Question for the clients – what is your portfolio telling them?

At what point does a collection of nice pictures become a portfolio that brings in work?  I am amazed at how one could spend hours, days, even weeks searching through online photography portfolios.  Of course there is a range of quality as in any industry, but there are a lot of people out there who have taken some nice pictures.  So how do clients comb through the endless options when trying to hire someone for an original assignment?  I asked a few clients how they separate a great shooter from the herd. [tweetmeme source=”callielipkin” only_single=false]

Art buyer: My advice is to show what you shoot.  Examples of good lighting and technique are good too but people hire you for your specialty.  If you have a positive personality – play that up too.

My interpretation:  Get in touch with your specialty.  Go beyond just people places and things.  Do you shoot people smiling?  Groups of people?  Individuals in studio?  Is your still life work dark and moody, or light and bright?  The more you can showcase what your exact vision is the better a buyer will be able to match you with a job.

Graphic designer: When I look at a photographers portfolio, especially if they drop their book off or are showing it in person, I want to see examples of the kind of photography I use in my client’s work.  Personal work is fine to show, but I want to know that the photographer can shoot what I will definitely need for a project.  I also appreciate the photographer doing some research on the work our firm does and then shows relevant photography.

My interpretation: If the company designs websites and collateral for, lets say, colleges and universities primarily, they may not be interested in seeing your collection of conceptual food photography.  Being well-researched takes a lot of time and energy, but is well worth it.

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Women in Photography

I recently attended a meeting with a group of other women in the photography industry ranging from established photographers to recent graduates.  Women have come a long way in the past several decades, but it was comforting to hear that I am not the only one who has been mistaken for a stylist, rep, etc. on more than one occasion.  I have been showing my portfolio to prospective clients and had them ask me whose work they were looking at.  This has happened so many times that I come to expect it when meeting someone who is unfamiliar with my work.  [tweetmeme source=”callielipkin” only_single=false]

But I am never offended.  How many times has someone told me I was shooting a CEO and my gut reaction was, “What’s his name?”  We have all made these mistakes.  It’s just not as common for women to be CEOs or commercial photographers.  It’s really not that common for very many people, regardless of gender, to reach the upper levels of any industry.  Family, finances and mental fortitude are just a few of the many obstacles that tend to keep both men and women from rising to the top.

So what can women do to help their chances at success in photography?  Other than not taking it too personal when they get mistaken for someone else, they should do the same thing that men should do.  Persistence and fantastic work are a given, timing and a little luck don’t hurt either.