Create a Portfolio That Shows Your Talent

Author: Kathleen Reeder

Do you have a portfolio of your photographs?  For most of us, the thought of doing this seems daunting.  Why is having a portfolio important?  Where do you start?  How do you choose the photos?  This article outlines a reasonable approach to assembling a portfolio that you will be proud to share.

Why a Portfolio?
To showcase your talent.  To self-critique your photos.  To sell your work. To see what you’ve accomplished so far.  To help you plan what to photograph next.

How to Assemble a Portfolio

  1. Choose a Theme.  Examples might be an animal, a location, an event, a timeframe, an activity, a pet, a family member or even an emotion.  Anything can be a theme.  Be specific when choosing a theme to make it easier to select photos.
  2. Select 25 photos you think best convey the theme.  Select photos that are consistent with the theme but offer variety, and deliver a well rounded story.  Mix it up.  Pick photos that show what you were trying to say at the time you captured the photo.  Choose photos that are either all vertical or all horizontal, and the same dimensions.
  3. Reduce the selection by 50% to 12 photos.  This is the toughest step.  Select the strongest images.   Ask those whose opinion you respect to help you.  Eliminate redundant images, or images where there is too much similarity.  Eliminate photos that say the same thing.  Eliminate the photos you don’t love.  If a photo has any flaws, leave it out.
  4. Sequence the Photos.  Pick what will be the first and last images.  The first image is the most important, it sets the stage for the portfolio, it should capture the essence of the collection and it announces you as an artist.  The last image is also very important, it influences how one feels as they walk away from the portfolio.  Apply the law of threes throughout the portfolio: The first image creates an expectation, the second image establishes a pattern, and the third image breaks the pattern to give a little thrill.
  5. Reduce the selection down to 6-10 photos.  Eliminate any photos that do not have the “WOW” factor.  Again, ask individuals whose opinion you respect for feedback.
  6. Write a brief artistic statement that outlines your theme, some background contextual information and personal information to accompany your portfolio.
  7.  Show Your Portfolio.  It can be printed or in digital format.  Most importantly, show it and talk about it.  Share it with family and friends.  Hold a celebration, even if it’s in your living room to present it and get feedback.  Learn from this experience to create your next portfolio.

Kathleen Reeder is a wildlife photographer and instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.