3 Ways to Quickly Up-Level Your Photography Portfolio

Have you recently been looking through your portfolio wondering why it's missing the "it" factor? Maybe you've been frustrated with the galleries you've sent out, or heard not-so-incredible feedback on a few client galleries. Or maybe you're a bit like me, and always wondering what steps, what changes might continuously improve the artwork that you create. 
Throughout the past decade of being a photographer, I have gathered a few helpful habits you as a photographer can implement - whether you're just beginning or are a seasoned pro - that will help you continue to up-level your photographer portfolio. 

No. 1 | Create an Organized Inspiration Board

Oftentimes, when you are feeling a bit lost in your editing and shooting style, it's because you don't have a clear direction you're moving towards. The easiest way to inspire yourself is to create an inspiration board (printed is best!) to display near your work area.
When searching for imagery, I recommend limiting what you look at from other wedding creatives' images. Search for brands you love, for color palettes, for interior design that speaks to you. Do you find yourself drawn to a brighter, happier brand, or to a slightly darker, more dramatic brand? Take note of how you feel when you look at different imagery, and why you are or are not drawn to certain looks. 
One of the worst mistakes we can make as wedding industry creatives is to only look within our own sphere of influence. I want to challenge you to expand your inspiration far, far beyond the wedding world. Look at fashion. Look at architecture. Look at travel destinations. Look at charcoal drawings or paintings. Look at typefaces you love. Look at huge brands that inspire you with their advertising. (*Images below found from Pinterest. Not my own artwork). 
Inspiration Board

No. 2 | Cull, Cull, Culllll

I truly do not think I can overstate this. Take a moment to look through your current social media feed, your website. Do you have even ONE image that you're not 100% thrilled with? (And I mean, just love that image, would happily display it on your walls as artwork?!). Ditch it
It's much better to share 10 phenomenal images (on your website, social media, portfolio) than to share 100 really good ones. Put yourself into your clients shoes for a moment. When a potential client first discovers your work, they may begin scrolling through your Instagram and like quite a few images.
But seeing images mixed throughout that they don't really love, or posing or editing that they aren't as drawn to may plant a seed of doubt in their minds. You want to really show your clients that you know what makes a phenomenal image, that you know how to cull their wedding gallery. When you're in doubt about an image, ask a mentor or a friend in the industry whether or not they love that image or feel it fits into your work well. 
At least once or twice a month, I cull back through my social media feed + get rid of images that don't fit the direction I'm going. Below you'll find a snapshot of just a few of the images I have archived from my Instagram lately, compared to my new, current feed. That's not to say that these images are bad in any way, but they are not the direction and style of work that I am pursuing for my business. 
* Pro Tip: When culling through Instagram, archive instead of delete these images. This is better for your algorithm. 
Want to do a deep dive into how to really up-level your Instagram feed to attract a luxury clientele? Check out The Instagram Curation Guide here
Archiving and Culling Images on Instagram

No. 3 | Stop Trying for Perfection

And now for the shooting tips. I want to challenge you to experiment in your work, to step outside of any and everything that makes you comfortable. The most freeing information I gathered from a coach recently was this: 
Clients choose you for what makes your work different, rather than how well you can replicate "what so-and-so does". 
Rather than learn to perfectly replicate a photographers work that you admire, why don't you take a moment to experiment yourself? Here are a few ways to push yourself outside of your comfort zone in your work: 
  • Drag your shutter. If you always shoot at a "safe" shutter speed, try something a little different for at least 10 minutes of your next shoot. At almost every shoot (yes, weddings included), I find at least 10-15 minutes to shoot at an "uncomfortably low" shutter speed (of course, after we've gotten those "safer" images).
  • Shoot in JPG. Yes, RAW images hold more data, but occasionally limiting the amount of editing we can do after the shoot makes us more creative while we have the camera in-hand.
    • Pro Tip: Did you know that I shoot in both JPG and RAW in camera? And that at least 20% of the time, I end up using/delivering the JPG instead of an edited RAW? I often shoot with my Fujifilm GFX and use the JPG color settings to get dreamy, soft colors and tones, especially in Black and White, or at night with a pop of video light on the subject. 
  • Shoot only in Black and White. On your next personal shoot, give yourself a window of time when you only shoot in Black and White. Focus solely on composition, rather than added edits and colors. 
  • Try shooting film. Maybe I'm biased, but challenging yourself to learn film, to use it in your shoots, and not always need the back of a digital screen for reassurance is one of the quickest ways to challenge yourself + improve your skills as a photographer. Need tips on where to start? Grab the Film Beginner's Guide here. If you're looking for a quick and easy way to get into film, try using a Holga 120N camera (HERE) with Portra 400 Film (HERE). You should also grab THIS FLASH to use with your Holga. 
dragged shutter black and white film image | film photography education
Whether you have just begun your photographer career or have been doing this for 25 years, there is always room to grow, to learn, to change. Never let yourself sit still in the same-old, same-old for too long. Tell me below what you're doing right now to up-level your work! 

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