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14 Tips for Making a Photography Portfolio in 2020

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The secret to attracting clients to your art or business is creating a compelling professional portfolio.

So you might be wondering, how do I make a photography portfolio?

I’ve created many photographer websites in the past. It’s easy to see them now and cringe. Because of that, I decided to write a post that will help you learn from my mistakes.

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14. Consider Your Goals

So why are you creating a portfolio in the first place? Are you using one to bring in more clients? Are you trying to land yourself a new job or show it to an agency? Are you applying to university, where a portfolio is mandatory?

Each one of these reasons requires a different type of portfolio. Do some research and figure out how to meet the needs for your application.

13. Tailor to Your Audience

So what should a photography portfolio include? That depends on your audience.

Your images need to show what you can do. They should also be purposely chosen for what your audience wants to see. For instance, 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

The best way to show off your fantastic work to potential clients is by creating a website about photography.

Apart from giving you a ‘legit’ status, a website is also a great platform to highlights your photography style.

But people won’t find out about your site unless you advertise it. So if you want more exposure, then upload your best portraiture images on Facebook and Instagram.

Why? Because people may want to see your work as they search for the best photographer website in your area.

You should also consider using a printed photography portfolio if you’re applying for a job. It’s a lot more impressive than asking them to look at your Instagram on their phones.

For instance, newspapers or magazines may want to see your images online first. But they may also request you to leave a printed version at their reception.

But what if making prints is not a good option for you? Then another great strategy is to create a PDF that you can easily email to prospective clients.

So how do I make a photography portfolio PDF?

There are many programs, both paid and free, that you can use. For example, Adobe Acrobat Pro is an excellent PDF-maker, but Google Drive is a perfect available option too. To understand how to make an attractive PDF photography portfolio, check this out.

11. Learn from Others

The hardest step can be to choose the style of your photos. People often find themselves stuck at this stage and end up abandoning their website of photography.

The best way to gain inspiration is to check out other people’s photography portfolios.

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

Identify 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’s crucial not to walk in with similar images.

10. Read the Brief

It may seem a little silly, but make sure you read the brief to the letter. If your potential employer says they want to see 15 images, don’t think you are increasing your chances by bringing backups. They may not even look at work 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 Your Top Photos

It’s crucial that you only show your best photos. Like any competitive sports team, the group is only as strong as the weakest individual.

If this is your first time shortlisting your photos, 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 greatest 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 top 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, check out at our Lightroom workflow article.

8. Create a Relevant Base

Next, you can separate all your files by your rating, color, or flag selection method. Doing so allows you to select your images more efficiently.

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 moment’s notice.

Now you have your selected images, culled and rated/colored/flagged, it’s time to reduce the number of images.

A close up of various photos on a computer screen

7. Narrow Down the Selection

You have 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 content.

You don’t want to end up with images all shot from the same angle. That is more boring than daytime television. Instead, choose a body of work that represents your breadth of experience.

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 pictures 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 photos.

5. Get a Professional Opinion

The final step to narrowing down the number of images 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 print, but the world we live in is online.

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

You can use a website to show off your excellent photography style online. There are many photography portfolio websites you can try.

At the very least, you should create an account on a free website for photographers such as Flickr or 500px.

3. Create Your Own Photography Portfolio Website

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

I first created a site using WordPress. It runs millions on websites on the internet (including this one). It allows you to install your theme, design the website, and get your site up and running quickly.

You need to be a little bit tech-savvy to create a website. You also have to pay hosting fees and a theme. It’s worth it, and it’s a big step if you don’t know what you’re doing.

There are many themes and plugins you can use. Do some research to find the best one for your website.

I made my new website through Koken, which allows me to do the majority of things I need for free. It is perfect for photographers because it integrates with Lightroom.

Do not create a flash-based website because it’s horrible. It takes time to load and it doesn’t work on any iPhones or iPad. Not to mention that it’s prone to hacking.

If you have access to a domain, go for a WordPress website. It does take a little more effort to understand it, 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 portfolio website for free. You just need a domain for the latter, but we all have friends who know how the website world works.

If you don’t want to create a website, you can also always create an Instagram page for posting your top photographs online. It’s completely free, and with the right hashtags and geotags, you can reach a broad audience.

And what if you want to add a physical portfolio? Choose your top 12-15 images and create a mini-book or magazine. Give it to your potential client before you leave. That way, even if they aren’t ready to hire you right now, they will always have a copy of your work.

1. Leave a ‘Calling Card’

The benefit of a digital portfolio is that you can leave it with prospective clients or companies.

If you want them to remember you, create some postcards, and leave one as a reminder of who you are.

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

People shaking hands with potential clients

Conclusion

You need a photography portfolio that addresses its purpose. If you want to bring in more clients, share your best work online through 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 photographs, 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 did? 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 Photoshop slideshow to present your photography portfolio. 

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