How to make my photography portfolio strong
January 2, 2011 5:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm preparing to send a portfolio of photographs to some magazines in hopes of getting some acknowledgment in photo journalism etc. Anyway, how can I prepare the portfolio or make it stronger? Any suggestions are appreciated.
posted by Viomeda to Work & Money (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might define "getting some acknowledgment in photo journalism" a bit more clearly - are you looking for assignments or just looking to have your current body of work published? How well do you understand the content and needs of the publications you're targeting? Have you reviewed their submission guidelines? What media are you using to submit your work? Do you have an idea of what you expect to be paid/what reasonable pay is for your images?

I don't know if your flickr stream is representative of the work you're submitting as a portfolio, but if so please rethink this move. Its completely true that you only get one chance to make a first impression and a quick review of your photos says you might be better served by becoming a more skilled photographer first.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:27 PM on January 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

no, my fickr stream is old and crap images mostly taken in fun/for personal enjoyment. One can ignore that, I have not touched that stream in years and it does not represent where my photography is right now and what I would be submitting.

further, I am looking to be given specific assignments in the areas I have good access to, for example India. I would be submitting digital media, although I have some film images as well. Right now money is not the direct priority, I'm hoping to get my foot through the door if sources indeed want my images.
posted by Viomeda at 5:44 PM on January 2, 2011

If you want to get assignments from magazines or newspapers (mags pay better, but newspapers are easier to break in), you need to show the editor that you can get the right shot at the right moment. Your rodeo photos aren't particularly strong in that regard. They're decently framed, but they're not really seizing the moment. I understand that you're hampered by shooting as a spectator in the crowd, not as a working photographer with access.

Generally, you want to present only the absolute strongest images, even if you have only a dozen or so. Knowing what magazines/media you have in mind might be helpful.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:48 PM on January 2, 2011

Ignore My Flickr please.....if that is possible my photography has evolved since then.
posted by Viomeda at 5:56 PM on January 2, 2011

Since you're asking for advice on improving your portfolio, maybe you could provide a link to representative material so that you can get specific comments? Without knowing what you're currently working with, I think it'd be pretty hard to provide useful, actionable feedback.

I'm just lurking as I have a friend who's ready to expand his work, and this might be a good thread for him.
posted by smirkette at 6:08 PM on January 2, 2011

Right now money is not the direct priority
Then get an internship. Really. Or assist a working photographer. You'll do yourself no favors by becoming known as someone who works for cheap/free - who's going to want to pay you if they know they can get your work for little/nothing?

You need to target specific publications and your pitch should show that you know your audience (or specifically, theirs). Consider carefully how you present your work - will you be mailing an iPad with a portfolio, a dvd, a link to a website?

A couple VERY helpful places to read top to bottom are (search specifically on Chase's blog for a post a while back about a "hire me" letter he received - great stuff. Heather Morton recently called it quits on blogging for health reasons, but she's got a ton of useful info:

You mention assignments in areas you have "good access to". I can't find the exact quote right off, but some time ago I read an interview with an editor at Nat Geo who essentially said they've got a zillion people ready, willing and able to travel the world for them, but only YOU know your back yard. Point being, they're more likely to hire someone like you to cover a place and subject that you're intimately involved in not someplace remote/exotic/etc.

Also, as smirkette suggests, please post a link to current work (because you DO have a website and are using social media to its fullest to promote your work, right?) so you can get more specific and useful feedback.

I'm sure more will come to me, but that's it for the moment...
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:23 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am currently working a getting my work more accessible on the web. I am a bit wary of all the ways work can be stolen or copied. So far the other photographers I have worked (mentored with) transfer their stuff via Pando (or by hand) as do I. Right now my work is on disc.

As far as location, I am getting ready to move to Chennai, India to study volunteer, study and pursue the photo documentation. I will be living with people who are local to South India, Tamil Nadu and surrounding states. Obviously my photography and current portfolio will express this. That will be my backyard for the next year or so.

Yes, the internship route is a desirable avenue to take for me.
posted by Viomeda at 7:08 PM on January 2, 2011

I am a bit wary of all the ways work can be stolen or copied.
Do not be: it will happen, the question is whether it will matter. Put small images (500px on their largest side) online and they won't be usable for print.
posted by tmcw at 7:16 PM on January 2, 2011

tmcw is right on - if its on the internet, its able to be lifted. But if its not, you might as well not be in business. Without a public presence, you won't go anywhere.

Moving to India will set you up do put together a great photo essay and to build a portfolio, but will hardly qualify you as an inside authority that will make you attractive as a go-to person for assignments. And there already exists a huge body of available stock images, so after-the-fact marketing of stand alone images is unlikely and hardly worth the effort unless your images are unique and mindblowing. Perhaps you'll be there during a war or natural disaster - then you might have a unique photo op. Otherwise, there's not a lot that hasn't been done. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try of course, but you should be shooting every image with a "has this been done before / how can I do it better/differently?" angle. Otherwise, its touristy and redundant.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:37 PM on January 2, 2011

I agree about putting your photos online. I take average fun/lame photos with crappy cameras, and don't consider myself a photographer, but I've been approached by two publishers for using one of my flickr photos. They could have lifted it for free, but didn't. And both actually paid up (though I had to figure out how to do an invoice and W-9).
posted by mnemonic at 7:57 PM on January 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can always put your stuff on and see how the market responds. I frequently advise documentary clients to take a look on that site, and they're often blown away by the quality of footage and stills. If you have another blog or site, watermark your shots if you're worried about stuff being stolen.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:43 PM on January 2, 2011

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