How to make a digital photography portfolio

How to Make a Digital Photography Portfolio

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Are you wanting to know how to make a digital photography portfolio, but really don’t know where to start? or even just to know what types of questions to ask?

It is tough. I get it.

This article aims to answer as many of your questions as possible and give you some inspiration from others. It is not our goal to lock everyone in to one single way of doing things. I mean, that would be boring, uninspiring and certainly wouldn’t make yours stand out from the rest. So, as with anything, add your own flair to these suggestions, and truly own it!

How to make a digital photography portfolio - what is a digital photography portfolio?

What exactly is a digital photography portfolio?

A photography portfolio is a file or a collection of your images. It should preferably be a tightly edited collection of your work because people don’t have the time to look at all your pictures.

Your file needn’t always show your best work. You can use your innovation and imagination to create a special collection of images. You could perhaps compile your pictures into a slideshow with some music in the background. You can also display photos that collectively represent a particular theme or style. 

You can decide better, and select the right images if you know why you need a photography file. You may need one to apply for a job, to start your own business or to display your work at an exhibition or to just show prospective customers what you can do with a camera. 

Choosing the wrong images can create a bad impression that will not help you attract the clients you want. Choosing the correct ones will definitely go a long way at helping you attract customers. It also helps you gain a foothold in a photography niche you don’t have much experience in.  

Where do I start?

If you wonder where or how you should start, the best way is by considering the audience you are targeting.

For example:

  • If you plan to specialize in wedding or portrait photography, display relevant pictures first. No matter how awesome you may think your landscape images may be, they won’t be interesting to people on the lookout for a wedding or portrait photographer.  
  • If you are creating your collection for a job interview, then display images portraying your varied picture taking skills and techniques first. 
  • If you plan to display your collection at an exhibition, then compile your images in a single unifying theme to present to your chosen gallery. 

You can start with the compilation once you know your target audience and it’s need. Don’t fill it up with all of your best pictures. Your collection should preferably contain just 10 to 15 photographs. Your audience won’t have the patience to look see too many images.  

You could include about 6 of your favorite wedding photos first, and some other good architecture, nature or landscape images in the later pages. Only include images you are confident of creating. Never make the mistake of displaying pictures you won’t be able to produce.

Don’t worry if you don’t have any worthy pictures or if you don’t have any images at all. You just need about a dozen photos. You can click some of your friends, shoot some events for free or even work as an assistant for a famous wedding cameraman and use them in your portfolio.

How do I pick images that have an impact?

Next is the task of choosing and using only the best and most impactful images which will invoke awe, surprise and other emotions in the target audience. Choose the pictures you feel will attract them and will make them select you. 

If it’s a wedding photographer you aspire to be, then place pictures capturing the essence of a wedding, the couple’s love and perhaps the wedding crowd on the first page. 

If you are compiling your file for a job taking portraits, then your first few pictures should be your best portrait work. It could be pictures where you’ve captured the look of happiness or sadness in the subject’s eyes. Or you may have captured the right portrait in the right light to create a beautiful effect. 

While it’s better to maintain some uniformity in theme or style if you choose to mix them up, make sure there’s a valid reason to do so. You can also maintain a consistent color balance and quality between the pictures.

How do I know what images to discard?

Yes, it’s not always so easy to cut down the number of pictures you wish to display to just 12. This is the next question that crops up when you wonder how to make a digital photography portfolio, how to decide which images to discard. 

You will be tempted to select and use only your favorite images. Photographers are not the best judge of their own work because they had anyway clicked the picture in the best light and place.

You may sometimes have an emotional attachment to some images or may have seen something in it which others may not see. These pictures may not prove helpful in enticing your audience to do business with you. 

This is where a second set of eyes can help you. It could be a friend or a photographer or anyone whose judgment you trust and help you decide. 

Don’t worry if you don’t have someone to help you. You can always ask someone who fits your target audience profile. Ask them for their opinion about the images which will pull a string in them, and which are better discarded. 

Make sure you select the right person for this task. There’s no point in turning to a wedding or food photographer for their feedback if you plan to build a collection of landscape images for an exhibition!

It may indeed be difficult for you to reduce the number of pictures. You may sometimes find it difficult looking for out-of-focus photos, those with flaws and those that are technically weak, even after looking at them for hours.

If this is the case, just sleep on it for a few days and come back to take a look at the images with fresh eyes. 

How do I display the digital photography portfolio?

Besides the choice of images, the other major decision to make in your digital picture collection is how you will display it. You have online and physical options with their independent benefits and uses.

Make the choice based on your target audience, and if they would prefer seeing physical or online pictures. If you want something online, then you can choose between websites, posters and pop-up banners which you carry around in your Smartphone or laptop.

However, if you want something physical, then you can opt for a digital photo book or flush mount albums. While you have to carry these books around with you, some people prefer selecting the right photographers based on physical pictures. 

Are there any tips to help maintain a current and updated digital portfolio?

Now that most of your doubts and apprehensions about how to make a digital photography portfolio have been cleared, here are a few helpful tips to maintain an updated digital file.  

  1. Keep your pictures well-organized by methodically saving your files. You could save them in a specified date format including client information and location where it was shot. 
  2. You can also maintain separate folders for exporting images you find in the lightroom that should belong in the portfolio.  
  3. Maintain a balance between the images you display, and the negative spaces between or around them, to maintain a good layout.  
  4. Don’t upload photos from a single shoot or those shot in similar locations or light conditions. Potential clients need to know that your work is consistent and can produce similar pictures for them. They have no guarantee of your expertise if your image collection contains images from only a single shoot. 
  5. Give a brief description of each photo in your portfolio. People seeing your work for the first time will want to know who or what is displayed in it and the story behind it. 
  6. Check your online portfolio website design in various browsers and devices. Just because it works on your monitor on Firework doesn’t mean it looks great on tablets running Safari. 
  7. Website navigation should be easy where clients can easily find your contact information. 
  8. It’s not only the first image on the portfolio that has to attract the viewer and make them want to see more. Even the final image has to make a strong impact, enough to convince them about your skills. 
  9. Don’t forget to use SEO on your website. You can’t expect clients to know, or reach you if they can’t find you in a search. Your file or website should be search engine optimization (SEO) optimized. This includes inserting search-friendly URLs, content with the right keywords and unique Meta tags. 

Conclusion

You now know practically everything you should know about how to make a digital photography portfolio. Once you are done, you will have a collection you can proudly show to the world.

Remember these are the images you plan to use to give your employer or client a reason to hire you. Make the best use of the opportunity. They don’t have the time or patience to take a look at everything you took since 2010. Just display your top-notch work. You can always show them more images later on if they want!

You could even take a step further and show your file to your friends and family and ask them for their feedback. This will give you some idea about the questions you may be asked when clients, employers and gallery owners look at your portfolio.

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