Tips and Tricks for Building an Elevated Photography Portfolio
Did you know that first impressions are made within 7 seconds?
When a potential client scrolls through your Instagram feed, lands on your website, or emails you for more information…you don’t have much time to grab their attention. Website design, social media strategy, and professional communication skills will get you far– but your photography portfolio is the first place you should begin when it comes to honing the impression you leave on your audience.
Simply put, a photography portfolio is a comprehensive display of your work. It showcases your skills and highlights your ‘voice’ as an artist. With so many talented artists in the photography community today, it’s even more important that you create a portfolio that is professional, refined, and showcases the unique way you see through the lens.
Below is our guide to building an elevated photography portfolio that will set you apart, attract your ideal clientele, and boost your creativity:
The first step to building an elevated photography portfolio is creating content. At first glance, this advice seems obvious – but when you’re looking to freshen your portfolio, it’s easy to fall into a rhythm of consuming content in the name of “inspiration”.
When you spend less time consuming and more time creating, the real magic begins.
If you’re a brand new photographer with barely any photoshoots under your belt, it’s time to begin. We all start somewhere! Create mood boards, dream up your ideal shoot, imagine what you want your portfolio to encompass and then start taking photos. Sometimes this may be paid sessions for clients, and other times you may have to style your own shoots until the clients come. Regardless, don’t wait until the perfect opportunities arise. Create the content you want to shoot and you’ll begin attracting the clients you want to create for.
Some photographers start out knowing the content they want to create while others take a while to find their passion. Don’t rush the process– it takes time and practice to discover your favorite subjects, aesthetic, and style. As you continue shooting and developing your editing skills, you’ll eventually uncover what lights you up and become more confident in your body of work.
Here is a guide to some of the most popular avenues photographers take:
Does romance and beauty bring you joy? Wedding photography might be a good fit for you! While capturing one of your clients’ most memorable life events is definitely high pressure– there’s nothing quite like the elegance, intimacy, and love that transpires on a wedding day. From golden-lit portraits of the couple to candid snapshots of the reception, your portfolio will quickly be filled with timeless moments that will be returned to over and over again.
Interior and Architectural Photography
If you’re inspired by beautifully designed spaces and artful details, Interior and Architectural Photography could be the best fit for you. Photographers within this niche have a keen eye for detail and understand the interplay of light, composition, and shape within a space. If you’re interested in this type of photography, staging and photographing your own home is a perfect way to begin.
Do you find styled shoots and publications compelling? Editorial photography is a great fit for those who want to step further into the role of “director”. With editorial photography you’ll have the freedom to conceptualize a shoot, plan the details, coordinate collaborations, and turn your vision into reality. Seeing your work published in print or online is an affirming experience for any creative– if you go this route, that experience is just a part of the job.
For photographers who love being in the action and capturing fast-paced, candid imagery– event photography is an exciting avenue. Many event photographers document concerts, conferences, speaking events, grand openings, and anything else that attracts a large crowd. If you love a photojournalistic approach and aren’t afraid of navigating the in-the-moment nature of events, you’ll thrive in this genre.
Portraiture is one of the most classic directions to go with your photography. Portrait photographers learn the fine art of posing and how to evoke natural beauty while working closely with their subjects to help them unfold in front of the camera. If you love a slower paced style of photography, portraiture will allow you to build a portfolio of individuals, families, and couples marked by intentionality and connection.
Every photo session and subject is different, but mastering a thread of cohesivity throughout your portfolio will set your work apart. Consistency can be created simply by the way you use light, pose your subjects, or choose locations as well as by the way you edit your photos in post-processing.
Here at REFINED Co, we believe that one of the easiest ways to elevate your portfolio is to invest in editing presets. A good preset will amplify your photography and give your body of work a “signature look” that people will gravitate towards.
If you don’t want to create your own, try to find presets created by industry professionals. Premium presets take one year (or more) to develop and are painstakingly tested on a variety of camera bodies and thousands of shoots. Professionalism, consistency, and editing efficiency are at the foundation of premium presets as well as the ability to provide that cohesive look you’re going for.
Think of your portfolio as an open-ended collection of artwork, experience, and inspiration. Your portfolio will never be finished, but will evolve and change as you grow as an artist. Every photographer experiences seasons of creative drought, but the key is to always stoke the flame of inspiration. Pay attention to the way light moves outside your window. Take a few seconds to appreciate the design elements in your local bakery. Notice the way that couple walks down the street with her dress billowing in the breeze.
When you have eyes to see, inspiration can grab you at any moment. Use that inspiration to reinvigorate your artistic vision, elevate your portfolio, and create work you can’t wait to share.
Whether you just got a camera last week or you’ve been a photographer for 20 years, there’s always an opportunity to learn something new. If you want to maintain a beautiful portfolio…become passionate about refining your craft! Sign up for local workshops and online classes, seek out the advice of your favorite photographers, read books, visit art museums, and stay in-tune with the latest photography trends. Investing in your knowledge will only increase your skills as an artist.
Along these same lines, find a community that can relate to your work and help you learn and grow. It’s so much easier to navigate the world of photography when you have fellow artists to answer questions and encourage your work.
Currently looking for a group of talented photographers and creative professionals? Look no further than REFINED Co. We help you showcase your creativity with presets and editing tools that save time and elevate your look with timeless beauty. Our Facebook Community is filled with 5k+ industry peers that we know you’ll love!
Receiving feedback and constructive criticism can be painful, but it is well worth the discomfort. When we pursue excellence in our work we must be willing to face up to the ways we can be better. Ask former clients and industry peers what they think of your photography and take notes– as artists it is possible to be “too close” to our work so that we can’t see the blind spots that are ultimately holding us back from becoming better. Receive the opinions of others with an open mind, but remember that at the end of the day it is your photography. Not everyone will see the world as you do and it’s important that you stay true to your voice.
Between client communication, scheduling, and editing photos, the logistics of running a photography business can often make building a portfolio feel more like a chore than a passion. Burnout isn’t just a buzzword, but rather a real struggle for creative entrepreneurs who make a business out of their photography. But, take heart! There are ways to keep the spark alive and avoid burnout:
Shoot for Yourself. If photography is your full-time job, you’ll need to take on shoots to pay the bills– but don’t forget to regularly set aside time to shoot for yourself! By reserving some creative energy for personal work you’ll be able to return to the passion you had for photography when you first started.
Set Boundaries. It’s a running joke that entrepreneurs quit their 40 hour per week job to work 24/7. The freedom to work whenever and wherever you want is great, until it backfires and you find yourself pulling yet another late night. Implementing boundaries will allow you to create work/life integration, boost productivity when you are working, and avoid burnout. It’s not good to think about work all the time- even if your work is something you love. Make plenty of room in your life for hobbies, loved ones, and time filling your own cup. You’ll be able to come back to work with fresh eyes and more motivation than before.
Your photography portfolio is the first impression you’ll leave with your potential clients. Honor yourself and your craft by pouring into your portfolio with the above-mentioned tips (you'll be surprised by how doing so will set you apart, attract your ideal clientele, and boost your creativity).
If you’re ready to showcase your creativity with presets and editing tools that save time and elevate your portfolio with timeless beauty be sure to Shop our Collection, Today! →
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Interested in submitting a session to the REFINED Co Journal. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org