Earlier this year I had the opportunity to review a metric ton of photography portfolios for an assistant photographers position at Sideshow Collectibles. (I am their current photographer) We posted the ad several places online along with me promoting through my personal Twitter, Facebook, etc.
There were a couple things I noticed out the gate with the applicants. I would barely make it through the first couple of clicks with most of these portfolios. So here are a few helpful tips:
A clean basic portfolio is best. You want the images to speak for themselves, not how fancy your site is. If it’s flash portfolio make sure it’s easy to navigate and loads QUICK. Waiting forever for your portfolio to load is annoying and if the navigation isn’t blatant I’ll be hitting Command+W quicker than a gunslinger.
Match your portfolio to the job. The employer knows exactly what they are looking for. It’s good to show a range of what you are capable at, but show the potential employer that you are well capable of what they are looking for. If you are applying for a product/commercial job show you are capable product photography. A portfolio of nature shots or just natural lighting isn’t going to cut it. Show you can do commercial work, make sure you show you are comfortable within a studio environment.
Your student projects are blatantly obvious. Because of this experience I know exactly what classes you took at Brooks*. Go back over what you learned and apply it to other photoshoots. Do the project differently. Mix it up, combine projects into new shoots. Why? Because every kid in your class/school will have the basic same looking images.
Shoot, Shoot, Shoot. Take some chances and do some photography outside of your comfort zone. Studio photographer? Ditch the lights and hit the street. You’d be surprised how well your skills apply to other areas of photography. Mix it up, don’t be afraid to try new things. If you land a staff job chances are at some point or another they are going to ask you to shoot something that doesn’t fall in your comfort zone. So make sure you can leave the studio and not feel naked.
Definitely have a bio section that shows some of your personality. Your portfolio may look great but I also want a sense of you. If you get called in for an interview your nervousness might wash a bit of your sparkle. Will you fit into our environment? Do you have the right attitude?
I know some of these sound a bit obvious but you would really be shocked by how many people had portfolios that we complicated, took ages to load, and seemed really out of place. I hope you found some of this insightful. Do you have any other tips you think would be helpful?
*A funny story about Brooks. We started getting an immense number of current and alumni students from Brooks Institute. One day it just hit and then every single day afterwards we got at least 5-15 applicants from Brooks. One of the counselors contacted us. Turns out someone who had applied for the job, mentioned it to his old counselor. Well the counselor ended up mass emailing the ad and posting it on the school’s job board. So nearly every current and past student with a portfolio ended up applying for this job. So his competition went from a smallish pool to a very large pool of people with the same education, with very similar looking portfolios. I learned the curriculum of most of the Brooks’ students quite quickly and could tell if you had gone to Brooks after just a few clicks through a portfolio. So I would highly advise not telling your old counselor about this fantastic job you just applied for. Wait till after you get it!