Building a Solid Portfolio
(dynamic music) (camera snapping)
Yeah, so is it useful nowadays to have a website? I think less and less. But, it's so easy to make them now with Squarespace, or Wordpress, and I would do it yourself, I wouldn't spend, if you're starting out, and you're saving for gear or travel, I would never spend even 1000 bucks on a website that somebody will make for you. Or even a $500 logo I think is a dumb investment if you're starting out. And even midway through I don't think you need it. My designer friends will probably hate me but I don't think branding is a good investment when you're starting. An alternative to a website is a social media profile. There's Instagram or a Tumblr or a Facebook, anything goes really because you just wanna be where the attention is. For me, I think it's important to have some solid, epic, iconic photos there but it's also important to show that you can do other things. So, and Finn Beales does it very well. Having kind of cutaways to tell the story, so we ...
have this hero shot of the landscape and then underneath in the website as a thumbnail you have just close ups of getting there, or some hiking boots or somebody lacing up the shoes, a backpack, just details, so what I'm saying is that all the photos don't need to have the same importance. They can be a big shot you love and then underneath smaller, it can be a grid of the smaller photos you like and that are not as strong as big but they still need to be there because you want to show people you can tell a story through images. To recap on portfolios, you want to build it so that you can shoot the stuff you wanna shoot. So you cannot go to a brand that you want to work with, let's say they're in the fashion space, you can't just show up there with your portfolio of I don't know, fly fishing, and tell them, oh well I can also do fashion I'll show you how I do it, just trust me, give me some money and I'll make it happen. That doesn't work like that. You need to invest in yourself and just go buy some clothes you're gonna return after, some cool high-end clothing just take it somewhere do a shoot, build that portfolio just by doing grassroots stuff, like, yeah, buying stuff, returning it, just shooting your friends and models you know and then putting it on a website on a PDF portfolio and then taking that to the luxury brand, the fashion brand. That's the way it works, so you need to invest in yourself first and decide what you wanna shoot, once you know that then try to shoot it just for yourself, build the body of work and then take it to the brand, and then they'll trust you cause you can show them that. If you do exactly that. Let's say you spent days shooting that portfolio for that job you wanna land, how do you know it's ready, how do you know you can start approaching the brands that are in this field? Well, showing it to peers and people whose work you admire will give you a good indication of how close you are, but the thing is you're never really 100% done, it's always ongoing right, so you're going to be living in a land of uncertaintude, and so do I, we never really know where we are in this field and the other creative fields, but once you've gone out enough times, let's say you've gone five, six times and you've shot at least a couple of thousand photos of that and you've narrowed down to 100 you like and then you narrow down to 50 you like, and then narrow down to 25 you really love, and you can get people's feedback for that. I think that's when you're getting close. The 10,000 hour rule, it exists for a reason, so by shooting all of these images you're gonna become more confident and with that confidence comes the right time to approach the brand. So, the bottom line is that you'll never be ready, but do it enough times. Just shoot a couple of thousand images on that field, and then put together a portfolio and then you're ready to reach out. How I built my Instagram audience, and that's a question I get a lot, so I started using Instagram in 2011, just the next month it came out. November I think. And, I was at the right time, at the right place, I had the first mover advantage, and that's not something that we can have now, so if you're starting now, it's way harder for you and that's just a reality. But, what really will make a difference is being consistent with your work. Since that day I started using Instagram, I decided to give it all, I knew it was the right time, I knew that something was going on. Everybody was talking about it in university, in the news, so I knew that was the beginning of something big, and I remember meeting more older photographers who were like, oh be careful with that thing, you know, they can own your photos or they own the channel so if they decided to take it away you'd be left with nothin'. And those are all valid concerns but I didn't let that slow me down, I didn't care, I was like, I'm going to go anyways because I know this is a good thing, so you've got to trust your gut. Odds are, you're interacting with people who are like you and use the same tools that you use and Instagram. So, it's easy to get tunnel vision like, oh, I just keep seeing photos like this, or like this, so we keep just debating trends. It's important to do that, it's healthy banter, but if you take any photo from the explore page, you think it's cliche and take it to your neighbor who's 45, he may be like, oh my god, it's so beautiful I've never seen this. So remember there is only 5% of the US who are so deep into it that can tell if something is overused or not, so I'm not saying don't be original, I'm saying don't get bogged down by haters or by people who say this is this or this is that, just do whatever you think is awesome and keep doing it. It will just work. Times of day, for me it's usually in the evening that I like to post and it's been like that forever, but it's just a place where I feel good because I've just had dinner, had some wine and I'm chilling. I go into my chair and I can spend even an hour writing the captions sometimes but also it has the advantage of hitting where my audience is. You get Europe waking up, you get the US falling asleep, and also you get the US first thing in the morning when they wake up, that's what they see is your photo from 10pm Mountain Time. But it's really about your audience, you know. I've asked this to a ton of people and some people say oh, it works better for me in the morning, oh for me it's 11am so look at your stats if you have them, otherwise just do experiments. Just try them, don't be too analytical about it but just try it and see how you feel about it, see how the numbers are, that's what I would do. One thing that's crucial I think is to not let the numbers dictate what you shoot or what you don't shoot or how you feel. If you put that photo that you love out there and the internet doesn't react well to it, so be it, move on it doesn't matter. Not every photo can be a home run. You need to tell a story, so, their just necessary sometimes and don't let that slow you down or steer you in any direction. So yeah, let's say you're super passionate about skiing and you feel like people will react more to photos of your girlfriend, well don't let it be all that you post, you know? If you like skiing just post some skiing photos and you'll build a skiing audience. It's gonna be hard in the beginning but transition your audience to something that's more like you. Well it will just be beneficial in the long-term. Is it more important to meet other like-minded creatives or is it more important to focus on your work? It's a tough one but I'm gonna say for your self-development focus on your work and if you need to make some time to meet with other but I make it 70% work 30% meeting other people. It's about being genuine, that's the bottom line. If you felt excitement when you shot the image, and I hope you did otherwise you might want to do something else, show it. Try to convey the excitement you felt on that little caption. It'll make people wanna go with you. Find the time that's comfortable to do it, you know, when you have an hour ahead of you, doing something else, watching TV, just working on your caption and get it all out, just write. Even if you're gonna delete after, I just write a bunch of things and I just go in and remove words that don't need to be there. Every word is important so the less there are, the better because people don't read super long stuff on Instagram, they're not there for that. But if your captions condensed to the point they're heartfelt, they'll read it and it will just create a different connection with them. To write my captions I choose a time where I'm comfortable and I'm just fed and warm if I can and I'm gonna sit down and just think about how I felt when I shot this photo. What did it to do me and how do I feel now looking at it. It's painful but you've gotta get it out because people will be able to see that you were excited when you shot the photo and they'll want to go with you. Do you need a university degree to do what you're doing? I don't think so and it's tricky because I went to University and I spent four years there learning about photography, editing, color theory, drawing, a lot of things related to this. So it saved me a ton of time, I don't think you need it but it will save you some time. But, if you don't want to put the money I get it, and there is probably a faster way to do it and that'll be doing an internship with somebody you know and you admire, that's probably the fastest way to getting started in a creative career. (dynamic music)