen

    June 25th, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Awesome post Jasmine! Thanks for sharing!

  107. Roxy

    June 25th, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Thanks for the quick response Jasmine! Hmm, maybe I should’nt have termed it "friends", I should’ve meant acquaintances…people I know but not good friend’s with. Thanks again and again! Looking forward to your next post!

  108. Suki

    June 25th, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Thank for this great advice!

  109. Harmony

    June 25th, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    I truly believe you help more people than you could ever imagine. And Brianna you looked beautiful…then and now. 🙂

  110. Kim

    June 25th, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    That’s awesome that you started out shooting for free or a small amount, but did you have to hold down another part-time job to get by and pay the bills? I’m just curious because it’s hard to find the balance between time into a new business, and practical pain of paying the bills.

  111. Lesley

    June 25th, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    Great advice but I can’t believe nobody has commented yet on how in love Briana and Bashir look. They weren’t really just roommates were they 😉

    They make quite a nice looking couple.

  112. Melissa

    June 26th, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Really?? People said no?

    This is wonderful advice, thanks so much. I too, have been doing free sessions with family and friends just to get more comfortable and gain experience.

  113. christine pobke

    June 26th, 2009 at 12:15 am

    j*, you are one awesome chick. 🙂 i just wrote a post on when i first started (but i’m still new) and although your portfolio-building time was years ago, it’s nice to know that i experienced what you went through! 🙂 thanks for sharing.

  114. cassandra m

    June 26th, 2009 at 12:24 am

    I remember reading that blog and was too scared to post a comment. For the longest time I stalked your blog, scared to comment. How weird….now I can’t quit commenting…ha ha. 3 comments on that first post and now there are like 3 million people viewing your blog. 🙂

  115. Brianna Dowdy

    June 26th, 2009 at 12:31 am

    I cannot tell you how much I love your FAQ posts! It is really amazing that you are so willing to share your starting images.

  116. Marissa Rodriguez

    June 26th, 2009 at 12:36 am

    This is so awesome! THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! Omg and I just checked out Brianna’s blog/website, she is amazing and hot!!! 🙂

  117. Amanda

    June 26th, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Amazing! 🙂

  118. Jessica Shae

    June 26th, 2009 at 1:22 am

    I love reading posts like this, they give me hope that someday I just *might* be able to enter the sphere you live in as a photog. You are amazing, and it’s on my dream list to meet you someday 🙂

  119. Cathy (and David)

    June 26th, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Great advice! And seriously, those are amazing for being 3 of your first photos!

  120. Lana

    June 26th, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Great post Jasmine! I’m self-teaching myself and that is what I am trying to do to build a portfolio- take pictures of friends and their families. I’m just wondering how you ever got rid of the jitters doing that! Even though I’m not being paid, I always get so nervous having this expectant, waiting face looking at me that I freeze and can’t think of posing, can’t come up with a good composition, and can’t possibly come up with the perfect shutter speed or aperture for the situation. What were you looking for as you were shooting? What were you noticing about your photography as you progressed? I’m just wondering because I feel like I’m so nervous I black out during shoots and so I have to pay extra close attention to the metadata later so I can actually attempt to learn something 🙂 Anyways, you rock, as always Jasmine. These FAQ’s are my lifeline!!! 🙂

  121. Karen

    June 26th, 2009 at 2:13 am

    Jasmine, you are a dear… you are so gracious to share your time and talent with so many (obviously) loyal followers. I am making a mid-life career change, and I have found such inspiration from you and your blog. Because of your site, I was introduced to Dane’s "Fast Track Photographer" which is EXCELLENT, and I have NO DOUBT that I will be reading a book by Jasmine Star very, very soon. Yes, YOUR book, because I just know that a book deal will be coming your way, if it hasn’t already. You are making, and will continue to make, a HUGE impact on the photography world, and yes, you are touching people’s lives. THANK YOU!!!

  122. Tacey

    June 26th, 2009 at 3:13 am

    Jasmine….I am so glad I found you (well, okay, your site). I am a budding photographer (with a new blog..) and I actually posted a post yesterday that was completely inspired by you….Thank you for your openess and authenticity…It’s what makes you rock.


    Much love…

  123. Maya Laurent

    June 26th, 2009 at 3:52 am

    I always love how real you are! Thanks for posting photos from when you were first starting out and giving everyone advice all the time.

  124. Rita Clifton

    June 26th, 2009 at 4:30 am

    Thank you for this faq post, it is exactly what I needed to read and take in today.

