Brazil Portfolio Shoot



Building a better portfolio.

As photographers and artists, we tend to focus on what our clients want. I get it, that makes complete sense. I mean, they are the ones paying the bills most of the time. But, what do you do for you? How do you invest in building your skills? How to you experiment, fail, rebuild? How do you attract those new clients you want? Below is a break out of what we did for a recent trip to Brazil.

Make time for you.

If its always about our clients, then we never get to invest in us or our own advancement. Wherever I go I try to make time for me. Recently, I was in Brazil teaching at an event called Wedding Prime. There was no way I was going to leave without shooting for my portfolio.

Wherever you are, as long as there is human life, there is a means and way to get a shoot in. Make it happen! Don’t make excuses. It’s the only way for us to improve as artists.

What areas are you weak in? Posing? Lighting? Composition? Invest in you.

Plan ahead.

This isn’t going to magically come together. It takes planning. We tend to put things together about a month out. We reach out and start looking for subjects to shoot. We start looking for hair and make-up artists. We start looking for locations via Google Earth. And finally, we start talking concepts.

I can tell you first hand, rarely does this part of the process go smoothly. Models cancel, locations end up not being what you thought, and like everything else in life – if it can, it will go wrong. Be ready to adapt to the changing environment and the dynamic nature of a live shoot. Don’t get frustrated. Get motived. Get competitive and tell yourself “I can do this!”

Think about the clients you want in the future. Not the ones you have today.

I have heard photographer after photographer cry “my clients won’t let me do that” or “my clients are traditional”. Come on everyone! Wake up. The clients you have today are the ones drawn into your current portfolio on your web site. Are you posting the images YOU want to take? Or, which is so often the case, is your portfolio suffering from schizophrenia? You have to be consistent. You have to show the kind of work you want to shoot and deliver to your clients. This ensures your clients in the future are the ones you are trying to connect with.

Get uncomfortable.

Stop doing what you always do. Don’t trust your instincts. This is your time to fail. No one cares. This is not about your clients. This is about you! Do something you have always wanted to do or try, but never had the courage to do or something your clients wont ordinarily allow you to do.

With this in mind, now you understand my mind set on these shoots.

For my shoot in Brazil, we had connected with a modeling agency and make-up artist locally. Prior to arriving, getting anyone to return an email was very difficult, but we didn’t stop trying.

We knew the beach location, so we knew we wanted to shoot this location.

For inspiration, we had done some searching online, looking at various commercial shots for inspiration and we knew we wanted something different for our portfolio. We wanted a headpiece and a wedding dress open in the back. We wanted something sexy. Being in the conservative mid-west, this is not something my normal bride has ever asked for. I think the main reason for this is because I don’t have shots like this in my portfolio. So, when I say sexy to a bride, she immediately thinks boudoir or something along those lines. I would imagine, now that I have something to show in my portfolio, it’s going to be an easier conversation to have with future clients.

This was the main goal of the shoot. Anything else, was going to be a little more fluid. We always allow ourselves some creative freedom based on the model, location, and other variables.

I hope you enjoy what we came up with. Now, get out there and build your own portfolio. There is no reason for you not to.


Camera // Canon 1Dx

Lighting // Profoto B1



For the first two shots, we took these at the hotel room. I was looking to create something soft and use the natural light. The problem is, sometimes natural light is just not good enough. So, we had to make our own. As you can see from the behind the scenes, we used the Profoto B1 to fire in some light from outside the room. This really softened the light and gave us that little extra pop of light we needed. We then shot with and without the veil. My favorites are below – shooting through the veil.

IMG_6360_DX_9302-Edit _DX_9306-Edit


We had met Bruno at Wedding Prime in Brazil and really took a liking to him. A solid model, and probably one of the most helpful models I have ever worked with. Lights, gear, etc – anything we needed he was more than willing to assist with. I would work with Bruno any time any place. So, for the next scene, we started running into some challenges. It had been raining for about 2 hours and the sun was setting and of course, all our locations were outside. And as if by plan, the rain stopped when we rolled up to the beach. Here was the scene.

We used the Profoto B1 on a stand with a 2×2 softbox. I shot this wide open. Personally, I love the shallow depth of field, makes the background look fake – almost like we were shooting in a studio. We then messed around with lighting location to create a few dramatic portraits.

IMG_6400 IMG_6401_DX_9362-Edit _DX_9421-Edit _DX_9425-EditIMG_6403 _DX_9431-Edit _DX_9435-Edit

Now, with Tacyana out of the makeup chair, it was time to rock her shots. Not gonna lie, I was in a bit of panic mode. We literally had about 30min of light left and about 4-5 shots on my shot list left. We all ran out to the beach and I found this patch of greenery. With the red top, I felt like this would just pop!


This is one of my favorite shots and scenes. Alissa, my second shooter, went to a local store and made this headpiece, really adding that dramatic element to the shot. The cost of something like this is about $50. Well worth the investment. Time, of course, is the main expense here.

IMG_6358 IMG_6393_DX_9557-Edit _DX_9572-Edit _DX_9584-Edit _DX_9595-Edit


This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. chris wanga

    Awesome Sal,this is incredible,the lighting is just wow…one day am gonna get this on my pictures.Thanx so much for sharing

  2. Sonia Rivas

    Lovely, as always.
    I need to practice, practice, practice!

  3. Kevin Jones

    Nice shots. Did you rent, barter or did the model have the wedding dress? And, did you take the Phase Onewith?

    1. admin

      dress – we took with us from home – we work with a bridal shop… no phase one this trip… 🙂

  4. Richard Flutie

    Very nice work. Very informative. Nice ideas.

  5. Julio

    Simply beautifull.
    Can you talk a little what was your post-processing?

  6. jabbostudios

    Great portfolio. Love the pictures

  7. Maria

    Sal, love your images. Thanks for always sharing. You always inspire me.

  8. Darren Russinger

    Just incredible! Thanks for sharing!

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