Why – and how – you should update your photojournalism portfolio

by Chris Dunn

Just over two years ago, Mark showed us 30 outstanding photoblogs and provided a few links to other sites offering advice for aspiring photo bloggers. A year ago, he showed us 20 photojournalists’ portfolio websites. Finally, two months ago, he showed us 11 news photoblogs worth following.

But what distinguishes a photoblog from a portfolio website, and why is it important for photojournalists to have each? Today, I’ll focus on the portfolio website. Next week, I’ll follow with a post about the photojournalist’s photoblog.

The photojournalist’s portfolio

As you probably know or might have guessed, a portfolio website is the place to show your best work. The cream of the crop. The select few that you’d send to a potential employer.

Whether you’re happily/perpetually employed in a newsroom, freelancing on your own, all of the above or on the job hunt, it’s always important to keep a portfolio — and keep it updated. Regularly editing your portfolio is helpful in a number of ways:

  1. It forces you to revisit your recent work. What seemed like an ordinary photo three months ago when you took it may now stand out to you as an exemplary example of your best work.
  2. It helps you notice patterns that you may want to change or continue. A photographer’s “signature” — his/her style, approach, technique, etc. — should be evident throughout his/her portfolio. Looking back on a wide batch of recent photos can help you identify what styles, approaches, techniques, etc., work for you, and which don’t.
  3. It tells others that you’re an active photographer. This is also an important aspect of photoblogs. Your portfolio turnover rate can reflect your growth and activity as a photographer. Most photo editors recommend a tight edit — somewhere between eight and 12 photos, not including a picture story. Because re-editing your portfolio involves replacing old photos with new, better ones, frequent and/or dynamic edits can indicate that you are improving as a photographer.

How you edit your portfolio is up to you. Each photographer has his/her own workflow and style. Whether or not you consider (re-)editing your portfolio to be a labor of love, take your time and don’t be afraid to ask for input.

But once you’ve selected the photos and sequenced them, how should you present them on your website?

Portfolio-publishing tools

Mashable has a list of five (free!) tools that you can use to publish your portfolio photos.

A free tool not on Mashable’s list is Visual LightBox. Many portfolio-publishing tools use Flash, but Visual LightBox is downloaded as an application and uses JavaScript. The application is compatible with Windows and Mac, and has templates for the iPhone, Android and Aero. Knowing how to hand-code comes in handy when using Visual LightBox, but it’s not strictly necessary.

Here’s what Visual LightBox does when you select one of the images in your portfolio: It enlarges the photo, includes the caption and navigational tools and grays out the rest of your website.

Another free portfolio-publishing tool is Galleria. Like Visual LightBox, Galleria is JavaScript-based and uses jquery. Unlike Visual LightBox, Galleria is not a downloadable app, and requires you to do a bit of hand-coding.

There are a few ways to customize the template for different types of display. Below is one example: Thumbnails of the photos are displayed in a grid on the left, caption and navigation are below and the selected photo displays on the right.

Of course, each tool has its own perks and non-perks. Have fun exploring how these different tools function, and figure out what works for you!

What are your favorite portfolio-publishing tools for photographers? And what are other reasons to keep your portfolio up-to-date? Share your thoughts in the comments!