Choosing the ideal images for your portfolio can often seem as hard or harder than actually taking the photos in the first place. Most photographers tend to treat their portfolio as a dumping ground for as much work as possible with the intention that quantity is the key to building their credibility. More often than not, the opposite is true.
Your Portfolio Should Be Limited to Your Absolute Best Work
Contrary to what you may think, the quality of your portfolio is often defined by its weakest image. This is why becoming adept at choosing the images that communicate to potential clients a consistent message of quality is critical. More is not better. Rather, try to shrink your portfolio with the goal of it representing only the most impressive images that you have ever shot. Your portfolio should never really contain more than a dozen or two images. If it does, the time has come to cull then moving forward whenever you create new work that belongs in your portfolio make a point of removing the weakest image.
Your Portfolio Needs to Be Cohesive and Specialized
The era of the generalist photographer over. Clients expect specialization. There is nothing wrong with dabbling in other disciplines but when it comes to your portfolio you should present a unified message of being an expert of a specific niche. Furthermore, your portfolio should speak to a level of cohesion in terms of artistic direction. Each image should look like it was taken by the same photographer who is able to deploy a consistent and unique creative vision.
Your Portfolio Must Reflect What You Actually Are Able to Create
By attempting to sell what you are unable to do, you only create a road to disappointment for your potential clients. If you took the best photo of your life at a workshop where the teacher did most of the setup and lighting then you need to master those techniques on your own before that image deserves to be in your portfolio. The same goes for situations where a healthy dose of luck led to creating a particularly special photo. Make the effort to learn exactly what led to your creating that shot so that, if needed, you can reproduce it. Until you do, the photo has no business being in your portfolio.
Your Portfolio Isn't Just Online
In a social media driven world the idea that we only need a digital presence tends to often become too prevalent. The challenge, however, with online, is that it often exposes you to the wrong audience (such as people on the other side of the world) while forcing you to compete with virtually every photographer in your space, globally. By also wielding the power of a printed portfolio you can isolate your sales pitch to target only potential, real-world clients in situations where they aren't distracted by the normal blizzard of digital noise that we live within online.
Your portfolio is the first impression that you put out in the world. A poorly constructed one can create the impression that you may lack attention to detail or fail to meet the level of professionalism that a high-end client expects. Don't let a a weak portfolio pull your work down when it can be easily used to elevate instead. Consider this a call to action and take some time to take a long, hard look at your portfolio with a critical eye. Is it up to snuff? If not, fix it!