A Post By: Matt Dutile
Editing and organizing our websites, print portfolios, business collateral and promotional material is something every professional photographer does at least once if not several times a year. It allows us to present the best possible vision of our work to our clients.
After a build-up of new work it was time for me to edit my portfolio as well. I’ve spent the last several weeks working on a vigorous edit in preparation for a large annual marketing and meeting push – and it occurred to me this would make a good post for dPS. While the purpose of my organizational edit is for business reasons, you don’t need to be a professional photographer to benefit from a good organization of your images. Every level of photographer will find something valuable in it.
Here are eight reasons why you should consider spending a bit of screen time and organize your photo collection.
1. Everything is easier to find
If you don’t have a good organizational system in place, there’s little that’s quite as droll as sifting through your images and key wording, tagging, starring, folder sorting, and/or color coding them. However you want to distinguish your files, it helps to find them in a pinch.
Without a good system how will you ever locate those photos of the Johnson family if they decide they actually want to buy some from you down the line? Or what about that shot you entered a year ago on a National Geographic forum… and now they want to publish it!
No matter what your system is, it’s important to develop one. Just know yours in and out, in case a cool or monetary opportunity arises in the future.
How could you find a file in this mess?
2. See how you’ve progressed
Sitting down and organizing your images from beginning to the present gives you a great overview of how you’ve progressed since first picking up a camera. You’ll notice not only the difference in content of what you’re photographing, but the quality of it as well. There’s nothing as bemusingly head-shake inducing as looking at some of the first images that came out of your camera. How could you possibly ever have been that bad?! Look back and see how far you’ve come and celebrate!
3. You’re forced to review the good with the bad
There are some valuable lessons to be learned in organizing your images, especially in recent ones. You’ll get a play-by-play look at the good images, along with the bad ones.
Sit down and really take some time to think about what it is that makes you admire certain images, but dislike others. What did you do right in those great ones? What did you do wrong in the poor ones? This critical review will help you develop your eye and create better images in the future.
4. It will teach you to avoid recurring mistakes
During any good review you’ll probably realize there are one, two or more mistakes you’re consistently making. You’ll find new ones every time you do this, and you’ll know what to avoid in the future.
During past reviews I found I used to slightly overexpose my images, or that I was lacking in night images with my travel shots. Taking the time to review allowed me to correct those mistakes and bolster the holes in my portfolio. I’m always finding something new to work on, and so will you. Learning from your mistakes is what makes you better.
5. Discover ideas you want to revisit
Perhaps a year or two or more ago you took a trip to the Grand Canyon or photographed a really fun concept, but realize now all the little things you missed or messed up on. Now that you’ve sat down to organize you remember that great idea you had – and with your new-found knowledge, it could be a great time to revisit the shoot and improve upon it.
There’s nothing wrong with revisiting a concept you’ve photographed before and working to improve it. Many professionals work on a project or series for years before they think it’s complete. Some scrub everything they’ve shot and re-start again on a concept they love, but want to tackle with a new execution. Consider it a challenge to re-invent something you’ve already done.
6. Find themes and begin developing a vision
If you had your own website, or already do have one, how would you organize it? Would there be a portrait section? Or weddings and babies? Perhaps landscapes and still life? Or travel and lifestyle? Most professionals organize their images by subject, project or theme. Doing so in your own work can tell you a lot about what kind of photographer you think you are or want to become. What do you value and enjoy shooting?
Look for themes across your work other than simply subject. What you may notice appearing is your specific style or vision. After a great period of time every photographer begins developing a sense of style, but you may be able to notice the threads of it early. It’s a clue to what you value in your images and your unique perspective.
7. It’s easier for potential clients
If you have the desire to take your hobby professionally one day, organizing now and understanding how you would define your photography will make it easier for potential clients to identify what they like about your work ,or why they should hire you. The business of photography is defining what you bring to the market that’s different, and at what value. It’s answering the question, “Why should I work with you?”.
8. It just looks nice
The last reason is one of simple vanity. Organization, if done right, just looks pretty. I often enjoy in my spare time putting together different color arrangements, collages and themes. Some of them make their way into my marketing material if the idea turns out particularly good, others may entirely change the way I categorize my business, and still others go in the trash as a fun but failed experiment. Organization doesn’t just have to be a boring task though, it can fuel creative insight and help you develop your images.