Creating the Strongest Portfolio

As a professional photographer (or someone who hopes to be one) you are probably taking many pictures all of the time. This is great because these can really help you to develop a good portfolio that is representative of your personal vision or style.

Unfortunately, that is not always the only thing that a potential client or customer is looking for. This means that your portfolio must continually evolve and expand to not only demonstrate your artistic viewpoint, but also to show that you are working on a professional basis too.

The Customized Portfolio

How can this be done? Firstly, it requires that you view the portfolio as something that should be easily customized to meet the demands of each client. For example, let’s say you are invited in for a meeting with a magazine’s art director you will want to incorporate some of your more innovative and creative pieces. If, however, you are asked to present your portfolio to a corporate office you should be sure to include images and work that is representative of what that client might need.

Clearly, this means you are going to have to understand your particular areas of specialization, and then make a very organized system for allowing your portfolio to reflect them. This could be something as simple as a filing system where tear sheets and copies of commercial work are stored alongside high-quality prints of your favorite “art” shots. These can then be pulled from the files as needed, and quickly inserted into the portfolio.

The Contents of the Portfolio

It is perfectly fine to have unpublished and un-purchased works in your portfolio too because the client is more likely to hire someone with the right “eye” rather than the right history. It does help, however, to be able to show if you have already worked with several other clients.

The next thing to consider, where a strong portfolio is concerned, is the proper way to present it. For one thing, you could easily present someone with the “standard” portfolio, which looks like a binder or notebook full of images. This is the most common way for photographers to work, and almost any photographic supply store makes a nice array of empty binders available.

Perfecting the Presentation

Of course, if you want to demonstrate to the client that you are technically skilled and savvy, you can also send them an electronic portfolio too. This might be a very nice package with specially designed proof sheets, a CD containing watermarked copies of relevant photos, and even a brief biography. (We don’t recommend releasing high resolution files to potential clients because this can leave the photographer open to easy theft of their works). This approach can be easily done by photographers using Photoshop, or its coordinating Lightroom companion.

If you have a website you can also direct potential clients to look at your work through an emailed “link” to the related gallery. For example, if you do a lot of architectural work and are hoping to get hired by an interior design magazine, you can send a link to your website’s gallery pages to the appropriate staff member. This will give them a chance to also browse through your other works too, and it won’t require any paper or printing!

There are also printed portfolio options as well. These can include individual works that you have done, and it might even include a much more expansive view too. For example, it is not uncommon for a photographer to use a self-publishing website to create their very own “coffee table” book. They can forward a copy of this book to a potential customer if it is relevant to the work and it would make the appropriate impression.

Choosing the Cream of the Crop

It is important to remember that your portfolio has to contain only the very best examples of your work, and is a powerful marketing tool. It is not the place to cram too many images or examples of your work, and is best done with an eye on the work you are seeking to win.

Because of this, you must also remember to use the finest materials in the portfolio too. For instance, if you can laminate some of the tear sheets of your work, then go ahead and do that because this gives a very professional “finish” to the portfolio. If you have to reproduce an image, do it on the best paper and with the fullest saturation available too. While an inferior image can never be improved through a great photographic paper, an excellent shot could be viewed in a less favorable light if it is grainy and printed badly.

Follow Up is Essential

Finally, one of the best tips for creating a stronger portfolio actually has nothing to do with the portfolio at all; instead it has to do with the photographer. If you are asked to submit your portfolio, and you are sure to follow the steps already suggested, you can complete the favorable impression by following up with an acknowledgement of the meeting or the opportunity. Letting a potential client see that you are professional, creative, and courteous often positions you in a very positive way and can lead to ongoing work.