Yesterday was Portfolio Day, so I thought I would share some of the most valuable advice on portfolios I’ve been given over the years!
First though, let’s talk about Portfolio Day. It was started by designer Audrey Gonzalez in 2018 as a way for freelancers to share their portfolios online as a sort of virtual job fair, and has grown into a worldwide event in the years since. It’s a quarterly event, so if you missed it yesterday, you’ll have a chance to participate again in July. If you want to share your portfolio, or if you’re someone who hires freelancers, check out the #PortfolioDay hashtag and account on Twitter!
Show The Work You Want To Be Hired For
As creatives, we’re going to take on work that we don’t necessarily love sometimes. But that doesn’t mean we have to show it in our portfolio! Make sure your portfolio is focused on the kind(s) of work you want to be hired to do. If you want to be a food photographer, you probably don’t need any photos of your kids playing soccer next to a photo of ice cream.
Your Portfolio Is Only As Strong As Your Weakest Image
Worry less about hitting a certain number of images in your portfolio and more about the overall strength of it. When people view your work, their perception of your ability is going to include your weakest image.
Start Strong, End Strong
Not only do you need to focus on the overall strength of your portfolio, but you’ll want to make and leave a lasting impression with the viewer. Start with an amazing, attention grabbing image, and end with an image they can’t forget, and you’ll be off to a great start!
Tell A Story
Think about the sequencing of your photos. Don’t just let them be in whatever random order the filenames dictate. Tell a story with the flow of your photos, take the viewer on a journey through your work if you can.
Think About Image Pairings
As you’re thinking about sequencing, also consider how photos look next to each other if you’re creating a physical book or creating a web page layout. If you have a two-up, maybe the images compliment each other with similar colors. Or maybe they contrast with opposite colors. Maybe the subject matter mirrors each other, or creates an interesting/funny juxtaposition.
Be Who You Are, Not Who They Want You To Be
Just because you work or want to work in a certain genre doesn’t mean you have to conform to what everyone else does. Take a chance and do something different so you can stand out from everyone else. Make sure your personality comes through in your work. As they say, there’s only one you, and your perspective is unique. It might take some time to find your voice and style, but it’s worth that time, effort, and experimentation to get there!
Show Work You’re Passionate About
One of my favorite portfolio meeting stories is from Jeremy Cowart. He told of a meeting he had with a potential client in the entertainment industry. He started off by showing them his celebrity portfolio, and they flipped through it quickly, unimpressed because it was the same type of shiny photos of famous people they saw every day.
He thought the meeting was basically over as soon as it began, but then remembered he had a book of photos from a personal project he had done after the Haiti earthquake. He pulled it out and handed it to them, and their eyes lit up as they started to look through it. This was something different that they didn’t see every day, so it caught their attention. They loved the stories of the subjects, and how Jeremy was able to capture such captivating photos with minimal gear. They could see the passion and heart in the images.
They ended up hiring Jeremy for some of the biggest campaigns he’d done at that point in his career, and it was all because he showed work he was passionate about.
More Helpful Resources
Building a Winning Portfolio: Editing and Sequencing Your Images with Stella Kramer
Become a better photographer through editing and sequencing! Join Stella Kramer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo editor, as she teaches you how good editing and sequencing can help to do a better job of telling a story with your work. You’ll learn the basics of editing and sequencing, the importance of knowing your objective, how to deal with critique, why you should stand behind your work, and the value in letting go. Stella brings all of these points home in a series of live edit and sequencing work sessions with three different photographic projects.
The Art of The Edit with Peter Hurley
It’s all about the edit! You’ve just had an awesome photo session and now you need to narrow it down to just the best ones. How do you do it? Join Peter Hurley as he walks you through a series of live headshot sessions and then talks through his editing process with the subjects at the end. Peter is joined throughout the class by Scott Kelby, and together they edit through multiple different shoots that Scott has brought in. Editing is all about narrowing shots down to just the ones that will go into your portfolio to help you get more work. Learn how to develop this muscle and find your own shabangs!
Professional Photography on a Budget: The 5k Challenge with Zack Arias
(NOTE: The portfolio section of this class begins at Lesson 9). What could you do photographically with five thousand dollars? Join Zack Arias as he sets out a challenge to show what can be done on a budget of $5,000. Zack does everything from buying the camera gear to covering his expenses for a weekend of travel in New York City, and even hiring a photo editor to sit down and help him edit his photos down to a tight new body of work. At the end of the project he’ll have new gear, an interesting experience, a new portfolio, and money left over to do it again.
Getting Your Portfolio Online Using Adobe Portfolio with Scott Kelby
Take advantage of the online portfolio option that is included in all Creative Cloud subscriptions, and showcase your work! Join Scott Kelby to learn how to use the latest templates and features found inside of Adobe Portfolio. In this class you’ll learn how to get started with Portfolio, how to build a single gallery, how to add multiple galleries, how to add a contact page, how to add an about the artist page, and how to customize the most important settings to make your portfolio reflect your personal style and taste. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to use once you learn the basics.