Thoughts on Portfolios

Jul 29, 2021


Since my last post, quite some time ago, about setting up a Flickr account and hosting my images there, I’ve had precious little to add to it. Business and family priorities have occupied me and there have been very few photo and video opportunities in the last few months. That said, I still carry around an EM5 mk3 paired with an M.Zuiko 14-150mm ‘walking about’ lens, which does a great job when opportunities do present themselves. The images here are a few you may have missed if you don’t follow my social media.

After a quiet few months, I’m looking to pick up the pace of photo and video work again. So I thought I’d start by reworking my main Portfolio. Many photographers share images and then simply house a back catalogue of an overall body of work, sometimes loosely categorised perhaps by genre, location or style. Leaving a sort of ‘warts and all’ breadcrumb trail of their progress. But many do this without curating a showcase of their best work. And yet it’s a really useful exercise for several good reasons.

In my case, a primary reason for creating a ‘best of’ is, of course, to demonstrate to potential clients my capabilities as a ‘semi-pro’. But in reworking the selection, the exercise itself has clarified another couple of good reasons to look carefully over a body of work and think about what really works and what doesn’t – even though in the past some of the ‘what doesn’t’ has been shared and received good feedback on social media!

Flickr allows for a Portfolio of 25 images to be selected from your Photostream and used as a showcase on your About page. And since I’d always limited myself a dozen or so on my website I’ve reworked it accordingly to match up with the Flickr selection. I’ve dropped quite a few images which I had really liked, but which were included based on a slant to a location I enjoy or based on a memorable shoot. In other words they had found their way onto my portfolio due to a personal emotional connection, and not necessarily due to photographic merit. So in carrying out this exercise, which has taken a good deal of time and thought, I’ve tried to approach it from the standpoint of being a competition judge. In other words not allowing any bias towards a particular location, and, of course, ‘ignorance’ of any enjoyment in capturing the image.

And it has been quite an eye-opener. It hurt to lose some images which meant a lot to me, but which from an objective standpoint really had no place being in my showcase portfolio, despite lurking there quietly for some time! I hope that my portfolio now demonstrates more clearly my capabilities as a photographer rather than including too many ‘nice memories’. That’s not to say that every image in the portfolio at the moment came as a result of overcoming adversity and challenges. Naturally, many of them were captured in circumstances which were extremely enjoyable. Otherwise, what’s the point in pursuing photography in the first place?

However, as I mentioned in my preamble, there were other trends which emerged from the time spent examining my back catalogue. Firstly, it reinforced the inadvertent style I appear to have developed over the last few years not just in terms of capturing but also in postprocessing. Whilst I tend to desaturate colour, most images still appear to have quite a strong hue palette, but this appears as a result more of generally darkening images, even those captured in bright circumstances, and applying significant contrast. I have found myself looking to almost create a 3-D effect in some instances, and have always had a great interest in conveying depth in images in a 2-D medium.

This is more apparent when viewed on the Flickr portfolio because they are lumped together as single masonry block of thumbnails and allow a single view direct comparison, as opposed to how they are laid out on my own Home page. But I found it interesting to see how even though each image is captured and processed based on its own merits, a strong trend is appearing in my body of work, and those most likely to find their way into my portfolio particularly illustrate the trend.

The second aspect of value I have gained from carrying out this exercise is to clearly identify areas which need improvement in my work. This is probably less apparent on the portfolio itself, but in looking over my entire catalogue I can see areas where much more work is needed. Perhaps if at some point in the future I do manage to rectify any bad habits I’ll share these improvements with you, in the meantime I prefer to keep them to myself! It was interesting to note the extent to which positive engagement from social media had little to do with my final selections for the current portfolio. It certainly highlighted that it’s not necessarily the best idea to simply include images which prove popular!

So as I go into the second half of 2021 with a renewed enthusiasm for photo and video work, spending some time taking stock of where my current standard lies and creating some personal objectives going forward has proved to be a very useful exercise. If you don’t have a showcase portfolio, or perhaps like me haven’t reviewed it for some time, I can strongly recommend it as a useful tool to re-evaluate your craft, and generate new enthusiasm.

I’m often asked about the equipment I use.

You'll find details of most of it on my  GEAR PAGE


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