Taking those first few steps tends to be the hardest part of any large-scale project, so here are some tips on how to start off strong, as well as some of the things you should consider early on in the process.
Define your portfolio’s purpose
It’s important to be clear on why you’re creating the portfolio and for whom. A portfolio for a university program might be easier from the outset, because the requirements are usually clearly laid out. A portfolio geared towards employers or clients can be trickier, because it’s more open to interpretation but still needs to accurately represent your skill set.
Peter Bennett, Senior Lecturer in photography as well as Course Leader BA (Hons) Photography at the University of West London, points out that when graduating from a degree in photography, students will be expected to have produced a physical portfolio of their practical work.
“The primary purpose of a physical portfolio is to demonstrate creativity and skill in a particular area of photography,” he says. “A physical portfolio will showcase technical quality more clearly than a digital portfolio.”
Even so, Bennett points out that much of the time, students may be asked to provide a digital portfolio, website or Instagram link first or instead of a physical portfolio. With this in mind, he suggests aiming to have all of these options to hand when leaving university.
“What the portfolio should include and how important it is to getting a job, will depend on what area of the industry you want to work in,” he explains. “For trying to get work exhibited in galleries, a strong portfolio is essential. To get work as a photographer’s assistant, a portfolio may be important, but practical and technical skills and knowledge may be more important. For working in arts administration, or as a curator, a practical portfolio may not be expected.”