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A Comprehensive Guide to Mastering the Art of Photography Portfolios

Building a photography portfolio is one of the first steps to making money as a photographer. It allows you to show off your best work to potential clients and helps others see your skills and value as an artist. Even the most successful people in the industry keep their portfolios updated with their most recent work, so it definitely makes sense to consider it as part of your work gear. If you don’t have a photography portfolio yet and wish to create one that you can be proud of, you can follow our brief step-by-step guide (and bonus tips!) below.

5 Steps to Making a Photography Portfolio

You don’t have to wait until you’ve reached certain milestones in your career before creating a good portfolio. In fact, it’s exactly what you need in order to get into photography. Here’s how you can start:

Shoot More

As a main requirement for your portfolio, you’ll need take as many (good) photos as you can. And as a beginner photographer, you probably won’t have paid gigs yet, but that’s okay. Take the opportunity to do free or cheap shoots for people you know until you have fairly enough photos to start your portfolio with. As you go along, you can add more (and better) photos that clients will want to see.

Design and Specialize Your Portfolio

Before choosing your images, plan how you want your portfolio to look like. Will you be featuring one image per page or a collage? Will the photos be arranged in a certain way? Aside from that, you’ll want to also specialize your portfolio to appeal to a particular market. Create separate portfolios for wedding photography, event photography, newborn, and maternity portraits, and other unique photography niches. This will help you start out in certain areas of photography.

Carefully Select Your Featured Images

This is where the fun starts! You finally get to choose photos you want to include in your portfolio. Keep in mind that this can be the most time-consuming step, and that’s okay - you really want to take your time with this one. Aside from featuring your best snaps, make sure that no two photos are too similar to each other as this may suggest that you’re a lazy photographer. So if you’re photographing people, don’t include subsequent shots with just subtle changes in the position of their body or in the lighting. There should be pretty obvious differences that will help show your creativity as a photographer.

Consider the Order of Images

Here’s one thing you should remember when placing your photos in order: Clients won’t always finish looking through the entire portfolio, so you’ll want your first image to be amazing. Then again, there are also clients who look for versatile photographers, so you’ll want your last image to be excellent. Maintain the momentum by mixing your favourites in the middle and book end them with remarkable images.

Produce High Quality Prints

One of the secrets to creating a visually appealing portfolio is to make sure that you produce the highest quality prints possible. First thing you need to remember is that your image files should have very high resolutions, as pixels matter when printing. If you’re having them printed by someone else, go to a trusted photo printing shop that is known for producing accurate and high quality coloured prints. And if you’re printing it yourself, you’ll need a reliable, professional photo printer.

5 Tips for Creating a Strong Photography Portfolio

Anybody can create a photo portfolio, but only a few will really make an impact. Here are a few tips to ensure that your portfolio will be professional and worth looking at.

Cut Back

Think of your portfolio as a sneak peek into your artistic style and abilities as a photographer. It’s not supposed to feature all of your photos, but rather just a handful of images that really speak to your viewers. If you find something off in some of your images, don’t include them. You can always feature your other favourites in a blog or online album.

Choose Images with Impact

If you have to explain why a particular photograph is great, don’t include it in your portfolio. Your potential clients won’t really care if you braved storms just to capture an amazing image if the results don’t show. Remember, your photographs should speak for themselves. You can always share your more challenging photos later on, but keeping them out of your personal portfolio helps you cut back on the number of pages and keeps your portfolio strong.

Seek a Second Opinion

If you really have difficulty letting go of images, it helps to get a second (or third) opinion from another photographer, or enroll in a portfolio critique. Ask them what they think and how they feel about your photo. Doing so can help you see your images from other people’s perspectives, giving you better judgement over whether or not any of them are worth including in your portfolio.

Think of Your Audience

Speaking of your target audience, they’re particularly important when it comes to deciding on the design and content of your portfolio. Think about the people who will be looking at our portfolio. What will they want to see? Choose images that you believe your audience will want to pay you to create for them. The same goes for the content and design for your online website.

