Portfolio Reviewing Time

One of the most asked questions of me by new photographers is always about their portfolio. They want to know how to build it, how to showcase it, and about 300 other things, so I wanted to share a little bit of what I tell them here. I am being 100% honest and not sugar coating it. (Sometimes a little tough love is needed!)

If you are a new photographer and you are working on building your portfolio I am going to tell you to offer to take photos for your friends of them and their kids and their friends and their friends kids. Work on a portfolio that is not centered around your own kids. Yes, you can have some photos of your own kids in your portfolio, but if every image is of your own children, that doesn’t show much versatility in your images and style.

The second thing I tell new photographers is that if you have any traditional selective color in your portfolio, pull them out ASAP. Yes, you will have customers that ask for it, but no other professional photographer will take you seriously with selective color in your portfolio. If you have any selective color where you have selectively colored eyes, those need to go. That is a huge no-no.

I should not have to say this, but I always do. If you have blurry images in your portfolio, you need to remove them faster than the selective color ones. Having blurry images in your portfolio screams “I have not mastered my camera..” and is that what you want to convey to people looking for a photographer? I would hope not.

Where do you showcase your portfolio? ( If you answered Facebook, I am going to make you stand in a corner!). You need to create a website. A website for a photography business is a NECESSITY, not a luxury. I see so many photographers investing in lenses and equipment and then writing “I really need to create a website.” Take your lens money and invest in that website. I know we all need equipment, but your website is the showcase of your business. Without it, that lens does nothing.

Facebook has horrible resolution. It compresses images. It is not a private gallery for your clients. It is NOT a professional way to show your images. Showing some images on your FB page is fine, but you need the website too. (And if you are working on a website, at least have a blog. A blog is a great way to show off your work, what you are doing and makes it more “personable”.)

During one of Sandy Puc seminars she talked about the “sneak peeks” that get posted on FB. She had five photographers post their showstopper image from sessions on Facebook. Once those images were posted, not one of them resulted in a print sale. NOT ONE. Once you post those images on FB, they are gone. Her advice was simple: Post only what has been sold.

(This is the reason I don’t do sneak peeks until after the ordering sessions anymore. People don’t care if it has a watermark on it if they are just saving it onto their computer to show Grandma or people at work!).

I have been overhauling my website (I upgraded it!) and it has given me a chance to go through my own portfolio and weed out images that I don’t think really represent my photography anymore. The images you start out doing may be good, but in a year you should be better…and a year from that you should be better than the year before and so on. Take your strongest images and showcase them!

One of the most important points you should remember about your portfolio though is this….get a signed a release from every person you are showcasing in your portfolio. If they are under 18, get their parent to sign a release. Without those signed release forms, you should not be showing the images at all. Even though you took them and the copyright is yours, they should not be a part of your portfolio.

If you own a Kindle Fire you can download this great little app here so that you will always have a model release with you at all times! Great for doing any street photography too. The cool thing is that it saves them and sends them to your email in a PDF file. You will also need a stylus for them to sign with and those are around $10. Here is an example of one.

And if you ever decide that you need help with your portfolio, a lot of photographers will do a portfolio review for you, most charge anywhere from $100 and up for this service. (Be prepared for an honest critique though!).

Your portfolio should represent your business, your work, and what you can provide as a photographer. So, what did we learn today?

  • Showcase your strongest images.
  • No selective color.
  • No blurry images.
  • Have a signed release for any image in your portfolio.
  • Portfolio should not be 150 images of your own kids.
  • Portfolio should be on a website. (Blog is a temporary solution!)
  • Don’t use Facebook as your portfolio.
While you are portfolio building, if you start charging people for sessions you will need to register your business and get a Tax ID number. Even if you make $10, you need that Tax ID #. (In most states not doing this is a felony….remember that!). If you start selling prints, you will need to register to pay sales tax. Most states let you pay your sales tax quarterly. I can not stress it enough, if you are making money, you need to make your business legal!!!

So, now go work on that portfolio. Create a blog. Register your domain for your website. Being a photographer is not an easy job, there is so much more than standing behind a camera. But once you get some of these things done you will see your business start to blossom and you can concentrate on your work!

**To create a blog is very simple. You can go to http://www.blogger.com and get started there. For websites I suggest using Portfoliositez (www.portfoliositez.com). But those are just personal suggestions. I know some people absolutely love WordPress for blogs!

And, as always, if you have any questions you don’t want to post on the blog, feel free to email me at lori@loripetersonphotography.com.


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