Recently saw a post from a fellow photographer who was introducing himself, inquiring for paid photography jobs and posting a link to his portfolio. After looking through his portfolio it became apparent that he has been shooting many different types of photography: wildlife, sports, landscapes, portraits, architecture. Many examples of different types of photography but none of it strong enough to captivate ones attention and get hired.
So that get me thinking on what is the purpose of a photographer’s portfolio? Here is what I have observed so far. Portfolio is an abbreviated selection from photographers best work up to date. It’s the best of the best collection of images which a photographer is presenting to others for consideration and review with different purposes:
– hiring the photographer for a particular job
– learning about photographer’s style and vision
– get a baseline of the photographer’s experience and level as of the review date
So rather than having a portfolio which proves a photographer is “jack of all trades” and can shoot all photography styles and images, I think is much more useful to tailor a portfolio to the area a photographer is focusing on or trying to be hired for. Tailored portfolio makes it easier to review and understand the strong sides and talent of the photographer.
But what about a photographer being well versed into all types of photography and ready to take on any assessment, my fellow photographer asked? He felt that he just so good that can do any job: weddings, commercial jobs, headshots, events photography, landscapes, architecture for everyone who was willing to hire. For me this is a wishful thinking.
I think of the professional photography as like a restaurants business: potential clients always look for the best photographers in a particular niche and hire the best of the best. very rarely they are going to consider someone who is average or starting with weddings to do a wedding, or starter landscape photographer over proven and established landscape photographer to do the job for them. Why take the risk and get a generalist when they can hire a professional and specialist? The same as clients don’t go to a sushi bar to get a steak and don’t go to a taqueria to eat pizza.
Being generalist can also hurt the photographer hiring prospect in a long term: not having a strong body of work and solid track record in certain type of photography is a weakness. For potential clients it appears one doesn’t find a specific type of photography interesting enough or it has not yet became a passion to specialize in, therefore the lack of skill level and dedication are major deterrent to hire this photographer.
This doesn’t mean one has to pick a photography area and don’t do anything else. On the contrary, one should have personal projects and explore beyond the “bread and butter”, but still bring new ideas from these projects into his main body of work: lighting, location, mood. Photography is a journey without a destination or time frame. One can spend his entire life mastering his favorite photography type and develop unique body of work granted that he discover what this photography type is and dedicates time and efforts to master it.
After all one can only get better if he focuses and improves over time.
Think differently, agree or disagree? Drop me a line or comment below.
By Trifon Anguelov
Portrait and Wedding Photographer, Mountain View, CA 94040