Display Your Work


Creating a Portfolio That Works


Lesson Info

Display Your Work

Blog versus portfolio. Right, your blog versus your portfolio. A blog is an amazing tool to have, have a blog, I encourage you to have a blog, I recommend it. I don't recommend that it replaces your portfolio, okay? The blog is there for storage. It's there to show a number of images from the same session. You get back from a wedding day and you blog it, and you show the full wedding, full wedding, more or less, 20, 30, 50 pictures. It's great for networking, it's great for CSO, it's great for rapport, it's great for letting people know more of who you are, and that you're in your heart and that kind of stuff. But your portfolio, I think, should be distinct, separated images that capture attention right off the bat. That wow, that inspire, that separate, and it gives people just enough that they want more. Sometimes when you start with a blog, it can actually kind of bore. Right, oh, I'm bored, I keep seeing the same person over and over, I didn't even get to the bottom. The mentality ...

that I think a lot of photographers have is, there's the story there that you want people to see. They can see it, after the portfolio, okay? They'll go to the portfolio, they'll be inspired, they'll see that you're separated, and then they're gonna wanna know more, and they're gonna wanna see more, and so then they go to the blog, because the portfolio did its job. I believe that there should be different portfolios for different uses. Not all situations call for the same portfolio. I have four different portfolios that I have, and I encourage you guys to have four as well. Four different portfolios. Each one is displayed differently. Each one is displayed differently, because here's the reality. There are different environments, there are different occasions, there are different durations, that we encounter potential clients. And we need to be thinking strategically about that. We can't all do the same thing every time. I have a question kind of about that. If you shoot a bunch of different types of photography, not just weddings, so you're saying if you're a wedding photographer, you have four portfolios as a wedding photographer. Is that what you're saying? Yeah, and to that person-- Like what if they shoot sports and weddings and-- The best way to answer that is what do you want someone to do when they see your portfolio? And if you want someone to hire you to do sports, then it's going to be really hard to do that when they keep seeing babies and weddings, right? It's a brand concern, really. I would actually recommend if you're a sports photographer, and a wedding photographer, I don't see, look, it's not even about your portfolio, it's also about the copyright, the way you communicate to that person. Those should be separated, right? So I think it should be separated as a portfolio. And so, great question, thanks, dude. So we need to be thinking strategically about this. Thinking about the different ways, in terms of the quantity of images that we show, the type of images that we show, and the way that we actually present those pictures. So presentation, we really have two options that we can boil this down to, more or less. We got print, straight-up print, and so we've got albums, you've got loose prints, you've got matted prints, matted frames, you've got canvases, acrylics, all kinds of stuff, right? It's print. And you've got digital. So it all essentially comes down to you either have your website, you could do a mobile app as well, but you've got digital. So now I wanna show you. I'm gonna outline exactly the four opportunities, four unique occasions to consider for your portfolio. So here we go. The first one, the website. Your website. Now this is the main thing that comes to mind when photographers think about their portfolio, we often think about our website. For some, it actually may be the only thing that we consider our portfolio on our website, our portfolio online. Here's a website that Jennifer Olmstead, Jeff Shipley are in the process of still designing right now. They're wrapping it up, they're from Tonic, Tonic Site Shop. It's an amazing job, so I'm super excited to get back and hopefully finalize this thing, incredible work. As we're thinking about our online website, the website portfolio, let me just kind of dial in a couple things that I really want you guys to be heavily weighing and considering with your online portfolio. It must, must, must look amazing on your mobile device. I'm holding this up like it's a mobile device. It must look amazing on mobile. As a matter of fact, I want my portfolio to look better on mobile even than desktop, 'cause like right now we're right on the fence, and it's only a matter of time before mobile takes over. And you can take a look at your analytics to see, it maybe already has for your particular market. Just be aware of that, it really should look amazing on mobile. Look, make sure your portfolio doesn't take control away from the consumer, from the viewer. What I mean is I get so frustrated when I'm, look, we're all independent. We have full control over all things. And then I go to look up some photographer, I go and click on their portfolio, and suddenly it just starts auto-advancing, and I don't have control. Like, wait, I wanna go back and see that, nope, it's gone. It's moving too fast, or it's moving too slow, like I don't want, I mean, let the viewer pace it and go through it at their own speed. Load time. We have