Today I wanted to share with you the 5 most important elements to creating a distinct portfolio for photography. Watch the video by clicking the image above, or read the post below.

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I have been working with commercial photographers for over 12 years on various aspects of branding, production and shooting. One of the biggest challenges I have seen over the years is photographers seeing their work objectively and putting together a carefully curated portfolio that represents their style. This can be so difficult to do for yourself. These tips will help you tackle this enormous task and give you a framework for what you should be looking for during your edit to create a portfolio that represents your brand and what you do best.

Let me start off by clarifying some terms. 

In Commercial photography the term editing is used to describe the process of going through selecting or rejecting images. In Service based photography this process is referred to as culling

In commercial photography, the term retouching is used to describe the process of correcting images in a photo editing program. In service based photography this is referred to as editing.

For these purposes, I will be using the commercial photography terms.

Here are the top 5 tips for putting together a distinct photography portfolio

1 Tell a story: When you set out on creating your photography portfolio, you should approach it as if you are telling a story. The story does not need to be a traditional narrative (although it could be) it could be a story woven with color or concepts or patterns or re-occuring themes or light. The story will start to emerge as you comb through your images.

2 Be very specific: It is very tempting to include all of your best work to show the depth and versatility you can offer. This is not however going to serve you when it comes to commercial clients and agencies. This is where you really want to niche down as much as possible. What very specific message do you want to send potential clients and agencies about your style and specialty? You may be hired for something completely different in the long run, so don’t worry you are not limiting yourself. You are just setting yourself apart and filling the void for a very specific need.

3 Fill in what’s missing: If you found everything you need for your portfolio to tell the story you want on the first edit, then you may not have gotten specific enough. To really nail this, there should be some gaps in your portfolio story or gaps in what your potential client will want to see from you. The idea here is not to go out and create new content that you think your client will want to see, but to look for places that fit with your story and your overall brand message and try to fill the need within that.

4 Show your personality: Art buyers look through so many photography portfolios on a daily basis, and work really starts to bleed together and they see so much of the same thing over and over. What sets your work apart is your unique way of seeing the world. Try and infuse this into your portfolio. Is your work quirky and humorous? Use the images and image edit to bring this out even more. Is your work dark and moody? Use the layout and sequencing to enhance this feeling.

5 Bring it all together: Once you have your completed portfolio you now want to show it in the best way possible. I personally recommend having an online version that you can show on an iPad and a tangible book version that you can take to meetings and send out to agencies. People still love the overall experience of going through a physical copy. It is also an opportunity to make your work into a full experience, using the book cover, pages, textures and colors to add to the overall brand story. Include your other branding elements (colors, fonts, logos) to give the full experience.

Let me know in the comments what your biggest challenge is with putting together your portfolio.

Now you have the framework for building your photography portfolio. If you want a step by step guide to building a killer portfolio, then please download my FREE Powerful Portfolio checklist.

Looking for a group to help cheer you on in the process and talk all things photography? Join my FREE exclusive Photo Insighters Facebook group #photoinsighters.

Tell me what you struggle with the most when it comes to building your photography portfolio in the comments below.

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