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Building A Desirable Portfolio

Lesson 35 from: Adventure Photography Pro

Alex Strohl

Building A Desirable Portfolio

Lesson 35 from: Adventure Photography Pro

Alex Strohl

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Lesson Info

35. Building A Desirable Portfolio

A portfolio is a collection of our best images. It is specifically built to land you clients and publications. It is one of the hardest things to built as a photographer because it's hard for us to be very critical with our own work. Learn how to build one here.


Class Trailer



Workshop Intro






Gear - My Camera Bags


Mastering Camera Settings


Blue Hour, A How-To


Photos That Move Us


Visual Storytelling 101


Endurance In A World Of Sprinting


Keeping Your Ideas Fresh


Building Your Story Arc


Shooting More: Action Plan


Conveying Emotions


In the Field


The Assignment: Himalaya Pre-Pro


In the Field: The Himalaya Defender Shoot


The Assignment: Canon Pre-Pro


In the Field: Canon USA Shoot




Keywords & Organizing Images


Commercial Grading


Masking & Radial Filters


Perspective Correction


HDR (Hand-Held)


Black & White Edits


Before & Afters


Moody Grading


IG Export Settings


Web Export Settings


Clone Stamping & Patch Tools


Grading in Lightroom


Hand-Held Panoramas


Radial Filters Pt 2


Delivering Files to Clients


Archiving & Organizing Images


My Favorite Software




Let's Talk Business


Building A Desirable Portfolio


How to Contact Clients


Prospecting: Finding Brands That Fit You


Getting Clients To See Our Value


Paid to Travel the World


The Art of Making Moodboards & Treatments


Keys To A Fulfilling Career


Three Things You Need To Know Before Pitching


Finding Your Value Proposition


Media Kit: A Walk Through


How I Built My Audience


Social Media Landscape


Module Recap


Bonus - Everything To Know About Filters


Do You Need Lens Filters?


Filters in The Field


Bonus - Find Your Path


Find Your Path


Bonus - How To Print Your Work


Why Print or Sell Photos


Preparing Photos for Print


Reviewing Major U.S Printers


Lesson Info

Building A Desirable Portfolio

(pensive music) Commercial portfolios. Let's do a little session before we begin on portfolios. I'm gonna go over three different portfolios, Chris Burkard's portfolio, good friend of mine, Ted Hesser, adventure climbing photographer, who I've talked to on the internet many times and another good friend, Michael O'Neill, who does more lifestyle photography, but I think it's also worth a good look. All three of these guys have good clients, different types of clients, but they are doing, you know, a lot of good shoots and they've put some thoughts into their portfolios. That's why I'm gonna show them to you. So let's begin with Mr. Burkard. So I'm on the website now, found the commercial portfolio, and from the get-go, I'm showing a different vibe than Chris' Instagram, for example, right? There is just a lot of lifestyle. There is closeups. There's some adventure, like there's some climbing there, but there's a good mix, you know? He's showing what he wants to shoot. There is trucks,...

