So you’ve been shooting photos for a few months and you’re ready to create a “greatest hits collection” of your work.  Well, you should probably wait a little bit.  Come back in a year or two……..


……Okay, great, you made it.

Whether you are going to a job interview, trying to get your work into a gallery, or want a quick and easy way to remind yourself that you are actually talented in some way, a portfolio is a necessary way to showcase the best of your work.  No matter what the reason, it’s going to be one of the first steps toward making money as a photographer so it’s a good idea to put some thought into it.  Though this list is geared towards a printed portfolio, with a few exceptions the same general rules should apply to an online portfolio.  In the end though, it’s smart to do both.  

The wrinkled hand of your future boss.

Take A Lot Of Photos

This one may seem obvious, but it’s worth stating.  Your portfolio needs to display your best work. Give yourself options while also practicing the craft.

Cut It Down To Your Absolute Best

Your portfolio should probably have about 15 to 20 photos.  This varies and you’ll get differing opinions on this number.  But no one has time to look through a 100 of your photos.  This is supposed to be your best work, so don’t get cocky, 20 photos is enough to show people what you’re all about.

Focus On A Theme & Personal Style

There is a difference between a portfolio for a job interview and one for a collection in a gallery.  The former should display a variety of skills and techniques, while the latter will, in most cases, require a unifying theme.  If you are trying to get a job as a wedding photographer, those grim pictures of a medieval alleyway in Europe aren’t going to help; decide beforehand what you are trying to achieve.  

You must also consider your personal style.  If you have a great picture but it isn’t in the style you normally shoot, then don’t include it.  Embrace what you know and do. 

Okay, this would actually be a really cute spot of a wedding photo. But you know what I was trying to say.

Choosing The Shots 

There is a natural tendency to choose your favorites among your photos. Consider any flaws that you might be overlooking because of your personal perception.  What you have to remember is that the person looking at them doesn’t know the story behind the image—they don’t know that you climbed a tree and waited 18 hours to get the shot of that cute little monkey.  

Try to separate yourself from the process and look at every photo objectively.  If you are struggling with this, a second opinion from someone who you trust (and knows what they are doing) is always a good idea.  Also, while adhering to your theme and style, make sure there is variety in the photos themselves—you don’t want anything too similar. 


Make sure your photos are printed accurately at the highest resolution.  Spend that extra dough to make it look great.  Size, shape, and style are up to you and you can let your artistic personality shine through on this one but, of course, be smart about it.

Silhouettes of riders on horseback against the radiant sun breaking through the trees

Just a lovely photo that should be in someone’s portfolio.


The order in which these high quality prints are presented in your portfolio itself is also important.  Try creating a sense of balance; your best work should be presented first, but also save some of your best for last to leave a good impression. 

Again, be smart about it, use your instincts and, if those aren’t reliable, get a second opinion.  Another thing to consider when deciding the order of your work is the mood you might be trying to convey.  All that being said, your first photo should capture the essence of your portfolio. 

Get A Second Opinion

Not only with the specific shots themselves and the order of the photos., but with the overall presentation.  This is important!  Have a few people take a look.  Listen to what they say, see what criticisms may overlap, and make the necessary changes.


Cover Photo By Brooke Lark

Handshake Photo by Raw Pixel

Alleyway Photo by Sebastian Pichler

Cowboy Photo by Tobias Keller