Putting Together Your First Portfolio for a Job Application


Image source: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/photographer-pay-close-attention-take-photo-558890911

Applying for jobs in photography takes guts. You might face multiple rejections, and gaining momentum between jobs feels impossible. The hardest part of all: sharing a portfolio of your work with complete strangers. 

Like many creative fields, professional photographers must be ready to display their work when applying for jobs. While employers will look at a prospective photographer’s CV/resume, a  portfolio of work is what makes or breaks a photographer’s application. As such, you must know how to present a strong portfolio. 

Utilize Online Programs

If you’re new to photography, you should learn to edit as though your livelihood depends on it — because it does. Great photographers are adept at taking average photographs and transforming them into showpieces. For folks new to photography, the editing process can be a little daunting. However, free online editing resources can get you started off in the right direction.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with new photographers utilizing quick and easy online editors. They reduce the time you spend in the editing phase and will produce consistent results. Online editors like Shutterstock’s are also free, which gives you time to see whether or not you want to make larger financial commitments to downloadable editing programs. 

Online editing programs will also give you great templates to work with. So, if you’re intimidated by graphics, color mixers, or layers, you can find simple solutions online that reduce the number of variables you have to contend with while you edit. This speeds up the production process and will cut down on the amount of work you have to do per photograph. For example, if you know you’re looking to display a warmer vibe from a set of wedding photos, you might be best off using an online template that automatically overlays the tones and colors most commonly associated with warmth. 

As you develop as a photographer, your ability to self-edit should overtake your reliance on online editing programs that do the work for you. However, for those who are transitioning from hobbyist to professional, free online editors are a great place to start.

Invest in Tools and Equipment

It’s hard to put together a great portfolio of work when you don’t have the right equipment or software tools. While making a large financial investment in photography may not be viable for you currently, you should ensure that camera specs and editing software can produce the results that employers are looking for. 

When deciding upon which tools to invest in first, you should research industry standards. For example, if you want to get started in sports photography, you might need two set-ups: one for when the action gets close to you, and another for when it is far away. This means you won’t miss out on the key events of a game, even if it is happening at the other end of the pitch. Conversely, product photographers usually only need one camera but might need to invest more heavily in lighting rigs and staging materials. 

By understanding industry standards, you can save yourself time and money: there’s no point investing in expensive equipment if you rarely use it. Likewise, if photographers in your industry make significant investments in background materials for photoshoots, then you should too. 

Create Complete Applications

Your portfolio is a vital component of your application, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore other areas of the application process like cover letters and references. To create a well-rounded application packet that leaves a lasting impression, consider the following tips:

Cover Letter

Your cover letter should be specific to the job you are applying for. That means you need to research the employer thoroughly and make clear connections to their wider vision. Additionally, if an employer asks for a specific question for you to address in the cover letter (e.g. “what makes you stand out as a wedding photographer”) answer it. Many cover letters ramble without a clear direction and do not address the prompt that employers give. Cover letters that lack focus will be disregarded by employers, and this will severely damage your chances. 

Reference Letters

A strong reference letter can help your application stand out. When choosing a referee, you’ll want to pick someone who can give clear examples of your professionalism and ability as a photographer. In addition, you should give your reference-writers sufficient background about the employer and the position you are applying to. This will give referees a clear direction to follow and will help them choose experiences that highlight your particular proficiencies. 

The Portfolio

You should always maintain an up-to-date portfolio — even if you aren’t currently looking for photography work. Keeping a current portfolio means you can apply to any jobs that catch your eye and will allow you to take advantage of opportunities as they arise and without delay. 

However, when putting together a portfolio for a specific job application you must tailor your photographs to meet the employer’s expectations. While there’s nothing wrong with showing off your more creative work, if an employer is looking for professional product images and you provide a portfolio of wildlife photography, you clearly won’t get the job. So, before turning in your portfolio, take the time to see what employers are looking for and tailor your work to meet those needs. 

Every field has trends to keep up with. For example, if you’re applying to a fashion blog, then your portfolio of work should respond to current trends in fashion. Building a portfolio that responds to trends also displays your commitment to the craft of photography and proves that you have a keen eye and a sharp focus on relevancy. 

As your skills and portfolio grow, you will naturally learn to tailor your offering to different employers. But, by keeping these tips in mind, you can ensure that your first photography portfolio gives you a chance at landing the job you want. 

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