How to Start out a Pictures Business enterprise and Build a Portfolio for Customers

Ora Sawyers
  • Tiana Duarte-Kargbo took her images facet hustle whole time immediately after a stranger offered her a work.
  • She crafted her company by taking freelance work opportunities and developing editorial initiatives to show her expertise.
  • The photographer shares her assistance for creatives hoping to flip their aspect hustles into corporations.

This is an as-told-to story based on an job interview with Tiana Duarte-Kargbo, who runs her personal photography small business, Tiana Michele Photograph.

Duarte-Kargbo picked up photography as a creative outlet in May 2020 and, the following month, moved from Memphis, Tennessee, to New York Town to go after the side hustle professionally. To make ends meet, she worked day jobs, together with a single in a salon.

In November 2021, a salon buyer questioned to see her photography and was moved by her talent, Duarte-Kargbo mentioned. The client, who owns a photo company, made available her a occupation as an assistant, which gave Duarte-Kargbo the wage she desired to support herself and the overall flexibility to get the pictures enterprise off the floor.

Involving December 2021 and January 2023, she booked five figures in income, documents seen by Insider display. Here’s how Duarte-Kargbo leveraged an prospect to establish her small business and her advice for other creatives seeking to do the exact same.

The pursuing has been edited for length and clarity.

Lean in to chances

Duarte-Kargbo moved to New York for more opportunities

A image from Tiana Michele Image.

Tiana Michele Photo



I often considered images was pleasurable but never ever took it as well very seriously. I was a dancer, but when COVID-19 strike, dance careers grew to become nonexistent and I was struggling from some serious injuries. So I took time off, and which is when I picked up my camera once more.

For the 1st two many years of living in New York, I worked as a barista, in retail, and as a receptionist. I shot pics on the weekends and throughout my time off.

When I was working at the entrance desk of a salon, a customer located out I was a photographer and requested to see my operate. I confirmed her my Instagram account, and she told me I “should not be right here,” that I ought to be out there performing pictures as a substitute. But I defined to her that I couldn’t afford to pay for to stop my work. 

She reported she was likely to help me out, and later on that working day, she supplied me an assistant placement working for her. She stated it would be small routine maintenance and give me time to do my personal detail.

For whatever rationale, I considered her. In November 2021, I give up and worked for her for the upcoming month and a fifty percent. In the meantime, I acquired my site redone and set out as a lot written content as achievable simply because I did not have time to do any of that in advance of. Performing for her gave me the time and room I wanted to get on my ft.

Soon after that month and a 50 percent, I was landing ample freelance gigs to leave the assistant position.

Develop a portfolio with what you have

Behind the scenes of a Duarte-Kargbo shoot.

Powering the scenes of a Duarte-Kargbo shoot.

Courtesy of Tiana Duarte-Kargbo



Even before I fulfilled the stranger, I experienced designed a portfolio with whatsoever do the job I could. I did a lot of things for absolutely free, like image shoots with people today I’d randomly message on Instagram.

Duarte-Kargbo shoots some small weddings and elopements.

Duarte-Kargbo shoots some smaller weddings and elopements.

Tiana Michele Photo



I also released a mini project called the shade of dance in summer 2020. I labored with a handful of dancers of shade whom I photographed and then interviewed about their ordeals in the dance environment, since the field is fairly racist.

By the end of the undertaking, extra persons had listened to about my do the job and achieved out to operate with me. It was a excellent way to build my assortment of get the job done.

Then, when I give up my salon occupation, I earned revenue as a result of freelance jobs, like photographing a national dance convention and social-media information for a advertising corporation. Those people work opportunities paid the costs until finally I was ready to choose Tiana Michele Image entire time. 

Be intentional with the positions you just take

It is really mentally exhausting to continually glance for work opportunities, weigh regardless of whether you’re on the ideal path, and determine what your do the job is worth. But my biggest piece of advice to other creatives is not to settle for perform you don’t want.

For example, wedding photography can be successful, but the far more I shot weddings and posted those people shots, the much more inquiries I bought for marriage ceremony-type gatherings. Ultimately, which is not the perform I want to get.

I’ve intentionally posted additional of my editorial work to demonstrate future clients that is my model and great gig.

Now I get a lot of inquiries from customers who are in the social-media subject, both smaller-business entrepreneurs who will need content material or creators who need written content for them selves. And I get a ton of consumers who want to just have exciting photograph shoots for them selves. 

I love these purchasers simply because it offers me the flexibility to enjoy and experiment. Discovering my voice and having my identify out there are how I will get my aspiration gigs.

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