Of all the tasks a pro photographer has to perform these days, editing a photography portfolio has to rank as the most difficult. Take my word for it. And go and take a peek at the new Terence Carter Photography portfolio website.
While the work of a pro photographer involves an infinite array of challenges, including long days spent over many weeks shooting a story, subjects who hate having their photo taken, clients’ accountants who consider it okay to not pay for published work for months, and petty thieves who think that any image on the internet is “free”, I guarantee you that for a photographer editing one’s own portfolio is harder.
While I’ve had a portfolio website for years, I hadn’t been able to find the time to update it until we moved to Cambodia. Eight years on the road living out of a suitcase presents certain challenges. Settling down in Siem Reap finally gave me the time I needed to give my portfolio the attention it deserved.
While I do love designing my own websites (I once had a long career as a multimedia and website designer and developer, creating some of Australia’s very first travel publishing sites), I like to use Photoshelter to display and deliver image galleries to clients because of its ease of use. When Photoshelter released their Beam portfolio websites for photographers, I knew I no longer had an excuse to not update my portfolio.
Without having to worry about style sheets and how the site design looks on every device under the sun, I could just concentrate on the content. But how easy that sounds when I write it compared to my experience actually doing it!
One of the key objectives when designing a portfolio is to show the kind of work that you want to pursue and be commissioned for, which isn’t the only sort of work we have to do as pro photographers.
A couple of years ago, I decided that I wanted to theme my portfolio site around the kind of work I most loved to do, to photograph “People, Places & Plates” and so that site was born, that’s the work I’ve largely focused on, and it’s the theme of my relaunched photography portfolio site.
Editing images for a magazine story is quite easy, editing your whole library of images is another thing again. With a magazine feature, you always have a brief, you know what style the magazine wants — or they’ve shown you samples of what they’re aiming for if you’ve not worked for them before — and you may have covered the subjects for the story before in a variety of styles, so you can always pick the ones that will suit their brief.
While editing the images for the new Grantourismo website, I kept finding images that I had completely forgotten about and slowly built up folders of images for ‘People, Places and Plates’. While the ‘People’ section went relatively smoothly, I had so many photos of food from restaurants that I ended up with a couple of hundred ‘Plates’ to choose from. I needed to show everything from pretty plates from fine dining restaurants to street food dishes, from images from markets to portraits of chefs.
The closer I came to finishing my selects, the more I realised that the opening image needed to be a stunning favourite and the selection of images following needed to flow.
The biggest problem though, was the ‘Places’ selection. When you’ve visited about 40 countries with a story commission (we’ve been to over 70 countries, including many before I was a professional photographer) it’s really hard to whittle that number of photos down. It was so hard that I don’t have a single image in the current version from Europe where we’ve spent an enormous amount of time over many years.
And when I write ‘current version’, it’s really code for I’m not completely happy with the portfolio as it stands. I’m happy enough to make it ‘live’ and show art directors and magazine editors, but I know that there are some images missing that need to be on the site. I just haven’t opened the folders on the dozens of hard drives to see them yet.
What I’m really looking forward to is replacing many of these images with new favourites that are yet to be taken over the next few months of travel. While editing a portfolio is more painful than trying to slip overweight camera bags past petty airline officials, the click of the camera when I’m working makes it all worthwhile.