About 6 months ago now, when I was getting started on creating a new portfolio from scratch I found it pretty difficult to know where to start. I had trouble finding helpful information and resources and relied heavily on word of mouth to figure out what approach I would take. I thought it may be useful to other photographers to do a little series of blog posts on portfolio production.
So we'll start today with purpose.
It may sound silly, but before you get started you'll need to decide what the purpose of this portfolio will be. Sure, the goal is to get a job, show your work, and sell your services. But what kind of work do you want? What do you actually want to be doing? Your portfolio should showcase this kind of work. You don't want to select several photos of editorial fashion and lifestyle images if all you want to do is food photography. Focus your subject matter to the types of jobs you'd like you get. If you want to apply to multiple industries, you should consider making a book for each industry you'd like to be considered in.
But why? Shouldn't I show off all my skills?
Yes and no. You want to show that you're a skilled photographer, certainly; you also want to show off an artistic style of some sort. After all, we're artists and when clients hire a photographer they expect to be able to anticipate what kind of pictures will be produced. If you're book is too varied it's hard for a client to predict what the outcome will be. This should also showcase your best skills, not just the ones you can get away with.
In the end, the goal is to showcase your skills while portraying a certain style and subject matter. If you start your portfolio with a narrow purpose it will be easier to create a more tailored and cohesive look.
If you're having trouble deciding how to narrow this down, ask yourself these questions to help decide:
1. What kinds of projects have you most enjoyed working on? Do you find it more enjoyable to photograph people or products?
2. Is there a certain industry you prefer to work within? Mechanics, food, toys, fashion, beauty?
3. Do you prefer to work on location or in the studio?
4. Take a step back and assess your work from an unbiased and critical stand point. What types of photos or subjects do you have the most success with? If this is hard, you can ask a friend (or some friends) you trust to help you critique your work.
Nail down a topic and direction first. Once you decide, you can narrow down your work to just what fits that purpose. You should have a more narrow body of work that represents both your best work and what you most enjoy. The next step is to start identifying gaps, but we will get to that another time.
Have you built a portfolio before? Do you have other tips? Leave a comment below and let me know how you decided what direct to take your portfolio and what tips you have for beginners!