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4 Top Tips to Make Your Portfolio Work for You

Putting together your portfolio can be one of the toughest parts of setting up, and maintaining, your photography business. It’s the first thing a potential client sees, after all, and it’s the primary factor that helps them decide whether they’ll book you. So how do you make it do the hard work for you?

Tip 1: Don’t Strike Blind

The key is getting into your client’s head. It’s so valuable to identify who your ideal client is – their demographic, their tastes, and their budget – so you can begin to think like them. Only then can you increase your strike rate.

Then, sneak into that hypothetical client’s brain and ask a few key questions, looking at your portfolio as though you’re shopping around for a shoot.

  • Who has this photographer previously photographed?
  • What’s the feeling or vibe that comes across in their images and style of shooting and editing?
  • What type of yard do they tend to photograph at – do they seem to cater for clients like me?
  • Are they an expert – do they have demonstrable experience, have they been published, do famous people seek them out, or have they won awards?
  • Are they horsey, or do they seem to get little details wrong – standing them up too square, letting straps slip out of keepers, and so on?

Tip 2: Make Sure You Represent Yourself

You can waste an awful lot of time trying to emulate other photographers’ work to improve your portfolio, but ultimately, you have to shoot and edit in a way that feels true to you, and then hone that method. Then, it’s entirely your own – and no one else can offer that, so you own that niche in the market.

Once you’ve found your style and your methods, you need to make sure your portfolio is cohesive and coherent, and conveys it accurately to clients. You might specialise in dramatic, high-contrast shots with black backgrounds, which provoke an emotional response. Or, you might favour bright, clean, pastel-infused portraits of kids and their ponies. It doesn’t matter what your vibe is – it only matters that it’s celebrated wholeheartedly within your portfolio.

Tip 3: Remember the Misconception of More

There’s a crucial point to remember, and that’s that no client wants to sift through 100 images to get a feel for your work. Instead, you need to narrow it down to 10-20, which provides enough to showcase your style without risk of a dud image sneaking in.

I remember reading once that if you show someone 10 brilliant images by a photographer, they’d almost always commit to purchasing a shoot straight away. If you gave them 99 photos by that same photographer, though, they’ll be more likely to walk away – and all it could take is one or two images that don’t speak to them. People will always find an excuse to avoid commitment.

Tip 4: Work Smarter, Not Harder

So your portfolio is in need of some curation – that’s a whopper of a job, right? Well, actually, not so much – if you work with a system. Follow this checklist to ensure your best and most representative work shines through…

  • Are you 100% happy with each image? If there’s one you’re hesitating over, take it out!
  • Is your ideal client represented in your portfolio? You want them to be able to imagine themselves in your shots.
  • Is your ideal location represented? It doesn’t matter if you’ve had to pull some strings or offer a freebie to get that stately home in your portfolio – if that’s the kind of location you want to be using, make sure it’s shown.
  • Is it clear what your vibe encompasses?
  • Does it flow nicely and tell a bit of a story?

If you can’t answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, sift through your hard drives, re-edit some shots, or schedule in a shoot with a friend or client to fill the gaps.

A Final Thought…

People love to do idle portfolio sifting, and they might follow you for years before deciding to take the leap and book a shoot. Make sure you’re regularly updating your portfolio – a review every couple of months is prudent – and make sure you’re ALWAYS proud of what you’ve got on show.

If you met a famous rider tomorrow, would you hand them a business card with your website printed on it, or would you hesitate and worry it’s not up to scratch? The answer should always be the former.