  125. Stephanie Ortega

    June 26th, 2009 at 4:59 am

    Wow! This post was inspiring! I have been stalking your blog for a while and I just think your photography is amazing. I always think to myself…Wow.! I could never do that. I read this post earlier this evening and I now already almost read everything on your old blog! I’m really feeling that it might be possible to make photography or anything I love for that matter a REAL business! Thank you!
    PS. if you hadn’t chosen Photography you could have made it in Journalism. You really have a knack for writing!

  126. Heather

    June 26th, 2009 at 5:17 am

    I recall how excited I was to stumble upon your blog a month ago… it is so refreshing to find someone who is after God’s own heart with the reckless abandon you display. Your talent, unbounding. Yet, you remain humble enough to let all the world see your beginnings. 🙂 I encourage you to continue to be a conduit for His glory in all you do… your "lifesong" sings to Him beautifully.

  127. Narrelle

    June 26th, 2009 at 5:19 am

    Awesome post, as usual. 🙂 A few points in particular really spoke to me and where I’m at with my business right now. Thanks so much (again) for your insight and open-ness.

  128. Staci

    June 26th, 2009 at 5:31 am

    I remember that blog! 🙂 Gosh….I’ve been following since then! 🙂 I did the SAME thing you did when starting my business. I did so much for nothing, but gained so much experience AND exposure doing so! Although, I pursued the families and children…I’ve been doing about 5-7 weddings per year as well and am working on transitioning into doing more weddings. 🙂 You seriously were and still are a great inspiration to me through your work, your attitude on your blog and the fact that you seem to like to have fun. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your photos & advice with all of us!

  129. alex.kruk photography

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Thank you so much for sharing all what you had learn. I do ask everybody to do sessions for free with me, I do already have my website and photoblog and cards but I still hear maybe one day…. it just not happening. I really would love to start working with couples, with kids, families – I just don’t know how to find them..
    You are always inspiration ! You are always helpful ! And thanks to you I take my pictures only Manually and it couldn’t be better !

  130. manon

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:30 am

    thanks for the great tips. Iam just starting out and was thinking how I can build a portfolio.
    Gosh. F14. Thats so not you 😉

  131. Megan Beth

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Hmm…I’m wishing my first photos looked as good as yours. If so, I’d be set for life!

  132. arielle joy

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:55 am

    I love hearing how great photographers started their business!! Thanks so much for sharing part of your story today 🙂

  133. Leslee Mitchell

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:55 am

    Crazy. I was just talking to a friend today about whether she thought me shooting kids was taking away from me booking weddings. The truth is I’m starting to feel like Happy Gilmore. Mainly b/c I shoot weddings but everybody thinks I shoot kids. Which, ok, ok. I do. But I really shoot weddings. Waiting for the day when I can turn down portraits and do nothing but straight weddings!!

  134. Jackkaye

    June 26th, 2009 at 8:11 am

    I am in the process of starting my business. Though I still have a long way to go. Majority of what I’ve shot up to now has been for free! I have 2 problems:

    1. No matter how much I shoot and practice I still feel like there’s something missing in the photos… Despite what my awesome and much to kind friends and family say.

    2. I still haven’t found my focus, my niche, my happy place. For the longest time now I thought I wanted to be a children’s photographer. But now that I’ve garnered some experience in that area I realized it’s not really for me. So I’m back to square 1.

    While I’m figuring things out I read your blog, and it helps a lot. You’re really an inspiration!

  135. Elaine

    June 26th, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Wow! For the last two days, I’ve been working on my "portfolio" (if you can call it that!) Trying to get together, what I consider my best shots, and put them together. So thank you for posting this! 🙂 Great to see I’m right on target!!! LOL!

  136. Shaz

    June 26th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    O..M..G.. when i saw the title of this blog entry, I got so super excited!! I’ve been following your blog for ages, and I am so so grateful that you wrote this entry that I have to finally leave a comment for the first time! I am currently building up my portfolio by doing shoots for free, but I was so hesitant as to whether I was going about it the right way, and whether my equipment was adequate. Thank you for reassuring me, and for being SOOOO generous with sharing your past experiences and advice!! Can I ask if the images you gave to ppl on disk after a free session were hi-res, so that they could print photos themselves?

  137. Hannah

    June 26th, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I have a question about printing – I’m just starting out and I’m curious what you do for your clients prints? I can’t figure out how to do this for them/what to charge for it… and I’m not sure I want to hand over a disc of the pictures every time I shoot.

  138. Rene Skrodzki

    June 26th, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    I am at the buy them margaritas stage unfortunately.

