Create a Professional Photography Portfolio
How should you present your portfolio? Presentation is important! Photo buyers are often artists or designers who are trained to be sensitive to composition, aesthetics, and flow. You may have a great collection of pictures, but if you simply toss them into an old manila folder, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Package your prints attractively. Use a consistent medium — don’t mix prints with slides plus a website address.
If you’re showing prints, consider including your original shots plus the finished product—brochures or magazine pages that used your stuff. Get GOOD (not drugstore) prints, perhaps on special paper. Make your portfolio stand out because of its quality, not because of irrelevant gimmicks. Prints are often enclosed in a leather folder. Or consider a self-published book from Lulu or Blurb
If your portfolio will be online, choose a portfolio site such as Smugmug or Zenfolio. These services provide you with a way to upload photos into galleries with themes that you can choose. Make sure the theme doesn’t overwhelm your images. Consider adding music or creative text to personalize your portfolio. And try to organize a way to show the depth of your work as well as the breadth. I would design a portfolio with a dozen images showing my range: landscapes, seascapes, flowers, villages, harbors, beaches, sunrise, seasons. If a buyer wanted to see more, she could click on one of the portfolio images to see more examples of each category. But keep it concise! My current Photoshelter website with 3700 images is not a portfolio, it’s an avalanche. Note: Each photo hosting site uses compression to store images efficiently. This compression often ruins the subtle tones of your beautiful images, and makes them look very different from the version on your computer. You might need to make a copy of your original image and tweak the color so it looks good online. This copy will probably not look good on your screen—too neon or too bright.
Who will look at your portfolio?
Well, no one. Portfolios don’t go out and find people. The fact that you have created a stunning showcase of your work won’t bring in one customer. You can create keywords or tags, title your images to maximize web-search results, and tell all your friends to go look at your new site. But finding people to look at your portfolio is your next job. Print some business cards and go network with buyers. Develop an e-mail list and send monthly newsletters and announcements. Be the junk-mailer that you hate. Network, network, network.
Don’ts for Photography Portfolios:
- Don’t include redundant images. If you have only rose pictures, you may not be ready to work with a paying customer. Or find a gardening magazine and take some pictures of gardening tools, gloves, and an overview of its design to give your collection some variety.
- Don’t get bogged down trying to find your 8 best images of all time. You can re-do it next year.
- Don’t wait until you have the ultimate portfolio. If you’re reading this, you need to take some baby steps first.
The next time you’re at a fall festival talking to an art director, you can just slip her a card and try to get her e-mail address.
Resources—If you read all sites, you’ll get conflicting information. Choose what resonates with you.
- Luminous Landscapes: How to Create a Portfolio of your Work
- Pixiq: Creating a photography portfolio
- Digital Photography School: 5 Tips for Building Your Photography Portfolio
- Digital Photography School: 7 Ways to Get Your Photos Seen
- Digital Photography School: 99 Remarkable Photographer’s Portfolios
All photos © Susan Cole Kelly.
Susan Cole Kelly is a compulsive shutterbug based in Boston and downeast Maine. You can see more of her work at http://susancolekelly.photoshelter.com/