A Photographers Portfolio

Posted by Jerry Avenaim on February 2, 2010 – 12:12 am

A photography portfolio is not simply a collection of a photographer’s best work, it’s also a presentation engineered to tell a story that has a beginning, middle, and end. All the photos should flow seamlessly from one to the next, to have fluidity in presenting their story.

Advertising Campaign © Jerry Avenaim 2010

Just like some movies are bad purely because of poor editing, because of the way their stories were pieced together, it can be the same with a portfolio. Despite the fact that it may contain brilliant images, the manner in which those images are presented is equally critical. In a photographer’s portfolio, flow is paramount. I open my physical portfolio with covers and beauty, which then progresses into editorial and advertising pieces, and then I close with some of my strongest personal work. I include my personal work in my portfolio because it is such an integral part of who I am. It will also give a prospective client a window into what resonates within me as an artist.

Even though individual images may wow a viewer, if a potential client views a photographer’s portfolio that’s unable to tell a story, he/she may not be convinced the photographer can tell a story in a magazine, or in the case of advertising, convey what’s needed about the client’s brand.

Image selection

For image selection, an effective practice is to either lay prints out on the floor or display them on a computer screen. Then (I prefer to do this alone or with my agent) invite a number of friends or other photographers over to assist in the selection and order process. This allows distance and perspective.

What sort of order should I put the shots in?

Advertising Campaign © 2010

The images you end up choosing to put into your portfolio will naturally fall into various categories, genres, and styles.  These are logical groupings from which to create a portfolio with a smooth flow. For example within a fashion portfolio, a possible collection of groups might look like this:

Beauty, Editorial Fashion, Lifestyle Fashion, Catalog, High Fashion and Advertising. Genres should remain together in the portfolio, but not necessarily in the above order (although many photographers do start with beauty).

Within this structure, additional classifications to consider when telling a story include the following: location, studio, color, black & white, brand, background, and digital manipulation.

How do I know which order to put the photos in one category into?

If you look at my portfolio (physical or on the web) you will see the deliberate choices I have made to make it flow.

  • Each section has a strong opening.
  • I’ve paired the photos with the same number of models in the shots.
  • I’ve paired photos with the branding in the same corner of the image.
  • I’ve grouped images with a similar feel.
  • The flow always goes from beauty to fashion or editorial to advertising.
  • I’ve finished with a bang.

In the advertising section, I haven’t overplayed any one brand — I’ve made the collection short, sweet and to the point.

And what is the story in advertising photography? Girls feel rich and sexy when they wear sunglasses. Guys fall from the sky to meet them and think up ways to rip their clothes off, especially when they’ve fixed their hair. So go ahead girls and spray your perfume, look cute indoors and outdoors, go dancing, work out and get sweaty, eat right with friendly people, and men will take you home, all engines running.

Happy Shooting!

Jerry Avenaim

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2 Responds so far- Add one»

  1. 1. Toly Kasyan Said:

    Jerry, thank you so much for your blog, for giving an insight into your work and thoughts!
    Regarding this entry I’ve got a couple of questions and will greatly apprciate your answer.
    I guess in this article you mean mostly printed porfolio.
    What quantity of photographs, you think, is the most appropriate? What do you do with horizontal images?
    And how to deal with fashion stories? They may be several spreads long, so it’s not wise to put even one of them fully into a restricted size portfolio. The way out is to select one or two pics from each story? but they won’t tell the story in most cases.

    I tend to present fashion porfolio with full stories or catalogs separately from the “main” one, which is more focused on ad and portrait stuff.

    I’ll appreciate your opinion!


  2. 2. Senior Pictures Said:

    A photography portfolio is a collection of photographs that were taken with a certain type of camera, in one geographic area, of one person or a group of people, only black & white or sepia photos, a special event etc. Many Photographers use portfolios to show their best work when looking for jobs in the photography industry.


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