How to build a Powerful Photography Portfolio
– How to build a powerful Photography Portfolio –
[ Photography Portfolio & Text by Lorenz Berna ]
Nowadays, many aspiring photographers call portfolio any series of photos grouped together and poured into the web, losing -at least in my opinion- the true meaning of the Portfolio.
In this article, I will develop and illustrate what I think to be the best tips to make a good photography portfolio that has a strong impact on your viewers and represent who you are as a photographer.
Photography Portfolio : The Essence of your Photographic Skills
If I would ask you to create a photography portfolio of your work you’d probably let me see only a collection of your most beautiful and suggestive images. Isn’t it true?
Of course, it isn’t wrong but the purpose of a portfolio is not only limited to a collection of the best images. Actually, the primary purpose of a Photography Portfolio is to capture the attention of the viewer and quickly make him/her perceive the extent of your skills, both technically and creatively speaking.
Let’s say, you are a photographer with a passion for landscapes, for example.
Rather than publishing in your portfolio, a series of photographs of the same landscape, taken all from the same position, you should publish a series of photos of the same landscape but taken from very different perspectives or from the same perspective but with completely different lighting conditions.
Instead of entertaining your observers with 10 very similar pictures, annoying everyone, you could demonstrate them your technical and creative skills with some few variants.
A person who has a passion for portraiture could do the same by creating a portfolio made up of people of different ages from different sources of lighting.
Choose & Set Up Your Style
There are very few photographers out there who can be considered good in various fields of photography. Someone is brought or has a passion for landscape photography, some for portraits, some for street photography, others for travel photography or a specific photography technique such as long exposures with neutral filters or star photography.
Every one of us has a theme/field in which (s)he is more at ease.
This must be taken into consideration when you want to create your portfolio.
Create a portfolio based on your field of interest and try not to mix and dilute it.
If you are passionate about Travel Photography like me and you love to travel to make pictures, then create a portfolio based on this type of photos. Do not throw in, a photo of a ceremony that you maybe shot well during a friend’s wedding. Maybe the photos of this wedding were incredibly good and even have won some photographic awards, but if the weddings are not your style nor your primary vocation, do not insert them in the portfolio. By doing so, you’d risk creating an inconsistency and do not make the observer perceive your true specialty.
Less is More
Another common mistake that many aspiring photographers make, is to publish dozens and dozens of shots in their online portfolios. Too many!
Try to understand it from your own point of view. How many online portfolios have you seen in this last two months? And if you’ve looked at them, how much time did you spend watching the photos composing each one of them?
A good portfolio should not consist of more than 20 or maximum 30 images. Images that must be the best of what you can do, regardless of the emotional aspect connected to the images.
Today, selecting images is not so complicated, all the software (from Lightroom to Capture One Pro) allows you to make sortings, through the use of stars.
I personally use different softwares, so I have set up my own ‘standard procedure’ which remains always the same, whatever software I will be using at that perticular moment:
• Delete all the technically bad photos,
• Apply a 5-star mark to good photos that could fit in my portfolio,
• Apply a 4-star mark to valid photos which are not suitable for the portfolio but maybe for a future work.
So what if you have to manage more than 1000 photos?? How can you make a selection ?!
Yes I know, this is the dark side of the digital photography.
The best technique is to quickly look at the photos one by one in small size, using the keyboard direction keys, and marking the photos that immediately attract your attention.
Once you have done this, you have to restart the same procedure on the selected photos.
After 2 or 3 steps you have definitely selected the most interesting and visually valid photos.
At this point you’ll just have to start post-processing the remaining photos to optimize them. However, the ideal is maybe to do post-production at a different time.
Create a Contact Sheet
A contact sheet is the arrangement of pre-selected thumbnails images in order to give us a whole overview of our work.
To create a contact sheet, we can use Photoshop, Lightroom or one of the many others softwares for creatives.
Thanks to the drag-and-drop functions that most of them offer, we can move the images to our liking and give the order we prefer to create either a coherent visual storytelling or, more simply, a pure and simple aesthetic harmony.
Once the contact sheet created, save it, print it (as it’s very nice to actually see it!) and use it for reference in the development of the definitive future portfolio.
Publish Your Portfolio
• Selection: done!
• Post-Production: done!
• Contact Sheet: done!
Well done! Now you just have to close the circle by publishing your work.
As we are in the digital age, here I’ve taken into consideration web publishing and not paper publishing.
For that, you have two options:
1. Publish your photos on a website
2. Publish your portfolio on an image gallery
1. Websites : you can either create the whole structure of the site -yourself or by entrusting the work to a web designer- or chose an ‘all-done’ template by providers like Wix, Photoshelter, etc…
2. Image Gallery : you could take advantage of existing services, perhaps adopting the premium features (paid). I’m talking about the services provided for example by SmugMug, Flickr, 500px and more…
Personally, I have preferred to rely on Photoshelter, because it gave me the opportunity to choose from a few customised templates as well as setting a Shop easily accessible to clients.
Anyway, whatever your choice is, the site should be clean, responsive, without frills, sufficiently elegant and easy to navigate. And most of all, the photos must be and remain, the key element.
I believe that a good compromise, is to publish photos in high resolution (1500px major side should be sufficient) but minimizing the weight of the files.
To reduce the weight of the pictures to load on the website, without compromising the quality, you can reduce the quality to 60-90% when saving the file, or take advantage of dedicated tools like JPG Mini.
The Importance of Sharing
There are photographers who have arrived at this final point but lack on sharing, whether due to reluctance to do it or simply by ignorance on where and how to do it.
People do not come to your photography portfolio just like that.
They go on social medias or on your blog (better). If you want to get noticed, you have to make sure you are present in the same places as other photographers are today. Nobody forbids you to stay in your home, hoping that someone will ring your bell to see your photos, but unfortunatly, it is very unlikely to happen. In a few words : if you want to be seen, you need to share!
That’s it for now, hope this has been helpful somehow.
Be Happy, stay in Focus and Travel more.
– Lorenz –