I got busy this one year, like really busy. I was trying my best to stay on top of everything, and the focus in my mind was to ‘get the shot’ and then onto editing.
I’d shot a lot of great work in this year, personal and for clients, like the kind of work that makes you stop and say – wow I am finally where I want to be. YET, none of the work was in my current portfolio.
My portfolio was still a little mish-mash of old and new styles and broken up into three separate pages/galleries. I knew that I had to get to it but I just never put it high enough on the priority list.
Websites and online spaces seem to have a design lifespan of about three years before new styles come in. There was something in the water and many creative friends were revamping their websites with new themes, new images and better branding. I wasn’t about to jump in that deep as that takes months (if not years) of work. All I need was to spruce up my portfolio.
I was so inspired by my friend’s new spaces online that it was finally the kick in the butt I needed to get my portfolio up to date. Now, I am a little embarrassed that it took me this long as I know the importance of a good portfolio and I have learned a lot of tricks on along the way. So here I am, sharing some of those with you so you don’t have to have such a gap in your work like I did!
12 Tips To Drastically Improve Your Photography Portfolio
Here are 12 simple tips that you can easily use to improve your photography portfolio to something like this!
1. Keep your work up to date
This sounds like a no-brainer, but when you get busy it slips off the list. Our portfolio is a snapshot of our entire journey. It tells clients who we are, work we create and collaborations we’ve done.
As we know, our styles change and a lot can change in your work throughout the year. Not keeping your portfolio up to date tells clients that you may not have worked on any commissions lately, or that you haven’t branched out to try new styles/themes or projects.
In the freelance world, there are always busy periods and dry spells, but we can always fill any dry spells with personal shoots and create work that we feel is missing from our portfolio.
Getting new props, new backgrounds, trying new lighting, shooting different types of food can also change how we are seen as a photographer and attract new clients.
Keep your portfolio up to date at least a couple of times a year is super important. You could aim for once a month, or once a quarter. If you’re super organised and you can upload them as you create them! A good rule of thumb to improve your photography portfolio is to aim for is uploading them to your portfolio the same time as you share on Instagram.
2. Don’t just post your favourite work
You might have read that and thought whaaaa? Isn’t that what a portfolio is? Our favourite work?
Our portfolio is actually about showcasing our best work and work that captures what we can provide clients.
I was once told by a veteran in the business that ‘you can’t just post your favourite work’. We’ve got to show everything that we can do. If you think about all the shoots you’ve done, the variety that you’ve shot, I’d imagine that you would have a lot of different shots to speak of.
Clients may or may not want to see variety, depending on who they are and what they are after. Small business tend to not know much about the ins and outs of photography, but there are certain clients who do. And that’s who you have to cater for.
Agencies and art directors will want to see the variety that you can create. Now, imagine that they have a commission and they want to completely different concepts. They need to see that the photographer they choose can handle both of those assignments so they can tell a larger story.
Even though you might feel resistance, make sure that you are posting a variety of work and not just solely your favourite images. That doesn’t mean that you post work you’re not happy with or that isn’t your best. Adding variety will help you improve your photography portfolio.
3. Create a theme for consistency
Have you ever noticed that we ‘wow’ over some portfolios and not others? But the work is equally as good. That’s usually because the work has been presented in a way that is cohesive, consistent and tells a similar theme. You can simply think of that as the work just ‘goes’ together.
Now, if you have a lot of images like I do, then you may be at a loss as to where to start with your new work. The simplest answer is usually the best, so group your work into a theme or feeling.
This could be as simple as:
- Bright or dark
- Sweet food and savoury food
- Colour palettes
For my portfolio, I chose to group images by colour and tone and upload them into a series that went by colour palette, and eventually into darker tones. I made sure that there was a seamless transition from the light work into the darker work by having in between moods and tones in between my light and dark.
Creating this cohesion will improve your photography portfolio, yet shows the variety of work that I can do. It also allows work to play off one another and strengthen each image.
4. Show a mix of angles and aspect ratios
Not only will clients want to see that you can shoot a variety of angles, they will want to see that you can also compose and style a variety of aspect ratios.
These days, you can be required to capture nearly every aspect ratio in one shoot. With web, mobile, FB ads, IG stories, web banners, there are many aspect ratios that we could be asked to capture. Now, I’m not suggesting that you put all of these aspect ratios into your portfolio, but you should be uploading and showcasing BOTH landscape and portrait orientations into your work.
This will show clients that you can shoot and compose for a variety of their needs, and it also plays well in a portfolio. Adds some variety and can break up the uniformity and improve your photography portfolio significantly.
It’s also crucial to show that you can capture a range of angles. From straight on, to 45 degrees and overhead. Magazines, production studios and art directors will be looking for this as standard. So if you have a portfolio full of overhead images, try to add in a few 45 degrees to break that up and show what you can do.
If you identify any gaps in your angles, write them down and make time to shoot them for your personal projects.
5. Show a mix of moods and lighting styles
We all have our go-to mood and lighting for sure. And clients will come to you for that. They will want you to capture your strength.
But as a standard, it’s important to show that you can create both bright and dark work as well as seasonal colours and tones. A lot of publications produce work dictated by the seasons, so being able to show that you can shoot images for every mood and season is important and is an easy way to improve your photography portfolio.
If you can, also try to have a few images that show you can harness light in different ways. Include work that captures both hard and soft light where you can. If you are missing capturing either of these lighting styles, then check out my e-book Art of Light: Create Beautiful Images Every Time With Natural Light.
Here is an example of hard and soft light, where I teach you the behind the scenes setups and theory as to how to capture both types of lighting for different moods.
