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?
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.