8 Tips for a Great Photography Portfolio

KISS performs on the Alive/35 World Tour 2009. (TODD OWYOUNG)

Creating a portfolio of one's own work can be a daunting task, but it's an essential part of presenting oneself as a photographer. A top notch book is one of the best ways communicate one's ability and vision, especially when it can be viewed online and around the world.

toddowyoung_portfolio

Here are eight ways to make yourself look good.

  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Show quality
  • Show range
  • Start strong
  • End strong
  • Put the rest in the middle
  • Don't put it to popular vote
  • Keep it fresh

These are my suggestions for building a portfolio with the maximum impact. Let's drill down.

1) Keep It Short & Sweet

With a portfolio, quantity counts for nothing. If the viewer wants to see more, they'll look for it. And if they can't find it, they'll ask. Both of these consequences are good. I usually aim to include 12-20 images in a photography portfolio.

2) Show Quality

Following up to the first tip, only the best images should go into the portfolio. Consistency and distinction in your images should be a key takeaway. Showing anything but the best is often a waste of time; when you have someone's attention, make every image count.

3) Show Range

And aside from quality, each image should speak to some aspect of your vision and ability. In choosing images, ask, “What does this image say about me as a photographer?” If multiple images are competing for the same specific message, consider paring down for the sake of efficiency. Expressing range, however, should not be confused with a lack of focus. Every image should work toward a singular goal of expressing your eye and capabilities as a photographer.

4) Start Strong

Start out with a bang. You want to put your second to best shot up front to catch the viewer's attention. Why the second best? Keep reading.

5) End Strong

With your last image, you want to reinforce everything that has come before and end with the impression of excellence. This position is where your standout image goes, since it's the last image in the set that the viewer will see.With the last piece, your goal is to leave a mark. The viewer made it to the end, so go for the knock out punch.

6) Put The Rest In The Middle

There is no filler in a portfolio, but everything that isn't your absolute best should go in the middle. After the lead off image, gradually decrease in image impact until you get to the middle of the series, and then ramp back up for the strong finish.In other words, the highest impact images should be book ends to the images that establish the tone of your work.

7) Don't Put It To Popular Vote

Bless your friends and family, but portfolios should not be decided by committee; what is popular is not always what makes your eye or execution unique.If need be, I'd suggest paring down a selection of your best images as well as you can and then enlist the keen eye of someone whose taste you trust to make the final selection.

8) Keep It Fresh

Just like seafood, it's better fresh. Once you've established your book, keep it as up to date as possible. Aside from assembling it in the first place, this task is one of the biggest challenges of a great portfolio.As you develop as a photographer and add different elements to your style (or polish it), don't neglect to reflect that growth in the portfolio.

End Notes:

As a condensed representation of a photographer's vision, the portfolio is a highly valuable tool for introducing oneself to an audience, especially with the ease of sending someone a link.

Whether it's used as a sales piece to land clients, an informative statement about one's work and capabilities, or simply a way to succinctly share with friends and family, a portfolio is a great tool for making an effective and lasting impression. If someone is taking the time to look at your work, make it count.

If you want to see if I followed the above eight tips, head over to my portfolio.

My Camera DSLR and Lenses for Concert Photography

Nikon D750:
I use two Nikon D750 for my live music photography. Amazing high ISO performance in a compact body with tons of pro features.
nikon-24-70mm-f28-lens-squareNikon 24-70mm f/2.8:
For most gigs, the 24-70mm is my go-to lens. Exceptional image quality at wide apertures and super-functional range.
Nikon-70-200-squareNikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR:
A perfect pair to the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, I can basically shoot any job with the midrange and this lens. Superb image quality.
nikon-14-24mm-f28-lens-squareNikon 14-24mm f/2.8:
Ultra-wide perspective, ridiculously sharp even wide open at f/2.8. I love using this lens up-close and personal, where it excels.
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