to be considering the load time both for bounce rates, the time that it takes for someone to leave your site 'cause they're impatient. As photographers, we really deal with this because we have so many images and they can be really large, and so we have to be paying attention to that file size. A couple pro tips here. The first is that JPEGmini, JPEGmini is fantastic. It's a tool that allows you, you load up your pictures through it, and it just compresses them, downsizes them. I shouldn't even say the word downsize, because it does this loss-less. And it's not actually changing the resolution. It's not changing actual dimensions. It comes in 1920 by 1080 and it leaves 1920 by 1080. It just changes the file size, and it won't affect your print. I could print the same image, I could go through JPEGmini, have it go half in size, and then print the same image, and it's still going to be exactly the same. So go check out JPEGmini, it's a really great tool they do. Large, I think your image should be large, but more important than having large images on the screen, and again I think that is nice, is to make sure that you have a minimal interface. Hey look, when your image is large, it kind of accomplishes that task for you. But what happens when you go vertical? Vertical image still has all this real estate on the page, that it can't take over. And so make sure it's not too busy, there's not too much stuff going on. Just pay attention to that, minimal, minimal. Sometimes there's words and there's things and there's so many things that are still attracting, this site is still in the final stages. And to be honest, Wedding Gallery is not needed. I'm gonna have our designer take this out. It's distracting, it's a distracting element, right? It does nothing for us. I know I'm in the wedding gallery, heck, it's the bride right there. Get that distraction out of there, I want a minimal interface. P.S., by the way, my experience working with Tonic has been amazing. And if you're looking for a designer who is brand and portfolio conscious in designing, these guys are the best in the biz. Tonic Site Shop, you're gonna go on the site and you're gonna be like everything's gorgeous! And then this is really cool, and I get nothing for this, I want you to understand this. They just like me, and so if you use this code, SIXFIGURE, you get 15% off. It's like straight cash in your pocket. I get nothing for it, go do it. Tonic Site Shop has just been incredible to work with. Okay, so the big question, whoo, the big question, you guys. How many images go in your online portfolio? This is again murky water, a lot of debate, a lot of opinions. Well, what do you shoot? Is it different if you shoot weddings, is it different than sports, I'm gonna try to focus in here, broad sweeps. So, how many images? 20 to 30. Some people are like, yeah right, that is way too low, 20 to 30 images, you gotta be kidding. 20 to 30 images per photographer. 20 to 30 images in that portfolio, per portfolio. So again, this is the rule, and I wanna start here because if you are early on in your career, like 20 to 30 images is great. I think we have this false narrative in our mind that says in order to be competent, in order to be seen as professional, I need more and more and more and more. So what happens is we take our portfolio, and we start filling it with things, because we simply think we need 50, 100, 200. And we start putting fluff in there. We start putting some BS in that portfolio. We start putting images that we know are not our strongest work, but we think we need them in there. You don't. You need 20 to 30 amazing, astounding, diverse images, right? And so now I say, is this a hard and fast rule, no. Is there something magical about 20 to 30, no, but kinda. No, but kinda. A couple things. Photoshelter in 2013 did a survey asking how many images do you like to see imprinted on my portfolio. So a couple things. And actually, the majority, 38%, said 10 to 20. 34.9 said 20 to 30%. Furthermore, and this is with stocks, furthermore, though, Rangefinder does an annual competition, the rising stars of wedding photography, Rangefinder does this every single year. Guess how many images they judge off of? 30, 30 images, 30 images. The Photo Plus Expo, the portfolio review experts that I just told you guys about, it's the end of this month over in New York, Photo Plus. Guess how many images they wanna see in your portfolio for the review? 20 to 25 images, no more, no less, 20 to 25. Now, is going over 30 a bad thing? Is it gonna hurt you? It's not necessarily a bad thing. You could have a larger portfolio than that. And actually, I think it's a very acceptable and normal thing, when you start photographing millions of weddings, or not weddings, millions of images and hundreds of events, thousands of events, that's normal, that's okay. Your portfolio starts to get a little bit bigger. But I caution you, I caution you. Remember, you will always be judged by your worst work. There's a big caution there. A professor of mine, he had a really poignant statement that he made to me about this. If you can't impress someone with 20 images, you won't impress them with 100 images. If you can't impress them with 20, what are you gonna do with 100? And there's this, and I get it, by the way. I get the idea is man, maybe if I put this picture in, they'll like me, they'll hire me. If I do this, then they'll like that one, and they'll hire me, and it's a desperation move. I think we need to be more intentional about what