My previous article about the advantages of portfolio reviews has created a very interesting discussion. The question was raised “Why would I need a portfolio, I’m not a pro”, and even more intriguing “what exactly is a portfolio”. To clarify a few things, first let me say that having a portfolio has nothing to do with “pro” or “amateur”. I don’t like these terms anyway, because it implies that a “pro” creates better pictures, which – as we all know – is nonsense. It only means that a “pro” pays the bills with photography, no matter how good (or bad) his/her images are.
A portfolio is simply a very small selection of your best work. It’s nowhere written that a portfolio must be public, it can reside on your hard drive in a folder, on your iPad, on a folder on G+ or on a fancy styled website. The point is: It should represent your finest moments as a photographer. It should contain those images that you are the most proud of, those that represent your own style, those that create the level you measure yourself and others measure you by.
If you shoot commercially, of course a portfolio is your most important sales tool, and you want to show customers what you can do for them, and at the same time what you would like to be hired for.
If you produce images just for your own entertainment, you don’t have to impress, you can absolutely shoot just for your own pleasure. In this case you are the client, you set the rules.
So, why have a portfolio in such case? First it helps to establish or discover your own style, the subjects you love to photograph the most, and to find the niche in which you feel most comfortable. At the same time you establish new goals: You want to create images that are even better than those in your current portfolio. You set your own standards, and you work to improve.
If you’re an athlete, you train hard to beat your own record, before you even start to dream of setting new world records. You simply can’t beat your own best time if you don’t know it.
For those who work as paid photographers, our portfolio is our marketing tool. For those who want to become paid photographers, it’s proof of the quality and style they can provide to potential clients. For serious “amateur” photographers, it is a tool to measure your best time, and to work towards equal and eventually better work.
Lastly, let’s not forget the happy snappers. They enjoy the great pleasure of photography, but are not in need of a portfolio. I am certain however it will only be a question of time until many of them become quite enthusiastic about their images and craft. That’s the moment when creating a portfolio is the next step.