Keep it Simple

Stick to your portfolio’s purpose: to show your best photos. There’s no real need to use flashy paper, long captions (if any), and other elements that may take the focus away from your work. Make your photos the main feature of your portfolio and allow them to speak for you. As long as you’ve chosen the right kind of images to feature and continue to build your portfolio along the way, you can rest assured that it will represent you well to your market.

What should be in a photography portfolio?

The trick to building a successful photography portfolio isn’t having the best gear or getting the most epic shots. It’s all about showcasing how you can perform the kind of work you want to pursue in a way that impresses clients. Said differently? Share your dream work! If you’re hoping to break into product photography for an outdoor company, look at your dream client’s website or social media. What kind of photographs do they use? Is it a simple product shot? A lifestyle shot? A mix of both styles? Then, take that intel and create your portfolio to match it - with a bit of your own flair to help you stand out from the competition. A winning photography portfolio also means you need to remove or separate your not-so-ideal work from your dream-client work. If you’re making ends meet by shooting weddings, but you’d much prefer outdoor-gear shoots, create two separate portfolios: one for weddings (to keep the lights on) and one for outdoor gear (to move toward your goals). That way you look like a dedicated and spot-on professional in your field, and you can attract both types of clients, without confusing them.

How many photos should a photography portfolio have?

While it’s tempting to throw any and every top shot in your portfolio, it’s important to resist the urge. Be critical about your work and choose the top eight to 15 photos that illustrate your versatility behind the camera. Again, look at that dream client’s photo content. What type of imagery do they use? Now match it - with your signature style, of course. You can always create several photography portfolios for your different niches. That way you’re not limiting your potential subject areas, but you’re still portraying yourself as an expert in each field. It’s also worth noting that just because a photo doesn’t go in your top professional folder, that doesn’t mean it can’t go anywhere. Share it on social media - which, in reality, is almost a version of a portfolio within itself. That way clients who are interested in you can see your portfolio, then go deeper via social media for a broader look at your work.

What size should a photography portfolio be?

If your online photography portfolio is too big and doesn’t load, there’s a good chance that photo editor or potential client you’re trying to impress will simply click away because they’re too busy. That’s why it’s critical to size your images correctly for the web - something you can do when exporting from Lightroom. So what size is that? StatCounter says the most common resolution for a screen is around 1366×768. The highest is usually 1920×1080. With that in mind, if you keep your photos around 1920 pixels wide or 1440 pixels tall, you should retain quality without compromising on load speed, says

 How do I get my photography noticed?

There are a host of ways to get your photography out in the world, and some require more legwork than others. One of the best ways is sharing your work on social media and adding focused hashtags and geotags, while also building up your following (and following and engaging with those potential clients you’d want to work for.) Other options on the social media front include hosting Instagram takeovers with accounts in your field. You can also create a photography blog to showcase not just your images, but the thought process behind your images - something editors love to see. Or, you can cold pitch potential clients and editors with a letter of interest. If you’re really stuck for ideas, consider looking at how your photography role models market their work. Adopt what feels right to you, and forget what doesn’t. Promoting your work may feel weird at first, but it’s essential if you want to make this passion a career.

What is the best portfolio resolution?

The best resolution for an online photography portfolio is about 1920 pixels wide or 1440 pixels tall. That’s the ideal size that will be sharp enough to impress potential clients with sharp, clean imagery. But, at the same time, with these pixel counts, the content won’t take precious minutes to load - minutes that, ultimately, will likely leave those potential clients annoyed or distracted by an incoming email. If you can, test your online photography portfolio in different browsers, laptops, and on mobile. That way you can make sure it looks good and loads quickly - guaranteeing you nail that important first impression. If you’re creating a printed photography portfolio, follow our guide to professional photo printing to optimize your printed work.