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How to Build a Product Photography Portfolio Without Clients

a page from a product photography portfolio

Creating a product photography portfolio without any clients can seem impossible.

However, with some creativity and guidance, it is possible to create a professional product photography portfolio that will help you win new clients.

In this article, we will explore 5 different methods of building a product photography portfolio without having any clients.

5 Strategies for Building a Product Photography Portfolio Without Clients

#1. Take Photos of Your Own Products

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to create a product photography portfolio is by taking photos of your products or the products of your friends and family. For instance, you can capture images of beauty products (perfume, creams, nail polish), electronics, kitchenware, a Nespresso coffee maker, and more.

My wife, Alina Kareva, did this when she first started with product photography. She photographed her luxury bags, shoes, beauty products, and other interesting items she found in our apartment.

Two examples of product photos by Alina Kareva
Two photos that my wife took of our own products

Every time she took a new photo, she uploaded it to her Instagram account with product photography hashtags and tagged the brands. This enabled her to build a portfolio quickly and easily without having any clients.

A quick story: When my wife, Alina started her product photography career, she took a photo of her nail polish from a local brand called Kitenics, uploaded it to her Instagram account, and tagged the brand. 

After about a year, Alina received a direct message from the Kinetics brand asking if they could use her photo on their Instagram account. She gave permission to use the photo, and not long after that, they approached her with a big project offer.

Professional product photo for Kinetics brand from Latvia by Alina Kareva
Kinetics reshared Alina's photo in their official brand profile

The moral of this story is that even free product photoshoots can potentially help you secure a paid job with your dream client!

Moreover, this is a great way to practice product photography before you start working with real clients because you control the entire process – from taking the photos to post-processing them.

#2. Buy, Shoot, and Return Products

Ok, this approach might be slightly ethically questionable, but it’s a great way to kickstart your journey if you’re without clients and on a tight budget.

The idea is pretty simple: simply buy a product, take a few photos, and return the item to the store.

This strategy has been used very successfully by many product photographers who had no clients when they first started out. It does require some budget because you have to buy the products. 

Still, it is a great way to get experience and create a product photography portfolio quickly without any product photography clients.

Sidenote: If you are located in Europe (as I am), I highly recommend you purchase products online if you intend to return them back to the store. 

This is because if you purchase the product in a physical store, in most cases the store won’t be required to accept your return according to European policies. 

However, if you purchase a product from an online store, you have 14 days of receiving the goods without providing any reason for the return.

Turn Your Product Photography Portfolio Into a Client-Winning Tool!

Create a modern product photography portfolio in just 5 minutes with our new Canva template. 

Play Video about Modern product photography portfolio template for canva

#3. Collaborate With Local Brands

This is my favorite way of creating a product photography portfolio without having any clients. The idea is to contact local brands and ask them if you can photograph their products for free in exchange for keeping the photos and using them to build your portfolio.

photo of a cake on a wooden plate.
Alina worked with a local bakery shop to practice food photography

You will be surprised by how many small business owners are willing to collaborate with you because it’s a great opportunity for them to get fantastic-looking product photos without spending any money. 

Plus, it’s a great way to network, build relationships with potential clients, and show them your product photography skills.

When my wife first started her career as a product photographer, she collaborated with a few local brands including a brand that makes handmade accessories for kids and she also took a number of photos for one of the e-commerce projects that produced minimalistic handmade leather goods.

professional product photos for a leather brand OCULT from Latvia
A couple of photos she took for a local brand OCULT

Another benefit of collaborating with local brands is that you can practice photographing different types of products – from food and beverage photography to handmade jewelry and beauty products.

PRO TIP: My advice to you is to create an impressive pitch where you explain why it’s beneficial for the brand to collaborate with you, what kind of images they will receive, and any other details you think they should know. Here’s an example of a pitch that you could use:

Subject: Free Product Photography Collaboration Opportunity

Dear [Name],

I am [Your Name], a passionate product photographer building a brand new portfolio to showcase my skills. Your exquisite handcrafted jewelry from [Local Brand’s Name] has captivated me, and I believe a collaboration between us could be highly beneficial.


I am offering a limited-time opportunity for free product photography exclusively for your jewelry brand. This collaboration will provide you with high-quality images that highlight the intricate details and beauty of your pieces, elevating your brand’s online presence and attracting potential customers.

Benefits of our collaboration:

  • Professional Imagery: Receive expertly captured images that showcase the craftsmanship and beauty of your jewelry, enhancing your brand’s image.
  • Enhanced Online Presence: Refreshed images will create an air of sophistication on your website and social media profiles, leaving a lasting impression on visitors.
  • Increased Sales Potential: Captivating visuals significantly impact purchasing decisions, potentially boosting your sales and revenue.
  • Mutual Promotion: I will promote our collaboration through my portfolio, website, and social media channels, giving your brand increased exposure to a wider audience.

