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How to Put Together a Photography Portfolio for Beginners

written by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/19/2011

Fledgling photographers and amateurs looking to take that next step need to understand how to put together a photography portfolio that showcases their talents and personal style. Together, we’ll take a gander at some tips and suggestions to make it an easier process.

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    The Importance of a Physical Portfolio

    All photographers should know how to put together a photography portfolio that presents their best work. Even if it’s just for them to look at every so often to be reminded how much they like taking photographs and also to spot what areas of their craft need improvement. Plus, you never know when an opportunity arises that might enable you to turn your hobby and passion into a career. Moreover, some civic organization or club you belong to might need a photographer. If you have a portfolio on hand, you can be ready to accept any opportunity that comes your way. No matter what the case may be, this article is dedicated to helping photographers, who have only a vague idea of what a portfolio consists of, create one by showing them some basic tips and guidance about how to do it. This can appear to be a daunting task, so we’ll veer away from inundating you with a lot of idiosyncrasies that you can become more proficient with down the line. Although there is a multitude of media options for a virtual portfolio, it’s still good to have a physical one on hand. You can always include a computer disc version at the end for people to keep. But if you’re still interested in some of those more technical aspects, we’ve got an excellent article pertaining to that aspect of creating a portfolio.

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    Where to Begin: Choose your Photos Wisely

    Although it takes some time, you have to sort through all of your cumulative photos and choose your best work based upon your strong suits. Which type of photography best defines you? Whatever it is, be it portraits, sports, world affairs, or landscapes that you generally shoot, pick the best of them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in deciding from trusted friends, enthusiasts, or any working (and encouraging) photographers you may be acquainted with. Apart from the pride you have in your photographers eye, be thrilled to think your part of a unique niche that gets to use a visual portfolio as a resume, rather that the universal, hum-drum all text version needed for any other job. But don't get too excited about that, because your first page should typically contain a printed, laminated resume with your special skills, experience, education, objectives, and any work experience or assignments you might have had.

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    Have a Few Different Versions and Recommended Image Numbers for Each One

    C8 (2) Keep in mind that you might want to (eventually) have several differing versions available designed for specific target audience; be flexible and daring at the same time, depending upon who you’re handing it over to. Know what your goal is. Meaning, do you want your photos decorating houses and offices or do you want them in a magazine. Also, think about how you want your audience to respond emotionally to what they’re seeing. That will help you decide. As a photographer, learn to trust your instincts and intuition. Typically ten to fifteen images is sufficient for two reasons. Firstly, potential clients, employers, and anyone else looking to hire you will only spend a nominal amount of time looking at it. Secondly, it’s an unwritten rule that you’re judged by your worst work, so don’t give them too much opportunity to find it.

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    Decide upon the Style, Shape, and Size of the Portfolio Itself

    You've got a lot of options for the size and style of your portfolio, but you'll want to have the ability to put your matted pictures in it whether it's made of the finest Corinthian leather or a workable plastic binder. A lot of them come in various sizes with laminated pages to insert your photos conveniently. Going with 8 x 10 art showcase album is usually a good idea for your first. If you're short on cash, there's a cheap one here for $22 on Amazon.com. Be sure and use high quality paper for your prints. Take a look at other portfolios to get an idea of what best suits your personal style. The second page, after your resume on the first, should be a laminated table of contents providing all the details for each photograph you have in order. Include a pocket for your business cards in the back along with the computer discs we mentioned earlier.

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    Avoid These Mistakes

    Smith River Fly Fishing Trip for Vets 048 Don’t go over the top with pizzazz and glittery nonsense. You don’t want the over-decorated portfolio binder itself to steal the show from your fine photos. A solid, professional looking case, usually black, will suffice. The easier it is for people to flip through and admire your work, the better. Make sure it’s solidly put together so that no one gets aggravated from it falling apart or being too dainty. Another good reference for tips can be found on Luminous Landscapes. Try to create a little variety in your portfolio, rather than every photo having a very similar style or subject matter. Finally, when learning how to put together a photography portfolio, remember to not try and get bogged down in making it perfect, just unleash your creative juices and do the best you can because everybody has to start somewhere.

    All images courtesy of the author