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How Good Photographers Get Noticed - Tips on making your professional photography portfolio stand out.

Updated on May 26, 2012
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Growing Up

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.

A photo that no one else could take.
A photo that no one else could take. | Source

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.

In conclusion

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.

chasejarvis LIVE - Allegra Wilde on creating a dynamic portfolio.

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    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Good points. I've been taking pictures since I was a child of 8 with my first little Kodak Brownie box camera. My dad had his own darkroom.

      I consider myself fairly proficient and competent, but in no way a professional. I am an experienced hobbyist. I know my way around the basics of PhotoShop, which can be compared to a darkroom. I believe it was Ansel Adams who said that photos are made in the darkroom.

      You are so correct in your assessment of "everyone" thinking they are special because they aim their camera at something famous. A true artist such as Mr. Adams, can aim his camera at something mundane and create an extraordinary work of art. His rusted hulk of old car in the desert moonlight comes to mind. I'm not sure what he did, but it is a very stirring work, whereas if I were to photograph a rusted hulk in the desert, I'm sure the finished product would garner a reaction of "Why did she waste her time taking a picture of THAT piece of junk?!"

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 5 years ago from Mexico

      Good points. I think my case would be the one of “I am my worst critic”, which is a tough place to be but one that demands hard work and continuous improvement. Sometimes though, I have seen artists be hugely recognized for things that are really not that good nor special nor unique. Success is a really strange phenomena, it really eludes my complete understanding.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 5 years ago from Jamaica

      Hello Steven, welcome to Hubpages!

      I hope you enjoy it here and meet lots of new friends.

      Very interesting hub about you photography experience and good tips at the end.

      Happy hubbing!

    • wordmasher profile image

      wordmasher 5 years ago from USA

      Your comment about "communicating emotion to the viewer" is so astute. Keeping the main thing the main thing is a must for success in any endeavor. And with photography emotion IS the main thing. Get that duck in order and everything else follows. Look forward to seeing your work.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Interesting read--thanks for encouragement that can be applied to many endeavors.

    • QUIZ2012 profile image

      QUIZ2012 5 years ago

      I think you are right on topic. I started out as a writer but later found that I'm visual also. So I begin to buy film equipment and seek out to shoot movies. But it was something about photography that always caught my attention. I started getting an understanding on lighting and composition and I understood it after months of not, but I found the technical aspect of art a downer. It causes you to lose the fun. I believe that my pictures are decent, then again I'm totally like Claudia said above, my worst critic. Photography is another world, like film and video. It's like you're a God controlling this little world manipulating the images at your will. Great info.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      I agree wholeheartedly with what you wrote here about offering something that only you can give. It made me reflect that it can apply to all other types of work too! :) Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. You can read and vote, this way please: http://pattyinglishms.hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub...

    • elayne001 profile image

      Elayne 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      I love photography, too. You have made some good points.

    • EyesStraightAhead profile image

      Shell Vera 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Congratulations on your nomination. Very nice tips here on how to make yourself stand out among the crowd.

    • thoughtfulgirl2 profile image

      thoughtfulgirl2 5 years ago from East Coast

      Great hub. I like the art and science of photography, but most of all I enjoy the wide range of experiences that go with the territory!

    • Sustainable Sue profile image

      Sustainable Sue 5 years ago from Altadena CA, USA

      After years of playing with photography, I took an art history class that focused on styles of Western European art. For the term project I tried recreating those styles using photography. It worked and was the first time I really disciplined myself to practice photographic techniques, which improved my skills tremendously and was great fun besides.

      Recently I saw someone on Hubpages who had created lines from photos to separate sections of her hubs. That gave me another project to try that also improved my skills.

      I totally agree with what you say about trying new things to keep the experience fresh. Just thinking about it makes me want to grab my camera right now at 11:00 PM. Have you ever tried photographing night lights without a flash?

    • profile image

      webbience 5 years ago

      This article gives an amazing experience of How Good Photographers Get Noticed - Tips on Making Your Portfolio Stand Out.

      ----

      get the real identity at http://www.webbience.com

    • justom profile image

      justom 5 years ago from 41042

      I'm not sure how many people know what a good photograph is anymore. While I love digital I think it has dumbed down the art. While your hub makes a few good points I think it's too short and doesn't contain enough examples of what you think good photos are. Peace!! Tom

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 5 years ago from Indonesia

      I like your hub and I expect to get examples of good photos since I'm a visual learner. Thank you for those good advice.

    • bellartdesigns profile image

      bellartdesigns 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      This was a good hub. My husband works for the television show Army Wives and has to take a multitude of pictures to present to the Directors and Producers of the show. They have to be professional and depict exactly what is requested for filming. So, your statement “[it is] absolutely vital for professional photographers to create an identifiable artistic reputation for themselves” is so completely true; otherwise you are just “another photographer”. Voted up and everything else.

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 5 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      Everyone will see different details and emotions in a scene. The ease of snapping a shot without preparation or spending the time to notice the details has over-saturated people with photography. You are certainly correct in that a photographer needs to work on his angle, to convey emotions, to stand out from the crowd.

      Photography is a hobby for me, I don't have special equipment, training, and am not sure of my way around photo editing software to work at standing out. Although I love the meditative feeling that comes from trying to get a good shot.

    • photostudiosupply profile image

      photostudiosupply 4 years ago from Rochester, New York

      Very nice hub for people who are interested in photography. Good job Steven. Keep it up!!!

    • tiffany delite profile image

      tiffany delite 4 years ago from united states

      thank you so much for this hub and for the beautiful pics! i am a novice in the field of photography, but it has interested me since high school. i am just now beginning to take it "seriously", and i am having so much fun with it! thanks again for this hub...blessings!

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