So this week we’ve been asking deeper questions about what we do and why we do it that way.  Beyond budgets and perceived wealth it seems like the portfolio value of a given job is a relevant factor in determining the price.  It strikes me as a worthwhile question to ask whether or not the value of having that job in your portfolio is worth affecting how you price it.

So how much should it cost you to build your portfolio?  I’m talking time, money, and most importantly lost wages if you compromised to get the work?   And truthfully how much is your portfolio worth once you’ve built it?  Is there some magical formula of images containing the right clients, locations, decor, whatever wherein everything else falls into place?

How many images need to be in your portfolio to accomplish your goals?

Because my experience and my research has proven to me that the portfolio is only a small part of the overall motivation behind the photographer getting the job.  Sure, it matters, but it isn’t the deciding factor and if the other stuff isn’t rocking the portfolio won’t push you over the edge.  People hire values and ideals, not portfolios.

Look, this isn’t a blog about me – its a blog about you and how you can do the best that you can.  But honestly we booked the first 5 weddings of our business without ever having shot one.  Whether that’s cool with you or not, that’s the reality.  Then again, I’m not selling photography (primarily). Photography is the vehicle by which I sell the value that I do provide.  Every time we branched into a new segment of the market (destination weddings, Cinematography, Jewish weddings, etc) we did so without any portfolio to support it.  Because the point is selling the value that your product represents, not just your product.

I think that portfolios are obstacles.  The client needs to wade through them and hopefully they get the point that you were trying to make.  I suppose my argument would be to make the point as to why you should be hired and show just enough portfolio to prove that you can execute and then show them the next steps and get out of the way.  I think portfolios are obstacles to photographers because they represent a barrier to entry – so many people think that without the portfolio you can’t do the work which is the worst kind of chicken/egg obstacle.

What I’m asking at the end of all this is what is your portfolio adding to your overall value proposition and what do you need to do to get it?  Are you putting obstacles in the way of going after what your want because of a perceived deficiency in your portfolio?  Are you making sacrifices to build your portfolio and are those sacrifices worth it?   Have you really thought about the value that that extra image or body of work will cost and weighed the real value of getting it?

I get it – you got into this for the work.  I want you to get more of the right work.  I just don’t want you wasting time and running in the wrong direction to get it.  It seems to me that if you are a real value to people you can generate your portfolio on the job.  Your portfolio is what you do, not limited by what you have done.  I guess that’s the real point (summed up far quicker and more succinctly that I’m apparently able to upon first consideration) –

Is your value what you do or what you have done?

If your value is what you have done you need to prove that you’ve done the thing before and execute on the same things.  If your value is what you do you need to live it, not copy or repeat it.  Small difference in perspective, big difference in execution.

What are your thoughts on your portfolio and its relationship to the rest of your business?  Is your portfolio what you want it to be?  Is your portfolio what it needs to be to get the work you want?  What does your portfolio need to do for you?  What are you/have you sacrificed to build it?  When will it be “built?”


– trr