we're showing and what we want people to do. Reverse engineer the outcome that we want to receive. I would much rather leave people wanting more. Like a great trailer, wanting more, wanting to see more, rather than getting bored, okay, yeah, I've seen it, right? I want them to see more, I want them to want to see more so they contact me, they call, they reach out, they connect. They say hey, I'm interested! I'm interested, can we get together, can we talk, can we schedule an appointment to see more? Remember, there's different portfolios for different occasions. This is just your online. And I'm gonna give you guys the same advice that I give my clients. I'm a huge believer in print, every single one of my wedding clients gets an album. It's mandatory. I do a pre-design, I design an album up front with a lot more pictures in it than what's required, what's needed, the client comes in and they have to take them out. It's a really, that's like portfolio review for the client, they're like, I love everything! How do you decide? So this is the advice that I give my clients. If you feel the slightest desire to even, it pops into your head, or even to express it, maybe you don't even say it, just think it, to give a caveat about any picture, take it out. When I say a caveat, I want you to imagine that like one of the best of the best, whoever that is in your world, maybe it's like Erica Mann, and she's like over your shoulder, or maybe it's like Jerry Yohanes and he's over your shoulder. Right, whoever that is, right, Sue Bryce, Lindsay Abadeck, over your shoulder. I want you to consider that for a second, and go through each picture, and if you ever feel the need to say something like, well, this is before I got my new camera, it was raining that day, the wedding was really tricky, or this was one of my earlier events, this was a few years ago. If you feel that need somewhere in you, take it out. Take it out. And I tell my couples that, take it out, if you feel the need to say something, take it out. Awesome. The second portfolio that I'd recommend, and again, there's a different duration, different events, different occasion, and then different display, is is your studio when you actually get someone to come in, and you meet with them in your space, in your studio. This should be unique. This should be unique. Now, we get to start showing full sessions. We get to show full experiences, right? So I recommend having three full sessions. If you're a wedding photographer, three full weddings. A family photographer, three full family photo sessions. So three full experiences, and prints of 20 to 30 images. I'm gonna explain those next, here. Now the key to your in-studio portfolio is threefold. It's print, everything is print. It's the interaction that you have with that print, and its storytelling. This is very different. You can't do these three things as well on web. You can't interact, you can't tell amazing stories, you can write it, can't tell 'em, and they're not experiencing prints, okay? And so albums, right? Albums, three full sessions of albums. Giving something over to your client that now suddenly they can physically interact with. Andrew Funderburg is a great friend of mine from Fundy Software, and he has taught me a lot about the power and the importance of print, and what it does when someone physically engages with a photograph, versus just taking in and kind of adjusting from lights and pixels on a screen, right? But now you get to show more work. Portfolios and individual pictures, now you get to show more work from a session. Because you're there by their side, you can communicate, you can tell stories, you can walk them along side it. You don't just hand them an album and sit back. You don't do that. You hand them an album and then you tell them stories throughout that album. You talk about the process that was going on. You talk about your why, you talk about the way that the client used those pictures and how they put them on display and what they did with them. You explain stuff throughout the storytelling process. So I said earlier, 20 to 30 printed images. I recommend to have as much wall art of as many portfolio images that you can fit and afford, slash afford, hanging up. I want them to feel like these are portfolio images that were on the gallery, and the gallery had the 20 or 30, right? I want them to feel like when they walk into my studio space that they're walking into this physical representation of my website, images that they've already seen, they've already connected with, they've already fallen in love with enough to actually wanna come in and meet with me, right? But now they're engaging with them in a different way. Now they're there as prompts for me to go up and now I can actually get a story behind that photograph, because I sure as heck am not gonna pull up my portfolio, online gallery, and sit there and click through it. It's gonna feel a little silly. You could do this probably, have you already seen these pictures, you have, yeah. This brings a new life, new magic into these images. Now we get to go back and share stories. This is also really helpful when a client brings someone with you who's not encountered your online portfolio. I see this all the time with weddings. A bride, she's seen everything, she's been following you for weeks, she loves it all, and she brings her groom in with her. She brings the groom in, and has the groom? Maybe he has, right, sometimes. Sometimes the groom hasn't, right? And so what am I