    Free shoots lead nowhere, word of mouth seems non-existant, never once had a call from my 2 yearl non profit gigs, and charging 150.00 for a shoot with a DVD included was too expensive. Sigh, but I am still pluggin away eating Ramin Noodles.

  139. Lori

    June 26th, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    ‘You can never out-give God’

    I LOVE that!! U have no idea the gift of hope you give me!! U ROCK!!

  140. Tomislav

    June 26th, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    OMG Jas..THANK YOU!!

    Looking at your 1st photo,
    F-number f/14, ISO-1600, bright sunny day + lens flare..
    I simply can’t stop smiling, because when you wrote "I had no idea what I was doing.." I thought bunch of baloney; WELL now I know for sure you were once a NOOB. 🙂

  141. New York City Wedding Photographer

    June 26th, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    This "couples" looks great together. I think people easily forget that building your portfolio is often the most fun! I am constantly shooting pieces to update my portfolio and keep it fresh 🙂

  142. LG

    June 26th, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks so much for this Jasmine. I’m at the pestering friends and family stage (my nephews are getting really fed up of me taking their picture). A friend has asked me to take her husbands graduation photos and while the thought of it scares me I’m grabbing the opportunity with both hands…now all I need to do is try to figure out the best poses for a man in a kilt. Thanks again.

  143. leah a.

    June 26th, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Hey Jasmine,
    I have been stalking you blog for a while now. But I just had to thank you for this post. It is really inspiring to see that someone with your success and vision started out in the same place I am now. Thank You so much for that!!

  144. Dana F.

    June 26th, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Jasmine, please please please write a book. It doesn’t even have to be about photography. Write an inspirational book. Anything! I love reading your words.
    Oh and damn you for linking your old blog. Now I’m going to want to go all the way back to the beginning of the j* story. I see the laundry piling up now….LOL.

  145. Maalaea

    June 26th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Jasmine, I really appreciate this post! My husband and I are just starting out and sometimes it becomes a little overwhelming wondering if we should do this or that. So, it was really great to see where and how you started. Thank you!

  146. Chantz Hough

    June 26th, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Wow. This blog post is creepy weird because it is almost identical to how I started my business. Only my first session was a wedding and the main photog explained the aperture and shutterspeed on the way to the wedding. Thank you so much for the encouragement and that I’m not the only one who wasn’t taken seriously at first.

  147. Melisa

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    This is just what I needed. I’m in the works to start my own photography business and have been taking pictures for free and this was the encouragement I needed. I’m just curious, did you get your business license when you started doing this or did you wait?

  148. MTV Networks

    June 26th, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    MTV’s True Life is casting for its upcoming episode focusing on newlyweds. If you have a compelling story, write us at newlywed@mtvn.com.

  149. Carie Fisher

    June 26th, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Jasmine – you are always giving of information and your experiences. Thank you so much!

  150. Bob Schnell

    June 26th, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Seriously, do you know any ugly people? Heck, even average looking people? Packing my bags for Cali right now.
    (I know that Cali is old school, sorry)

  151. Lydia

    June 26th, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    I’m at the point where I’m struggling to transition from free/cheap to lower to mid end pricing. And I’ve been here for over a year now! But I love this too much to give it up. You’re an encouragement to me!

  152. Natalie

    June 26th, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    This was just the boost I needed today. Your journey has been such an inspirtation to me and so many others. Thanks for being so honest!

  153. Gregory

    June 26th, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Jasmine, Thank you soooo much for the "divine" wisdom that you share on your blog. Girlfriend, you’re keeping it Real. Jesus’ said "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added onto you" (Matthew 6:33), I see the hands of God on your photography. The Bible says "asked and you shall receive" may Jesus bless you to photograph Oprah. Blessings-Gregory

  154. Karen (Mikols) Bonar

    June 27th, 2009 at 12:01 am

    The second photo doesn’t look too far off the J* style we know + love! 🙂

  155. Apple

    June 27th, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Thanks for letting us know there’s a bright shining path after this dim-litted roads we’re on. we love you jaz!:D

  156. Nancy Ramos

    June 27th, 2009 at 1:04 am

    Jasmine, this defenitely something I have been doing, Networking with photographers.
    As you may already know I coordinate along with Jorge Mejia and Elena Carbajal a photographer’s group in the OC. Once in a while we bring speakers that volunteer their time. We were lucky enough to have Chris Becker "THE BECKER" join us last Monday on a photo shoot. He helped us out A LOT with great tips. Kind off like a mini workshopp. Hopefully we can have you join us sometime in the future. Doors are always welcome. For anybody interested our group name is Photo Sharp Shooters and you can find us on facebook.

