How to Make a Photography Portfolio

how to make a photography portfolio

All it takes to make it as a professional photographer is talent, right?

Well, not exactly.

If you’re going to make your dream a reality and build a sustainable career from taking photographs, you need to get your work out there for people to see.

It’s not enough to just throw together your favorite images, though, as a bad portfolio is about as useful as no portfolio at all. However, a selection that is well considered and well put together will secure you work time and time again.

For inspiration you may check out these beautiful illustrator portfolios.

So, what makes a great portfolio? Here are eight tips for making one that will wow potential clients.

1. Create a Website

It’s great to have a physical version of your portfolio, but a website is imperative in today’s digital world for a couple of different reasons.

Firstly, the reach of a website is so much wider than that of a printed portfolio. It allows people that you’ve never even met to view your images, and so delivers much more opportunity for attracting new clients.

create a website

After all, there’s no way that a startup on the other side of the country is going to contact you about shooting images for their new website if you only have a copy of your portfolio in your office.

Secondly, it’s also much easier to update a digital copy of your portfolio. If you have an incredible new image, you’re going to want to be able to add it in immediately and without any hassle. Online content gives you much more flexibility to update and reorder your content as you learn what works for you: there’s no sense in sticking with the same printed images meeting after meeting if you know they’re not selling you well enough.

You could create a website easily with a simple builder like Wix.

2. Choose a Platform

For your website to be effective, it needs to be right for your audience; there’s no ‘one size fits all’ option when it comes to pleasing individual people, but with a little thought and effort you can ensure that you’re appealing to as many people as possible.

Be realistic in your technical abilities, and if you aren’t great at coding, leave it to the professionals. There are plenty of templates available from the likes of WordPress and Squarespace, so make the most of their services and don’t get in a position where an amateur website lets your images down. Not spending weeks building a website will also give you more time to get out there and shoot more incredible images to add to your website once it’s up and running.

When picking your portfolio template, keep your client’s user experience in mind. Will they find it easy to scroll through your images? Will your site be easy to navigate, or is the layout more complex than it needs to be? Can they access your images on their smartphone or tablet? If a client can’t easily see your images, they’ll simply find a different site where they can. Don’t lose out on business because your portfolio is difficult to use.

Think about the future, too. Might you want to sell your images at some point? Will you need to upload thousands of images over time? Make sure you choose a template that you can grow into as your photography business expands.

3. Edit, Edit, Edit

edit edit edit

Be ruthless with your content and see it with the eyes of potential clients: even if the image is pretty great, if there’s even one thing off with it then it cannot be included. Watch out for duplication, too: if you are a wedding photographer and you’ve done two Caribbean sunset beach weddings, pick your favorite and go with that one. Adding similar images from both weddings will give the impression that you are a one trick pony, or that you’ve been lazy with your portfolio. Of course, it’s fine to include multiple images from the same shoot, as long as they show your scope as a photographer.

If there are similar images that you love and want to show off, add a blog to your website in which you can feature the best images from each shoot that you do. This will also give clients a better insight into who you are as a photographer.

4. Know your Audience

Always keep in mind who your audience is, and ask yourself what they want to see from you. If you work across various areas of photography, consider having multiple portfolios. A mother-to-be who is interested in a newborn shoot won’t want to see the images you shot at a corporate event, so it makes no sense to feature them side by side.

Also consider why your audience is looking at your images. A client will use your portfolio to get to know your style, to make certain that it matches with their own aesthetic. So, even if you have a beautiful image with perfect lighting and composition, don’t include it if it’s far off from your usual style. Technical ability is obviously an important skill to display, but consistency is equally as vital to your audience. If you don’t have images in your aesthetic which showcase both, get out there and shoot new ones that do.

5. Order is Everything

order

You want your portfolio to create a narrative that a potential client can follow. Tell a story with your work, rather than jumping between images that have no relevance to each other. If all of your work focuses on one specific medium only (landscapes, for example), this will be simple to do, but even then you should consider grouping images by subject, mood, or any other criteria relevant to your work.

Don’t be tempted to put all your best work at the front: your first and last images should be memorable and have a real wow-factor. By mixing your favorites throughout your portfolio, your potential client won’t be tempted to stop looking at your images once they reach the ones that maybe aren’t quite as spectacular as your best work.

Organizing your images will also make your life easier if the client only wants to see portraits, for example. Rather than endless flicking and scrolling, you can quickly locate these images without losing your audience’s attention. This will make for a much more professional presentation, giving you more credit as a serious photographer.

6. Quality over Quantity

You’ll only hold your audience’s attention for a finite amount of time, so don’t waste any of that on images that aren’t up there with your best. Clients want to see what you are good at and where your strengths lie, so if an image doesn’t showcase that, leave it on your hard drive.

The same can be said for images that require lengthy explanations. Nobody will care whether you had to walk in the snow for ten hours with a bad knee to get a particular shot: if the image doesn’t speak for itself then it’s not saying enough to warrant being included.

7. Get to Know SEO

Once your online portfolio is up and running, you need to proactively get it out there for your potential audience to find. Search engine optimization (SEO) will make you more findable in search engines, and increases the chances of being contacted via your website. There are plenty of cheap (and sometimes free) SEO courses available online, so make some time to learn the basics.

Also ensure that you’ve chosen a website hosting company which allows you to create search engine friendly URLs and unique meta tags. Using these features effectively will drive traffic to specific web pages, and gives you more chance of getting potential clients past your homepage.

8. Marketing

art market and you

In addition to SEO, there are plenty of other online resources you can take advantage of to market your portfolio and therefor your business. Social media is a brilliant tool: just link your site to your pages and you’re good to go. By doing so, visitors are able to share your images on social media platforms quickly and easily; essentially doing your marketing for you.

If you have a client email list, look for software to help you manage it more efficiently. Programs like MailChimp help you effectively communicate with your audience which will aid retention, as and when you attract new visitors. 

Wrapping it up

It might seem like a chore to put a portfolio together, but if you want to get your name out there as a photographer then it’s imperative that you invest the time. Without a portfolio, it’s like applying for jobs without a resume.

Just as you would with a resume, continue to update and evolve your portfolio as you gather experience and your images improve. Keeping your content up to date will show potential clients what you are capable of when behind your lens, and is your best bet for gaining new clients.

About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

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