5 Tips for Putting Together a Professional Portfolio

Marianne Stenger
15th February 2022

Visuals can be a valuable tool, and research shows that between 50-80% of the information our brain processes is visual. In fact, when we use visual aids, we’re 43% more likely to persuade our audience to take a desired course of action.

So regardless of what profession you’re in, a photographic portfolio can be an excellent way to document the highlights of your career or share samples of your best work with potential clients, customers and employers. Of course, the exact format and approach you take will depend on your personal style as well as your line of work.

If you’re hoping to create your own professional portfolio to enhance your personal brand or showcase your best work, here are a few insights from professionals on how to put one together.

© Hugh Ryan

1. Let the pictures do the talking

Wicklow-based landscape designer Hugh Ryan recently used Bob Books to put together a photo book showcasing his work. He says that although he’s had a website for nearly 20 years, he always wanted something more tangible, which is why he decided to create a professional portfolio.

“I’ve been designing and building private gardens for over 40 years and often considered putting together a book of my work but never got around to it. Last Christmas my daughter gave a Bob Book gift token, and this got the ball rolling,” he says.

“An important aspect of my approach to designing gardens is that no two projects are the same, and I hope my book will help to illustrate this point. My approach to designing the book was to keep the text brief and allow the pictures to do the talking, which is an approach I also employ when managing my website.”

© Hugh Ryan

2. Find a unique angle

Wildlife and nature photographer Allis Liddle used Bob Books to create a photo book for her final project at university. Liddle is fascinated by the power of nature and made the decision to document the eerie yet intriguing Chernobyl Exclusion Zone with her photo book Nature Conquers All.

Taking this unique approach to nature and wildlife photography helped her work get more attention, and she says the reactions to her book have been very positive so far.

“People found it a fascinating and eerie subject and they often can’t believe that I have been to such a ‘dangerous’ location. It’s been a great way of displaying my project and I’ve already sold a number of prints and copies of the book,” says Liddle.

© Allis Liddle

3. Showcase something you’re passionate about

If you want your portfolio to get noticed, try to show off something that you’re passionate about. Allis Liddle says that for as long as she can remember, she’s been passionate about wildlife and art, as well as nature reclaiming, which is why she chose to explore this theme in her final project.

“I find it fascinating that nature has the ability to take back land that was arguably borrowed by man. When exploring abandoned buildings and looking at how nature reclaims them, I get this overwhelming feeling of respect for nature,” says Liddle.

“It reassures me to know that if humans were no longer here, nature would have no problem in taking it all back and continuing to survive. Plant life takes hardly any time finding weakness in a building’s structure to exploit, so although nature does not need man, we need and rely on nature.

I always wanted to go to Chernobyl as it’s one of the most famous abandoned locations in the world and has been wild for 30 years. It encapsulates the essence of my interests, which is the notion of the reclamation of nature. There’s a large variety of wildlife in a decaying urban setting such as Chernobyl, and this provided a fantastic opportunity for me to photograph animals and abandoned buildings on a scale that’s not present in the UK.”

© Allis Liddle

4. Take your time with it

A professional portfolio is a representation of years of hard work, so it’s important to take your time with it and ensure that it will be a positive reflection of your professional abilities.

“I would certainly recommend using a photo book as a portfolio because it’s atheistically pleasing and looks professional. It’s something people can get their hands on and it provides a great talking point. A photographic portfolio also takes a long time to make if you go about it the right way, so it shows a lot of dedication,” says Liddle.

“My advice to someone making a photo book to promote their work is to spend plenty of time on it, checking it thoroughly for any mistakes and making sure the photography and artwork goes well together. In my book I had different sections, so I had to ensure that the tones and subjects complimented each other in each section. I would also recommend getting opinions from other professionals, because when you work on something for a while it’s easy to overlook things.”

© Allis Liddle

5. Don’t forget to promote your photo book

Promoting your photo book or portfolio once it’s finished is important if you want it to reach the widest possible audience, although how you choose to do this will depend on the main purpose of your photographic portfolio.

“I think the next step for someone once their book is published is to share it on lots of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as their own website,” says Liddle.

“If you have your own website, it’s also a good idea to include a link to your book on the Bobs Books website so people can purchase it if they want to. I would also recommend doing some exhibitions and having it on display.”

Need some ideas for getting out the word about your professional portfolio once it’s been completed? Check out these ten tips for promoting your self-published photo book.