Skip to main content

FAST CLASS: Portraits Under Pressure

Lesson 19 of 19

Portfolio Best Practices

Victoria Will

FAST CLASS: Portraits Under Pressure

Victoria Will

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

19. Portfolio Best Practices

Lesson Info

Portfolio Best Practices

If your portfolio is an extension of who you are and it's your it's I mean, the lack of sounding dramatic like this is this is you. This is what you're presenting to people as you know, their first impression of you and there last impression of you. It's really, really important. So you you have to put the time into making one. I think it's really important. I also think sometimes maybe you make a book. I would even say defoliate just running to making important fault exercise of making a portfolio because you're gonna learn something. You're gonna learn something about your work? Um, I then think you should take that portfolio and put it in front of people. And if you're not ready to put it in front of an editor, then you show it to other photographers and you get feedback. I mean, you have Teoh it. This speaks, uh, entirely to my point about being uncomfortable. It's You just have to start getting comfortable being uncomfortable, and that's that's the more you do that it just gets ea...

sier and easier as you go. And as a photographer, you have to be able to take criticism and, you know, take the stuff that you find useful and capitalize on it, And then the other stuff, you know, you toss aside. I remember one of the first things my editor said to me when I was at the newspaper. He said, In this business, you don't have to have tough skin. You have to have rhinoceros hide. I remember someone telling me that, uh, you didn't need to make a book. You had to report Folio but didn't need to be a printed book. Um, but that you could you could totally blow somebody's mind with a box of prints. If the work was really good. It didn't matter how it was presented. I take that back. It doesn't matter how it's presented, but you obviously need to have a good presentation. That is, um, that's speaking to you to your brand. What I think he meant, and what I'm trying to articulate is that it doesn't have to be a physical. A book with plastic sleeves, you know, sort of in the traditional sense. Um, times have changed. You know, people used to say 20 pictures is a portfolio, and you put it in a black book and you have plastic sleeves. And that's what how everybody went around while nowadays there's a 1,000,000 different ways to present your work, and it has to feel right for for the work that has to go with the work that's in the book, and it has to go with your brand and what you're presenting. So I was, as a portrait photographer said, I've literally not looked at this book in years, but I found it in my basement and I dusted it off and shifted out here. So I thought, Okay, I want to make an impression right? So I'm going to bring a box of prints partially because I didn't like the way my book felt when I just laid out Portrait after Portrait after Portrait after Portrait after Portrait. But I'm a portrait photographer, so I don't. I was really struggling with how to present my work, and I felt like it needed to sort of stand on its own. So I made a book. It's a box. I didn't make it. I had it made, and it has my name on it that when you guys sent your portfolios in for me, uh, for the creative life folks. And when they handed them to me, a couple of them didn't have their name on it. So I didn't know who they were, which is fine. However, if you send your book to a magazine or an art director and they toss it to the side and say, Hey, you really got to check this out and they're passing into an editor And they said, Great, who is it that they're like? I don't know, you know? And then you're lost. You have to have your name and if a brand a logo, whatever it is all over the place. So in this book, I had a big box of Prince and I will go through some of them in a minute. But the reason I did this is because I have already told you, because I really what? I didn't like the layout, how it was going when it was picture, you know, person after person after person, face after face after face in a book. But, um, I also was meeting is going to portfolio reviews and meeting people, and I talked about this yesterday. A portfolio review is an opportunity. It's set up and a lot of photographers come and a lot of reviewers coming the reviewers or creative directors and editors and gallery owners. I mean, there's a whole list and you have the opportunity to have your work critiqued in hopes that you're going to maybe get a job or gallery show or, you know, whatever. But at the bare minimum, no matter where you are in your career, you should attend these for the feedback. OK, so the other reason I did this was sort of a sneaky reason. I really liked the presentation and I liked the big print. I thought they were impactful. But when somebody's looking through your book, I'll just use this small book over here and they're busy and they don't want to be talking to you. They go like this, huh? And they skipped pages and they go, OK, yeah. This is so great. Thanks for coming in. Really appreciate it, right? So people do that right? But if the prints are the size of them, they have to be slow and deliberate. So I really got more time. Time portfolio reviews are time. Okay, so then I said, All right, well, this is a little bit unwieldy, even for me, And I would I would continue to take it to meetings when I was meeting with people. But instead I thought, Okay, how about I send something that's a little bit more reasonable? So I made this, and it is the mini version. It's the same thing. It's still a clam show. It has a lot of the same prints, even, you know, this is where I waas. Um, a lot of prints in here and the beauty of having a box of prints, actually, is that when you do make new work, you can drop him in really quickly. You just get one and you slide it in, or if you're seeing ah, fashion magazine, you could just put the fashion images in or you're seeing, you know, sports magazine and you really want to have your action sports. If that's what you shoot, you know, you could just change the book, um, cater it a little bit. That being said, I don't think that you should, um, have to change your work. I think it's a decision. I think that if you are, I don't want it totally contradict myself. here. But your work is your work. And that's something that I'm, you know, I still struggle with. Oh, should I show this to the senator sessions? This really what you need to do is show the work that speaks to you. So next, um, I made a book, a book book, a printed book. And part of the reason I did it was because I felt like it. I had figured out a way to kind of lay out my pictures. Now I did want to do a little bit more. I don't understand fashion. I'm not I don't wanna be Steven Meisel. I'm not trying to shoot, you know, product campaign. Although I would have called. Ah, but what I was trying to do is I I shot a lot of, uh backstage at fashion shows for Vogue. And I had all this work that I really live really loved it, and it was very reppetto ized. So it was. It, um, spoke a lot to my photojournalism roots. And I think that that's why they hired me, actually, because I wasn't from the fashion world and they wanted my point of view, so they sort of unleashed me to the wolves backstage, and I really liked the work, and I wasn't sure how to make it fit with some of my other work. But when I put it all together, it started to feel like it had a personality. This was the beginning. This is the first book book. So then I managed to find a way to incorporate some portrait's. And to me, the book is about flow. Here's some more. So then I started getting more and more, um, commercial work, and, um, more of this sort of storytelling. Sometimes it was in for a fashion designer. Sometimes it was for, you know, clothing brand or whatever. And I I kept having these ideas. I did. I did run into that situation about personal work. What people would say. This is beautiful stuff. Where is your personal work? What do you do when you're not on the clock? And I didn't Really? No. I needed to spend some time doing that, So I came up with some ideas. I just said, Well, OK, if I'm just gonna go shoot tomorrow. Well, then what am I gonna shoot? Well, this is an example. This is my sister in law, and I just really wanted to go shoot one day. And so I grabbed her and we drove down the street. And that's where I made that image. Actually, there's a sort of narrative about it, um, on my website, and that just came to be because it came to mind and I executed it. And executing is half the battle. It really is coming up with the plan. You get the idea great. But then you have to follow through with it. And the beauty is is that sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't. But either way, you've made progress. You've learned something, give either learned what you liked or what you didn't like or where you made a mistake. Or in the end, maybe you actually have an image that you really you really like. I dont show all of these books to everybody. This story's book I go, it goes with me, toe all my meetings and then I'll decide what to bring. Um, this is a book I made of those tin types. This is just the the first year I made it just as a just to show people and It didn't fit in the other books, of course. But when people would say, Oh, yeah, this is so great. Do you have any personal work? And then I would go, Well, actually, I dio you know, and it's, um I've got There's a lot of stuff, um, and you have to figure out I've been shooting for a long time, what to include and what not to include. And there are a lot of great pictures that I have that Armin in my book anymore. And that's because you've evolved and those pictures aren't going away. They're just sort of put aside for a minute, and, um, those are my books.

