It’s right up there with “What camera should I buy?” People constantly ask me questions about their portfolio. How many images? What sort of pictures? What type of presentation?
Unfortunately, there’s no EASY button to press that will yield you the perfect portfolio. You may actually have to put some thought into it 🙂
Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Specialize. Have a theme. Don’t put 30 photos into your portfolio representing 10 different kinds of photography. Best case, pick one type of photography to showcase. Next case, pick no more than two or three types.
2. Have a story. Have a voice. Have something to say. If your work “speaks” to people, it will be more popular than if it doesn’t. Your work needs to have a soul. If it doesn’t, the rest of the steps are a waste of time.
3. Choose only your best pictures. And I mean your VERY best. Not the ones you fall in love with, but the ones you know are the best. Be brutal. Be ruthless. Edit like your life depended on it. Pick your favorite 40 images then immediately cut that number in half.
4. Less is more. If you have five fantastic images in your portfolio, you’ll probably do better than if you have five good ones and five okay shots. Show no more than 10 or 12 images in most cases. (There are exceptions based on certain customs in different categories. For example, a wedding photographer may have to show one or two wedding albums containing many images.)
5. Eliminate the fluff. Avoid gimmicks. As you’ve no doubt heard said about the movies. If you have to rely on special effects, the scripts is probably no good. Stick with the basics and avoid the unnecessary frills.
6. Be yourself. The tendency for emerging photographers to think they have to do something “new” to be good rubs me the wrong way. If you want to stand out, show work that represents YOU not just something NEW.
7. Make your portfolio accessible. And this doesn’t mean your portfolio has to be online. It means that however you present it, it needs to be easy to see, touch and view. If you do show your work online, avoid heavy use of music and Adobe FLASH. Keep it simple. Make it easy for people to see the work and to find you if they like it.
Building a portfolio requires brutal honesty and dedication to the truth. Sometimes it hurts. But the best news is this. You’ll do it many times in your career and each time, your work will look better than it did the last time.
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