Let’s discuss the details of our collaboration and the mutual benefits we can achieve. If you’re interested in seizing this opportunity, please reach out.

Thank you for considering this exclusive offer. I look forward to the possibility of working together!

Warm regards,
[Your Name]
[Your Contact Information]

Using a personalized pitch like this often works wonders when collaborating with local brands. So make sure you put your best foot forward and explain the benefits of working together.

#4. Use Instagram to Find Small Businesses (Local & International)

Instagram is an amazing platform for finding potential clients who need product photography services.

All you have to do is search relevant hashtags (e.g. #skincare #handmade #handcrafted #gift #giftidea) and see which brands and businesses are tagged in posts related to these hashtags:

Skincare hashtag instagram

Once you have identified your potential clients, you should reach out to them via Instagram direct message or email and explain why it’s beneficial for them to collaborate with you. This could be a great way to get some free product photography gigs and build an impressive product photography portfolio quickly.

PRO TIP: When reaching out via Instagram Direct Messages (DM’s) try to keep your message concise and straight to the point. Here’s an example:

Hi [Brand’s Name],

I’m [Your Name], an aspiring product photographer. I’ve been admiring your handmade soaps and I see a great opportunity to capture their unique beauty. 

To build my portfolio, I’d love to offer you professional photoshoot services for free. 

It’s a win-win: your soaps get to shine in high-quality imagery, enhancing your brand’s online presence, and I get to showcase unique products in my portfolio. 

Would you be interested in discussing this further?

Cheers,
[Your Name]

Also, here are 17 hashtag ideas you can use to find small businesses on Instagram. These businesses are likely to be interested in a free product photography gig:

  • #SmallBusiness
  • #SupportLocal
  • #ShopSmall
  • #Handmade
  • #Handcrafted
  • #Artisanal
  • #Etsy
  • #EtsySeller
  • #EtsyShop
  • #EtsyHandmade
  • #Craftsman
  • #MakersMovement
  • #CreativeBiz
  • #MadeWithLove
  • #SmallBizOwner
  • #SmallBizLife
  • #Craftsposure

#5. Use Google to Find Shopify Stores

Shopify is a popular e-commerce platform that allows individuals and businesses to create and manage their online stores.

Shopify e-commerce platform homepage

Shopify stores are a great place to find product photography clients who need product photography services.

All you have to do is search for “site:myshopify.com + keyword”. The keyword in this case is any word or business niche that you might be interested to photograph.

For example, if you will type in the following search parameter: “site:myshopify.com + handmade soap” you will get the following search results:

Screenshot from Google search results for handmade soaps sold through Shopify e-commerce platform
Google search results for: "site:myshopify.com + handmade soap"

Once you’ve identified some potential product photography clients, reach out to them via email and explain why it would be beneficial for them to collaborate with you. Here are some examples of the potential benefits:

  • High-quality, captivating product photographs: By collaborating with you, a passionate product photographer, the brand can expect to receive professional-grade product images that are visually appealing and attention-grabbing. These images can help the brand showcase its products in the best possible way, leaving a lasting impression on potential customers.
  • Cost-effective solution: Opting for a free product photoshoot with you allows the brand to save on photography expenses. As a result, the brand can allocate its budget to other critical areas of marketing and business growth, optimizing resources for a more comprehensive strategy.
  • Increased brand exposure: By showcasing the brand’s products in your professional portfolio, website, and social media channels, the collaboration can lead to extended brand exposure. The brand’s products will be seen by your audience, potentially attracting new customers who might not have discovered the brand otherwise.
  • Potential for long-term partnerships: A successful collaboration with you during the free product photoshoot can lead to a lasting partnership. The brand may choose to work with you on future paid projects, benefiting from an established relationship with a reliable and skilled product photographer.

PRO TIP: Make sure your email is professional and personalized, so the potential client feels like you’ve taken the time to research their business. Here’s an example of a pitch that you could use:

Subject: Complimentary Product Photoshoot Offer for [Oxford Soap Co].

Dear [Oxford Soap Company] team,

My name is [Your Name], an aspiring product photographer eager to diversify my product photography portfolio. 

I am captivated by your exquisite handmade soaps and would love to offer you a free product photoshoot. This collaboration will showcase your products’ beauty and craftsmanship while helping me grow as a photographer.

By participating in this photoshoot, you will receive a collection of professionally curated images that can be used for your marketing and promotional efforts, completely free of charge. These high-quality visuals will elevate your brand’s online presence, attract new customers, and reinforce the authenticity of your handmade creations.

