The Lightweight Portfolio


At one time this was the style of image that I wanted to be known for.
At one time this was the style of image that I wanted to be known for.

If you read this blog regularly, you will no doubt already know, that I try to base my entire approach to photography around being lightweight. This includes lightweight equipment, simplified workflows and even simple editing tools. Einstein had it spot on when he said that you should make everything as simple as possible, but no more. E=MC2 is pretty simple as equations go, but boy is it powerful.

Now I’m not going to try to compete with Einstein, but we need something just as simple, elegant and as powerful a concept in photography. I think that something is the Portfolio.

Looking back, professional photographers always developed a portfolio and use this as a tool to gain work. This is still something that is stressed in photography schools, but somehow it seems to have been lost in the wider photographic community. How many of you reading this have a portfolio of work that defines and illustrates what you as a photographer do? I’m not talking about a random collection of images that you post on the internet, no I mean a well thought through and constructed portfolio.

Many photographers have websites and many more still use photo sharing sites to upload their work. Look on Flickr and you see millions of people sharing many millions of images. Somehow the lines between sharing good work and creating a portfolio have become blurred and we have lost sight of what a great tool this is for developing ourselves.

These days I'm happier producing simple, softer images.
These days I’m happier producing simple, softer images.

So, here is the exercise if you chose to accept the challenge:

  1. Select a theme or type of photography for which you would like to become recognised, for example seascapes.
  2. Look back in your images and select the 10 images that you would like to use to represent this theme, and show your expertise in this area.
  3. If you have more than 10 images you need to refine the selection so that you are satisfied these 10 represent the very best work you can possibly produce in this area.
  4. If you have less than 10 images you need to get out with your camera and shoot some more.
  5. When selecting your body of work, remember this must illustrate the style and approach to photography that you would like to be known for.
  6. The work must also fit together as a body, so that each image compliments the others, but no single image stands out.

Now for the crunch question – are you satisfied this body really illustrates you and you capabilities? If you became famous because of this portfolio, is it what you want to go down in history for?

Remember, 10 images that reflect your style, skill and vision. If you take less than 2 months to put this together then you cheated.

4 thoughts on “The Lightweight Portfolio

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  1. This exercise would be perfect for me – requiring me to focus my butterfly mind on one theme. But at the moment I can’t stop thinking about the new Oly M-1!
    Is there a Gear Acquisition Syndrome Anonymous group meeting anywhere in the NW? Saddleworth, perhaps?

  2. Robin, as always, this post is spot on. I absolutely agree that something has been lost in this era of unlimited online sharing. One of the hardest things to do these days is limit oneself… either in terms of how many shutter clicks we take or in how many images we share. I have to admit I too have some difficulty in narrowing down my image. I’m a photographer with many different passions so it’s very difficult to limit my identity to just one theme. So here’s a brilliant idea… why not have more than one portfolio? Duh.

    I accept your challenge to make a portfolio limited to only 10 images… but I will make several portfolios for my different client bases and art genres. For example, a product portfolio, urban landscapes, portraits, etc.

    1. Thanks Neil, I pleased you like the post and sure, there isn’t anything stopping you from making more than one portfolio. The only problem is that it stops you from thinking quite so deeply about the exercise. So let me ask, if you became a world famous photographer and houshold name, what subject and style do you want to be known for. That’s the portfolio you should strive to create.Then return and repeat the exercise the following year and then the year after that etc. There are very few famous names that are famous for more than one thing. Trying to concentrate your efforts into one subject and style helps you develop those skills to new levels. It’s very hard not to branch out into other subjects and to develop a consistent style, especially if you love photography. But then for me (and others may disagree) that’s the mark of true photographic genius.

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