Editing a commercial portfolio is hard – wicked hard. It’s taxing too – especially if you’re someone like me, who has been shooting awhile and amassed thousands upon thousands of images to thumb through.
Before I tell you what I learned, let me back up a step. I want to explain why I’m doing this and what brought me here. Hopefully my trek will have some relevance to you.
I’m at the beginning stages of an exciting, 15-month “Marketing Makeover” program with my friends at Agency Access – a promotional service that takes care of direct marketing for photographers and illustrators. The program is called Campaign Manger Pro – you can read about my decision to be involved in the program in my first piece, Let the Journey Begin (on a side note, check out their new content-heavy blog called The Lab). The first step in the process – albeit a daunting one at that – is for photo consultant Amanda Sosa Stone, co-author of The Photographer’s Survival Guide – where she has plenty to say about editing portfolios for commercial work – to look at my images and pick out the best-of-the-best.
The purpose: to position this new body of work to potential prospects, customers and clients. When it comes to your portfolio – the centerpiece of your brand identity, your image – no matter how you slice and dice things, it must remain front-and-center in all that you do. It’s your imagery that defines you and is your long-term calling card into the personal and business lives of colleagues, acquaintances and even strangers.
Since I am a three-decade career shooter, as you can fully imagine and appreciate, I have thousands upon thousands of images to go through. I need to pick a pool of 500-1000 shots for Amanda to edit, critique and organize. I have to admit this isn’t my favorite task in the world. Not my cup of tea. It’s painstakingly tedious and laborious but it’s a very necessary step in this new marketing makeover.
I have two bodies of work: analog and digital. I have scans of my best analog stuff, so that won’t be as intimidating to edit as my digital body of work. I have always dreamed of having a highly organized, keyword-based jpeg database of all my work, analog and digital, where my images could be easily searched and at my very fingertips.
But alas, here I sit, with over 250 different HDD’s – all different makes, models, power cords, etc. – slogging away to meet a deadline :-/. Note I’m still very much “happy on the inside” because I know from experience the enormous value of getting a set of consultant’s eyeballs on those same treasures!
Honestly, I haven’t completed my full edit yet. But, I’m deep into it and I’m writing down the lessons I learn as I move along. I bet these will resonate with a lot of you who have traveled down the same path. Remember, what I’m editing for here is a commercial portfolio (I have completely different tags and flags for blog images, personal work, exhibition and gallery hopefuls, iPhone, etc.).
Lesson 1: Analog Trumps Digital
My analog stuff, overall, feels stronger than my digital stuff (I went digital back in 2004). And I’m more emotionally connected to the subjects, concepts, and themes I shot then. Hmmmm…
Lesson 2: Style is Consistent
Whether analog or digital, my style over the years seems pretty consistent. I like color, contrast, composition, light and design in everything I shoot. Whether World, Lifestyle, Portrait or Travel photography, I’m admittedly more attracted to appearances than concepts – how the subject looks and feels to the eye and heart, as opposed to its deeper, conceptual connection (does this make me shallow?).
Lesson 3: It’s Never Been About the Gear
I started out shooting Minolta, then switched to Nikon, then added a Mamiya R267 to my bag of tricks. Finally, I ended up a Canon guy.
But it has never been, or ever will be about the gear. I’m definitely not a gear-head. I realize, after looking at some of my most prized shots, it has more to do with my character than my camera. My work has more to do with who I am than what I know – more to do with my eyes and heart than with my head and hands.
Lesson 4: A New World is Waiting
With the emergence and convergence of local, mobile and social, there is a new world waiting to see my images (and your images as well!). And not just see the images, but to hear, understand and appreciate the narrative behind each. We live in an unprecedented cultural zeitgeist, where we have, right here and now, the most unbelievable opportunity to share our work with a worldwide audience.
Lesson 5: It Takes Two to Tango
It would seem counter-intuitive that a photographer would hire an image consultant to edit a portfolio.
But the fact of the matter is, most photographers – yes, even commercial ones – are horrible editors. And, they are usually too emotionally attached to the images they create. What may resonate with the photographer, may not with a potential customer.
It usually takes an objective, customer-centered, non-partisan set of eyes to edit your work for the commercial market.
Enter Amanda Sosa Stone. As soon as we finish our portfolio edit collaboration, we’ll show you what we came up with. Can’t wait! Stay tuned here ;-).
Jack Hollingsworth is easily one of photography’s most well known names in the world of Lifestyle, Travel, Portraiture and Stock. His three-decade commercial career boasts numerous awards, publication credits and satisfied customers. Jack Hollingsworth
2. Part 3: photojack’s Marketing Makeover: Life Happens
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