gonna do, sit there and be like, you haven't seen my work? Let me pull up my only portfolio really quick and show you, like here it is on the slides. It just feels, it feels silly, it feels redundant. Instead, now, she can say, oh, I saw that picture online! Mike, come here, check this out! And let me tell you the story about it! And it engages and creates new life into those images. And so with us here, we've got canvases and all that kind of stuff, but this is a distinct thing that we do. Remember, it's that interaction with your studio. You get to interact, right? You get to hand them that album, you get to tell them the stories, but we have a print wall. These are matted, framed prints that hang up in our wall of portfolio images. And while we're sitting there, we literally ask our client to stand up, and I want you to go over to that wall, and I want you to take off the wall, pick it up and bring it back with you, one of the images you resonate most with. This physical interaction that's happening now with your work, and it's associating not just pics, not just images, not just clicks of a shutter, but now this is real, this is a portfolio, this is art, it's physical. And so they can actually go over to the wall, pick something off, they resonate, they bring it back, and we just share that story together, right? Talk about it, and connect back, and how it relates to them. It's a very different thing than the online gallery. That's why it needs to be in a different portfolio. Now, for the photographers who maybe don't have that luxury, they don't have the space to do a print wall, to put canvases up, you know what I mean? You can't meet in a studio. Get a print box, right? This is from Miller's, it's a Miller's print box of like four by six images. And you just bring that with you. Bring four by six images of 20 to 30 pictures in print form that you accompany with your albums of full sessions. If you don't wanna do four by sixes of that, it feels too little, just go up in size. Let's do 11 by 14s, whatever the size that you wanna do. And bring those with you. Lay them out on the table, lay those four by sixes all on the table wherever you meet, again you can't use the wall, so lay them on the table and be like, which image do you like, do you resonate with? What's kind of impacting you here? Let's pull that one out, let's talk about it. It's that interaction. The third portfolio. This is my favorite, by the way, the everyday portfolio. It's my favorite one. This is the portfolio that you have with you everyday. It doesn't leave your side. You don't leave home without it, it's in your bag, it's in your purse, maybe you got a couple copies of it just to make sure you leave it in the car, I don't know what it is, but it's your everyday portfolio for the serendipitous moments. How many images go in your everyday portfolio? I'm gonna recommend 10. They should be like, man, items. These are your 10 images that when you're in that serendipitous moment and someone says what do you do? Hey now, what do you do? You're a photographer? That's cool. And you can actually pull out, yeah, I'm a photographer. Here, check out some of my work. It's 10 pictures, you know what I'm saying? Incredibly concise, and once again, maybe it's 'cause I'm a fine art major who lugged in a six foot by four foot portfolio into portfolio review, but I think it should be in print. I think your everyday portfolio should be in print, right? I'm a huge believer, again, in the power of print, what it'll do for your business. We're gonna kinda talk about why print, but this is an example of a couple different ways to do this. So we've got five by sevens, they're just matted, some matted five by sevens that you have. You can put these in a print box, you can just wrap them up in a little piece of gauze, whatever you wanna do, have in your bag, five by sevens. I like this even more. I'm a sucker for an album, and it's so nice and small, it's a five by five, this is from Miller's. It's one of Miller's five-by-five signature books. I've done a 20 spread. So 20 spreads, that means 10 pages, and each spread is a full-size image. And I just carry this with me. It's like, this'll fit in your pocket, it's five inches by five inches. It goes into your bag and your purse, just this little guy, put my name on it. By the way, this thing cost, it cost me like 50 bucks. That's 'cause I did embellishments, I got leather, I put my name on it, you know what I mean? You don't even have to do that. You can make one of these for under 40 bucks. That's really sweet. Again, we use Miller's for them, and this is a great solution. And so why print, why not just have that on your cell phone? Um, look, I wanna separate myself. When you show up and you actually have, someone asks you what you do, you know how many people are photographers? Like, yeah, check out some pictures I just took. This, this separates yourself from kind of the digital norm that clients and leads are used to hearing. It's memorable, right? Yes, I'm a photographer, check out my work! It's memorable, people aren't gonna forget that. All day people are showing them pictures on their phone. They won't forget this. It looks better. Your work looks better in print. When its printed right, it looks better. It looks better. And you're gonna be taken more seriously. Again, I understand that not everyone's a photographer, but kind of we are, right? But, who's the professional photographer? You're gonna be taken more seriously when you actually have a physical