Your Portfolio is a Living Thing
It's allllllive!!! Your portfolio is a living thing. It grows. It changes. And you need to feed and nurture it. I have updated my portfolio at least 1,000 times since I became an artist. (Okay not that many. That's about 100 times a year. And that is a bit excessive). It is good practice to update at least once a year. But portfolios are stressful and nerve-wracking. So much goes into them. So much can ride on them... Oh hell, I am not helping... Let me redeem myself by offering some pointers on how to keep your portfolio up to date and fresh.
DON'T BE A COPYCAT
This isn't about plagiarism (I shouldn't have to tell you that is shitty). By, 'Don't be a copycat,' I mean, don't compare yourself to others. It is sososososo so easy to fall down the (horrible) rabbit hole that is looking at so many other portfolios and getting discouraged by yours. So just don't. If you wanna get some design ideas or see what works in your field or niche that's okay. Look at no more than 5 and then get to work on yours. Don't dwell on others success. You don't know them. They may be years ahead of you. They are probably having totally different experiences than you. But no matter what, they are not you.
You be you. Your authenticity will show. And that is a big deal.
Don't create art just for your portfolio... but always have it in mind. (Gosh, RJ, could that be more contradictory? I know, Sorry).
Don't have stuff from your college days in your portfolio unless you are still in/just out of college. Obviously, if college work is all you have, it is okay to start there but work on new stuff!!!! This harkens back to "don't create art just for your portfolio." In this case, if you are just starting out, you may have to bend this rule a little. I would just encourage you to not think of things that will look good in your portfolio and instead think of things you really feel passionate about creating. That passion is going to make those projects more successful anyway. Which in turn makes your portfolio look better. Win win.
- A smaller portfolio filled with top quality work is better than a bigger one stuffed with mediocre stuff.
- That one piece you really love that doesn't fit the overall style of your portfolio? Leave it out. If it doesn't fit, it may ultimately hurt you. You can make a blog post about why you love it instead. Which leads me to...
- It is important to have a style. Know who you are as an artist and make sure your portfolio reflects this. Again, that one photo that you love but feels out of place with the rest? Ditch it.
- Make sure your portfolio reflects the kind of work you want to sell and/or get hired for. Don't wanna shoot family portraits? Don't have any in your portfolio. Even if it is the best thing you ever shot. Don't include it.
Your portfolio is what clients see. It's what makes them want to hire you. So it should be a reflection of the kinds of clients you want. For example, you are a portrait photographer who loves to shoot bohemian beauties in pretty outdoor settings, but you also shoot family portraits to pay the bills. If your portfolio is full of those bohemian beauties you are more likely to book more shoots like that. If your portfolio is mostly full of families though, you will just keep booking those.
- But, RJ, I like shooting bohemian beauties and family portraits. Great! Nothing wrong with that! My suggestion is to do as I do and have different portfolios for the seperate things. Some people have completely seperate websites. One for weddings, one for commercial work, for example. Personally, I prefer to have everything in one place, under the umbrella of my brand name, so I just have different sections of my site. Commercial shoots are organized together and portraits are organized together. Then I can direct prospective clients to the right portfolio.
WHO IS THE VIEWER?
We talked about attracting the right clients already, but what if you are sending a curated portfolio to a gallery or art show? What if you are headed to a job interview? Here the rules change a bit. Still apply all of the above, mostly. But also think about the style of the establishment who will review your portfolio.
Does this art show only accept still life photos? Leave out the bohemian beauties. What kind of work will you be doing for this company? Is it just products on white backgrounds? No bohemian beauties here either.
Only include the work that will best show that you are a good fit for a show or a gallery or a job. Take it from someone who has reviewed portfolios for positions and hired (or not) based on what I saw. Even the most beautiful portraits won't get you anywhere if I am looking for a product photographer.
With all that in mind, I feel the need to conclude this section by saying, never compromise who you are. Don't change your style to fit someone else's needs. That might mean you miss out on a job or a really cool art show but if you have to change completely ... it probably wasn't the right fit for you anyway.
Good luck with your curating. Stay true to yourself and I promise it will all fall into place. And if you don't fully know who you are as an artist yet... that's okay. It took me many years to establish my style and stick to it. But... you aren't supposed to be comparing yourself to anyone so forget I said that.