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14 Tips for Making a Photography Portfolio in 2020

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As a photographer, you must have a portfolio of work. Creating a strong, professional portfolio will attract clients and create interest in your art or business.

I’ve created many different photography portfolios in the past. It’s easy to look back on them now and cringe. Because of that, I decided to write a post that will help you learn from my mistakes.

An overhead shot of polaroid photos on a white background

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14. Consider Your Goals

Think about it. Why are you creating a portfolio in the first place? Are you using one to bring in more clients? It might be to land yourself a new job or show it to an agency interested in supporting you. You may even be applying to university, where a portfolio is mandatory.

Each one of these will require a different portfolio. You’ll need to research and think about exactly what you need.

13. Tailor to Your Audience

Over the years, you will create different portfolios, of varying amounts of images, sizes, and types. This is because your audience will change.

Your images need to reflect what you can do, purposely chosen for what your audience wants to see. I wouldn’t take my documentary photography portfolio to show a client who is looking for interior photographs.

A girl in an artist studio, sitting by her laptop and looking at her smartphone

12. Think About the Format

If you are looking for more clients, dropping your best portraiture images on Facebook or your website can be your best bet. This is because people may want to see your work as they search for photographers in your area.

However, applying for a job will require a printed photography portfolio. It is a lot more impressive than giving them a memory stick.

A portfolio website is also a great way to show off your amazing photography to potential clients. Make sure you show work that glorifies your photography style.

Newspapers or magazines may want to see an online portfolio first, requesting a printed one to be left at their reception.

11. Learn from Other Portfolios

The hardest step can be to choose the style of your portfolio. People can get stuck at this stage and end up abandoning the portfolio. The best way to gain inspiration is to look at other people’s portfolios.

How many images do they have? Are they a series of work or a collection of images that work well together?

Look at your competitors and imagine how you can set yourself apart. Is your style strong and developed enough? You may find that your competitors may be applying for the same work or clients, so it is important not to walk in with the same images.

10. Read the Brief

It may seem a little silly, but make sure you read the brief exactly, to the letter. If they say they want to see 15 images, don’t think you are increasing your chances by bringing backups. They may not even look at a portfolio from someone who can’t follow instructions. Very important.

A couple sitting outside a coffee shop looking at a laptop

9. Use Lightroom to Edit and Find the Best Photos

This is your photography portfolio, so it’s important that you only share your best photos. Like any competitive sports team, the group is only as strong as the weakest individual.

If this is your first portfolio, then this is probably going to take a few hours. Set some time aside where you can concentrate.

No doubt you have thousands of images. You need to edit and cull your photographs to choose the best ones.

In Lightroom, set the system to ‘Auto-Advance’ and go to the folder, collection or entire photo library. Look at each image and give the best ones a rating, colors or flags.

As soon as you press a shortcut, it will move on to the next image for you, saving time. For help in this area, look at our Lightroom workflow article.

8. Create a Relevant Base for Your Portfolio

Next, you can separate all your files by your rating, color or flag selection method. You will be left with only your best images. These are the basis of your photography portfolio.

If you like to capture many different fields, only select the images you are going to show to your specific audience.

You can repeat this process for each audience. If you are like me, you’ll have many portfolios ready to go at a moments notice.

Now you have your selected images, culled and rated/colored/flagged, its time to go to the next step. This is when you are going to reduce the number of images.

A close up of various photos on a computer screen

7. Narrow Down the Selection

Now it’s time to get the selection of photos down to less than 50.

What I do is go through my selection over and over again, removing images each time. This way, I can see how the portfolio is shaping up. I can look at styles, angles and the content.

You don’t want to end up with a portfolio all shot from the same angle. That is more boring than daytime television. This is your portfolio, so it’s important to only showcase your best work.

6. Ask for Feedback

Once you’ve produced a more selective collection of photos, it’s time to share them. The first step I recommend is to post the entire collection on Facebook. This way you get to share them with your friends, where they give you feedback.

It’s important to know which images are the most popular with the ‘average’ person. These images are the ones that you will want to put front and centre in your portfolio. Narrow down the selection based on this feedback to around 25 images.

5. Get a Professional Opinion

The final step to narrowing down your portfolio is to ask a photographer for help. Or failing that, your most photography savvy friend.  You should have 12-15 pictures in your final selection.

An overhead shot of printed photos on a white background

4. Create a Digital Photography Portfolio

Photography lives in the print, but the world we live in is digital.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a printed version of your portfolio (I thoroughly recommend one). But you absolutely need a digital version.

You can use a photography portfolio site to show off your amazing photography style. At the very least, you should have an online account such as Flickr or 500px.

3. Create Your Own Photography Portfolio Website

You need to know how to professionally share your photos on the internet. There are many different routes you can take.

I first started using a platform called WordPress. It runs millions on websites on the internet (including this one). It allows you to install your own theme, and get your website up and running in no time.

You need to be a little bit tech-savvy, and you also have to pay hosting fees and pay for a theme. It’s worth it, but it’s a big step if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are many themes and plugins you can use. Take some time to find the best one for your needs.

I made my new website through Koken, which allows me to do the majority of things I need for free. Nice and simple.

Do not create any flash-based websites. It’s horrible, it takes time to load, it doesn’t work on any iPhones or iPads, and they are prone to hacking.

If you have access to a domain, go for WordPress. It does take a little more time to get the hang of but it is more professional.

A laptop open on a website for building portfolios

2. How Do I Make a Free Photography Portfolio?

With Wix or Koken, you can create your own portfolio website for free. You just need a domain for the latter, but we all have friends who know how the website world works.

1. Leave a ‘Calling Card’

The benefit of a digital portfolio is that you can leave it with prospective clients or companies. After an interview, the best person is one who leaves me with a version I can look at on my own.

You could have a stock of a few pen-drives that you can leave with the person you are seeing. If you want them to remember you, make some postcards, and leave one as a reminder of who you are.

You may find that even if they can’t help right now, you’ll stay in their minds for the future.

People shaking hands

Conclusion

Just to recap, the important thing is that you need a photography portfolio that addresses its purpose. If you are bringing more clients, share your best work on social media.

For a job opportunity, find some time to create a small and concise website. It can just have one page, so you don’t need to go all out.

If you are printing your portfolio, concentrate on how the images work together.

Are they showing a range of your work or 15 images from a few different series that you are working on? Does the portfolio flow, or does the reader have to flip between portrait and landscape?

Create a few versions of your photography portfolio, so you are never caught short when asked to see your work.

You can also use a Photoshop slideshow to present your photography portfolio. 

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2 comments
  1. To be honest, I really find this helpful. A good portfolio is the only that can help us expose our work to numerous organizations and talented photographer or videographer. Make sure to put your best of work in your portfolio because first impression is the last impression.

  2. This is a very nice article. I am sure that anyone who is into professional photography could the information in this post. I love seeing using their talents and passions to earn for themselves. Freelance photography is a great home based business! Much Success!

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