So for the last few weeks I have been working on my portfolio. Not shooting for it specifically, because you know, you’re ALWAYS working on your portfolio, what I’m talking about is physically ASSEMBLING a series of prints into a book to show to current and potential clients.
Building a portfolio is hard. You have to somehow set aside your pride and ego and look at your work objectively so you can edit, arrange and make it the best presentation of your work. Sometimes a favorite photo of yours has to be edited out, because it doesn’t fit with the rest of them. This alienates you, because you feel such a great attachment to this photo. So you go back and fourth and back and fourth and you question your worth as an artist and pretty soon you don’t even know who you are anymore.
So yesterday I made the mistake of saying “My portfolio is DONE. This is the most comprehensive collection of my work that I have ever put into a book.” Well first of all, of COURSE it is. It SHOULD be, being the newest work. Mixing in some old with the new, it should cover all the things I’m good at and show the new things I’m good at. Second of all, a portfolio is NEVER done.
I was showing this book to a client today, and between the time I had said that and this morning I had a little itch at the back of my neck. I kept going back and going through the portfolio, over and over again. By the time I got to the meeting with the client I was very nervous, and it was all because I declared to myself that it was “Done.”
So here’s a few tips to avoid that stress:
Your portfolio needs to show your absolute BEST work. Even something a little bit weak will bring the rest of the images down. Choice of subject is very important. If you’re a still-life photographer show-still life. If you shoot people show people. Your lighting, techniques and moods should be similar, but not the same for every image. It’s ok for you to take sensitive portraits of someone and later in the book show something with a sense of humor, as long as it still looks like it was taken by the same photographer.
Versatility and Flow
This is going to sound hypocritical, but you must display consistency AND variety in your work, or you won’t be getting any. It doesn’t have to be a huge shift, but just enough to get your client to look a second time. This also creates a flow throughout your book, you need to keep visual interest. The last thing you want the flow of your book to flatline, it’ll be boring. You want it to ebb and flow, rise and fall, over and over again.
Edit, edit, edit
Make little thumbnail prints of all the images you want to include in your book, and lay them out. Remove the ones that don’t work, and then do it again. And again. And again. Then have a few friends over for some drinks and have THEM look at it. Show it to a peer, or graphic designer friend. Your portfolio should contain no less than 10 photos (Any fewer would be too short) and no more than 20. (Any more would be ridiculous) And remember, nothing but your VERY BEST.
Hopefully this will help some of you out there deal with the stress of portfolio building and showing better. My meeting went fine, as long as you believe in your work (And it’s good work) and show confidence throughout your showing you will have a better chance than some of coming through and getting a new client.