A lot of people reach out to me regarding portfolio prep for both Click Pro and Hello Creative portfolios. I think that prepping for a portfolio is one of the best things you can do to grow as an artist. It forces you to look at your work objectively, removing the emotional bias you might have for any given photo. It is also one of the hardest things you will do as an artist.
There are a lot of different components to prepping; any given organization typically has a rubric or outline of what technical qualities they are looking for to be accepted. Composition, exposure, use of light, and focus are major elements for most rubrics. Some may wish to see an emphasis on storytelling or emotional depth. In general a set should show a strong voice throughout, telling reviewers who you are as an artist.
When pulling together an entire set of image, often as many as 150 at once, I want you to think about these things. Some of the things I know very specifically the panelists do and do not want to see in an application set. Some are my own beliefs and come from my knowledge of helping others prep over the past several years.
Consistency is a key point to consider and encompasses several things.
- Is your subject matter consistent throughout? Do you have a posed engagement image next to your kids playing in a sandbox? Do you have an image of an ice cream cone next to a cityscape? Image scenarios such as these will cost you points.
- Are you primarily a lifestyle photographer? If so, don’t add in one or two very posed images just to get your set to the required 100 images. Having outlier images just to pad your numbers will cost you points.
- Are your edits consistent? Are you using accurate white balance throughout? Are your skintones true to life? If you tend to warmer or cooler images, does every image trend that way? Are your exposures accurate, neither with blown skin nor lost detail in shadows? Inconsistent editing will cost you points.
- If you are using a mix of color and black and white, do you have a good mix of the two? Do not have color for 97 of your images and tack on three bw images at the end. Haphazard color treatment will cost you points.
On the other hand, consistency in an application portfolio is NOT using the same subject/location/styling for multiple images. If you shoot clients, your clients hire you for consistency, that they can buy multiple images and hang them on a wall and they all look cohesive. Or they want some images for a Christmas card.
But for a portfolio, do not use multiple images from the same session unless they are substantially different from one another. For instance, if you shoot a newborn on a bed, or snuggled up with mom, then having an alternate image of the baby with a close up of toes or clenched fist would be fine. If you would join two images in a diptych so that you are showing alternate perspectives of the same session, then feel free to add both images. But if you take your kiddo to the playground, don’t show 8 images of him on the swings.
A portfolio should show your best work. It should show that your voice is strong, that you can shoot in various lighting scenarios (full sun, backlight, sidelight). It should show a cohesion in editing (if using multiple cameras, a reviewer should not notice processing differences). Photos should show decisive crops, paying attention to the edges of the frame. They should evoke emotion to a viewer who does not know the subjects personally. Images that “break the rules” should be done with intention and unexpected creativity.
- Stick to one overall “theme” to your portfolio. Do not try to showcase every genre you have ever shot
- Make sure your colors, WB, and general editing are consistent and true to life. People aren’t orange or blue. Make them people colored, no matter their ethnicity.
- Show your best work, and use images from different locations, days, times. Do not use multiple images from the same session
- Show your voice
- Take a deep breath. You all can do this.
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