Photo by © Reka Csulak

Let’s Talk About Your Portfolio

What is the first impression that your potential clients, sponsors and collaborations will have if they ask to show them your work? Our portfolio is a business card that speaks for us without words, so it is really important to create it then to perfect it and maintain it. And now you probably ask: but how?

In this episode of the ‘Let’s Talk About…‘ post series, you will learn more about portfolio creation including multiple key elements to consider and you will also get insights into a professional reviewer’s perspective.

Are you ready to create a photo collection that wins the heart of your viewers and business partners? Let’s do this together!

Portfolio © Reka Csulak
Photo by © Reka Csulak

Why do you need a portfolio?

As you add an About page to your website, publish a short introduction on your social media profiles you use your portfolio as a visual conversation starter: “hello, this is what I do!”

If anyone is checking your portfolio, they need to be able to understand what photography genre you are shooting in and they need to see the versatility of your work, skills, the reasons why your work is standing out from the crowd of your competitors, if you can solve the problem they are facing… so in general, a portfolio is giving an answer to the following question: why should I choose you? – without saying a single word.

The portfolio is tailored to represent the type of work that your potential client would require, this way it is a reference that you can deliver the results they are looking for. This collection of images also need to show creative solutions which show your future business partners a direction they will want to choose when it comes to taking care of their own imagery and visual branding.

Am I ready?

As a beginner, you might feel like you have no enough images yet to make a portfolio, but I still suggest you to make one! You will keep adding the best images from your recent projects until it forms a strong collection.

One of the best and most fun ways to create more images that potentially will end up in your portfolio is to participate in creative photography & styling challenges on Instagram. My creative friends run many different challenges and my professional guest has a popular, seasonal challenge that you can read more about soon, below, and I also run a monthly challenge that you can easily participate in: you can find the theme, rules, and prizes here!

Photo by © Reka Csulak

Where to start?

First of all, you need to…

  • select the images that will be presented in your portfolio, then
  • find a platform to host it,
  • organize,
  • arrange,
  • design, then
  • hit the “publish” button and
  • it goes live!

But there will be a lot more to do for success!

This list that leads to your own portfolio is relatively short but there are lots of other things that should be considered during the selection and the creation process if you don’t want to experience the following: you are not fully happy with your portfolio and you decide that you need to perfect it… you start looking at others’ portfolio where keep finding better-and-better solutions all the time. This also means that you start the whole procedure over and over again and pour your valuable time down the drains. Ask me, how I know… 😀

Also, it worths mentioning that having a published portfolio does not mean that you never ever have to touch it again. To make sure it stays valuable for your business, you need to update and maintain it occasionally, but there are effective ways and methods to do this and they are perfectly fit into any busy creative business management schedule.

When you have a good-looking portfolio then you will need to know the best ways to utilize it because an amazing collection of images on a website won’t lure clients automatically. It is a tool and you need to take the right actions to maximize its potential.

During a Portfolio Basics & Review Session, I can guide you through the whole procedure. I will give you a broader perspective from multiple angles and a step-by-step process regardless if you will create your first portfolio or trying to re-invent the current one.

Get to know more about what will you learn about and read what other participants said after their session then reach out and do this together!

Photo by © Reka Csulak

How will you know that you did a good job?

When we are sharing our work with our audience, we get likes and nice comments like: “beautiful image” or “this cake looks amazing, I wish I could have a slice too!” Some of our images are so popular that others are sharing them too or they’re giving us a shoutout in their Instagram Stories…

By experiencing the success of our published content, we get relatively shallow, but nearly 100% positive feedback on our work… which is a really nice ego-booster, but what makes us really wanting to learn and being better at what we are doing?

It is not so common that we start analyzing each other’s work publicly especially when the creator is not asking for it. So we can clearly state that the comment section of your images is not really the endless ocean of CC that you will use to understand what are the strengths and weaknesses or what do you need to be better at.

What is Your source of honest feedback and constructive criticism?

If you can answer this question instantly, that’s awesome! If you have to keep thinking or you don’t have a trusted source for CC or reviews, then it is time to find one!

You can get CC on your work at specific groups, forums, from other creatives or you can use a service specialized to help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your work and provide you with the action plan or tips that you can instantly utilize to improve your skillset and create valuable tools for your business.

At my Portfolio Basics & Review session in addition to the method of portfolio-making, you can also get my honest review and suggestions for improvement regarding your portfolio. If you need to get detailed feedback on a single image, then the Image Feedback Certificate is something that worths checking out too!

