If you are a photographer wanting to attract clients or sell your work, you’re going to need a portfolio. A portfolio is a concise way to showcase your work to potential clients and demonstrate who you are as a photographer.

However, there are a few key factors to keep in mind when creating your photography portfolio and keeping it up to date.

Identify your goals

Putting together a portfolio doesn’t necessarily mean putting all of your favorite or best photos together in one spot. Think about your goals as a photographer, and the potential clients that will be looking at your portfolio.

Who do you want hiring you as a photographer? What kind of work are you trying to get? Identify how you want to market yourself.

Then, choose photos that align with your business goals and the potential audience viewing the images. 

An image that does not fit when creating my portfolio.
You may have a photo that you love, but if it doesn’t fit in with your marketing goals then don’t include it in your portfolio.

Create specialized portfolios

These days, a lot of photographers have a diverse body of work and may specialize in multiple genres. I personally shoot events, landscapes, sports and commercial work. For each genre, I have a portfolio of images that clients can view depending on their interest.

Someone looking to hire me to cover a field hockey tournament doesn’t necessarily want to look at my landscape photography. It all comes back to knowing your client and how you’re trying to market yourself. You want people to look at your work and know what they’re getting when they hire you. 

A specialized portfolio image.
This photo wouldn’t fit in my landscape portfolio, but it may be included in my sports events portfolio as a storytelling image.

Cull, and then cull again

There’s a variety of opinions on how many images should be in a portfolio and ultimately it’s up to you. A general rule of thumb is to stay between 10-20 images. These images should represent your best work in a given genre and showcase your skills behind the camera.

When I’m deciding if an image is worthy of my portfolio, I imagine it being viewed by a big name photo editor, or my favorite photographer. Would I be proud to show them this image? If the answer is yes, then I might add it to my portfolio. If I find myself having to describe the story behind it, or picking out small flaws, then it’s probably not the right fit.

Eliminate old work

As mentioned above, you want to keep your portfolio relatively small. Updating with new work is key, which means deleting older work is also important. Be critical of your own images and make sure that everything in your portfolio reflects your current skill sets and goals. 

Landscape portfolio image
When I was just starting out, this image was one of the first in my landscape portfolio. As I progressed, it was replaced by images that better represented my skill set.

Get a second opinion

Once you’ve created your portfolio, it’s a good idea to get some feedback on it. Ask mentors, other photographers, or friends to be honest with you. What are their favorite images? What image do they think is the weakest? Are there any that they need to ask questions about?

Because we are attached to our photos, we often don’t see things that others notice.

We also know the stories behind the images. You might love a photo because you worked really hard through difficult circumstances to capture it. But without that back story, potential clients might just see an average photo.

Getting feedback and constructive criticism is incredibly beneficial in creating a portfolio. 

Keep it up to date

Keeping your portfolio updated with current work is essential! It’s also easy to forget to do. You spend a ton of time setting up your website and creating your portfolio … and then it sits and grows stagnant over time.

I try to integrate updating my portfolio into my work stream. After any session, I will assess the images as I’m editing them. If I think that an image is worthy of portfolio status, I will immediately add it to a separate folder of portfolio images in Lightroom. I will also export it and upload it to the corresponding portfolio on my website.

Remember, these occasions are rare, as portfolio images are not created frequently. But having the mindset of assessing your work while you edit is a good practice. It’s certainly easier than going back and looking through two years worth of images when you realize you haven’t updated your portfolio in ages. 

A new image to keep my portfolio up to date.
After a recent four day workshop, I decided on one image out of hundreds to add to my portfolio.

Creating your photography portfolio and keeping it up to date is essential if you’re a photographer looking to monetize your skills and images. Remember to think about your goals and the clients you’re looking to attract. Make sure your portfolio reflects who you are as a photographer in a cohesive set of images.

Don’t be afraid to have multiple portfolios for each genre you shoot, and have another photographer or mentor go through it from an objective standpoint. And finally, don’t forget to keep it updated!