An Ingenious Way to Build a Commercial Photography Portfolio

According to 54-year old Minneapolis-based commercial photographer Ken Friberg, his early career as an art director taught him ways to work with clients when he began his own photography career. “Because I had been in their shoes, I knew what clients wanted when they hired a photographer,” he says. But he also learned something equally important from his art director and agency days. “I learned the value of cold-calling,” says Friberg.

Friberg built up his business as a beginning graphic artist and art director by searching out potential clients and offering his services. He’d look for companies that were large enough to have a marketing budget but that didn’t have an in-house art department. Then he would wangle an interview.

When he began his photography business he used the same technique. “I didn’t have an award-winning or cohesive enough portfolio as a beginning commercial photographer so I knew advertising agencies and media buyers wouldn’t be that impressed with me” he says. “So I researched potential photography clients using the same methods I did when I was a beginning graphic artist.” He looked for a company that had a marketing budget but didn’t have its own photographer. Instead of relying on advertising agencies to offer him work, he sought out his own clients.

“It worked!” he remembers. He built up an impressive and varied client list by turning many of these cold calls into hot leads. “Best of all, I have been able to help these companies grow and many have remained my lifelong clients,” he says. “In fact, they’ve often been a lot more loyal than advertising agencies.” According to Friberg, while there are lots of courses and tips aimed at helping photographers build up their portfolios, more photographers, especially those beginning or hoping to branch out, should do some research and make that cold call.

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Robert Kiener is a writer in Vermont.