You have started or are thinking about starting your event photography business, only to realize you have no pictures to show to your potential customers. How do you do manage to create an event photography portfolio without any clients? Well, the answer is more straightforward than what you think, and although it can take time, you can and should always improve it.

When I started my photography business, I was a bit lost and had a minimal idea of where I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to take pictures professionally, and I needed to put my name out there for more people would know about my services. I was new in Brussels and had no business network, so how were people going to know I could offer photography services? And, which pictures of my previous work was I going to show to them? I had no portfolio and nothing professional to show, so I came up with something that helped me.

Contact local no-profit organizations.

I have worked as a volunteer in the past, and I know the value you can bring to an organization when you help them. I started contacting local no-profit organizations that would potentially benefit from having professional pictures for their communications.

Raise awareness with your photography.

Sometimes, no-profit associations they have a limited budget and cannot allow themselves to spend big on communications, especially on photography. By approaching them and offering my photography services, I knew they would primarily benefit from an improved visual strategy that would help them raise awareness for their cause.

Many event opportunities.

No-profit associations organize more often than not events to raise awareness or attract new members and receive donations. They usually have annual meetings, general assemblies, or volunteer parties. All these occasions are great for photo opportunities, and unfortunately, they do not always have the means to request a professional photographer to cover those events. When I offered my help, and after they accepted, I had an excellent opportunity in my hands to start taking event pictures and build up my portfolio.

Be genuine, always.

Another important aspect is that with your help, you will be helping an institution of your like by supporting them with your photography skills. They do not require the best images in the world, but just enough to allow them to increase their communication strategy. They will always appreciate it. You can improve your event photography portfolio, and your favorite organizations benefit and increase their awareness, attract new members, get new donations, and engage new volunteers, all because of you. How cool is that?


Often, non-profit organizations accept volunteers for all sorts of help, and visual communication is no different. Don’t feel intimidated by offering your support for free to your preferred organization. I am confident they will be delighted to get your help. 

In my case, I decided to help a couple of local organizations that I genuinely wanted to help with my photography as a volunteer. Indeed, I still work with one of them to this day. They have used my images numerous times, and I am proud that my pictures have been beneficial to their cause. If you are curious, the local no-profit organization I help is called Missing Children Europe, and we have been working together for 6+ years now.

Be clear about your intentions.

Remember to inform them about your intentions of building up a portfolio for your new business. You never know if they have certain restrictions about the usage of the images. Be open about it, and tell them upfront what you are looking for instead of facing bad news afterward.

Ultimately, and although it wasn’t a requirement for me, these organizations might even talk about you to their networks and share your pictures with your name and website on it. Remember, though, that your genuine help is what will get you on the right track.

Prepare and show.

Before going to document events for the local associations, I prepared by going online and looking for tutorials about event photography. I wanted to have an idea of what I should do or not, and what type of shots I should obtain for my event photography portfolio. My objectives were clear, to make the best photos I could with the knowledge and gear I had so I could help the organization, and build my portfolio.

After covering a few events for free, I was confident to show the best pictures online and start promoting my website’s portfolio. Defining a target audience can certainly help you to choose the right images to put on your collection, so take the time to understand what type of events you wish to cover, and show those photos on your portfolio.

Final thoughts

When starting to build your event photography portfolio without clients, offering to work for free could be a good idea to kick start your business. Be genuine and provide your help to local no-profit organizations that could benefit from your photography skills and have limited resources. One day you will be able to build a portfolio, improve your skills, and start showing what you do to your target audience and preferred client.

I hope you find value in this article from my own experience, and that you can build a portfolio because of it. Do you have any advice or personal experience relating to building a photography portfolio from scratch? Let me know on the comments below. I would be happy to hear from you. Thank you for your time.

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