representation of your work. Another bonus, too, is I am obviously a big believer in print. I've already explained that every couple of ours has an album with every session that we do, and so this is like a branding thing, too. Imagine if the very first time that a client experienced seeing your work was in print format, you're already beginning to set the stages and the mind to see that print as value. To move to then have them see an album for their own world it just makes sense, right, it just makes sense. It's a brand move. Cool, and lastly. The elevator portfolio. This is the last portfolio that I recommend that you have, and what do I mean by that? So the elevator portfolio, it's the elevator pitch. It's like when you have so little time, I also use this as my business card. The elevator, I don't even have time to get my, you're gone, I don't have time to get my bag. Pull out your phone. The elevator pitch, again, 5 to 10 images. I just like do 10, the same 10 that are in my everyday portfolio, right, this physical one. I'm gonna have those same 10 in my elevator pitch one. And it's on my phone, and it's an app. It's an app on my phone. Now, I made this app through ShootProof. We already are using ShootProof as the client delivery service to deliver images, but ShootProof also allows you to make apps from the online galleries that you make, right? So when I go to deliver the digital files to a client, I do it through ShootProof and I can also make an app. We go the route of an app for a couple of reasons. Number one is, I don't have to navigate through my website, don't have to worry about all the load time of all the things and all the stuff. And it's just there, right at the bottom, I just keep it there. And there's another really cool reason why I do this, right? I don't have to sort my images if I just had images on my phone, but it's really easy to share. ShootProof made this app super easy to share. If you look down here, this is Photos, Info, Links, and Share. I just click on that Share button, and I'm immediately brought up with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and the best one is SMS, right? So I can just say hey, let me just text you this real quick, and it actually sends them your portfolio. Not only does it send the portfolio, but now you've texted to them, and so now you've opened up a gateway of communication. The door's open. I've now texted you, the bubble's been popped, here I am, and here's my portfolio for you to see. And when they get that portfolio, guess what they can do? They can go and click on Info in links, when you go to links and get hey, contact me, Info just says where you can follow me on Facebook. It's gonna just show them everywhere how to get in touch with me. Okay, cool. Yeah, it's pretty sweet. Go check it out, sixfigurephotography.com/shootproof. Now this is actually one where if you get it I think I get maybe like an extra month of ShootProof or something like that, so if you wanna help me out, help me out and sweet. But don't do it unless you love ShootProof. It's a great delivery service that we've moved over to, so check it out. All right, you guys, here's a question. Would you like me to personally review your portfolio? Would you like me to personally review your portfolio? I would love to do that. Like, I would love to actually do like three full portfolio reviews for you guys. And then actually a number of individual critiques as well. Now, right here, CreativeLive, we're on a tight schedule with Photo Week, and so here's how I want to do this. Head here, sixfigurephotography.com/portfolio. What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna send you a form. There's a couple stipulations that I want you guys to know about. You have to fill out this form, drop in your name, that kind of stuff. And send me a link to 20 to 30 images. If you send me more than that and you send me less than that I'm not gonna consider it. 20 to 30 images. Don't overthink how you send it to me. It can be PASS, Pixieset, ShootProof, it can be a DropBox link. Give me your actual online gallery, right? Just send it to me. And what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna choose three photographers randomly, and we're gonna actually sit down and have a conversation. If you're in Ohio, sweet, let's do it. My guess is you probably won't be, and so we'll Skype. I don't just wanna review the work in an isolated manner and send you what I think, I wanna have a dialogue, and so we're gonna Skype and review your portfolio together, share, you can defend yourself, you can share your thoughts, you can share why you were doing what you were doing, but I wanna actually sit down and hone in. Now, here's the catch. The catch is, you have to be willing to let other people learn. Because if everyone else who didn't get chosen, I want them to learn, and so I wanna send it out to everybody else. So I'm gonna send three portfolio reviews out to everyone else. If you didn't get chosen, I'm gonna send that out to you. Okay, so that's the stipulation. All right, are you okay with it? Then let's do it, I would love to. And we'll talk more about the individual critiques as well once we get this set up, okay? So here's the deal, October 24th is the deadline. October 24th is the deadline, send it in, let's talk. Thank you guys so much, this is a lot to take in, there's a lot of work to be done here. And I'm just excited to take a look at all your work. Thank you!

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.