If you're ever asked to submit a portfolio for a project, gallery, contest, etc. — make sure you know what a portfolio is before submitting anything! I won't go into all the details, but this topic reared its head a few days ago in that password-protected post that many of you are probably wondering about.
Don't worry, you'll find out soon enough… Nevermind, I've opened it up so everybody can check out the discussions.
Being able to produce a decent portfolio is a skill worth having. A poorly constructed portfolio can be the sole cause of rejection, even if you're the most amazing photographer on the face of the Earth. So here are a few lessons on the art of making a portfolio.
A PORTFOLIO IS…
… a small collection of topic-related photos presented for the purpose of evaluation. And “small” typically means 10 to 20 photos. Any less and it's hard to evaluate; any more and it's hard to digest. Traditionally, a portfolio was in the form of prints bound into some kind of book or folder. With the digital age in full swing, portfolios can also take the form of a web page (which is actually the focus of this article). The photos should be your absolute best while also representing your style or capabilities as they relate to the given topic.
A PORTFOLIO IS NOT…
… a photoblog, a gallery, a collection of galleries, or any other large collection of images. Photoblogs and galleries take too much time to navigate and generally contain too much information to paint a clear picture. If somebody has to review 50 or 100 electronic portfolios, you don't want them to spend their limited time just looking for the photos. If they have to search too hard, it will only leave a negative impression and you'll go right into the “No” pile. If your images are not closely related to the given topic, you only give yourself the appearance of not being skilled on that topic — again, right into the “No” pile.
WHAT'S A PHOTOGRAPHER TO DO?
Put some portfolios together right now! Don't wait until you're asked to present a portfolio on a moment's notice. With tools such as Flickr, Zooomr, SmugMug, Picasa Web Albums, other photo-sharing sites, and personal websites, there's no reason not to have some portfolios put together and ready to go.
Remember, keep them concise and constantly updated. Evaluate your collection of images and make the determination on which topics you could make a portfolio for. Some ideas might be landscape, macro, flowers, black & white, bright colors, street photography, portraits, abstract, fine art, weddings, religious, beaches, travel, countries, colors, architecture, interiors, neon signs… you get the point. If you're a Flickr user, you can check your tags to give you an idea of which topics are good candidates. You can see my current portfolios on Flickr.
UPDATE: If anybody has a portfolio or collection of portfolios they'd like to share, leave the links in the comments.
If the occasion arises to submit a portfolio already in your collection, GREAT! You're done! If somebody asks for a portfolio on a different topic, at least you have the experience to know what a portfolio should look like. For further reading on this topic, see “Creating a Photography Portfolio” over at photocritic.org.