A Portfolio is a condensed representation of your creative vision; the portfolio is a highly valuable tool for introducing oneself to an audience, especially with the ease of sending someone a link.
Whether it’s used as a sales piece to land clients, an informative statement about one’s work and capabilities, or simply a way to succinctly share with friends and family, a portfolio is a great tool for making an effective and lasting impression. If someone is taking the time to look at your work, make it count.
Here are tips to make yourself look good.
Keep it short and sweet
Defining Goals and Audience
Do a hard edit.
Get an expert’s opinion
Put the rest in the middle
Don’t put it to popular vote
Keep it fresh
Keep It Short & Sweet
With a portfolio, quantity counts for nothing. If the viewer wants to see more, they’ll look for it. And if they can’t find it, they’ll ask. Both of these consequences are good. I usually aim to include 12-20 images in a photography portfolio.
Defining Goals and Audience
Every portfolio must have a specific objective. Before you start designing a web photo project, it is important to determine goals and purposes of the future portfolio: whether it is going to be a portfolio for commercial purposes, or showing photo works to potential employers, or just showcasing the photographer’s works to share them with friends and close people. Some photographers first think about making an all-purpose portfolio, but it is not always a good idea. If, for example, a photographer is planning to sell his works, and at the same time search for a job, it may be better for him to create a separate portfolio for each purpose and link them (if necessary).
Defining the contents of the portfolio will be much easier if you clearly understand what audience it is going to be created for. Some photographers have a small audience, and the audience of other photo artists may count thousands of potential viewers. Irrespective of how wide the circle of the photographer’s audience is, it is important to relate the photo works to the people who you are going to create a portfolio for. If the photographer has got two (or more) different audiences, as I already said, think about making separate portfolios for each audience.
Do a hard edit.
Always, always, always edit down. This is the mistake I used to make. I’d shoot like a bat outa hell, determined to get at least a handful of great shots from each sitting, then I’d deliver nearly all the images to my client on a disk. Thus the hideoderous image framed on my friend’s wall. The image was poorly lit, poorly composed and just plain YUCK. It’s an image that never should have seen the world beyond my computer. Period.
Remember that once those images have been delivered, they’re out there. 10 years from now, when you’re the best photographer the world has ever known, those images may still be gracing people’s walls. . . a very poor representation of your work and perhaps a hindrance to gaining future clients.
Maintain control over your portfolio by remembering that it extends beyond just what you compile in a portfolio album, blog or website.
Get an expert’s opinion . . . then be prepared to throw it out.
It’s good to get another respected photographer’s opinion for 2 reasons. 1. They can help you improve by telling you where your images may fall short. 2. They can help you gain confidence because they may see things in certain images that you did not. They may love what you didn’t allow yourself to for whatever reason. It goes back to that whole “we are our own worst critic” thing. Be prepared for the criticism, and be prepared to process it in a healthy, productive way.
Yet, also be prepared to throw it out. I spent a lot of time vying for the approval of certain respected photographer friends, only to find that sometimes their well meaning criticism hindered my ability to identify and define my own style (which is still evolving every day). Now, I have aspiring photographers sending me their work all the time asking me for my opinion, and I always tell them the same thing. “It doesn’t matter what I think.” And ultimately, that is 100,000% true. I will still give photographers my opinion but I always always try to make sure that they understand that ultimately it’s their art. It’s their passion. No one else can define it for them.
So, in the end, it doesn’t matter what I think, or what Annie Leibowitz thinks for that matter, it matter’s what your client thinks, and just as importantly, if not more so, what you yourself think. Always ask yourself this question: “am I proud of this shot?” if the answer is “yes” then it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.
After the goals and audience are specified, it’s time to make a selection of images that are to be presented in the portfolio. If you are a web designer and develop a portfolio for a photographer, your client will alone make a selection of images, and your task will be to present them in the best possible way. But if you are a photographer and create a portfolio of your works yourself, here are some tips on how to make a better selection:
Scrutinize the images and select the best ones that you want to present to the audience. Divide them into categories. This is important, because a photo gallery is interesting if it offers a journey to the visitor. If there is a thread that ties the images into a whole, such a portfolio will always be interesting to the audience.
It is good if the photos are in a logical order. You have to prepare for a meeting with the person to whom you’ll be showing your works. So, place your photo works either in chronological order, or some other order you think they need to be placed. You should be ready to explain to your prospective client why you present your works in such a way.
Do not select many photos for the portfolio – employers or customers don’t have time to review a lengthy portfolio. An optimal variant is to include from 10 to 25 photos.
Choose those photos that will show the results of specific photographic efforts according to the goals for which the portfolio is created. It is inaccurate to say that a portfolio can only present the best works ever created by a photographer. A portfolio should be used for a concrete exact purpose, for example: “to show the works created during a definite period of time”, “to present the photographer’s skills in taking black-and-white photos”, etc.
As soon as the images are selected, ask for feedback from friends, family or other photographers. The opinion of another person may be very useful.
Following up to the first tip, only the best images should go into the portfolio. Consistency and distinction in your images should be a key takeaway. Showing anything but the best is often a waste of time; when you have someone’s attention, make every image count.
And aside from quality, each image should speak to some aspect of your vision and ability. In choosing images, ask, “What does this image say about me as a photographer?” If multiple images are competing for the same specific message, consider paring down for the sake of efficiency. Expressing range, however, should not be confused with a lack of focus. Every image should work toward a singular goal of expressing your eye and capabilities as a photographer.
Start out with a bang. You want to put your second to best shot up front to catch the viewer’s attention. Why the second best? Keep reading.
With your last image, you want to reinforce everything that has come before and end with the impression of excellence. This position is where your standout image goes, since it’s the last image in the set that the viewer will see. With the last piece, your goal is to leave a mark. The viewer made it to the end, so go for the knock out punch.
Put The Rest In The Middle
There is no filler in a portfolio, but everything that isn’t your absolute best should go in the middle. After the lead off image, gradually decrease in image impact until you get to the middle of the series, and then ramp back up for the strong finish.In other words, the highest impact images should be book ends to the images that establish the tone of your work.
Don’t Put It To Popular Vote
Bless your friends and family, but portfolios should not be decided by committee; what is popular is not always what makes your eye or execution unique.If need be, I’d suggest paring down a selection of your best images as well as you can and then enlist the keen eye of someone whose taste you trust to make the final selection.
Keep It Fresh
Just like seafood, it’s better fresh. Once you’ve established your book, keep it as up to date as possible. Aside from assembling it in the first place, this task is one of the biggest challenges of a great portfolio.As you develop as a photographer and add different elements to your style (or polish it), don’t neglect to reflect that growth in the portfolio.
Some portfolio Samples: