Class Introduction


Creating a Portfolio That Works


Lesson Info

Class Introduction

I'm so excited to be talking about creating a portfolio that works. We're gonna jump in to the meat of the content, but I gotta do what I gotta do, and that means I'm gonna share with you my family, because that's why I do what I do, right? They mean the world to me. So here's my beautiful wife. This is Bea right by her side, my daughter, Bea. She's like three years old, Super Girl, is just what I call her. She'll come down the stairs, and one day she'll be Bea, and one day she'll be Super Girl. And you just go with the flow. And so this was three years ago, I'm sorry, that she was born. And then just last year, end of last year, we find out, we're expecting another, right? And so I do what any photographer does, and I did these portraits of my wife, these lovely, like, dramatic, classic, black and white portraits, for her maternity. And of course, my daughter, being a photographer's kid, right, she, like, had to be in on the action. And you can just tell she's a photographer's kid. Li...

ke I swear, I was like, nose to the light, and she's like, boom, and I was like, it's a little bit of this, little of that, and she, like, did it all. This kills me, I absolutely love it. And then we find out something really exciting and terrifying and exciting is happening, and we're having twins, right? So here I am, running a photography studio and the podcast, and we find out we're having twins. And so we got Alex Gold and Colin Fox, they're like five months old now. God bless my wife, she is at home, home with four, three little ones right now. So this was actually the announcement picture that we put up and so, like Leslie's painting the pink wall blue, I'm like high-kicking over some Jurassic Park toys, Bea's got a Nerf gun on her, and I'm actually holding a football, which felt so weird in that moment. I like don't, I don't hold footballs, so guys, I don't know what to say, it's not what I do, but I did for the sake of this picture. This is my family, guys. Let's rewind, let's pull back, and I wanna begin with my photography journey. 'Cause this began much before the kids, and before Leslie and I were even married. So, let's set the scene for how everything played out for me. I find the story is important because it connects and it relates to so many stories that we have as creatives. I started out six years ago, it was 2011, six years ago. Some of us here in this room, some of us watching it was like 10 years ago that you opened up shop, you went into business. Some people, four, three, I bet there's people watching right now, today, and it was like last year. It was like this year. It was like last month, or this week, that you were like you know what, let's do this thing. I'm gonna tune in to Photo Week 2017, and I'm gonna start a photography studio. If that's you, welcome, you are so welcome here. I can't wait to see you succeed. And so back in 2011, I had just graduated from art school. Fine arts school, a fine arts kid, Fine art school in Bowling Green. It's a small population there, small school, national tractor-pulling competition. That's a thing, it's held in Bowling Green, Ohio. To top it off, small population of 30,000. And so here I am, oil painting major, right? Oil painting major graduating out of school. Once I graduated, I went in full-time ministry for two years. So I'm raising support, non-profit kind of a thing, and then to top it off, you guys all saw my wife, right? Like, I had to lock it down. So she graduated from college, lock it down. The week that she graduated college, we got married. And so to do the math for you guys, we've got an art major in the Midwest. We've got raising support for ministry. And then we've got student loans. And so money's like, super tight. We were trying to figure out what do we do? How do we make this happen? And so, we're sitting there together, and we're just brainstorming. I've already gone out and I've already gotten certain jobs, and I've got two in the pipeline, I'm ready to go start, put a name up and do my thing, all right? We've got that one lined up, and we're brainstorming, and then my wife, she kind of just like speaks this out into existence. She gives me this idea, it's like whoa, it's there. What if you became a wedding photographer? And I'm like, yeah, what if I became a wedding photographer? And she just speaks, she gives me some evidence, she's like, you know, right? You love people. Wedding photography is a very people-oriented thing. And she's like, and then to top it off, you've always been decent and making things look good. Like, give me a little bit more credit. Like, decent, come on, a little bit more, and so here we go, we're gonna try this out. And so what do you do when you get these big ideas in life? I wanna be a photographer, I wanna start my own photography business! I wanna do this full time. Part time maybe to start it, we'll transition, what do you do? You're excited, you reach out to somebody, you pick up the phone, you call Mom and Dad. You call your brother and sister. Call a fried or a peer and you say, hey, this is what I'm thinking about doing, what do you think? And you get some feedback. Maybe you even call a photographer. Somebody you recognize, they've been doing it, they've been doing well, you like their work. You're like lemme call this guys, let me call this girl. We're gonna see what they have to say, what am I about to step into? So that's what I did. I'm like, I'm gonna call a photographer, right? He's someone I looked up to, and so I reached out. Just to kind of pick his brain on the industry, what am I about to step into? So, here we are. We are at CreativeLive, Photo Week 2017. You guys are learning, you're taking in knowledge. I'm continually learning, I'm continually taking in knowledge. I think, I don't know how many workshops, conferences, presentations, listen to podcasts, right, books, one-on-one late-night conversations, all that kind of stuff, right? And to this day, the words that the photographer told me that night over the phone have still remained the most inspiring words that I have ever heard in my entire career. Like, I wouldn't be on this stage today, I wouldn't be here at CreativeLive, if it wasn't for what he told me. Do you want in, do you want to hear it, do you want in on this, you want some of this inspiration, some of this inspiration juice? I got it for you, I'm gonna tell you, 'cause I'll never forget the words. Like word for word, verbatim, won't