Building a Better Photography Portfolio

Every photographer needs a portfolio; how else will you show off your work to admirers and prospective clients? Putting one together can seem overwhelming, but you can do it as long as you keep these tips and tricks in mind.

First, remember that your portfolio or website doesn’t have to be your best work. This may sound crazy, but but instead of stressing over which of your pictures is best, focus on putting together a representative collection of 10-15 shots. By limiting yourself to about a dozen photos, you’ll avoid overwhelming your viewers with too much information and help yourself focus on what makes your work unique.

Before you begin choosing shots, you need to consider the goal and audience for the portfolio. Are you looking to wow clients with your awesome event coverage, or are you hoping to sell stock photos of natural textures? If the portfolio is for a particular assignment or contest, these rules will be written out for you. If you’re on your own, however, spend some time thinking about what you’d like to achieve with your portfolio and who will be looking at it.

Now you’re ready to start selecting photos. As you sort through your work, earmark those shots that speak to you. Consider not just subject but also technique. If you find that you have way too many shots to create a single portfolio, you want want to organize them into galleries. These galleries can be organized by format, style, subject, or other factors. Web-based portfolios allow almost limitless storage space, but keep in mind that most people don’t want to look at hundreds of similar shots. Strike a balance between variety and quantity, showing range without losing the overall theme of your portfolio.

Although the stars of the show are, of course, your images, don’t neglect the text. Every photo should have some kind of identifier, even if it’s just the title and the date it was taken. You might also consider drafting a brief (less than 200 words) artist statement for the portfolio or gallery that explains your goals, inspiration, and methods for the shots.

Finally, get a second opinion before putting your work out there. Your friends, family, or spouse might not be the best choice for a critique since they’re more likely to be concerned about sparing your feelings than in giving honest feedback. There are paid services out there to evaluate your portfolio, but if you want to avoid shelling out the extra cash, you could offer to trade critiques with a fellow photographer or simply ask a colleague to take a look. It’s best to get someone with a good eye and a solid understand of composition, if possible.

Remember, your portfolio will always be a work in progress, so don’t stress over making it perfect.