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Singles or Stories in Your Photo Portfolio? How to Choose What to Show

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Read Time: 5 mins

Some photographers use their work to tell stories while others focus on a single shot within a specific genre. Understanding how to present these two different approaches successfully in a portfolio is the focus of today's article. 

This lesson is the second in a series from Chamira Young's course about making portfolios. You'll learn how editing images from a larger story is different from the process of editing various images for a general portfolio.

Selecting Images for a General Portfolio

When choosing the shots to be used in your portfolio, you'll most likely encounter two common scenarios. In our first scenario, you'll be putting together various images for a general portfolio to show your work, for example at a job interview.

In this case, keep in mind that you may want to demonstrate your skills range, and so you should select images from various shoots that you've done. The viewer should be able to get a feel for what you're capable of, your specialties, as well as for your overall style. Let's take a look at a commercial portfolio of Envato Tuts+ instructor David Bode, at davidbodephoto.com, that displays single images from several different shoots.

David BodeDavid BodeDavid Bode

As one scrolls through the images you'll see that he has many images that display his range of capabilities within the commercial photography genre. These images obviously come from different shoots and yet they communicate to potential clients that he is not only willing but more than capable of handling commercial photography assignments. Perusing the images you get a feel for his style as well as his experience, and if you want to see more of any one image, you can click on it to take a closer look.

Selecting Single Images for a Photographic Story Portfolio

Now, let's talk about the second common scenario: editing for a single set of images that expresses a narrative. These are known as photographic stories. These kinds of portfolios are most commonly created when preparing work for submission to an art gallery, newspaper, magazine or book and require a different approach, because these images must relate to each other and express a narrative or story.

In this case, the goal is not to display your range of skills, but rather to show an in-depth understanding of the chosen subject matter, theme or concept behind the photos. It's important to keep these differences in mind when choosing the shots to include in your portfolio.

Let's take a look at a project by Jessica Hooper called "In the Shadow of the Mountain" featured on her photography website, smallbuteffective.com

Jessica HooperJessica HooperJessica Hooper

One big clue that this is a story of images is that it has a title: "In the Shadow of the Mountain". the other thing that stands out is that the images are all of the same scene albeit at different times of day,  under different conditions and emphasising different features. So while each shot varies, they're obviously connected. There's a single unifying theme that ties all of these photos together. This gallery is different from David Bode's gallery in that she's telling a story with her photos, as opposed to having multiple single shots from different photo shoots. 

Which Approach is Right for You?

There's no one style that's better than another and many photographers naturally gravitate towards one or the other without thinking too much about it. 

However, I challenge you to get crystal clear on your style of shooting and how your photos relate to each other. Start by discovering the type of photography that excites you the most. This will naturally determine whether you shoot stories or single shots from several photo shoots. Either way, you should know way before you put your portfolio together which approach you are using. 

Next Steps

When you've assembled your portfolio and want to present your work to galleries, you're going to need a well-written artist statement to give viewers a context for your work, your approach and your influences. Here's a terrific guide to help you getting your artist statement right.

Keep following this course for more on how to make a photography portfolio.

Free Video Courses: Follow Envato Tuts+ on YouTube

Want to get more great tips on everything related to photography? Follow Envato Tuts+ on YouTube and access FREE courses like "Wedding Photography for Beginners". 

In it Maria Gardiner will take you on a comprehensive journey through the world of wedding photography covering everything from insurance to what you’ll actually offer your clients as a finished product. 

More Resources for Photographers

Here are more top tutorial and resources for Photographers to try from Envato Tuts+:

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