Building a Portfolio
Before talking about portfolio at all, it’s important to ask yourself one question.
“What do I want to focus on in a photography business?”
Weddings, Bridals, Engagements, Families, Kids, Seniors, Babies, Newborns, Maternity, Studio lighting or natural lighting?, Commercial…etc. etc. etc. There are a lot of areas.
When I was first starting out, I had this idea that the more I did the better. The idea that the best photographer would be the one who could shoot everything!
After trying out ALL of these areas, I definitely discovered that some I enjoy MUCH MUCH more than others. Some I strongly dislike or am plainly not good at! I now only offer session types that I love. Why go to work doing something that you don’t like? Why spend time shooting in a way that isn’t your style? It takes all the fun out of an occupation that you surely got into because of personal enjoyment. If I am going to spend time away from my family, it better put a smile on my face!
The time you spend practicing your skills, is a great time to discover what you enjoy and what your personal style is. Once I figured that out, I needed to build a portfolio based on how and what I wanted to shoot. If you still don’t know what you’d like to focus on, or what your personal style is… spend some more time in the practice phase of self discovery.
I promise you you’ll be much more successful professionally if you have a clear vision of who you are, what you offer, what you like to shoot, and you have a portfolio that proves it all to your eager clients who book you BECAUSE of you as a PHOTOGRAPHER, instead of booking you because you do PHOTOGRAPHY. Let your work define yourself.
Narrow your Niche: As I have researched national successful photographers, ALL of them specialize. Hardly any of them are a “do it all” photographer. They usually do one thing, and do it VERY well.
1. The Purpose of a portfolio:
The portfolio is meant to give a visual understanding to your clients of the QUALITY of your work, the STYLE, and the CONSISTENCY.
A) Quality. Only feature the BEST of the BEST BEST BEST. Less is more.
B) STYLE. Only only only feature what you enjoy shooting. If you only show what you like to shoot and what your style is, clients will assume that their images will be in line with what they see. If you have a myriad of styles they won’t know what to expect, and might think the shoot will be one way, and have it turn out another. Not good.
Don’t showcase work just to show you’re “busy”. Only show the best, and only show your style. If there is only one shot from an entire session that defines your style, only show one shot. Less really is more.
C) Consistency. You want to show a variety of people in each category to show you consistently have good work. If you have one person over and over in a portfolio, it comes across like you had “one good shoot”. Variety gives a sense of credibility that you can consistently pull off great work.
2. Where is a portfolio?
Today, many people use a website as a portfolio. It’s a great way to organize the portfolio into category galleries. (i.e. Family, Children, Weddings, etc.) Blogs are useful as well, but usually don’t show as well as a website. Both are important for different reasons.
Before starting professionally, you should have an adequate showcase of images in your portfolio. It adds credibility and helps clients to view your work and have confidence in your abilities. However…
You’re never done portfolio building.
As your skills increase, you’ll likely put new things in and take older stuff out. Welcome to the never ending journey!
Brooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah. Brooke specializes as a Utah Senior photographer, Logan Senior photographer, Utah Family Photographer, Logan Family Photographer, Logan childrens photographer , Utah Childrens Photographer and is a photography teacher who enjoys teaching private photography lessons as well as monthly photography classes in Logan, Utah.
I need to start doing the less is more. I swear, my blog posts take forever to put together and I don’t even know if most people make it all the way through! 🙂
Honestly Abbie… I need to do the same thing! Recently, I’ve been trying to limit myself to 10 images per post or less…Its always amazing to me to see the photogs that I revere the most–usually post the least amount! I’m sure the images are particularly selected for their individual qualities… OR, just like you said, they realize how much time goes into a blog post of extended length and choose the top few for time efficiency?! Regardless, I’m hoping to be better! Less indeed is more!
My husband and I were just talking about this! Thank you so much for the post/ advice! How did you build up your portfolio? ex. did you offer free shoots or charge very little, did you practice on family? What would you recommend?
Helga! I know that some people would absolutely disagree with me, so take my words with a grain of salt! My very very best “portfolio” building experiences have been done for free–BUT!!!!!!!!! I was very clear that the reason they were “free” was so I could take control of every aspect of the shoot. It was not for me to “get practice” it was for my “portfolio”. In effect, I would choose locations, I would pick out the clothes, I would style the entire shoot to fit what I had in my own artistic mind…
It is my firm belief that if “portfolio” building is indeed intended to show what your style is, that you should be in control rather than shooting for a clients preferences and taste–which often happens when you start to charge–even if its a minimal fee. The way I look at it? If they are paying you, you are serving them. If they are not paying you, they are serving you 🙂 Just my two cents! But I must say, some of my absolute favorite sessions have been my portfolio building ones that I get to direct it all! The cool part, is that the participants or models always end up loving the images, we’re all happy in the end, other people see my work and HIRE me, to shoot the way I directed and visualized concepts for my other shoots. Thats what I call fun! How do I find people? I hand pick people I believe would work well with concepts I have in mind, or I advertise for models–(again being very very specific in what I’m looking for, and request a picture to be sent with those who are interested.) I ALWAYS communicate very clearly what the expectations are on both sides. They understand that they will be signing a model release, and following my directives, and in return, they are compensated with complimentary print(s) or image(s). Its been a fabulous experience, and one in which I still participate in, if I have a fun idea that I just want to go out and develop!
Thank you so much, that helped!
Brooke you are amazing, I love to read everything you put out there. And your pictures are wonderful. I just wish I lived closer so that I coul take classes from you. I have always loved Photography and want to get started in the business but feel so very lost. Thanks for what you share here. And good luck with everything.