***This tutorial was posted on our expansive photography forum; however, we think it’s so rad that we just had to share with you, too***
Developing a strong portfolio can be an ongoing and difficult process; however, it is also rewarding and the end result is a piece of work you can be very proud of.
Portfolio building takes a variety of forms: shooting PB clients for your business, personal collection for a special project, an artistic portfolio for a book or exhibition, or a professional portfolio (i.e. for a ClickPro Application).
Step 1: Goal and Vision
Developing an artistic vision for your portfolio can become a daunting philosophical journey. Your portfolio is meant to showcase your artistic vision, but the process may feel like an exploration of self, and perhaps this wasn’t your original intention. I felt like this when I built my portfolio for Click Pro and thought, “I am trying to show myself, not find myself!” It is a bit of an internal struggle, but it is also why this process is so rewarding, no matter where you are in your journey.
I felt like this when I built my portfolio for Click Pro and thought, “I am trying to show myself, not find myself!” It is a bit of an internal struggle, but it is also why this process is so rewarding, no matter where you are in your journey.
To ease the discomfort, have a vision beforehand. Here are some questions to help you:
- What are my strengths? Demonstrate how you stand out as a photographer. Technical skill may be required, depending on the type of portfolio you are developing.
- What story am I trying to tell? If you are curating an artistic portfolio, you may have had a strong vision from the start. Excellent! Perhaps you are telling the story of you… where you are at presently in your skills, creativity, and vision.
- Does my work from the last 6 months differ greatly from my work in the past year? Ensure you have enough work to showcase your current abilities. Portfolio “filler” images that don’t quite fit will make it harder to achieve your goal and will also be discovered during Step 3.
- Who is your audience? Are you doing this for yourself or for someone else? Either answer is correct and must be determined at the start of the process.
Step 2: Curation
Your portfolio should always showcase your best work, through the eyes of your chosen audience. This can be time-consuming and challenging since you must keep an objective eye. If you are building a portfolio for the Click Pro application, you have the benefit of the Pre-Application Package. The rubric included is a great resource, even if you are just looking for ways to improve your skills in different areas.
Unlike a museum or gallery, you are curating work that is your own. One way to accomplish this is to treat it like a self-evaluation. Spend time with each image and compare it to the rubric, or to your overall vision. This introspective approach is so important to achieving your goal.
Step 3: Feedback
Receive feedback from your audience. If you’re putting together a book for your family, ask your children to select some of their favorite images. If you are applying for Click Pro, join a prep group or start your own. Successful groups have a limited number of participants and general time frame for their applications.
Giving feedback is just as important as receiving it. It can help you see things in the work of others that you may have forgotten to look for in your own work and helps foster your critical eye.
Constructive criticism of your images will help determine which ones should stay and which ones should go. While some comments can be taken with a grain of salt, more often than not, people are really giving the portfolio their heartfelt consideration and wish for you to succeed!
Step 4: Revision
You spent a lot of time in step 2 really getting down and dirty with your images. But it’s not over yet! After a round of feedback, you’ll want to review your selections. Based on the feedback provided, determine which images are worth keeping. Some may require a quick edit (perhaps it had a distracting element or a heavy eye adjustment). You may also have suggestions of images on your website or IG feed to consider adding.
It is rarely the case where you are able to finalize your portfolio as soon as you’ve done the first revision. Steps 2-4 can revolve several times before you feel it’s complete. It’s a bit of an organic process this way… you are potentially working on a portfolio for several months, with several rounds of review. In that time, you may be working with clients with the rubric in the back of your mind, shooting intentional portfolio-worthy images.
Step 5: Presentation
The time will come (oh, I promise, it will!) when you decide your portfolio is complete. Whether it has been a few weeks or a few months, congratulations! You have poured your soul into the project.
Based on your vision and goal, you will have a sense of the best way to present your images. No matter what, I also suggest creating a print copy. That way, you can review it in years to come and curate a long-term look at your growth. Many photographers curate a new portfolio once a year or so. This is in the form of Flickr albums, photo books, gallery submissions, and more.
Like what you read? There’s all this and more when you have a forum membership!