Printed portfolio – is it necessary?

Exercise: Regulated chaos

I believe you have hundreds of folders with images. Let’s select the ones that will end up in your portfolio!

This task requires some commitment and time investment from your side, but I promise you that it worts it!
This is what you need to do:

  1. Sit down in front of your computer and go through all of your images. It’s a very useful exercise to review our own work time-to-time and realize our strengths and weaknesses, so take your time and complete this important task.
  2. If you’re shooting multiple genres, for example, food and weddings at the same time, let’s separate them by the different target audiences. In the catalog of Adobe and other editing software, you can flag/give a color code or tags to the images you will use in your portfolio.
  3. Gather the selected masterpieces into one folder that you may name: ‘Portfolio’. Make sure you allow yourself to honestly feel proud of what you have there!
  4. The last step is to narrow down the selection of so many great images. I highly recommend having a look at others’ portfolios. How many images they use? What type of images they include? How they organize or group their images? In general, let’s reduce the number of images to 15-20 for each genre you shoot, but there are successful photographers with way bigger collections too. If you need to cover a very specific field -for example, commercial-style beverages- let’s choose less, something between 8-12.

If you are struggling to find your signature style as a beginner, I have some good news: this exercise could help you to discover some patterns or repeating elements that make the viewers -including you- feel, that the images they’re looking at are created by the same artist who has a style that is easy to recognize.

After you have your selection of images, make sure to get your collection reviewed because there is nothing more beneficial for a creative like us than a fresh pair of eyes looking at our work, isn’t it?

Remember, if you need my help, I am happy to guide you through this complex procedure or review your work: feel free to reach out here!

© Reka Csulak
It’s me, talking about my printed portfolio

I invited a professional photographer friend to process this topic by digging deeper into the portfolio-making process and to talk about the reviewer’s perspective, so welcome Kimberly Espinel on board!

Who are you and what is your photography specialty?

My name is Kimberly Espinel. I am a London-based food photographer, food photography teacher, the author of the book, Creative Food Photography: How to capture exceptional images of food and the host of the Eat Capture Share podcast and Instagram food photography challenge.

Portrait © Kimberly Espinel
Portrait © Kimberly Espinel

When you are giving constructive criticism on a photograph, what are the main points that your feedback is covering?

I always try and focus on strengths and weaknesses meaning I try and point out to the creative what they are getting right, what they do better than most others, where they shine as well as areas that are letting them down that they can work on fine-tuning. This will be different for every creative I work with and also depend on their goals and ambitions. 

© Photo by Kimberly Espinel
© Photo by Kimberly Espinel
© Photo by Kimberly Espinel
© Photo by Kimberly Espinel

You have thematic Instagram challenges under #eatcaptureshare. What factors make the winner and runner-up photos standing out from the crowd?

I have thought about this a lot and talk about this in my book, Creative Food Photography as well! What makes a shot a winning shot and stand out from the 1000s of entries we get during each challenge is the heart behind the image. The creator’s ability to inject something personal, emotive and unique into a shot. Something that is bold, beautiful, perhaps fun and interesting and so beautifully executed that it creates a deep response in the viewer. It’s the ability to create magic with the camera, that’s what we’re looking for. 

© Photo by Kimberly Espinel
© Photo by Kimberly Espinel
© Photo by Kimberly Espinel
© Photo by Kimberly Espinel

What makes a good portfolio?

A good portfolio is tailored to the needs of the client you’re trying to speak to, whilst showing your own unique style and approach! 

If you could give advice to a creator who wants to create an own portfolio but doesn’t know where to start, what would you suggest?

Start! So many creatives get stuck in their head and aim for perfection. This can really hold us back from doing, making, creating, shooting – all the things that will bring a portfolio to life and allow us to continuously make our work better. Start anywhere, as long as you start you’ll be fine!  

© Photo by Kimberly Espinel
© Photo by Kimberly Espinel

Many creatives having a hard time updating their portfolio and especially replacing older content with new images. Do you have a good method to curate your own portfolio?

It come back to my first time around curating a portfolio in the first place – I think about the clients I want to attract and really lean into my unique style. I also don’t overthink things. Everything is fixable, nothing is permanent or static. That’s what makes our creative work so fun, we can always chop and change if it doesn’t serve us or our ideal client. 

© Photo by Kimberly Espinel
© Photo by Kimberly Espinel

Make sure you check the website and other beautiful images of Kimberly by visiting her

Show me your food photos by tagging @rekacsulak
on your social media posts.

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