forget it. Here's what he said. Ben. You're all shaking your heads. Yeah, don't do it. Don't do it. You will only bring the industry down. Don't do it, Ben, just because you have a camera doesn't mean you can become a photographer. Right? Everybody keeps saying they're a photographer, and they keep bringing the prices down and down and down, the client experience is worse and worse and worse. Don't do it, you're not a photographer. You're just going to bring the industry down. Okay? Unlike that conversation that I had, I am here to tell you, go do it. You can do it. I took those words, and was able to internalize it, and say nah, nah, I'm gonna hustle, I'm gonna thrash, I'm gonna test something, I'm gonna test and learn and I'm gonna make you swallow that with my success, right? Like that's what I did. That's not always easy, right? That's not always easy. I've committed to be the guy to say you can do it, and you can, you can all do this. I host a podcast, and accompanying live videos, I do live videos almost daily, literally just to show up and to dedicate time to help you guys grow your business, to help encourage you, and let you know that you can do it. And I'm super excited that today, I get to help you with a foundational component to your success. Creating a portfolio that will work. It gets me really jazzed. As a matter of fact, at the end of this I'm gonna open up an opportunity to do some portfolio reviews for you guys. I'll get to that at the end, but I wanna actually help you, I wanna sit down and review portfolios. We'll talk about that later. All right, so I mentioned earlier, that I was a fine art kid, fine art major in college. Here's me. Oh man, look at me! 2005, baby. This is me standing in front of my event portfolio as a senior in high school, right? (laughs) Absolutely love it. And so here we go. Shortly after this, you guys, I headed out on my first portfolio review. I gathered up all of my collection of work, and I headed down to Columbus. I didn't live in Columbus at the time, and I headed down to Columbus. The Columbus College of Art Design, they were having a national portfolio day. They still have this annually, a national portfolio day. And so I had this massive portfolio, like literally it was like six feet wide by four feet tall, like over my shoulders. Oil painters do these big figures, so I've got this huge portfolio, and I remember walking in to the Columbus College of Art Design, and there's just like artwork everywhere, people everywhere, tables everywhere, reviewers. And I remember lugging this thing in, and with great pride setting it down on the tables. Like poof, right, unzipping it, the reviewer's right across from me, unzipping it, kind of opening it up, and I'm like, yeah, check this out! I feel good, I'm feeling good. And the gentleman who was doing this review, he was doing a portfolio review for me, the gentleman who was reviewing the work, he starts going through it, one piece at a time. He's like, flipping this over. He's going like faster, than I would like. I'm like, hey you should look at that piece, nope, nevermind, just keep past it, it's all good, you don't even. Like, yeah, hold on that one, that one's really, okay, nevermind, you know. And so he's going through my work, he's going fast. Can you just imagine what that would be like for you? Imagine that, actually. If you could be a fly on the wall watching a lead of yours, or a client of yours, pull out their phone and flip through your portfolio, your website, they're just like flipping through, wuh, huh, I wouldna done that, seen that before, oo. Like, I don't know, like this is what's happening, he's like, I'm getting all these reactions and stuff. And so finally, though, he gets to a piece and he stops. And I'm like this could be great, this could be good, right? He stops, and this is the first time, normally he's keeping these on the table and he's moving them to the side. He stops and he picks it up, and he holds it. And he asks me, "Why are you showing me this?" And it wasn't like oh my gosh, why are you showing me this, this is awesome! It was like, why are you showing me this. Right, that's the question. And you guys are fortunate enough, actually, I'm gonna show you that piece. I'll show you that oil painting that got the why are you showing me this reaction. It's a real treat. Just, you know, to give you a heads up. It's a real treat. Since then, you guys, that was 12 years ago. I've assembled countless portfolios. Both fine art painting portfolios, photography, a blend, a mix of each, even like some 3D stuff. And so, I've attended more portfolio reviews than I can count now. And I've been ruthless. Been ruthless at trying to discover what makes a great collection of work? 'Cause when you figure out what makes a great collection of work, you can put it out there. It turns out you get hired, right? It turns out that's a really key component to that aspect.

Class Description

Your portfolio is the body of work that most defines you as a photographer. It showcases your creativity and helps to convert potential clients to paying clients. The selection process, however, can be daunting! In this course, wedding photographer and educator Ben Hartley walks through how to make all the uncomfortable decisions easier. He'll discuss how many images you should display, which ones have the most impact and the best way to showcase your work. He'll take you step by step through the process of locking in your ideal selection of portfolio images and provide creative ideas on how to best show off your talent to get the jobs you want.


user ec6295

This course is really helpful to give you another perspective when looking at the work we're showing. We fall in love with images and like to show the "hero" shots but Ben makes great points on how to add to that to make more impact. What I really love about Ben's style of communicating is that there is always something concrete and actionable.


Ben Hartley is engaging, knowledgeable, a great storyteller, and so personable. His class was truly a pleasure to watch. You know that moment when you learn something new, and once you know it you'll see your work differently, and without which you'd really (still) be in the dark? And you think, Wow good thing I was right there to learn that thing? That happened to me a bunch of times during this class. Recommended!

rob rob

This course was so helpful!! I love your passion. Thanks Ben for your amazing insights and willingness to share your knowledge with the photography community.