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.

To gain more practical knowledge into the wide world of travel photography, join our online course ‘Travel Photography with Richard I’Anson’ here.