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Have you been wondering how to build an artistic photography portfolio, but you’re not sure what to include in one? One thing I see people struggling with is the actual portfolio file and the sequence on their images. You want to make a selection that looks professional and to make sure you are to be selected to where you are applying to, whether it’ll be festivals or publications.
There are some major things to be aware of when making your physical or digital portfolio and I’m going to share them here.
A lot of photographers use social media as a platform to showcase their work these days, but a comprehensive portfolio is still the strongest marketing tool for a photographer when wanting to show the extensive experience the photographer has. This portfolio is more for the photographers who apply to exhibitions, magazines or even for studies.
Design Your Portfolio Layout
I personally am used to making my layouts in Adobe InDesign* to easier edit my series and I also find it easy to use. If you haven’t worked with it before, I can highly recommend it. But now I might even use Canva* if the layout is not a multi-page document.
A designing program like these are necessary when making photography-related PDFs like mood boards and preview collages for clients or applications.
Start your design by asking yourself who is your audience?
From there you can better distinguish how you need to make your layout to look. If you are applying to an academy, they are most likely interested in seeing a broader selection of your work than for example a publication, that is focused on specific themes like food or editorial imagery.
Make sure you leave enough negative space around your image, not to make it too narrow so the viewer will have enough space to fully look at the work. Leaving enough space will let your images breathe.
Even better, if you only put one image on one page. As you can see, I used to put the whole series on one page and it feels a bit cramped up.
This again, relates to the focus you have with your application: having contemporary images require more space than editorial series.
Use high-resolution images
If you’re eager to use a specific image but you only have it in low quality, you will probably need to leave it out from your final edit. It is always more advised to choose images that are high quality. Make sure your images are 300 dpi to ensure the best quality. You can better show details and direct the focus to the quality of the photos. You can then compress it when you decide to send it with an application. The image below is 100 dpi.
Don’t overload your portfolio with too many photos
It’s tempting to want to put every photo you’ve ever snapped up on your online photography portfolio. But flooding someone with an unending scroll of images makes it hard for any of them to stand out. When too many photos are featured together, they tend to blend into one undifferentiated block.
If you are sending it to busy magazines, they will need to be convinced of your work immediately. In any case, add 3-5 series and max. 5 images per series. This way you know it will not be too overwhelming for the viewer.
You can learn more about editing your series here.
Don’t forget to consider the audience
Who is looking at your portfolio? It’s an essential question to consider. A bride-to-be isn’t looking for the same thing that a business is looking for. When choosing the elements of the image, like what cover to use or what template to choose for your website, consider who your audience is, and what will speak to them the most.
Add your information
Regardless of the visual side of your portfolio, there is something that brings out professionalism and that is to add your information and the social media platforms and website you might have.
Don’t overpack it with unnecessary information, research what it is your client or the organization needs to know about you. There is no need to add your LinkedIn if you’re applying to study at an Art University. So make sure you add the most relevant information. Also, add your phone number and address (here in my portfolio I have taken them out ).
Build it like a photo book
Like any book, you have a cover and the last page. It is the same with your portfolio. The first page is always an indicator of what’s about to come.
When someone is opening your pdf, you want them to experience excitement to whats about to come next. So choosing a specific style for your layout and the first images is crucial.
Communicate clearly what your portfolio is about, all while bringing something unique to it. Although your photography portfolio will be mostly visual, try to add only the images that communicate what you need to convey.
Don’t include similar images
Your portfolio is a collection of all your best work. Include two similar images, and potential clients may think you’re a lazy photographer that just takes multiple photos of the same thing.
It’s okay to include photos from the same shoot, especially if you’re just starting out, but make sure those photos are different in more ways than one.
If you’re building a portrait portfolio, for example, don’t include a second shot that just involved readjusting the subject’s hands, but you can include a photo from a completely different set-up from the same session.
Add your CV
Again, this portfolio is for applying to exhibitions, universities, and in some cases magazines. You do not need to add this information in the same pdf if you’re sending it to photography festivals or commercial clients.
This is not an artist bio, you can find more information on that here. This cv consists of your published work, exhibitions and education.
Finally, after these steps, I make the final selection and build the layout for the portfolio. Once you’ve made your file layout and updated your cv, it’s easier to just edit the selected images you choose for your portfolio every so often.
Here is one of the old version of my portfolio. I revise it every 6 months to update and edit the series and information. I hope you found this helpful and have a better understanding of what you need to have in your final portfolio.
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