6. Create easily accessible galleries
Potential clients are usually very busy. Especially Art Directors. They want to be able to quickly view your work and know all about you. The trap in having multiple galleries like; ‘bright’, ‘dark’, ‘food 1’, ‘food 2’ is that they may not always find that you have other galleries or even bother to scroll through them all.
For example. Your approach an Art Director via email. They don’t know you and are in the middle of a deadline. The come across your email and click to your portfolio to take a quick peek. They scroll through in 20 secs and leave. Do you think they went through all your 4 galleries that broke your up work? The answer is no.
This happened to me. I had four galleries, ‘bright’, ‘dark’, ‘restaurant’ and ‘published’. How many did the art director look at? Well, he just clicked on ‘portfolio’ on my site and saw the bright galleries. Had a 20 sec look then left.
He emailed me to say, ‘love your style, but I’d need to see more variety and moodier work for you to be able to pursue the line up of jobs I have. Work on that’.
I had an entire gallery of moody work and actually quite enjoyed shooting it. My mistake there was having too many steps for potential clients to see the breadth of my work.
From now on, my main gallery will have the entire variety of shots. Consider this when you are looking to improve your photography portfolio.
7. Choose a minimal theme and really makes the images stand out
There are so many fun templates out there for websites, really pretty ones with bells and whistles. But for the themes that are set up for photographers and their portfolios, they are always about showing your work in its best light.
You really want to make your images and brand stand out and it’s one of the simplest ways to improve your photography portfolio.
Choosing a theme or template that allows your images to be the feature is what you want to aim for. Minimal distractions, minimal text, no ads, no IG or Tweet roll to distract – just 100% your work.
Usually, your portfolio should be like a landing page. There isn’t really anywhere else to click expect on the image itself and maybe your top bar. Picking neutral colours too will help the colours in your images stand out and not clash.
This is especially important in food as there is such a variety in the colours of the subjects we shoot.
8. Enable social sharing
Platforms like Pinterest are still very important to have your work seen by the people who want to hire you. The more your images are shared, the more potential clients will see it.
Some photographers choose to disable right clicks on their websites so people can save their images. Whilst I will leave this one up to you, (and note: I do this where possible), you will want to make sure that you have social sharing enabled so that at the very least someone can share your image to Pinterest or Facebook.
Some of my most pinned images I had never shared on the blog. They were only ever uploaded to my portfolio, so I have clear proof that stuff does get pinned and seen from our portfolio sites. Having the ability to share your work stright from the source and being able to bring people back to your portfolio is a perfect way to improve your photography portfolio and get noticed.
9. Name the image your name and ‘food photographer’
Naming your images is also so important. When your images are shared to social and Pinterest, or even if they show up in a Google search, there is such a wasted opportunity for exposure and SEO if your images are titled: ‘IM_9765’.
It’s not only best SEO practice to have your name in the file title, but it will also allow you to be seen as a photographer.
In all of your portfolio images, name them: ‘your name food photographer dish/recipe’
Like for instance: Rachel Korinek Food Photographer Pavlova
You could even go as far as to include the city that you live in so that you can be brought up in image search results on Pinterest or Google. This is kinda a must have if you want to improve your photography portfolio and how it’s seen online.
10. Choose a theme that scrolls easily
Depending on your theme or template, your gallery will act very differently in how it shows off your images. But at the end of the day regardless of beauty the most important thing is that your theme is functional.
You want any user to be able to click through your portfolio with speed and ease, and is one of the easiest and simplest ways to improve your photography portfolio.
I once had a template that seemed to take forever to move between images and it wasn’t evident if clients had to scroll or click to get to the next image. This is hugely frustrating for the view, even I found it annoying and I wonder how many people simply just left and never saw the beauty of my work due to a theme being a little glitchy?
In 2018, we are used to scrolling. My advice would be to pick a theme or template that allows someone to scroll through your work, either up, down or side to side. This is the same for both mobile and desktop.
11. Don’t upload huge files, best res for files
Another hugely off-putting thing with portfolios is when photographers upload huge files as they want the quality of their images to show up. Reduce the file size and speed up your site and you’ve just improved your photography portfolio!
If your site takes more than 1 sec to load, you’ve lost your audience. People aren’t going to wait patiently whilst your big files load so that they can see them in perfect sharpness.
There are two reasons why you want your files to be lower in size.
Firstly so that your site loads quickly and the viewer can dive straight into the good stuff. And secondly so that potential thieves don’t steal your work and print it.
Having lower quality and file size images on your website means that the likelihood someone will be able to do something with your files without permission. High res and large file sizes should only be handed out by you to paying third parties.
Try to limit your file sizes to around 200mb. Reduce the quality to between 65%-85% depending on the file size and reduce dpi/ppi to under 300 for sure.
12. Reroute 404 pages
How many times have you clicked on a stunning image on Pinterest only to be taken to a photographer’s portfolio with a broken link?
As we should be updating images all the time, images that are pinned are likely to have broken link backs when we update and change our work. Instead of coming to a 404 page, I have mine set to come back to my main gallery or main home page.
People kind get that this means the image isn’t there or at least they can’t find it, but instead they are presented with my most recent and up to date work.
This has much more opportunity than a 404 page. People will just simply click away otherwise.
Your portfolio should be a place where you are proud to share your work with the world. With these few simple tips, you’ll have improved your photography portfolio, make it look it’s best and share with the world.
Is your portfolio up to date? If not, which tips will you implement first to get back on track? Let me know in the comments. And if you have an up to date portfolio, drop me a link – I’d love to see yours.