Portfolio Image for featuring in Article

Before Clients – How to Build Your Photography Portfolio –

Photography, at some point, moves from hobby and passion to business, for many.  As I write this I cringe a bit when referencing something that is so much fun becoming WORK, or business.  Yikes! But it’s just a light that goes off that says “hey, this could be my job”.  It did for me.  I was and still am excited at the thought.  Step number one is to get images so that someone with real money can see what you can do for them.

It’s easy to build a collection of images once those around you realize that you produce professional quality images.  You need to take the next step to say yes and do the shoots to get the images.  Once you start, what are the next steps?

Portfolio building with the help of friends and family is, by far the best way to build your initial image collection. Children’s photography, portrait photography, senior photography, headshots photography, are some of the specialties to pursue first with this technique. 

For more commercial pieces you may need the help of folks interested in modeling or acting or real estate or interior design professionals.

Many times when your shots of your own family are seen by others the connection is made and they will ask for you to do photos.  Product photography can start today with a product in a natural setting in your home or friends.

What Is the Goal of the Portfolio

Basically, to convince someone visually that you have the ability to fulfill their needs for imagery for their website, printed material, or whatever.  That was an explanation directed to more commercial photography.

Then we have the portraiture and the wedding world.  One needs to show group shots and individual images in a way that could be interpreted as being good people photography.  Expressions show comfortable, relaxed positioning, posing, that is the way folks would want their portrait, wedding photos to look.  Awkward, stressed expressions and positioning of groups without any attempt at posing is not the professional way.

Journalism Photography is distant from my knowledge but I’m sure it has more to do with telling a story visually and recording without being a participant in events.  The editor looks deeper for what when how something came to be in front of your camera.

Size of the Portfolio

Keep it small and be sure it consists of your best images.  Creative, Commercial, and Portrait photography stick with the 20 rule.  Wedding photography needs to show what you sell.  On a good day when all is at its best, an album can be an awesome wedding sale and to show folks that on the front end, or at introduction, as your portfolio is planting that seed for a later sale.  I showed an album for years and sold many.  I know that is not always taken for granted now but you design the business as part of your creative direction to include an album if you like. It works

The Goal of Twenty

That’s the number of images you need available to show.  From that 20 you can reduce to between 8 and 12, if you like, as the REAL portfolio.  Go with your heart and feel.  If you show images to someone and it ends with their expression like “is that all there is?”  Then add a few.  If someone is wavering after your set, and they are truly interested in your photography, maybe cut back some.  Each person is unique, so don’t totally change based on one person.

Another plus about the goal of 20 is to progress to eight or so images in multiple categories.  You may start with a 20 set of portraits but as you grow, depending on your direction, you may have a separate portfolio for kids, seniors, groupings.  For commercial, you may grow to have products, architecture, and food.

The goal is made to have some extras.  With the shrinking to 8-12 being the real viewing goal.  It gives you the ability to adjust to your feelings for certain images.  As you grow, a certain image just doesn’t fit with your “look” anymore.  Slip it out and place another in from your 20.

Display your Best

This one almost goes without saying, but don’t push it.  YES, I’ll say it. ONLY the best.  If possible, only one image from one shoot.  Only if it qualifies as the good stuff. Three images that are so close, same subject, same color palette, and lighting…one must be chosen.  You need to realize the time of the person (possible client) looking at your images is precious to them and now it must be also to you.

If you are to deal with people at arm’s length be ready to show images on an iPad or your phone or both.  Bigger is better. The phone may be considered amateur. Create the collection and be sure it is easily available.  Whether software or social media, be sure you can show the images by just sliding your hand to change.

Headshot photo used as illustration

Same thing about the internet.  Consider a website early in your journey.  WordPress websites are not expensive and it’s a learning curve that can be a core to your marketing.  Facebook is an easy way to show your portfolio and be a key to your marketing.

Make it look like you’re the best at the thing somebody wants

So many times I’m researching headshots and studios come up, locally, on the search.  They are wedding photographers and it shows cause all they show is wedding photography.  I did not search for wedding photography. The search was headshots. Be sure when somebody searches for what you do that what they see is what you do …<What a tung-twister that is.  But yes, do that.  The problem with that is not the photographer’s fault.  Google does not categorize each of the specialties of photography.  Show what you want to shoot and draw people to you above others in the search.

Beyond a local Google search, be sure your web galleries, things on your phone, or iPad show that you are an architectural photographer, or whatever if that is what you’d like to get a reputation for at this time.

Now, Take It and Run With It

You’ve made photos of friends and family. You’ve found the real estate agents, models, and actors amongst your buds to make some photos. Now expand from that to show your best to the world. Start a presence online, be it a website or Facebook page, or some other social media. Consider all the people who helped with your original portfolio as contacts to expand upon. When your site goes live, make contact with them and say thanks.

Thanks for your support and be sure to get your gifts.

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