  157. Tania

    June 27th, 2009 at 1:08 am

    I’m glad to see that I wasn’t crazy when I suggested that for portfolio building. But where are those photogs around my neck of the woods and why aren’t they asking me? I’ll gladly volunteer my services for photo sessions!!!

  158. robyn

    June 27th, 2009 at 1:27 am

    Great post. Thanks! I needed to hear this today!

  159. Jessica Jacob Photography

    June 27th, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Oh this such a wonderful post Jasmine. You are such a great person for helping so many others with your FAQ’s. I was wonderning if you might be able to tell us why you prefer Canon over Nikon in a future FAQ entry? I have asked many people, and no one can really explain why one is better than the other. Lots of Love!

  160. Kat Forsyth

    June 27th, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Jasmine, thank you for posting about this and linking to your old blog. I spent ages reading through it (well, a lot of it….that was a heck of a long blog!). Networking and helping out and being willing to do all sorts of things (like modelling for workshops) are the things I have to try and work on! Thank you for sharing your growth as a photographer, and putting all your insecurities out there – you rock!

  161. Pamela

    June 27th, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    I loved to hear this because i just began the process to be a photographer.
    God bless you every day!!!!

  162. Melisa

    June 28th, 2009 at 1:41 am

    Great post. I have to tell you I am just starting my photography business and your post is what I needed to hear. I was on the fence about offering a donation based portrait session donation made to my Relay for Life team. Well, I went ahead with offering it because of what I read on your post today we will see what happens. Thanks

  163. Tiffany J Clementich

    June 28th, 2009 at 2:46 am

    Thank you so much for this post. I was just stressing/thinking today how i’m gonna get my foot in the door and this helped alot. U rock! 🙂

  164. Iris

    June 29th, 2009 at 5:30 am

    Marvelous advise. I have been starting out slowly with landscape, than went to events/street photography…now I worked myself a little closer to where I want to be 🙂

    Your shots are amazing 🙂

  165. Candi

    June 29th, 2009 at 7:13 am

    How ironic that you use your first and middle name as the title of your photography blog and website…I’m just starting out and have done the same. Your tips are fantastic. I did my first family photo shoot a few weeks ago and like you said- have been asking friends and family if they’d like free photos taken. I really like your tip about going to church functions and such, that’s a wonderful idea. Thanks again! Your work is beautiful 🙂

  166. Bartolomeo Photography

    June 29th, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Jasmine- you are wonderful for sharing all of this information with everyone! You keep amazing me =)

  167. Naza Ahmad

    June 30th, 2009 at 10:27 am

    I appreciate this entry very much since I’m struggling to be a wedding photographer. All the best to you J-Star 🙂

  168. Pascal

    June 30th, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    I totally agree with that: lots of people are afraid of shooting for free as it demean their value, but I don’t agree if you know exactly why you are doing it.
    Great blog entry!

  169. joe sanfilippo

    June 30th, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    excellent post – thanks!!

  170. Melissa Copeland

    July 1st, 2009 at 4:25 am

    Those photos are amazing even if they were your "first."
    I’m sure those people that you asked and that turned you down are wondering what the heck they were thinking.
    Also, this is exactly where I’m at right now.. I’ve went from the FREE stage to now i’m in the VERY CHEAP stage. I’m doing photoshoots for $50 plus I’m giving them a disc with all the high res images on them. This post just reassured me that I’m on the right track. Thanks Jasmine. I also posted a little bit about you on my photoblog about this post.

  171. Michelle

    July 1st, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    thank you thank you thank you for this!!! I am still in the start-up phase of my biz, and am struggling as I go along. I LOVE what I do and know that I’m doing what I should be doing (taking pictures), but sometimes the insecurities plague me along the way. And I struggle with trying to define myself and what I do and not get caught up in the "I’ll take pictures of anything and everything because it’s slightly related to what I really want to do…" thing. So sometimes it’s really nice to get open and honest words of wisdom from others that I admire, to see that it all really CAN happen. (thanks.)

  172. Daria Johnson

    July 2nd, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Building a business is NOT easy – let me tell you. I started out as a wedding assistant, graduated to a portrait photographer and somehow landed smack dab in the wedding industry. I really want to be an editorial photographer and recently updated my site to reflect my current direction. So, I totally get where you’re coming from!


