The Smart Guide to Creating Your Portfolio the Right Way

Your photography portfolio should be a collection of your work that will encompass your entire career, or it can focus on a single theme or medium.
Most photographers who have been at it a while tend to have multiple portfolios that cover a myriad of compositions, mediums and client need aspects. Many of the best will have tens of portfolios, so that they can call up the one that best fits the need and send it right away.

Photo by Patrik Bergström
Photo by Patrik Bergström

While nearly all photographers will have a large portfolio, the smaller ones that fit into tighter and more applicable niches are based upon one commonality and that is.


More than likely you won’t want to just have one large photography portfolio you’ll also want several maybe even 10 or more that fit into niches or specific types of client needs. You can get super specific like having a levitation portfolio or how to shoot sports at night and even one of shots that are specifically designed to be manipulated in Photoshop.

The key to each portfolio is who is your audience?

For a very simple example you wouldn’t send pictures of sports team photos to wedding photography clients or wedding photos to the National Motocross Association when they inquire of your services. So, you will need many portfolios tailored to the niche’s that you will have audiences for.


Even though you are grouping your shots according to relevance be sure to avoid the one mistake most photographers make in shot selection and that is picking shots that are to similar.
A couple of examples would be.

  1. Your client asks for your wedding portfolio. You send them a portfolio of 100 shots and nearly all of them are couples standing outside in the grass or groups of groomsmen or brides maids outside in the grass as well. Yes, it may be that you’re one heck of an outdoor photographer and understand natural light better than anyone on the planet but they will want to see indoor, cake, church, bouquet and guest shots to see your overall competency.
  2. You want to enter your still life portfolio into a contest to win a new client who’s offering a contract to the winner they select. Don’t send them just your shots of whole and powdered spices. There are hundreds of possibilities in the still life category and I’m sure they would have a wider interest than just spices.

Reasons An Image Should Make The Cut

There are several reasons you might want to include an image in your main or niche portfolio(s) and there are reasons to leave them out as well.

  1. The single biggest reason to include an image is the wow factor. When you show that image to people what is their reaction? Do they say “wow”? Or do they say “oh, yeah, that one’s kinda nice too?” You should attempt to build each and every one of your portfolios from the wow factor shots. These are the ones that land you jobs or gain inclusion in a gallery or exhibit.
  2. Be sure to show examples that demonstrate your eye for the unusual. Many times it’s that quirky little shot you snapped with nearly no set up or prep that caught a magic moment of lighting, expression or life that will be the one that catches the eye.
  3. Don’t bulk up just to pad your numbers. Don’t add in shots that are not your best work or that may be a little out of focus just to have a higher number of images to show. 20 or 30 really great pictures speak much louder than 100 so, so images.

Which would you think was more impressive to you. A portfolio of 100 where you click through them rather quickly saying “not bad” or one that only has 30 images but each one makes you stop in your tracks and stare?

Forming Your Presentation

Your an artist, the people viewing your portfolio are either artists or looking for you to be one. Just throwing your portfolio together like names in a hat that you then shake to see what comes out first is not going to be the best idea you’ve ever had to impress those seeing your work for the 1st time.

The layout and progression choices are key as well as backgrounds, borders and or frames. There are few things worse than seeing a shot on a background that mutes it or takes away from it. If you’re having a challenge finding something suitable look at other top artists work and see if you can find something there that inspires you.


Your presentation should showcase your work and make it stand out or pop as it were. It should organize it in such a way as to be pleasing to the viewer. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense mathematically so long as it makes sense to the senses. This is after all art.

It Starts As It Ends

You should always start with one of your best shots and end with one of them as well.

The reasons being that if someone is not initially impressed they may not continue, that might just be all you ever get. You can literally be done before they ever even give you a fair chance. It happens all the time with art and even people. We meet someone and judge them by how they look. It’s true. If John Wayne had shown up wearing a Tutu for the opening shot of his 1st film his career would have been over. But he was still John Wayne or should I say Marion Mitchell Morrison.

You end with one of your best shots so that the last thing they remember was being impressed. That one sounds easy enough. But the premise is that your last impression is your lasting impression.

Get A Second Opinion

One thing you really should do but is also likely the hardest is to get a second opinion. Go to someone in the business who’s making a lot more money than you are and ask for their advice. Most people will be happy to do so as this is a major chance to boost their egos.


Always go to someone who you feel is more experienced than you are because you should only associate with those people who are going to lift you up not hold you down.

Putting together a fantastic group of portfolios is actually really easy just remember to take yourself out of it and realize this is for your viewer not you. Make sure to vary your shots and get a second opinion. Follow the above tips and you’ll have great portfolios that will win you lots of jobs and or get you the exposure you really want to gain larger attention to your work.

Create your personal photo portfolio with Photodoto!

Author’s Bio: David Lye absolutely loves photography and it shows at the site he co-founded If you’re as passionate you may have found your kindred spirit in the world of imagery.

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