A professional photography portfolio is something that every photographer should invest in, as it’s a great way to showcase your work, and create interest in your art form.
I’ve created three different photography portfolios in the past. I look back on the first two now and cringe, so I decided to write a post which will help you to learn from my mistakes.
This is your portfolio, so it’s important that you only share your very best photos, because the entire portfolio is only as strong as your weakest photo.
This is probably going to take a few hours if this is the first time you’re creating a portfolio.
What I want you to do is go trough all of your images, no matter how many thousand you have, and mark all the images you really like with a 4-star rating. The further back you go, the easier this becomes, because they older photos probably aren’t as good (true for me at least).
You’ll soon start to realise that you need to mark all your images with a star rating when you import them in the future.
The exact number of images you end up with is irrelevant really, because we’re about to narrow them down. Produce a collection of image that you like, and then leave them alone. Go away, and come back the next day.
Narrowing Down The Number of Images
When you come back to the photos, you will have fresh eyes. Now it’s time to get the selection of photos down to less than 100.
The first thing I like to do is to go through all the photos again, about four or five times. Each time becoming more and more critical about the quality of my work. This helps me to lose any sentiment behind the photos, and focus purely on the quality of the images.
This is your portfolio, so it’s important to only showcase your best work.
Once you’ve produced a more selective collection of photos, it’s time to share them. The first step I recommend is to post the entire collection on Facebook.
Share them with your friends, and ask for feedback. It’s important to know which images are the most popular with the ‘average’ person, because these images are the ones that you will want to put front and center in your portfolio.
The final step to narrow down your portfolio is to ask a photographer what they think. Or failing that, your most photography savvy friend. Someone who’s opinion on the matter you value. They will be able to give your their honest opinion on what they think of your photos, and point out the best one.
Forums are really good for this also.
The last time I started this step, I had over 200 photos, and when I was done, it was down to 70. That’s after my third time doing this.
Number of Albums
Rather embarrassingly, my first website had my photos split up over about 12 different albums, some of which contained 20 photos, and others which only contained two.
The names were ridiculous. I even had separate albums for people indoors and people outdoors. Don’t do this, less is more.
Decide on the most sensible way to divide up your portfolio, by thinking about what you want to do with them. If you’re a professional fashion photographer then you will have quite specific album names. If you’re just collecting a nice selection of images, then you can be a bit more relaxed than this.
I like to keep mine really simple. Peopleand Places. Any photo with a person in it goes in ‘People’, and photo without, goes in ‘Places’.
That way, I’ve not got different albums for cityscape, seascape, landscape, night, fashion, portraits, event, street, etc. Nice and simple, and rather importantly: easy to browse.
Print or Digital?
Photography lives in the print, but the world we live in is digital.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a printed version of your portfolio (I thoroughly recommend one), I’m just saying that you absolutely need a digital version.
That means creating your own website, or at the very least, an online account such as Flickr or 500px.
I’m personally using an Iconify account at the moment, and I can’t help but recommend it, and you’ll see why in the next section.
Displaying your Photography Portfolio
I’m talking specifically about an online portfolio here.
There are many different routes you can take, and I’ll explain the three I’ve tried in the past.
I originally started using a platform called WordPress, which runs millions on websites on the internet (including this one). It allows you to install your own theme, and get your website up and running in no time. You need to be a little bit tech savvy, and you also have to pay hosting fees, and pay for a theme. It’s worth it, but it’s a big step if you don’t know what you’re doing.
This is how I did it the first time. I can’t complain, because it led me to where I am today, but I ended up with a really flashy website, which was complete overkill.
Do not create any flash based websites. It’s horrible, it takes time to load, and it doesn’t work on any iphones or ipads.
While we’re on the subject of horrible website ideas, don’t have any music which auto-plays either. Save that for your Tumblr.
My second website can be viewed here. As you can see, I went the other way and I created a very simple website, which focused purely on the images. This design came with a different set of problems though.
As I use a mac, I can scroll sideways, but most people can’t. That makes navigating my website hard, and as one visitor kindly pointed out, it made the design ‘obnoxious’, haha.
So finally, I created a website using Iconify, which costs $5 a month. It’s about the same cost as any other website, and I can still buy a custom URL have it automatically redirect there.
As it stands, my portfolio isn’t going to rank in Google any time soon, and I can’t use it to blog, but it serves a purpose. If you want to do either of those two things, then you need to create a WordPress site.
For the purpose of this tutorial though, I wanted to show you how you should be displaying your images, regardless of platform.