Early on in my journey as a Fashion and swimwear Photographer I realized the importance of investing in myself in the form of learning as much as I could, and doing as many self funded portfolio photoshoot possible.

The photography industry is such a saturated space now, it is becoming more and more difficult for new photographers to get a “piece of the pie” and work with clients. But, of course, it can be done, and is being done all the time. A solid portfolio is critical. See the video here and a more detailed breakdown of ‘how to’, costs, and tips below.

Full Body Swimwear Retouch Tutorial | How To Achieve That Sun Kissed Skin Look

Portfolio Building

Building a professional portfolio might seem impossible for someone just starting out, but what I suggest to a lot of people is to “invest in yourself” as described above, which is something I continue to do. If the market is too busy and you can’t seem to get any professional projects, then create your own. Start planning self-funded photoshoots that will add value to your portfolio.

Recently I spent some time in Cape Town, South Africa building up my swimwear portfolio to get ready for the next season and during that time I spent a lot of time shooting at the beach. As amazing as using the natural wonders around us is, it can become quite limiting and boring, and that’s the last thing you want when you’re building your book with your own money. I decided to seek out novel environments and I found an amazing “location farm” that is a purpose built photoshoot/video location, and seemed perfect for a “Route 66, Gas Station” inspired photoshoot.


It’s always good to see if a location would be willing to give you the space for credit, and even though that didn’t work out in this instance I felt strongly that it would add so much value to my portfolio and my YouTube channel I decided to invest a bit more than usual into this project. I ended up booking the location for half a day at a “portfolio building” rate.

This is one major tip that I would share. When negotiating with locations, make sure to mention to them that the photoshoot is strictly for your portfolio, otherwise they will give you their commercial rates, which can be significantly steeper.

*Editor’s note: If for commercial use, however, you must disclose that.  Also, if for portfolio building even some locations that require an insurance policy normally will sometimes waive that.

Models, Stylists & MUAs

After booking the location for around €200/$230USD for half-day, I asked my model friend if she would be interested in being part of the project. If you don’t have model friends, the best route is to email a couple of local model agencies and explain that you are doing a portfolio project and it would be great if they have any new faces available that need new images for their portfolio.

As my model was great at doing her own makeup, I did not see a point in getting a makeup artist for this project, but you can, of course, contact a couple artists and find out if they would be interested in building their portfolio. Everyone needs new photos, So chances are you will find someone.

As for the styling, I decided to style everything myself and I was lucky to find one shop that had a great selection of clothing that fit in perfectly with my shoot idea.

I emailed the manager and explained the photoshoot idea and managed to get a deal where I can put the clothes I want on my credit card and then get the money back if I return the clothing in the original state after the photoshoot. I was happy with that as working on countless productions, I am quite aware of how to take care of clothes.

To help myself with the styling process I sought help on Pinterest. I had a certain idea in my head of what I wanted, and by putting it all together on a mood-board it just gave me a clearer idea of what I wanted to achieve. Once again, if you are not comfortable with styling a shoot yourself, then look around for a “Junior Stylist” that is also working on their portfolio to help with the project.


To get back to my main point of “investing in yourself”, This project ended up costing me way more than I would usually invest in a test shoot and it’s something that I can’t just invoice a client for. But, we all ended up with some amazing photos for our portfolios and at the end of the day I was really happy with that.

Working on side/portfolio projects has been a element in building up my socials and getting the clients I wanted.

Below is a rough breakdown of the costs invested in the photoshoot.

Set Costs

Location – €200/$230 / Half day
Gas – €60/$70
Clothes – €500/$585 / Refundable €350/$405 (we bought things like boots, tights and few other pieces that were non refundable)
Food – €40/$45

Equipment used


Canon 5D mk IV
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
No modifiers


Sony A7sii
Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
DJI Ronan M
Sony FS5
Rokinon 16mm f/2

Model: Helena Gomes

Soon ❤️ @sadowskaphoto @donhorne.eu ☝️

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Car Rental: Wiggle Car Hire

Other Images From Shoot: