How to build a photography portfolio (properly)

Thinking of starting a career in photography?

No matter what you shoot or what skill level you’re at currently, your photos deserve a proper portfolio.

Think about all the countless hours that go behind every shot.
All those unmarked hours spent setting up your shoot, huddled over your laptop in post, and not to mention all the practice that lead up to you capturing those single moments.

Don’t let those hours be spent in vain.

Here are 7 rules to remember when building your photography portfolio so you always frame your photos in the best possible light.

More is not merrier.

Leaving out photos can be tricky for photographers because you want to show off the depth and breadth of your skills. We understand. However, you should see it as cutting the fat as opposed to cutting out favourites.

Start by removing entire sessions. One or two shots from a session is all you need. Time-poor viewers aren’t interested in seeing a dozen shots of the same subject.

What’s more, paring back your selection shows that you are selective and value curation.

Let your shots speak for themselves.

If they’re already worth a thousand words, there’s no need for a thousand more.

If sharing the specific gear you used or the image’s backstory adds to the viewers experience. Keep it. If it doesn’t. Lose it.

If you are presenting your work in person and the viewer wants to know something, they’ll ask, which can be a great way to develop dialogue or narration throughout the presentation.

Work towards being a master of one.

No one expects you to be a master from the get go. Not even clients. But they do want to see that you are specialised in one or a few subjects/styles. You want to demonstrate that you can do the one thing they’re after, and do a great job.

That means if you want to focus on wedding photography, avoid peppering in corporate headshots or those macro shots of insects that you’ve been experimenting with.

Aim to be a photographer than can shoot a few things well and not a photographer that can shoot everything pretty well.

Bookend your book with your best.

Start with a good impression and leave on a good note.

Of course, you’re aiming to have a portfolio filled with equally strong images, but starting and finishing with a bang is a simple way to put your best foot forward.

Don’t use flash.

HTML trumps flash, hands down.

Flash sucks. it’s slow, it requires constant updates for rendering, and it doesn’t show up on some mobile devices.

Sequence sells.

Even if you want to take your viewers on an emotional journey, the path must be logical. Arranging the sequence of your portfolio by mood, colour, composition, movement or a combination thereof create a seamless flow for the viewer.

Get a different perspective.

Photography is an extremely personal practice and it’s only normal to feel defensive over your snaps. But seeking out advice from an expert or someone who’s been there and done that is one of the most effective ways for you to get better. In fact, it’s what separates the good from the great.

Seek feedback from those who genuinely want to make you better, and not just feel better.

Sorry, Mum.

Top 10 Travel Photography Destinations 2019

There are great photo ops wherever you go—and you don’t have to go far.

However, it does help when you find yourself surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, charming cities and picture-perfect moments that you’ve never encountered before.

We’ve researched and prepared shot lists for the top 10 places that are perfect for expanding and honing your travel photography skills. If you’re looking for that ‘next place’ to see and capture, look no further than this list.

1. Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Milky way at the Church of the Good Shepherd. Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Lupins on the lake shore. Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Mount John’s Observatory, Mount John. Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Recommended shot list:
– Lake Tekapo
– The Church of the Good Shepherd
– Mount John
– Stargazing in Tekapo (Dark Sky Reserve)
– Lake Alexandrina (15 minute drive away)

2. Thimphu, Bhutan

Thimphu city, Bhutan
Dochula Pass. Thimphu, Bhutan
Thimphu Market. Thimphu, Bhutan

Recommended shot list:
– Dochula Pass
– Buddha Dordenma
– Domkhar Palace
– Tiger’s Nest (Takstang) monastery
– Thimphu’s ‘Weekend Market’

3. Chefchaouen, Morocco

Medina. Chefchaouen, Morocco
Medina. Chefchaouen, Morocco
Cascades d’Akchour, in Rif Mountains. Chefchaouen, Morocco

Recommended shot list:
– Old City and Medina
– Rif Mountains
– Cascades d’Akchour
– Plaza Uta el-Hammam
– Ras el-Ma

4. Lijiang, China

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Lijiang, China
Tiger Leaping Gorge. Lijiang, China
Lijiang Ancient City. Lijiang, China

Recommended shot list:
– Tiger Leaping Gorge
– Lugu Lake
– Lijiang Ancient City
– Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
– Dry Sea

5. Barcelona, Spain

Sagrada Familia. Barcelona, Spain
Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter). Barcelona, Spain

Recommended shot list:
– Las Ramblas
– La Barceloneta
– Pedraforca
– Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter)
– Sagrada Familia

6. Kyushu, Japan

Hashima Island. Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan
Takachiho Gorge. Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan
Mt Aso Caldera. Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan

Recommended shot list:
– Hashima Island (Nagasaki Prefecture)
– Yutoku Inari Shrine (Saga Prefecture)
– Takachiho Gorge (Miyazaki Prefecture)
– Mt Aso (Kumamoto Prefecture)
– Beppu (Oita Prefecture)

7. Patagonia, Argentina/Chile

Bariloche in Nahuel Huapi National Park. Patagonia region, Argentina
Fitzroy and Laguna-De-los-Tres in Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia region, Argentina
Puerto Varas with volcano Osorno in background. Patagonia region, Chile

Recommended shot list:
– Bariloche (Argentina)
– Puerto Varas (Chile)
– Los Glacieres National Park (Argentina)
– Puyuhuapi (Chile)
– Marble Caves

8. Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca city. Oaxaca, Mexico
Hierve el Agua. Oaxaca, Mexico
Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman. Oaxaca, Mexico

Recommended shot list:
– Oaxaca’s Zocalo (main square)
– Hierve de Agua
– Ancient Mitla Ruins
– Templo de Santo Domingo
– Zona Arqueológica de Monte Albán

9. Porto, Portugal

Porto city. Porto, Portugal
Ribeira—the old town of Porto. Porto, Portugal
São Bento Train Station, Porto, Portugal

Recommended shot list:
– Waterfront at Bairro Da Ribeira
– The Dom Luís Bridge
– Mercado do Bolhão (market)
– Vila Nova de Gaia
– São Bento Train Station

10. Sapa, Vietnam

Temple on Fansipan Mountain. Sapa, Vietnam
Thac Bac Waterfall (Silver Falls). Sapa, Vietnam

Recommended shot list:
– Fansipan Mountain
– Mu Cang Chai (rice terraces)
– Thac Bac Waterfall (Silver Falls)
– Sapa Main Market
– Muong Hoa Valley

The 10 Commandments of Wildlife Photography

There are some rules within every discipline of photography that are meant to be broken in the name of exploration and experimentation—but not these ones.

These are the 10 commandments every photographer should follow religiously when they go ‘wild’.

1. Thou shalt be ethical

When you step into the wild, you are stepping into someone’s home.

Showing your subject and its surrounds the respect they deserve lies at the core of wildlife photography. That means not baiting or feeding animals, leaving the natural order of things unmanipulated and undisturbed and always putting the welfare of your environment before the shot. 

2. Thou shalt shoot in ‘golden light’

Midday is not your friend.

The ‘golden hours’ are the two hours after sunrise and the two hours before sunset. This is when light is soft, warm and perfect for your shots. Not only is your camera better able to capture and render ‘golden  light’, but your photos will possess a quality that simply cannot be replicated.  

3. Thou shalt know thy subject

Behind every great photo is a photographer who did their homework.

Read up on everything you can about your subject. For example, if capturing animals, read up on their surrounding environment and behaviours, or for plants, when they are in full bloom and if they’re

The more you know about your subject, not only do you increase your chances of getting some great shots, but you can avoid putting both you and your subject in a compromising position.

4. Thou shalt know thy gear

It’s not about the gear you’ve got, it’s how you use it.

Whatever your kit looks like, make sure you know your gear inside out and intimately. Firstly, because there’s no point having a top-end telephoto lens if you don’t know how to work your DSLR settings, and
secondly, you never know what is going to pop up in your viewfinder, so you’re going to want to be ready with every trick at your fingertips.

But it’s not all ISO this and aperture that.

Make sure you have gear that protects your gear. If you’re hitting the outdoors, be sure to invest in clothing and accessories that provide you and your equipment with protection, safety and comfort.

5. Thou shalt go incognito

Camouflage is key.

If you want to capture animals in their natural state, you have to do everything you can to not alarm them or bring attention to yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to go into full commando stalker mode, but unless you’re just shooting trees, it does call for some efforts to blend in to the best of your ability.


6. Thou shalt not use flash

Most pros avoid using flash.

Not only is a sudden burst of white light a great way to scare off or even provoke your subject, but the flash also produces a harsh, unnatural lighting that cheapens your shot. Remember to disable it before your next outdoor shoot!

7. Thou shalt focus on the eye

It’s all in the eyes.

Just as we feel connected with each other through eye contact, the same goes for photos of wildlife. The eyes capture emotion and character and if they aren’t in focus, the image doesn’t quite have the same effect or connection.

