If you start getting serious and want to organize your photography work properly to show it to the public, it is essential to build an effective portfolio of your pictures.
This is not the only aspect to be taken into account. Working as a professional, you’ll also have to deal with Marketing, Copywriting, SEO, etc. However, a good portfolio is the first piece of this great work that will make you known to your audience and attract potential clients to your business.
Consider that even if you don’t need it for work, creating a portfolio is always a good exercise. It helps to keep your images organized, develop a critical eye and recognize your own improvements over time.
How to build an effective photography portfolio?
I will help you to do it in this guide. First of all we will see what a photography portfolio is and then we will analyze step by step how to build it.
What is a Photography Portfolio?
A photography portfolio is a selection of images that constitutes the best of a photographer’s work. The aim is to be able to show a potential client or a person interested in the kind of photography you are dealing with what are your skills, your style and your experience.
What is it for?
Think of your portfolio as a business card!
It will always be available when the time comes to show someone your work. The eye wants its part and as a photographer you will have to try to present your images well. In this way you will make a good impression when you approach a new client and increase your chances of success.
How to Generate the Necessary Content?
If you are just starting out and don’t have many images available, you may be wondering how you can generate the right content for your portfolio.
Let’s say, if it’s a portfolio of landscapes, it won’t be so difficult but you’ll have to travel to get a wider selection of images. Instead for a portfolio of portraits I suggest you to start offering your work for free or at low cost to friends and relatives. You will be able to gain experience and accumulate new content for the portfolio until the time comes to set prices and start to enter the market.
One option is also to offer yourself as an assistant for a professional photographer, follow him and learn from his experience. Not only will it be faster learning, but you will also have many possibilities to generate content and the support of a person already established in the industry.
How Many Photos Should Be in a Photography Portfolio?
The portfolio is a careful selection of images and we will have to be very critical with our work. Let yourself be helped by the criteria of those around you, family and friends. Try to get to a minimum of 10-15 unique photos per gallery, then you will improve your selection with experience, over time.
To help you with your selection, you’ll need to keep your photos organized. Using tags, colors and scores on Adobe Lightroom or Bridge you can select in an organized way, setting an effective workflow.
The amount of images and content to choose from depends on you, the type of photography you are working on, and the audience you are addressing.
For example on my website, in the World Travel gallery I decided to include 30 images with the best of my travel photography. By showing them in “Masonry”, they don’t take up much space and overall show a good synthesis of my photographic style. It is important to try to maintain a uniform style, without mixing color and black and white photos, as well as trying to insert images that consistently show the diversity and beauty of your work.
The Argentine photojournalist Rodrigo Abd for example, divides his work into stories with text attached and each gallery includes between 15 and 20 or so photos.
Erick Johansson, Swedish surrealist photographer, shows his portfolio with more than 50 images directly on the homepage of his website. Although they may seem too many photos for a portfolio, presented in this way they are pleasant to scroll through and show the great variety of his work.
Although it has always been said that the portfolio must contain a very small amount of images, in reality this is not always the case, the number varies from photographer to photographer. What is certain is that the gallery must follow a homogeneous style and that each image must possess great visual strength, coming from light, composition, color, meaning or a combination of the whole.
If, despite the help of people close to you, you are still not sure of the final choice, let yourself be helped by a professional photographer with experience in the kind of photography you are dedicated to. Be prepared to accept this criticism in a constructive way, without letting yourself be influenced too much. After all, you have to follow your instinct: it’s your photography, your style and you have to try to carry it forward in your own way.
How to Present a Photography Portfolio?
The choice here is between paper and digital.
Instagram is also a “must” nowadays, many companies use it and it is convenient to have a complete portfolio of your work to share directly on the social network of excellence for images.
If you want to create a professional portfolio website you can create with a developer a page tailored for you in HTML code. Otherwise WordPress.org is a great option, which will allow you to customize through plugins every detail of the site. Squarespace also offers a wide variety of ready-made templates dedicated to photographers.
Personally among the previous solutions I choose WordPress, the most versatile and complete option, although you will have to spend a little more time to learn how to use it compared to “Drag and Drop” platforms like Wix or Squarespace.
While in the “Drag and Drop” platforms Hosting and domain are generally included in the package, on WordPress.org or with an HTML website you will have to buy them separately. I wrote something about this in a recent guide, point 9.
In the digital portfolio upload lightweight photos (possibly under 200 KB) in high web quality, to ensure optimal loading speeds. Optimizing images for the web before uploading them to your digital portfolio is important. If you are looking for a more in-depth explanation on this topic, take a look at this previous article on How to optimize images for the web with Photoshop.
It is also always good to print a paper photography portfolio. Although you may have less opportunity to use it in the modern digital world, it will still be a great satisfaction to see your work printed on paper in high quality book format.
Try to take great care of the design, both in the paper and digital version, a fundamental aspect in a photographer’s portfolio, which says a lot about you.
Finally, consider the possibility of inserting extra content:
- A brief introduction to the gallery;
- Titles or descriptions for individual photos;
- Dates and locations.
Especially in the portfolio of a photojournalist these are important and complementary elements in order to tell a story.
Get Inspired by the Photography Portfolios of Other Photographers
I have already shown you some examples in point 4, but there are many others. Depending on the genre you are dedicated to, whether it is travel photography, wedding, reportage, sports, events or commercial, you will have to try to find a creative and effective way to show your best work.
Let yourself be inspired and build a unique and original portfolio!
As you can see, build a photography portfolio is not easy. It requires content, experience, selection criteria, time and patience. However, it is something that a professional photographer cannot miss and that will give you the opportunity to showcase your work properly. The next step will be to make people and potential clients see your work. We will deal with this in detail in one of the next articles.
If you have any comments on the subject, write me in the box below!