Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Does Your Portfolio Say About You?

BY SUZANNE WILLIAMS

I'd like this week to ask a question and attempt to answer it. I say "attempt" because for the most part the answer to this question will be subjective based on who you are.

Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. Where photography is concerned, I have readily admitted photographing people is my biggest weakness. Frankly, I'd rather take pictures of most anything else. No other subject frustrates me more. However, outside of the subject matter itself, there are also strengths and weaknesses where work flow are concerned. Simply put, some of us are better at it than others.

Some of us are quicker to edit or more efficient at marketing than others. This is another area where I am not so good. I have done well at creating a diverse portfolio and sharing my images. Yet where entering contests and making sales are concerned, I'm more apt to not enter and instead give my photos away.

We are all made up of many parts. Photographically speaking, our overall image in the marketplace is a result of more than just our photographs alone. It is also our mannerisms in public, our ability to display our product (which involves time management), and our use, good or bad, of available resources.

Whenever people view your portfolio what do they see? What conclusions can others draw about your work and you as a photographer and a person?

I'm so cute!
I'm so cute!

Organization

Things as simple as how your images are cataloged will affect the answer. I know whenever someone approaches me and starts off with, "I just got around to working on these images from a trip I took a year ago..." I begin to wonder. Those images must not have been very important, or that person didn't think they turned out well, or perhaps they didn't like the trip so much. Any number of other ideas come into my mind as reasons for the delay.

Stay on top of what you have been doing and avoid procrastination. It is always great to pull an old image out of the vault, but photographers cannot only be made up of "old" images. Instead, we must stay fresh and at some point go out and take new pictures. Create for yourself a schedule that enables quicker editing after a photo shoot to avoid the appearance to others that you are sloppy and lazy.

Knowledge

Set an example that you are efficient and knowledgeable by learning something about your subject. Now, I don't expect everyone to hold an interest in the finer botanical names and growth patterns of each flower, but at least know its common name. Make an attempt to find out what type of animal or insect you have photographed. Be informed of the relationships of the people in the wedding party, or ascertain some generalities about the location, such as the extent of the mountain range, or the history of that particular city block. Not all of us, myself included, have to go as far as writing down the GPS coordinates. But when you market your product, whether that is in an online gallery, at a local art show, or in a contest, the public likes to know you cared enough about your subject matter to find out more about it.

Yellow-Throated Warbler
Yellow Throated Warbler

Boring

It is most important to stay up to date on what is happening in the world of photography. This does not mean you have to run out at every drop of the hat and buy the latest gadget. If your camera is several years old, that is fine, but know the trends. Don't become the boring photographer who everyone rolls their eyes at because they know you won't come out of your photographic rut.

Present a variety of images, even if you primarily photograph the same types of subjects. I always use the following sentence whenever broaching this discussion because it seems to be effective. "Don't display every image you took of the sunset, if the only thing you did between each image was shift your feet." Pick the best and set it alongside those from other locations. This gives the viewer the idea you care about your photographs individually and are well-rounded. A photographer is less impressive when he seems stuck on one moment in time.

The Burning Sun, Part 2 Palmhenge
Sunset

Answers

Have an answer ready when someone wants to know "how you took" that image. Be able to recall the camera and lens you used and a generality of the settings. Others might learn from what you did, but how can they if you don't remember it? Plus, the fact that you have stored up information on your photographs gives further impressions about you. It is yet another important facet of your "face" in the public arena.

Photography is about much more than pictures. As you make attempts to present your work to others outside of your own household, it will become more and more important that you establish for yourself a pattern of behavior. There is more behind "good" photographs than just the final image. The most professional photographers are just that, professional. They get their work done at a decent speed and in a manner in which their overall impression to the viewer is a positive one.

For me, you can take the best picture in the world...perhaps you captured a bolt of lightning in that split second it streaked across the sunset sky, or maybe you waded into a swamp for ten miles toting heavy equipment to take that one shot...but how kind were you, how friendly were you, when you showed it to me? Were you willing to talk to someone with less knowledge and less equipment, or did you instead give yourself airs? If it was an older shot you have taken, do you still act enthusiastic about it, or are you seemingly bored stiff?

If you think people don't ask themselves these types of questions, trust me they do. I know I do. So I in return want to put my best face forward and by being organized and knowledgeable I can leave with others the best impression of my work.

A Beautiful Spot To Sit, Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida, March 3, 2001
A Beautiful Spot To Sit

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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

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