8. Thou shalt consider the background

The background is just as important as the subject.

Avoid cluttered or distracting backgrounds so that your subject remains the focal point and doesn’t get ‘lost’. Also be aware of ‘ugly’ backgrounds. You might have pulled off a great shot, but if the background hasn’t been considered, you will often be forced to either crop or scrap your photo.

9. Thou shalt be patient

Patience isn’t a virtue. It’s a necessity.

The wild is exactly that. Wild. It’s unpredictable and doesn’t play to your timing. If you want that photo that few are willing to wait for, then get comfy because waiting will always be the name of this game.

10. Thou shalt practice

Practice makes perfect.

The more practice you put in, the more you’ll get an eye for what looks good, and when that happens, the magic happens.

Richard I’Anson: A Look Behind The Lens

We sit down with your course mentor, Richard I’Anson, to pick his brain and get the story behind the man, behind the lens.

Q: Your iconic images for Lonely Planet make you one of the original ‘travel influencers’. Do you remember the image that first inspired you?

A: When I was planning my first seven month trip, I remember clearly opening a pictorial guidebook and there was an image of a Nepalese porter with a Himalayan peak behind him and I just looked at that and thought — I’ve got to go.

Q: What was your first camera?

A: A Yashica 35-ME rangefinder. I got it for my 16th Birthday.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between a hobbyist and a pro?

A: Hobbyists find it difficult to separate their emotion from the photo. It’s easy to fall in love with a photo just because you took it, or because of what is captured. It could be an exotic temple that you’ve never seen before. But objectively, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great photo. Pros are able to see the shot for what it is, without being influenced by emotion.

Q: How about the difference between a good shot and a world-class shot?

A: There’s a big difference. I’ve had thousands of images published in my 30+ year career and out of this, I’d say I’ve only captured a couple of hundred that might be considered ‘world-class’.

Q: Travel photography on social media; good or bad thing?

A: Overall I think it’s a great thing. My main issue with platforms like Instagram is that they can give people the illusion that they’ve taken a great photo based on the number of likes and comments from friends and family. But again, most of the time, this is purely based on an emotional or non-critical judgment. What I try to teach my students to do is to look at a photo objectively and critique it based on core principals.

Q: What is it that inspires you to teach your craft?

A: When I started, we didn’t have the internet and it was difficult to come by information on photos and photographers. I want to share what I’ve learnt with as many people as I can. Plus, I’ve found that by helping others, I am forced to reflect on my work and practice and in the process, hone my own skills and understanding.

Q: Any advice for the next generation of travel photographers?

A: Ultimately, the only way to practice and get better is to go out and travel. If you can, find someone to be a mentor who has been in the business for a long time to review your work objectively. From a practical standpoint, focus on building a collection of photos to show people that you can complete the task at hand—that you can deliver.

Q: Wrapping things up, ‘success in travel photography’ in 10 words or less?

A: The right place, at the right time, all the time.

The Road Less Travelled & Expand My. World

Dear Travellers,

The Road Less Travelled is a community of people who appreciate and love to travel. Our mission has been to create a place where people can come together and share travel stories and photography.

We’ve been building our community of like-minded people since 2010 and we appreciate every one of you for being a part of our journey.

We’ve been a little quiet lately because we’ve been working on something really exciting. It’s something our fans have been asking for and after a lot of hard work we’ve finally launched. We believe travel is all about learning and exploring new things and we’re here to help you do just that.

Introducing our new brand, ‘Expand My World’ featuring an in-depth course in Travel Photography by world-class master photographer, Richard I’Anson, to help you capture your unique travel moments with confidence on your next trip. Our aim is to enable you to take photographs of memories that will last forever and images that you’re really proud of. After all the best way to tell a story is through great images.

Join Richard’s course to find out why travelling to take photos is very different from taking photos while you’re travelling.

Richard I’Anson is a travel photographer who has had the privilege of getting paid to travel the world and do what he loves over the past 32 years. He has worked in over 85 countries and on all seven continents, building a career based on his twin passions for travel and photography.

He’s published eleven books including four editions of the best-selling Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography and large format pictorials Australia: 42 great landscape experiences, Nepal and India: essential encounters.

Richard’s Travel Photography course covers both the technical and artistic aspects of travel photography. We encourage you to continue sharing your travel photos and stories on Expand My World and with the help of our world-class photographers you’ll improve your skills and expand your world.

We’d love to hear your feedback so please get in touch.

Kind Regards,
The Team @ Expand My World
(formerly known as The Road Less Travelled)