Class Description


Try a Fast Class – now available to all Creator Pass subscribers! Fast Classes are shortened “highlight” versions of our most popular classes that let you consume 10+ hours in about 60 minutes. We’ve edited straight to the most popular moments, actionable techniques, and profound insights into bite-sized chunks– so you can easily find and focus on what matters most to you. (And of course, you can always go back to the full class for a deep dive into your favorite parts.)

Full-length class: Portraits Under Pressure with Victoria Will

SUBSCRIBE TO CREATOR PASS and cue up this class and other FAST CLASS classes anytime.


  • Leverage new techniques for choosing the light and locations for a successful portrait
  • Know how to build a rapport and utilize clear communication with your subjects
  • Set up a developed concept as well as how to light on the fly
  • Use successful strategies for marketing yourself as a photographer and how to get your work in front of editors


Portraits require more than just great lighting and equipment. Sometimes a shoot doesn’t go as planned. The location is drab, the client isn’t in the best mood, or you forget to charge your camera batteries. Great portrait photography artists are able to think on their feet, connect with their subjects -- and capture great images under pressure. The best portraits often come from portrait sessions that didn't go exactly as planned, when challenges turn into assets.

Celebrity portrait photographer Victoria Will shows you how to use your environment to capture a unique, sharp image that reflects the person in the portrait. She’ll also highlight how to quickly evaluate a less than perfect situation and make it work for you and your subject. Take your portraits from amateur to near Mona Lisa gallery worthy by learning how to shoot portraits under pressure.

You’ll watch Victoria photograph real people in limited settings, discovering multiple opportunities in a limited space. Learn her three portrait musts for preparation, point-of-view, and connection. Gain insight into how to make every frame count and how to get the shots the editor requested, as well as those that speak to your vision. Learn how to make your subject feel comfortable in only a few moments while capturing exquisite photo collections in Portraits Under Pressure.


The photographer looking to improve their portraiture through thoughtful lighting, creative techniques and leveraging the environment around you to get a consistent appearance.