Photography: How to Build a Portfolio

gallery, portfolio, photography, portraits, viewing a photo exhibition

A portfolio is basically a collection of your artistic or creative work. Just as job seekers will use a curriculum vitae or resumes to apply for potential job, for a photographer a portfolio is the equivalent of a resume. A portfolio lays out the breadth of your work.

As you work to develop a photography portfolio, ask yourself these questions:

What is your ultimate goal with this portfolio?

Start by considering your intended audience. The goal may be to promote yourself to a prospective client (a soon-to-be married couple casting around for wedding photographers) or to demonstrate some level of proficiency when you apply to study photography at a college or university. Nevertheless, the aim is to show what you can bring to the table. For the intended viewer, you will be providing a deeper look into your particular strengths and showing your expertise.

Which photos should I include?

This depends on the ultimate goal. What emotional reaction do you want the viewer of this portfolio to have: surprise? Shock? Longing? Choose your photos accordingly.

Are you developing a photography portfolio for a job application?
- choose photos that show a variety of skills and techniques.
- make sure your technical acumen is on full display.

Are you developing a photography portfolio for an exhibition?
- choose a one single theme that unifies the overall work.
- think about the gallery or setting. Consider what has typically been shown there. Do they have a style or genre they typically go for?

Which photos belong in there?

jumping dog, dog jumping in grass, puppy in action, pup jumping, jumping pup, running puppy, dog running in field
Show your best photos. Not ALL your photos! You are showing off here, so brag accordingly. And by 'brag', we mean brag using your photos. Only your best work should be in there, not every single photo ever. Also, try to arrange your portfolio according to some theme or subject. Curating your photos, in other words being selective about them, will mean better organization and allow you to sell yourself better. Having a unifying theme to your photos also shows you have some level of professionalism.

What sequence should I assemble photos in my portfolio?

man snarling, angry man
OK, so you've narrowed down your selection. Now you just need to decide the order. This one is easy: put your best work at the start! You may only have 15 seconds to make an impression before this prospective client moves on to consider another photographer instead of you. Make those 15 seconds count! Whichever work you are most proud of needs to go at the beginning of the portfolio.

What if I feel I need to fill in gaps?

If you feel you don't have enough pictures in a particular theme, take the opportunity to now get those extra shots you need. If you need subjects, doting parents will often be quite willing to let you use their kids as photo models for free. Ask your neighbors, family or friends if you can all go to the park to practice taking some photos.
jumping dog, dog jumping in grass, puppy in action, pup jumping, jumping pup, running puppy, dog running in field
You'll get lots of practice and your friends get some really cool pictures of their kids. Everyone wins! And hopefully in amongst the results, you'll get those few extra shots you need to fill out the gap in your portfolio.


Photography Training Books
Buy Services

Related articles

Photography: How to Take Better Photos

asian woman, smiling asian lady, asian female, asian photo model

It is suprising nowadays just now many images have been very heavily photoshopped. Photos which look great, but nevertheless have had significant editing and post-production done on them afterwards to make them stand out. What can you do beforehand in order to...

Equipment for beginners

photo gear, photographer's kit, newbie photographer

If you are getting serious about making photographs, then it's time to start assembling your own photo tool kit. The equipment list will be the gear that is taken with you when you...

Filmmaking Resources

Apple Mac, editing, filmmaking, number 8, red 8

If you aren't familiar with these 8 seriously useful websites, then you are missing out. Check them out: Anatomy of a Scene by The New York Times. Film directors take the viewer through specific scenes from their...