    July 4th, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    I just wanted to shout out (literally) a huge THANK YOU for your amazing website and amazing "AMAZING" feedback and knowledge. I am getting married in October and also studied photography my first 3 years of college. I changed my major and am now a counselor but have always had a passion for photography, it’s in my blood. Since being engaged….my love for photography has come back full force and the thought of "starting my own business" has been knocking on the creative part of my brain everyday. I have been looking/reading over your website for the last 2 hours and I am addicted! I even went and dug out my old portfolio during the last 2 hours. THANK YOU! Your blog and website just made a huge impact on me in so many ways….. and you rock! 🙂

  174. Lisa

    July 6th, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Maybe because I’m pmsing or maybe because I just think your awesome. But I am a bit choked up in all that you shared. You are not only a great photographer but a great writer too and funny. Ok gushing out of the way, I am in the market to buy my first real camera and I am so excited. Thank you for the great advice. Your site just rocks!

  175. bruno

    July 7th, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    2 build up portfolio for your own country is one thing but if you want to go international there it becomes serious.
    i started my buissness shooting my first 5 weddigns for free. i made an unleagal comment on one of biggest wedding forums here there i said that ill shoot their wedding for free only if they accept that im not a pro, and i got my first 5. after that i just payed few advert. in wedding magazines and thats it. i have 70-75 weddings /yr now and its my passion. but i ahve to say, it was not easy to shoot a wedding for the first time. i was so nervous and ready to give up. mow i live on recommendations from my couples.

  176. Nichole B.

    July 8th, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    I am opening a studio this month and it is very hard at first to give away your talent for free, BUT your comment on "you can’t out-give God" really hit home for me. Thank you for your advice and experience. Your work is beautiful and I too love shooting weddings.
    I am forever a follower of your blog now! Blessings!

  177. Tunschi Alexandru

    July 13th, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Thank you for your advice. We are starting now in photography business and we are building our portfolio right now. We would appreciate if you could drop us a comment on our blog with constructive criticism. Thank you again.

  178. stephanie b

    August 4th, 2009 at 3:59 am

    Jasmine, thank you so much for this advice, i love when you do these segments for beginner photographers. Thank you

  179. Tracy

    August 7th, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    I just read this post for the second time and I know what I have to do if I am going to get my "business" off the ground. Thanks for being so open with the rest of us who want to be just like you someday! You are truly an inspiration.

  180. Andrew Fleming

    September 16th, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Hey Jasmine! I’m a friend of Bobby’s 🙂 anyways, my wife and i just started up our photography business and we have always enjoyed your work since we heard about you. I really appreciate this post and find it encouraging. Hopefully we will get to meet you sometime soon. 🙂

  181. Stephanie

    March 3rd, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    I love you blog! I just spents hours reading your posts…..I have the flu right now and have been laying in bed with my computer lol…anyways it is so encouraging to hear about how you started!. I have only been married a couple years and was/am on a very tight buget to start my photograpy business and started about the same way you did…..I was also discouraged when friends and family that I thought would help promote and let me take their pictures let me down….I thought I was the only one….like you said who wouldn’t want free pictures! My business is starting to grow SLOWLY but surely….thanks for all the insight and advice on your blog! Its funny how you said you mom told you you can never outgive God….my most successful shoots have been the ones God has put on my hear to do for free and he gives much more in return as usual!

  182. Abby Grace Photography

    May 9th, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    hahahahah "if all else fails, buy them margaritas!"

  183. Kofo B

    January 4th, 2012 at 2:13 am

    I am currently in my portfolio building stage and found your post very relevant to me. This is exactly what I needed to read. Thank you.

  184. Linda

    May 22nd, 2012 at 2:14 am

    Jasmine, found this post doing a google search on portfolio building. Thank you very much for sharing this! =)

    I appreciate you giving back!

  185. Truan

    July 31st, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Awesome. This is so what I needed to hear (read) as I’m just starting out. Thanks for the inspiration Jasmine! It’s nice to know you were once going through what I’m going through now.


  186. Tammy Mathieu

    April 1st, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Hi Jasmin and thank you. I’m a newbie and your words were exactly was I needed to hear. I love photography and have loved it for as long as I can remember… I too don’t know how to start a business but your words basically paraphrasing Nike: Just Do It! are great! Thank you… Hope to encounter you within my life journey one-day and officially say Thank You in person! – Grateful Canadian starter photographer!

  187. Jennefer Haak

    April 30th, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Well-timed analysis – BTW , if your company wants to merge two images , I ran across reference here http://www.overstream.net/profile.php?username=AltoMerge83

  188. Building A Strong Portfolio From Scratch | PICR

    June 2nd, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    […] near as easy as it sounds. Before she became a sought-after photographer and popular blogger, Jasmine Star had to convince (read: bribe) her friends into pretending they were getting engaged so she could practice the skills she would eventually use at, you know, actual […]