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What to Include (and not to) in Your Portfolio (for Photographers)

Many aspiring photographers ask me what to put in a portfolio. The answer all depends on your goals, but a pretty common goal is to recruit more models to shoot. Some photographers find it especially tricky to recruit models to shoot nudes, and often the portfolio is the weak link. I often see portfolios that indicate that the owners should have asked somebody for some advice, so this is for those who have not yet bothered to ask anyone.

What to include:

  • Recent photos (that usually means the photo is less than six months old when you add it. Try to remove anything that has been in your portfolio more than two years).
  • Photos that look like what you want to shoot. That means post models that you would work with again and in poses that you want to shoot.
  • Variety. If your portfolio is all of one model or one location, you will not look very accomplished or versatile. Show your entire range, within reason of course.
  • Consistent quality. Each shot should be as strong as the next. You can ruin nine good photos with one bad one. There is no need to include everything you have ever shot.

What not to include:

  • Stuff that is racier than what you normally shoot. If you normally shoot implied nudes, there is no reason to frighten off models by posting a bunch of full frontal or erotic shots.
  • Other people’s work. Only post your own work. Do not post other photographers’ images, saying that you would like to do “something like this.”
  • Tiny images. This offence is more common than it should be. Anything less than 600 pixels on a side is way too small.
  • Flash presentations. Unless you are trying to make your work unsearchable, stick to JPG images; not Flash.
  • The hardest shots to get; unless they truly yielded the best results. Just because you were standing on top of a flaming school bus, balancing on one foot, and tripping the camera shutter with your teeth does not mean that the resulting photograph will be interesting. Save good stories for story telling time, put good photos in your portfolio.
  • Self-portraits. Unless you are both a working model and working photographer, save the self-portrait for your “about me” page.