How To Build A Photography Portfolio
1. Shoot, shoot, shoot
Shoot as much you can. Not only because that will give you more photos to choose from, but also for improvement. The more you shoot the better you will get because “practice makes perfect”.
If you’re using your photography for a specific purpose, niche, or industry make sure the majority of your practice shoots favor your focus. If your focus is still life photography, you can find cheap props at Goodwill, dollar stores, IKEA, etc. And if you shoot portraiture or fashion photography, you can find models through modeling agencies, ModelMayhem (careful with this one though), or even friends and family. Some photographers offer free shoots for practice. If you chose to not charge people, make sure you are establishing clear boundaries and limitations so you won’t get taken advantage of for free. The better option is to shoot for trade.
2. Select + Backup + Delete
Once you import your images from your SD card, back up your photos first, then start sifting through all of the snapshots via Lightroom, Bridge, or file management program of your choice. Don’t be afraid to declutter and delete useless junk images (shots with bad compositions and accidental shots).
You’ll only need a select amount of images for your portfolio samples. The number may vary depending on your focus or niche, but keep in mind that “less is more.”
3. Get Feedback
Gather a handful of your good images and start asking for feedback from different places. This can be in person or through internet. Internet is often the cheapest route, because getting feedback in person usually involves making quality prints, buying a nice portfolio/presentation, and sometimes paying for portfolio reviews. However, there is a lot of value to in-person portfolio review, especially if its coming from a professional artists or curator. Plus, there are a lot of photography groups and clubs in different cities that allow you free or low cost portfolio reviews with your membership. Check out your local photography Meetups, and see if you have something like that near you.
If you choose to get feedback online (recommended if you have a tight budget), there are so many options to where you can get feedback, tips, and advice. Some great places to get feedback include social media websites, blogs, forums, art communities and more. Facebook offers a lot of Groups that you can join to get feedback and help from other photographers. Check out my post, 25 Facebook Groups for Photography Beginners
4. Narrow Down + Organize More
Depending on your feedback from others, you might want to repeat the Step 2 again with different set of images. Afterwards you’ll need to narrow down your images to where you’ll only be showing your best work. Try to avoid getting attached to images that you know aren’t super strong, and avoid adding duplicates or similar images.
5. Sequence + Create a Flow
This stage can be tricky because while all of your selected images may fit your brand or goal, they may still lack cohesiveness when grouped together. However, it is also important to maintain some sort of variety in your portfolio, along with a cohesive flow. For example, if you specialize in still life photography you may be showcasing a mix of food, product, and styled photos. One way to approach this is by making different galleries and sub galleries. Another way is to create a nice flow through organizing and sequencing. Here is a helpful article by Complex Magazine, 12 Rules for Creating an Effective Photography Portfolio
6. Choose Your Portfolio Type
Once you have organized and sequenced your best images, it’s time to get started on your actual portfolio. You can chose two showcase your work though web or print, or both.
Web-based portfolios are often easier to manage and more affordable. There are a variety of platforms where you can showcase your work online such as:
- Personal/Professional Website: Squarespace, Wordpress, Format, Krop, Photoshelter, and SmugMug
- Social Media: Instagram, Facebook FanPages, Ello, Tumblr, Pinterest
- Art/Photography Communities: 500px, Flickr, DeviantArt, ModelMayhem, VSCO, 1x, Behance
While I favor web-based portfolio, there is still a lot of value in having a print portfolio. If you want to focus on working with art galleries and curators, a great printed portfolio is typically a necessity. Another great use for printed portfolios/mini-portfolios is for promotional materials for wedding, engagement, fashion-related work. Sometimes for promotional materials, you won’t need the most expensive quality prints. Here is a list of 9 Affordable Places To Get Your Photos Printed.
7. Publish and Promote
Finally, after picking your portfolio images and type; it’s time to start uploading and/or printing your work. During this stage, pay attention to all the technical steps to ensuring your images are displayed correcting. If you’re showcasing online, make sure your exporting at the proper resolution based on the platform you're using. And if you’re printing your images, make sure you export your photos with the best dimensions and color settings for your printing choice. Even the best images can be ruined by horrible prints and poor resolution. The display quality of your images can also affect how people view your brand so take not of the tech specs.
Next, you promote. Your promotion methods may include mailing, emails, social media, and more. If you’re doing most of your promotion online, check out my post, 9 Places to Promote Your Photography for Free.
9. Update + Revise
This is an easy step to overlook, which I am often guilty of. It’s easy to feel like your job is done and hope your portfolio will continue to do the work for you. However, it’s important to consistently update and revise your portfolio. This will show your recurring visitors that you are consistently producing new work (which also can be shown through your blog).
On top of that, the more you shoot the better you become at your craft; and don’t you want to show off your progress? So, make sure your consistently updating, getting feedback, and revising your portfolio.
I hope you found this post helpful and I’d love to see your online portfolios! If you already have one, feel free to share a link in the comments (let me know if you want feedback too). If you’re still developing your portfolio make sure you come back and share when you’re done!