Business + Marketing

Hooking Prospective Clients With an Impressive Portfolio

March 23, 2018

By Blair deLaubenfels

Photo © Pedro Etura/Etura Weddings

To be a successful wedding photographer with a sustainable business, you need a distinctive, outstanding portfolio that attracts editors, hooks your ideal clients and gets you well compensated for the type of work you want to shoot.

You’ll obviously have to take tons of outstanding photos to build what you need. Then you’ll have to make lots of judgments about which ones to show off, which ones to let go of and how to order your artwork to create the emotional impact that will ultimately sell your work. One of the hardest things for artists to do is to critique their own art, and many websites often languish with dated or less-than-compelling portfolios because of the challenges that come with the job.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of five things you can do to improve your portfolio now, based on my experience critiquing hundreds of websites for many of today’s top wedding, portrait and Instagram artists.

Photo © Nessa K Photography

Opt For Less

Include no more than 80 images in your “favorites” gallery on your website and no more than 40 in your featured weddings and blog posts. Even the best work will become boring when there is too much to take in, and a portfolio with 30 kick-ass images will go much further than 80 photos of varying quality.

You will be judged by your least impactful image. Go through your selection and weed out anything you cannot honestly say deserves five stars. Ask photographer friends to help narrow down your selections. Be sure to show multiple weddings and photos that cover the entire day and stay away from showing too many of the same kind of shot. Too often, I see tons of portraits with couples facing each other in portfolios and no ceremony or candid group shots. If you are showing details like the dress, shoes or jewelry, show only the most beautifully lit and artistic versions of each style that will appeal to your ideal clientele.

Never, ever show an identical image in both black and white and color—as an artist, you are expected to know which one is best.

Photo © Mick Shah/Miki Photography

Take the Viewer on an Emotional Journey

Pay special attention to the order of your photos. Be sure that your first five and your last two leave the viewer feeling uplifted or deeply moved. Choose photographs your clients can relate to and would love to see themselves in. Images that show couples caught up in love and the ties between family and friends can make a new client decide to book you before you ever show them your price list. If your finished portfolio makes your potential clients laugh, tear up and say “ooh” and “ahh” when they see your work, then you’ve created something really special and valuable.

Photo © Fer Juaristi

Attract Your Ideal Client

Want to shoot fun, loving couples who love to travel? Then speak to their passion with destination images of people laughing, dancing and being in love. Want to work with celebrities and high society? Then nail your fashionable, editorial shots so they look ready for publication. Most clients will choose you when both your photos and your brand fit their sensibilities. Ask yourself what designers your couples are wearing and what lifestyle choices they make, and keep those in mind when choosing photos for your portfolio.

Photo © Richard Israel

Keep Your Processing Consistent

Cohesive processing is critical to creating your style and letting clients know what to expect from your work. Processing that jumps all over the map, from super-saturated to soft and airy, confuses the viewer and makes photos look bad in comparison to one another. I often see a wide range of black-and-white processing and exposures in new portfolios—lots of photos that could significantly be improved with the right adjustments. Take the time to adjust every one of your portfolio photos to fit your cohesive style and you’ll be amazed how much it improves people’s impressions of your work.

Photo © Jenny Wohrle

To Your Own Self, Be True

You become an artist when your work becomes truly distinctive, so don’t try to shoot like other photographers, and don’t hesitate to go big with your unique style. If you have a whimsical flair, play it up. If you love pure documentary photography, don’t waver from your path with lots of posed portraits. Make every photo you show move, inspire or impress your viewer and leave them wanting to see more of life from your unique perspective.

One way to start honing your style is to ask yourself what you would shoot if you already had all the money you wanted. If you answer that you would love to shoot fashion, work that into your wedding photos and see how it can help define your style. Want to shoot nature and landscapes? Fine-art for galleries? Then embrace your natural inclinations and look for ways to bring those styles into your wedding shoots.

To be sure your work is all about you, try staying away from other photographers’ blogs, Instagram feeds and award sites for a few months. Fill your office with pictures or make an inspiration board of your favorite work and look for photos that you love from outside the wedding genre, like fashion, nature and travel magazines.

With a portfolio that hits all the markers here, you are bound to attract more enthusiastic clients that vibe with your work and clearly see its value.

Blair deLaubenfels helps artists and entrepreneurs all over the world build fulfilling, sustainable businesses. A former wedding photographer, she currently works as a writer, curator, public speaker and consultant through Art, Life and Business.

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