The Importance of a Photographer’s Portfolio

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What is a photographer’s portfolio?

 A portfolio shows a lot about you and your work. It is a collection of your photos created to show people your best work. Its purpose is usually to get a photography gig. Whether you want to do weddings, portraits, commercial jobs, a portfolio is the tool that shows a customer your capabilities.

Venice, Arcades, Doge's Palace


Why should you have a portfolio?

 You are at a special occasion or a friend introduces you to someone who needs photography work done. A portfolio is a way to show this person that you’re the one to do the job.

Grand_Canal_by_Annette_Schreiber          Venetian Gondolas


What should be in a photography portfolio?

 Some experts say that a portfolio is a printed presentation of your best work, showing your best skills.

Some say a portfolio should be tailored to the customer you’re approaching.

If your portfolio is a traditional folder of printed photographs, it will be much less dynamic than an online gallery could be..

Consider your audience. If you want to do weddings, your portfolio would contain portraits of couples, groups, wedding events like getting ready throwing the bouquet, and still-life shots including flowers, rings, and invitations. If you want to work for an online travel magazine, your portfolio should include landscapes, urban scenes and portraits. DO YOUR RESEARCH! Know your prospective customer’s needs and show that you can fill them.


  • Be Original

There’s nothing worse than having a portfolio that looks like every other portfolio. You want to be remembered! You want to leave a lasting impression. While it is useful to study other portfolios and web sites, imitation is NOT suggested.

Show some creativity in your thought process and reflect it in your work.


  • Content is King

Your portfolio represents what is most important to you. Play to your strengths. Your portfolio is a sales medium. Make sure the product you are selling is quality work that you stand behind. No one wants to buy an inferior product.


  • Editing

There’s an old adage that says, “Your portfolio is only as good as your weakest picture!” Show only your best work. Editing is critical. Be objective. Don’t get too emotionally attached to your work. Learn to eliminate photos that mean a lot to you. If you think a picture is weak, it probably is. Lead with your best shot. Be wise in your sequencing and don’t be repetitive. When a prospective client is finished viewing your portfolio they should feel like the same photographer took all the images!

  • Quality

 Make sure your prints or digital images are of the highest quality possible. It must be well-organized, cleanly design and presented in a way consistent with work and ethics.


  • Personal Project or Story

A story or personal project will tell a reviewer a lot about you and your capabilities. Single images are fine but they give no indication of how you approached your assignment. Including a story shows a reviewer you understand and can execute visual storytelling. Does your story have a beginning (opener), a middle (transit images) and an end (a closer)? Did you vary your perspectives? Did you shoot tight as well as wide? Did your pictures take the viewer on a journey?


  • Promo Cards

Absolutely essential! Have a good variety of promo cards which highlight your best work. List your name, website, phone numbers and email address on the promo cards. Also include your location. Don’t expect the reviewer to translate your area code to figure out where you are based.  A resume is something you might want to have handy as well, if applicable.



  • Digital vs. Print Portfolio

It’s not one or the other anymore. You must have both! Design your website in a similar style as your portfolio. Large single image home pages are very effective. Do not overdesign! The cleaner the look, the stronger the impact. Create easily navigable links to your galleries, published work, and contact information.


  • Keep It Current

Update your portfolio regularly. Add new work as you finish new assignments. Keep your images fresh, current and topical. Remove older images and clips as they will make your portfolio look dated.

small alley in Venice       Flooded


How many pictures and what should you include in your portfolio?

 Your portfolio should contain only 8 to 12 pictures. Photo buyers are busy people. The worst thing you can do is to overwelm them with photos that are redundant. You might be the best rose photographer in the world, but showing 40 pictures of roses will mark you as an amateur.

Venitian Door        Dead End or Way Out


Who will look at your portfolio?

 Well, no one. Portfolios don’t go out and find people. The fact that you have created a stunning showcase of your work won’t bring in one customer. You can create keywords or tags, title your images to maximize web-search results, and tell all your friends to go look at your new site. But finding people to look at your portfolio is your next job.

Print some business cards and go network with buyers.

Marketing and networking is the essential key to get your work out for people to see them and hire you

venice_bridge_by_annette_schreiber       Parking Gondolas at the Grand Canal in Venice


With this all being said, don’t wait for the perfect portfolio ever you might create. Get your pictures out now but stay with quality.




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