There’s a lot of talk out there about making a portfolio, but they’re so often about a service or a software. I want to share with you what a professional portfolio should be: what commissioners want to see and how to go about it.
First things first - the number one golden rule - show you best work. It’s surprising how easy it is to get this wrong. You may be tempted to use filler images that buff out the story behind your hero shot, but avoid this at all costs. If a reviewer or client wants to see more, let them ask but don’t muddle up that initial presentation when you get the chance.
Second: don’t choose too many images. This will feed down from only choosing the best and then again in turn relates to how stringent you are with your editing process and self-evaluation but, as hard as it will be, keep the numbers down. Ideally, I’d like to see no more than perhaps 10 in any given genre. 10 reportage, 10 portraits, 10 architecture would amount to a healthy 30 image portfolio. If you’re specialising in just one of those areas, perhaps slim that down to 20-25.
Don’t give the person you’re showing your images to any excuse to not see any of them.
And on that note - if you have the luxury - specialise your portfolio to the companies or people you’re presenting it to. No use presenting landscapes to a fashion brand or fashion to a travel retailer.
With those two things combined, you can do what’s naturally best - keep it simple. You may print, you may show your website and within those two methods there are a lot of ways to go about it but whichever you chose - make it easy and clear to get those hero shots across.
If presenting in print, get your images organised. If it’s at an art festival, by all means have those nice big prints (again not too many) but if they’re so expensive, delicate and cumbersome that it takes you minutes to remove them from their presentation box - you’ve. Already lost valuable time. Conversely, if you empty a bag of mismatched sizes, amassed from Groupon vouchers and vanity projects over the years, you’ll get round to point 2, and likely point 1: nobody’s got time to sift through that stuff.
And nothing changes for digital - your images should be organised. Don’t, whatever you do - send a WeTransfer of seemingly unconnected sets in sprawling folder hierarchies (yes, I’ve had that one) - If you can’t get them onto a PDF or webpage, just put them together in a single folder - don’t even worry about names but maybe number them - and if you’ve followed the rest of the points, they’ll be seen.