- Arts and Design»
How Good Photographers Get Noticed - Tips on making your professional photography portfolio stand out.
As a photographer, I have gone through many phases.
Some of these phases have been ubiquitous to what every photographer experiences as he or she learns about the craft. Like every other skill in this world, theory is nothing without practice.
But once one has gained a certain degree of proficiency, photography becomes less about constantly considering the rudiments (composition, lighting, portrait or landscape orientation, etc), because these become instinctive. The proficient photographer can then experiment with breaking rules and communicating emotion to the viewer.
Naturally, this is easier said than done. But it is far from impossible, and speaking from my own experience, setting personal challenges for myself, even in the midst of a job for a client, is what keeps photography interesting and rewarding to me. Consciously thinking about how to push the envelope a little further to strengthen the impact of an image is what will make the work of one photographer more memorable than that of another. The overall goal here in a pragmatic sense is to have a portfolio that will kick ass, take names, and get you more jobs.
"Nothing is static."
If you are a photographer who has reached a degree of proficiency and professional reputation, it is important to keep your portfolio interesting and dynamic. The best way to do this is to be constantly seeking out new subjects that will catch your potential clients' attention. Your portfolio must offer something that only you can give.
Read that again.
Offer something that only you can give.
Think about it. It doesn't matter how many G's you dropped on your gear. It doesn't matter if you have a degree in the arts or if you are a self-taught child of the digital age. If you are taking photographs that would be possible for someone else to take, you're not stretching yourself. You are allowing any innate talent you have to go to seed.
Speaking from experience.
I'll give an example to clarify my point. I live in Pensacola, FL. The gateway to the Sunshine State. Sugar-white sands and comfortable temperatures year-round. At first glance, this subtropical paradise seems like the ideal place for a photographer to reside and work. And it is, except for one thing: every one else feels the same way, and they all have cameras too.
When everyone in town photographs the same beaches, the same air shows, the same scenery, it becomes absolutely vital for professional photographers to create an identifiable artistic reputation for themselves. And while the general public might not be as appreciative as they should be (seriously, have you seen some of the clowns that get away with photographing weddings?), editors and magazine publishers recognize good photography and will feature it if it is up to par. Recognition in major magazines like The Knot might not pay the bills, but it is worth getting if you work hard at what you do.
So where will you go from here? That's your decision. Everyone is different.
Newer photographers have a tendency to think that everything they do is special. Part of that is the bit of hubris that comes with the successful use of newfound knowledge, part of it is just old-fashioned excitement. Either way, bear in mind that there is a fuzzy line between taking pride in one's work and being arrogant about one's work. Be objective. Think about the photographer you look up to the most, imagine that you are that photographer, and look at your own work in that light. Be forewarned, this can be scary.
For older or more experienced photographers, the challenge lies in keeping things fresh for yourself as much as your clients. If your style has worked for you thus far in terms of maintaining steady business, that's awesome. But by the same token, doing the same thing for too long, no matter what it might be, can become monotonous. Give yourself challenges and think of ways you can expand your style.
No matter what you do, just challenge yourself. Every good story, be it a book or a film, is built around how the characters deal with conflict. The absence of conflict makes a story boring. Don't let a lack of challenge make the story of your photographic career boring.