Few weeks back Phelia asked for tips to build a good portfolio the food photography facebook page. We talked how to build your food photography portfolio and then I asked this question to few top food photographers.
This post presents their advice on building a professional photography portfolio.
Top Food Photographers’ Advice on Creating a Great Photography Portfolio
So I sent an email to these food photographers and they replied back. Below is their advice on how to build a great photography portfolio.
… My best advice is not to worry about the quantity as much as the quality. As long as they (you) have 15-20 good ones to start with that enough to make a good gallery. They (You) can build it up from there as they shoot more. Here’s Helene’s portfolio.
New photographers should focus on the type of work they want to do long term, and then self-assign themselves that kind of work. This is certainly easier when the photographer can style the food as well as shoot it, but if not, finding someone else to prepare the food is usually pretty straightforward.
This work should be free of branding… don’t shoot a bottle of Absolute Vodka and put it on your site, for example, because it will look like you are trying to pass it off as client work when it isn’t.
Also, it’s better to just have a few, great photos than a larger number of photos that are just so-so. You can read more about her advice here.
Ah, so, creating a portfolio. It can be tough because without real experience you don’t have anything in it…. without anything in it it’s hard to get a real job! But that shouldn’t deter anyone, I say "shoot for yourself, give yourself assignments" and don’t be afraid to include those in a portfolio. You can easily replace or rotate those out with images as you keep working.
Also: contact local restaurants and small companies to see if they need photography. You can use it as a trade to build a portfolio and then they get nice images.
Firstly, My advice would be to have flexibility in your photographs. Don’t fall in love with just one angle or approach to lighting. Try to use both the macro and pulled back framing. Make sure you have shots with just food and shots with people, hands, action, pour shots, steam, flames, etc. Showing versatility within your shooting style is the key to building a good portfolio. Pay attention to colors and shapes too. We can sometimes subconsciously fall into patterns and we need to be aware of that. So, by showing that you are comfortable in approaching food from many angles, by showing your proficiency as a photographer…not just a food photographer…is a great way to show editors and art directors that they can put you in any situation and you will get the shot.
Let’s see, for me when building a portfolio there are different things to consider:
online portfolio or printed portfolio? more and more people are just doing a web portfolio site but there are still many editors and clients who ask for a printer version as they can see the quality much better.
for online portfolio, look at what you are about and select a way of classifying your images. maybe combine them by color ranges or perhaps "tone" (rustic vs modern, etc). For me, because I am a stylist and a food writer, I chose to have a more seasonal approach showcasing a more chronological order of things I have cooked/photographed. I think you have to look at what kind of photographer you are and what kind of client you are looking for.
I think having a good number of images is good but only if they are all great. Don’t include anything you are not super proud of. Your portfolio is only as good as your last image.
think of the design of that website.(It) has to match your sensibility.
if building a printed portfolio, make sure they are a large size but also a size that will fit in a case that is easy to mail. Also think of the case as it also represents you.
So here is some great advice from the experts in this field. There is a lot of great content in these few paragraphs. I am learning new things each time I reread this.
Here’s a very brief summary of their advice:
9 Tips for Building Your Photography Portfolio
Based on the advice above, here are the 9 tips for building your photography portfolio:
Focus on Quality not Quantity – As Helene said focusing on quality of photos is more important than quality. This is absolutely the key point. Almost everyone has recommended this.
Think Long Term – Lara recommends that you think about your long term goals and then align your portfolio to those goals. So, if you would like to be a raw food photographer, make sure your portfolio has photos of raw food. If you would like to shoot commercially, make those photos part of your portfolio.
Give Yourself Assignments – Lara and Matt both suggests that you can start building your portfolio by giving assignments to yourself.
Approach Local Restaurants – Matt points out that local restaurants and small business are great places to build your portfolio. You can build your portfolio, gain experience working with them as well as understand how to work with a client.
Show Versatility – Andrew recommends showing versatility in a portfolio. This helps you to position yourself as a photographer and not just a food photographer.
Present Yourself – Aran suggests to take a look at yourself and understand what you are about. Then present that in your photographs.
Carefully Select Subjects – Lara makes a great point on avoiding brands and correctly representing the subjects in your photos. If you took a photo of that wine bottle in your backyard, make sure the photo doesn’t communicate that you worked for the wine company.
Think About Your Medium – Choose a medium of your portfolio. Do you want a website or just a printed portfolio? Maybe both? The default these days seem to be a website, but as Aran points out that some clients and editors ask for a printed portfolio.
Choose Your Portfolio (and It’s Case) Wisely – Your portfolio represents you. Choose the case, and really, every aspect of your portfolio carefully. The quality of portfolio speaks a lot about you. If the quality of the case is cheap, you are communicating your choice and decision. Okay! You get the idea.
What tips do you have? Share them in the comments section below.
Portfolio photo by Jason Schlachet