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Photography Portfolio Tips
Once you get that call-back asking you to come in with your portfolio, you know you've passed the first checkpoint. A photography portfolio should be one of the strongest selling points that you have, because really, what are you being hired for but your skills behind the camera? It's a bit more complicated than just having good pictures, however-you have to know how best to present them. Just as the difference between a mediocre and a spectacular shot can lie in the smallest variations between angle, lighting, and composition, so the difference between a portfolio that gets you hired and one that gets you dumped rests in the details. Here are a few tips for making sure that your photography portfolio doesn't fall behind.
SIZE DOES MATTER
This isn't the time to pinch pennies. We know that you've dug deep into your pockets to put yourself through photography school, but your portfolio is a worthwhile investment. Don't be scared off by the price of a glossy, 8" by 12" print on quality paper-if you choose carefully, it will last through the years and end up paying for itself when you nab a job. Of course, you need to be practical, and a full-size print isn't necessary for absolutely every photograph in your portfolio. Just make sure that your best work looks its best for this important occasion
QUALITY VS QUANTITY
If you're a perfectionist, then this is a decision you'll agonize over. What if, at this particular instant of artistic pique, you only truly love three of your shots? Should you include a 50-photograph entourage of mediocre ones to pad out your portfolio? When trying to walk that fine line between quality and quantity, erring on the side of quality is probably a safer bet. After all, the more photographs your employer has to rifle through, the lesser the impact of each one. And there's nothing like a poor photograph to counteract the strong impression left by one of your best ones. Being overly picky can also lead to your downfall, however. If you show up with a scant offering of past photographs, your employer will question the reasons behind the slim selection. Are you so sloppy and bad at meeting deadlines that you failed to order your prints on time? Or do you simply not have that many good shots? Attain a good balance in your portfolio by not going to either extreme.
Don't show up with 100 shots of the sky taken on a single, perfect afternoon. Building your photography portfolio isn't a simple matter of finding all your best photos and leaving out your worst; you also need to consider what types of photos are included. You want to prove that you can diversify, that you'll be able to handle all manner of assignments given to you at your future job. If you have a particular strength, then represent it by all means, but don't let the other facets of your work fade into the background.
ALL IN THE DETAILS
Be an expert about your own work. While going through your portfolio, your employer will likely have questions about the camera, lens, exposure, and editing behind your photographs. Brush up on your own portfolio's history so you aren't left looking ignorant and forgetful when the inquisition comes. Better yet, note these relevant details in your portfolio, either on a separate sheet or in the margins or the back of each photograph.
A SECOND OPINION
In the end, when you've assembled your winning portfolio and you can't imagine adding or removing a single shot...get a second opinion. Seek advice from someone you trust: a teacher, a mentor, a fellow student who admires the same photographers that you do. You don't have to abide by their personal preferences, but it's a good thing to be aware that differing opinions on a photograph do exist. And if reactions are extremely strong or you see a pattern emerging among various people polled, they might be indicative of a truth that you overlooked. It's often hard for a photographer to gain some perspective because of all the hard work you've put into getting that special shot, so give other people a chance to open your eyes a bit.
Of course, in the end, the photos will speak for themselves. Don't wait until the last minute to compile your portfolio; it should be a constant work-in-progress as you assess the changing caliber of your photography and update older shots with better examples using more refined techniques. Strengthen it here and there, weed out the weaker sections, and your portfolio will always showcase you at your best.