The Lightweight Portfolio Challenge

The Lightweight Portfolio Challenge

New York, March 2011
Copyright: Robin Whalley 2011

I was recently reading about Haiku which is a form of Japanese poetry. The objective is to describe an idea in just 17 syllables in three lines (there is a bit more to it but this is the key point for me). As you can imagine, this is a huge undertaking if you are to convey the idea effectively with accuracy, beauty and completeness. It got me wondering if there were any parallels that we could draw as Lightweight photographers.

The idea I came up with is the Lightweight Portfolio Challenge.

The idea is simple; you have to create a portfolio of 5 images that completely express a subject or an idea:

  • The portfolio must contain 5 images
  • The images must explore the idea as fully and completely as possible
  • All the images in the portfolio should work together with no image standing out from the others

You might also want to consider setting yourself some additional rules around this to make it Lightweight and prevent it from expanding into a huge task:

  • Are you going to set a timeframe on how long you have to complete this exercise e.g. 1 month from the start?
  • Will you include images from your archives or must the work be new?
  • Consider restricting yourself to just one camera or even just one lens.
  • Only have one of these projects on the go at any one time. It’s much better to have the focus.

Initially you might want to try to create such a body of work from images you already have. This will help you understand just how difficult the exercise can be. Once you are happy with this approach you can move on to shoot new material.

Now, once you are proficient in producing these mini portfolios consider broadening either the theme you are trying to represent in 5 images. What would you say if I asked you to produce such a set of 5 images which were to represent your work for the current year and that it would be only these 5 images that you could publish or share?

How about the 5 images that would represent your life’s work and would be how you want to be remembered as a Photographer?

Copyright: Robin Whalley 2012

See more of my work at

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