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5 Top Tips for a Professional Photography Portfolio

The creative industry can be very difficult to break into, even at the best of times. If you’re an aspiring professional photographer you’ll likely already know that it is about a lot more than just being able to take good photographs; from business management skills and SEO knowledge, to effective marketing and account keeping too… the list goes on.

If you look at the businesses of other photographers, you’ll quickly realise that there are a lot of amazing photographers that aren’t achieving their potential and average photographers that are exceeding all expectations – and the difference (most of the time) comes down to understanding that the professional photography industry is still all about business. It’s important not to neglect the more mundane aspects of running a photography business – marketing and sales are equally as important as photographic skills and editing.

You may have a captured some of the most incredible, breathtaking images ever seen but that won’t matter if you don’t present and market them effectively, and that’s what I hope to help you with today. Here you’ll find some of my top tips for a professional photography portfolio, hopefully helping you to target the correct audience and generate leads for your business.

Top Tip #1: Cull Your Collection

You need to be your own worst critic. It isn’t always a good thing to be too critical of yourself, but certainly, when it comes down to critiquing your own images, it pays to listen to the little voice inside of you favouring one shot over another; as chances are it will be based on some truth.

If you are at all unsure of an image, whether creatively or contextually… remove it. If you think that an image is a little too soft on focus or the colour levels just aren’t quite right… remove it. If you have similar images within your portfolio… remove all but one. You get the idea.

Your portfolio doesn’t need to be endless, it is meant to be a highlight reel of your most impressive, striking and professionally-relevant images that are going to attract attention and generate business. A concise portfolio of outstanding images will always be more effective than a larger portfolio of average shots with your best work mixed in.

So far we’ve established that quality over quantity is vital when creating a professional photography portfolio; remember to select only your best images and don’t include similar photographs.

Local guide Younes Eid stands atop Mt Sinai, Egypt as the first morning sunlight flows golden over the surrounding mountains.

Top Tip #2: Consider Your Audience

My second top tip for creating a professional photography portfolio is to consider your audience.

This is often simpler said than done, as most photographers are naturally of the creative persuasion and will take pleasure in building a diverse portfolio, varying in style and subject; even if only commercialising one aspect of their photography. They’ll take pleasure in sharing all of their favourite work – which can be a downfall when putting together a final collection of images.

You need to consider the clients that you want to work with most. If you’re a wedding photographer then clients aren’t going to need to see your images of cars, product photography or architecture – no matter how incredible the shots may be. Similarly, if you’re targeting automotive clients, producers or architectural firms, they won’t want to see wedding photography!

Including images within your portfolio that aren’t relevant to the clients, you’re targeting can detract from the photographs that you really want them to see. It can also make you appear like less of a specialist within their industry, which will often lead to them selecting a photographer that has a portfolio entirely dedicated to their trade.

If you are working across multiple industries then be sure to clearly label different portfolios within your website, making them all easily accessible and visible whilst ensuring that images from multiple industries are not mixed together.

A long exposure of the cornish coast as a setting sun falls behind the horizon and illuminates the clouds overhead.

Top Tip #3: Presentation is Paramount

Presentation is your key to success when pitching new photography clients with your portfolio. I mentioned at the start of this article that there are photographers with the most incredible images not nearly meeting their potential; and one of the biggest reasons for this is the way in which their images are presented to clients and the general public.

We’ve already discussed that your portfolio needs to be concise, containing only the very best of your work and targeted towards your most valuable clients and industries; at the same time it needs to be easy-to-navigate and aesthetically pleasing. Ensure that the people viewing your portfolio can easily move from section-to-section and change categories, viewing images at a larger size with minimal effort. A negative user experience on your website can severely impact on whether a client chooses to work with you, and you certainly don’t want their first interaction with your brand to be a less than positive one!

It may be an unusual suggestion for the current technology-driven era, but I’m also going to recommend that you organise a printed version of your portfolio.

Having a physical copy of your work to show clients in meetings and at events can go a long way, and also provide them with a great impression of how the work that they commission you to complete will look as a finished product. This is especially effective when working within the wedding photography industry!

A quirky shot of an India Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos culminatus) in one of Colombo’s public parks.

Top Tip #4: Ask a Friend

It can be easy to get too involved in your own work and lose the ability to view it impartially; in regards to individual images, projects and your portfolio as whole. My fourth top tip for a professional photography portfolio is to ask a friend.

Asking a friend or family member to give their opinion on your portfolio will offer a fresh perspective and give you a valuable opportunity to tweak your presentation, improve user experience, and get an honest view on the style of your photography overall.

This is especially effective because the majority of people you are pitching as clients will have very little knowledge technically, in regards to photography and related arts. It is very likely that the person or people you ask to give their opinion are going to be more closely aligned with your target audience, and the feedback they offer should be taken in high regard – and acting on it should massively increase your chances of success.

Remember that you should ask about all aspects of your portfolio, not just the images. You can ask for their opinion on the overall look and feel of your portfolio, the ordering of specific images or sections and even to check the tone of text and information sections.

A low light image of the Chain Bridge which spans the River Danube in Budapest, Hungary.

Top Tip #5: Show Your Skills

Your portfolio will naturally show off your photographic skills (including post-processing ability) provided you’ve selected a good variety of your best photography – but your portfolio is about more than just showcasing imagery; it’s about selling yourself and your brand.

Remember that your portfolio is also an opportunity to include extra information about you and your company. Include everything from testimonials to past/present client names and equipment details. Adding these additional points throughout your portfolio will mean you’re not only demonstrating your technical ability, but also backing it up with 3rd party support to really drive home why they should be working with you.

If you are going to follow my advice and include this extra info in your portfolio (I’d highly recommend it!) then it’s best to do so in bite-size paragraphs and pull-quotes throughout, breaking up text with more example imagery. This will help to improve the overall experience for whoever may be looking through your portfolio and prevent them from getting weighed down with too much reading at one time.

An early morning view through the endless gates of Fushimi Inari in Japan.

 

Ensuring that you have a concise, high impact and memorable portfolio that both starts strong and ends strong is one of the most effective ways of promoting your photography and securing new business. Remember that your portfolio is often all that stands between you and the competition – following these simple tips and dedicating time to perfect your professional photography portfolio is well worth the effort.

 

To view my portfolio please visit www.aaronnorthcott.com or use the following links to join me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:
www.facebook.com/aaronnorthcottphotography
www.twitter.com/aaronnorthcott
www.instagram.com/aaron.northcott

 

Aaron NorthcottOther articles by author

A multi award-winning photographer, Aaron has a diverse portfolio of powerful, inspiring imagery and an impressive résumé of clients and commissions.

Specialising in Wildlife, Travel & Landscape photography, the work Aaron produces has been seen around the world and has been used for everything from Tourism and Conservation to Outdoor Living, Lifestyle and Adventure.

Aarons passion for photography, his subjects and the world around us is always evident through the images he captures - and pushes himself constantly to be one of the most versatile, creative and innovative visual artists working in the photography industry today.

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