I’m excited about the possibility of collaborating with Oxford Soap Co. and creating stunning visuals that will captivate your audience. I look forward to your positive response and the opportunity to work together.

Best regards,
[Your Name]
[Your Email]
[Your Phone Number]

Turn Your Product Photography Portfolio Into a Client-Winning Tool!

Create a modern product photography portfolio in just 5 minutes with our new Canva template. 

Play Video about Modern product photography portfolio template for canva

Additional Tips for Creating a Product Photography Portfolio Without Clients

Below are a few additional tips for building a product photography portfolio without any clients.

Think of Your Ideal Product Photography Client

When building your first product photography portfolio, take your time to think through your future ideal product photography client.

Having a clear idea of who is your ideal product photography client is very important because it allows you to target your marketing and service offerings more effectively.

Knowing your ideal client helps in understanding their needs, preferences, and expectations, thus enabling you to tailor your photography style, package options, and communication strategy to match.

This not only increases your chances of attracting and retaining these ideal clients but also enhances their satisfaction and overall experience with your service, leading to potential referrals and higher profitability.

photo of a woman entrepreneur

Find Clients From Different Business Niches for Your Portfolio

Having a portfolio that features products from different business niches demonstrates your skill set and versatility as a product photographer.

It also helps potential clients to trust you with their projects, knowing they can rely on your expertise in the specific niche that their products belong to.

Make sure to display high-quality images of various products in your portfolio. For example, when my wife just started her product photography journey, she took a lot of photos of completely unrelated products, such as:

  • Small kids accessories
  • Japanese knives
  • Interior decor items
  • Luxury pens
  • Fashion accessories
  • Wine & whisky bottles
  • Gas cylinder
  • Sunglasses
  • Food & beverages

This way, your portfolio will be able to capture the attention of a broad range of potential product photography clients from different business niches.

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment With Different Product Photography Styles and Techniques

When building your first product photography portfolio, try to experiment with different styles and techniques: shoot catalog photos on white backgrounds, shoot lifestyle product photography, or even try to do macro photography.

For example, my wife started with catalog-style product photography but then switched gears and started experimenting with lifestyle photography, as it allowed her to showcase the products in a more creative way.

catalogue product photography

By experimenting with different styles and techniques of product photography, you will be able to create unique visuals that can help differentiate you from other product photographers.

Also, try playing around with various light sources, angles, backgrounds, product photography props, and editing effects to create unique visuals that can be added to your portfolio.

This could also lead to you attracting product photography clients who are looking for something different and out of the ordinary when it comes to product photography.

Don’t Get Over Obsessed With Your First Product Photography Portfolio

Your first product photography portfolio doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it shouldn’t be. You should strive for excellence and improvement, not perfection. Remember that:

“Done is better than perfect” – Sheryl Sandberg.

You are just starting out as a product photographer – your portfolio will change and evolve as you gain more knowledge and skills about the art of product photography.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t create perfect images right away. Focus on building your portfolio, gaining experience, and learning from mistakes.

Eventually, you will be able to take amazing product photos that can help turn potential customers into paying clients.

Wrapping It Up

Creating a product photography portfolio without clients can be challenging, but it’s definitely possible.

By experimenting with styles and techniques, finding the right clients in various niches, and not getting overly obsessed with perfection – you will be able to create a stunning product photography portfolio that will impress potential customers.

So don’t be afraid to take the plunge and start creating your product photography portfolio today!

I truly hope that you found this article helpful and if you did, don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter where I share photography tips, marketing techniques for photographers, and some general stuff about photography!

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Aleksandrs Karevs

Aleksandrs Karevs

Hi, my name is Aleksandrs and I am a full-stack digital marketer passionate about digital photography. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V. Read full story here.

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ARTICLE BY

Hi, my name is Aleksandr and I am a full-stack digital marketer from Riga, Latvia. In 2018 I became obsessed with photography and decided to create this blog to share my knowledge about both photography and marketing. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V.

Disclosure: OHMYCAMERA.com is a participant in several affiliate programs and may be compensated for referring traffic and business to companies from affiliate programs at no additional cost to you.

aleksandrs-karevs.jpg

ARTICLE BY

Hi, my name is Aleksandr and I am a full-stack digital marketer from Riga, Latvia. In 2018 I became obsessed with photography and decided to create this blog to share my knowledge about both photography and marketing. In my free time, I enjoy taking photos with my everyday companion – FUJIFILM X100V.

Disclosure: OHMYCAMERA.com is a participant in several affiliate programs and may be compensated for referring traffic and business to companies from affiliate programs at no additional cost to you.