Question for the clients – what is your portfolio telling them?

At what point does a collection of nice pictures become a portfolio that brings in work?  I am amazed at how one could spend hours, days, even weeks searching through online photography portfolios.  Of course there is a range of quality as in any industry, but there are a lot of people out there who have taken some nice pictures.  So how do clients comb through the endless options when trying to hire someone for an original assignment?  I asked a few clients how they separate a great shooter from the herd. Art buyer: My advice is to show what you shoot.  Examples of good lighting and technique are good too but people hire you for your specialty.  If you have a positive personality – play that up too.

My interpretation:  Get in touch with your specialty.  Go beyond just people places and things.  Do you shoot people smiling?  Groups of people?  Individuals in studio?  Is your still life work dark and moody, or light and bright?  The more you can showcase what your exact vision is the better a buyer will be able to match you with a job.

Graphic designer: When I look at a photographers portfolio, especially if they drop their book off or are showing it in person, I want to see examples of the kind of photography I use in my client’s work.  Personal work is fine to show, but I want to know that the photographer can shoot what I will definitely need for a project.  I also appreciate the photographer doing some research on the work our firm does and then shows relevant photography.

My interpretation: If the company designs websites and collateral for, lets say, colleges and universities primarily, they may not be interested in seeing your collection of conceptual food photography.  Being well-researched takes a lot of time and energy, but is well worth it.