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Photography portfolio 101 – how to create a portfolio that puts your brand on display

Everyone was there once. Fruitful inspiration. Plenty of photos, but no idea on how to create a portfolio.

And if you’re just like all the other photographers, you put off this moment for as long as you could. But with no portfolio to present your work, there are no clients interested in hiring you. For a passionate photographer, the thought of creating a professional portfolio is overwhelming. Where do you start? What photos are worthy? What theme to pick?

When your current marketing strategy doesn’t deliver the expected results, building a portfolio is vital because it helps the public see the value of your work. Yes, expect the process to be intensive, but having  a well-put-together portfolio is rewarding.

Let’s dive in together. With a little bit of help, you can make it work.

 

It all starts online

These days people are connected to their mobile devices, and if you’re hoping to attract clients, you can do it only if you have a robust online presence. And while many artists prefer Instagram and Pinterest to share their creations, not everyone loves social media. When looking for photographs, people use search engines to check for reviews, feedback, rates, and (you guessed it) portfolios. It makes a difference to have a dedicated website to post your work and connect with your public. It’s simple to create a sharp-looking online portfolio with a website like PhotoShelter, Format, Pixpa, or Wix.

In the digital world, prints still rule (at least in photography)

The idea of printing your photos and carrying them around may not sound too thrilling, especially if you are an eco-activist. Why should you print pictures when all transactions are made online? Well, it doesn’t hurt to have a hardcopy of your portfolio when you meet a client in person. They want to inspect the photos in details and see them in all their glory printed on high-quality paper easily convinces them you’re the right choice.

A hardcover portfolio with a decorative cover and superior paper would impress even the pickiest client. Also, if you want to work with magazine editors, it’s best to show your printed work, to help them envision how the photos appear when they publish them.

Make sure your portfolio passes the “so-what” test

So what? Why should I hire you?

This is the question your clients ask themselves when they come across your work. You’re working in a saturated domain, and people have plenty of options from which to choose. So, when someone comes across your portfolio (printed or online), it has to solve one of their burning problems and meet their requirements.

Don’t be shy. Take a look at your competitors, and you’ll probably notice their portfolios present them. The photos they picked showcase their quality services, skills, and passion. Your goal is to convince people to choose you, and buy what you’re selling.

Prospective clients don’t care if you’re a great artist. They want to know what you can do for them. When picking photos for your portfolio, select the ones that show clients what you offer them. Don’t just tell them you take wedding pictures. Show them the best wedding shots you took until now.

Pick a subject matter

You may have equal skills for shooting weddings, fashion editorials, corporate events, and street art. Still, if you post a mix of photos, you may deter a potential client because they may find you too unfocused or disorganised for them. One solution is to pick a specialty (the one you’re most enthusiastic about) and create a portfolio around it. But if you want to attract clients from various domains, you can categorise your photos in separate categories and keep them organised. When a client scrolls through your website, they pick the section that interests them, and inspect the images.

Use short videos or presentations to showcase your best shots. Create a different presentation for each category, and upload it on your website and social media pages. Use background music for slideshows to get the visitors into the mood of the presentation. When associating music with images, you transmit your users a specific feeling or emotion. And emotions are known as the most powerful trigger for purchases. If they associate your photos with a feeling or emotion they experience, they’ll hire you.

Be consistent in your style

Style is vital when speaking of visual content. Your style extends from the light you pick for photos to frame, shape, and focus. Your style should reveal your personality and highlight the values you promote. Show your clients what differentiates you from other photographers.

Don’t worry if you have an amalgam of photos now; it takes months or even years for professional photographers to develop their artistic style. Your first portfolio is a mishmash of experimental techniques, styles, and shoots. Building a strong style shows your public if your work is what they’re looking for.

Pick photos that speak for themselves

Only because you like some pictures, don’t get attached to them. They’re artistic, but they may not be relevant for your clients. You may have travelled to Antarctica to take photos in a snowstorm, but the images say nothing to your clients who are looking for a wedding photographer. The picture should speak for itself because photography portfolios aren’t created to include explanations.

Make a great first and last impression

The first image you post on your online or printed portfolio should have the strongest impact on the visualiser. It should represent what you stand for as an artist. It should also be enigmatic enough to drive curiosity and make them want to see more.

The final photo should also be impactful, but it should mark the end of the presentation and leave a lasting memory on the client. Remember, at the end of the day, photos are memories, and your clients want to make sure you’re the right professional to create the best memories.

Your portfolio is as good as you. As you grow, your portfolio will develop and reflect your professional traits.

 

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