there is good energy. You know, people seem happy on the photos and that's how Chris does it, right? His subjects are always stoked. There's like, some action, people jumping off planes. And what I'm seeing is like, pretty present usage of props, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. Some clients like to work a lot with props, you know, there's cool vans, cool Land Cruisers. Like, the surfing vibe is definitely well represented, although there isn't a ton of surfing shots. It's surprising for Chris. But what he's doing is that he's, you know, he wants to shoot more automotive, wants to shoot more catalogs. So, he's just showing what he wants to shoot on his commercial portfolio, which makes a lot of good sense. There is... I mean, it's clean, right? There's some shots that, you know, like the wine bottles, like, I didn't expect that from Chris, right, but it's here. Some cool stuff for Apple there. Yeah. It's like, a lot of product shots and there's nothing wrong with that. He's just thought about what he wants to shoot and it's reflected here. I think he's got a lot of images, probably, you know, just about enough. It shows some, you know, it shows something very family-friendly. Oh, what did I do? He shows that he's pretty family-friendly. There's like, a lot of diversity and good mix of young people, which is good energy. So I think it's a very effective portfolio. Moving on to Mr. Hesser, moving on to Ted's portfolio. Ted is a photographer I love as well, and he does a lot of climbing photography, so just right off the bat... let me get this thing. Just right off the bat, I'm seeing that Ted is showing how the photos are used. So to the left, I have a photo that he shot and to the right, I have the photo from the catalog, right. He's showing a lot of the usage and he's showing how the photo will be, you know, utilized by the client. And then he's showing a lot of client logos, oh, he used Black Diamond. Here's the catalog again. So he's very, very smart about it. He's showing the application and it's something that we photographers don't do enough. Like we show all these portfolios but we don't show the final stuff, you know, the photos on the walls or the photos on the catalogs. So, really cool to do that. Even showing the full spreads, well. Goal Zero, so he's letting you know, he's switching between clients, we've got Goal Zero, Columbia, I mean just really good work. Yeah, I've never seen that, where you have the client in the same gallery, the client logo in the same gallery and very well known people in the climbing world, Tommy Caldwell, Alex Honnold there, definitely showing that Ted is connected. It's good for clients. Wine labels, more Black Diamond work. I think Ted is really showing proof like, hey, shoot these photos, they're not just pretty, they're also go into these catalogs and they also go into these wine bottles and they also go into these billboards. And so, you know, it's way less lifestyle and Chris' is way more adventure-focused. He's really showing his niche and it's climbing. I mean, I'm seeing a ton of climbing. Seeing more clients, the North Face is here. Yeah, the logos just tells you that he means business, right? He's shot for all these brands and he wants other brands to know it because one brand will attract the other, right? North Face has a shoot. Well, maybe, you know, Patagonia wants to shoot with that same photographer. Pretty clever stuff. Royal Robbins, which I think is owned by Fenix, which owns Fjällräven as well. Oh, that's Montana right there. Oh. And then at the end, some tourism board work, Ted's getting paid to travel the world. La Sportiva. Yeah, just a lot of adventure. Feathered Friends, a pretty niche brand in the adventure world. Sleeping bags, down jackets. Good stuff, Ted. Yeah, really was. I really like the fact that he's showing the logos and the application, two strong points. Nice. Okay, now Michael O'Neill good friend... close this stuff, there you go. So Mo is taking a different approach. He is, you know, showing the clients in different albums, right? It's not just, here's all my photos from different clients that I've selected for you. It's like, here is different sets that I've done for different clients. So we got Vogue, you know, pretty good stuff. Beer company, Google, One Medical, Land Rover, Audi, Google, so a lot of tech, eBay, yeah. Mo used to live in SF, so it makes good sense. Okay. Let's just pick one. Let's go with Allbirds, 'cos they make cool shoes. So from, you know, the previous portfolios, Mo is not as adventury as, you know, Chris or Ted. He's way more lifestyle and he's really clean. It's very commercial work but he has an edge. Like, I think the edge comes from the locations that are used and then how the models are dressed and how they are paused. Like, I mean, Mo is an artist and we can definitely tell. Let's see another one, One Medical. That must be a tough one, medical group. Wow. Yeah. It's pretty good use of color. So I think what's important out of the three is that they're all different, right? But all of them are equally powerful, so there's no right or wrong way to make your portfolio. I think none of them is better than the other one. They all have their strengths. I still think that Mo could have maybe all, you know, a portfolio portfolio where all his photos are in one place instead of having to pick different, you know, brands to look at, it just makes it a bit more clunky to browse, but that's his personal choices. I would probably not do that. And then, I really like how Ted has the brands showing and the application. And, you know, Chris just has very targeted... That's how he is, right? He's really focused on what he wants to shoot. And that page, that portfolio he's made is targeted to a client. And that's what the point of a portfolio is. Okay, building portfolios. Let's start with the basics. What is a portfolio? Well, a portfolio is a collection of our best images. It is specifically built to land you jobs and clients and publications. It is probably one of the hardest things to do as a photographer because it's pretty hard for us to be very critical with our own work, right? So in this episode, I'm gonna walk you through some pretty strong portfolios. Chris Burkard's, Ted Hesser and Michael O'Neill portfolios, three very good photographers. And after that, I will walk you through the steps to build your own portfolio, like things to know and how to best prepare for it. And then I will show you my newest portfolio, I haven't put out there yet, so you'll get to see that. And then I'll explain to you why I've put these images in there. Okay, so ready to start building. First off, just make sure that you set off, you know, some time aside for that. Hopefully this is not an urgent thing you have to do. So if it's not urgent, I think a few hours a day for a week, for example, will get you there. I wouldn't try to get through the whole thing in one whole day because you're gonna make some fast decisions. You'll be tired and then your portfolio might not be as good as it could be. So, I think over a week, if you spend one to two hours a day, depending on how many images you have, you can be in good shape and have a portfolio ready by the end of next week. Before starting, I think it's important that we define who is this portfolio for, right, and what's our strategy for that. If we're just gonna have these images, you know, on the homepage of our website, for example, to show our very best, then we can probably go with 15, 25 images and pick our favorites. If I'm building a selection for my homepage, I wouldn't wanna show too much diversity in style. I'm branding myself as an adventure photographer, right? And I want every photo that I select that to post that message along, right? I am an adventure photographer and if you hire me, you're gonna get these kind of photos, right? Just remember that whatever you show in your portfolio, website or Instagram, people will hire you to shoot that. So if you don't wanna be hired to shoot weddings, for example, maybe stop showing them on your site, right? I talk to people like, oh man, I just keep getting hired to do weddings. And I go to their sites and there's a category that says wedding. So, whatever you put on your site, people will want you to do that. Just be very mindful about that and it starts with knowing what do you want to do. Recommendations. I recommend building a series of images that flow well together, right? Either with colors, shapes or storyline. Ted, for example, did it in a way that he is showing you, a section is broken down by client, right? Chris Burkard is doing it in a way that is just shown as here's all my photos. So it's on the client to do a bit more work, to understand how the things flow, and Mo just broke it down into different clients. What I think is a different way to do it is to break, you know, have a selection that flows well together in terms of maybe weather, if it's winter, then summer, or a storyline, just try to tell the story visually. And I think that a good way to get inspiration for that is on Vimeo. There's a lot of directors and DPs that have their demo reels there. So if you just type director reel, demo reel on Vimeo, you'll see how these guys organize their entire, you know, sort of best of their work for one year, in a one to three minute film, and how these things flow well together. And I think we can take that as inspiration for our own portfolios.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

A Note From Alex

Ratings and Reviews


Not What I Was Expecting Let me just start by saying that the workshop was very good. There were lots of things that I learned and many insights I took away. Perhaps the greatest bit of wisdom imparted to me was not anything Alex said but how he approached every subject he talked about. I felt that he was talking to me as a friend, very personal and open book. This was both a blessing and a curse as the course tends to meander around and is not as structured as others I've taken. Alex's passion for the highest quality, and craftsmanship in every aspect of his business, is very evident. From the premiums he charges, to the attention to detail in client deliveries. This is where my review is going to give some hopefully constructive criticisms. For someone so focused on a premium experience I was a surprised to find the course a bit sloppily assembled, and the videography and editing lackluster. This is coming from a videographer and someone with a lot of experience in online training. A few short examples to illustrate my point include: repeating segments of the edit (in some instances the exact same segment), poor framing. Colors changing between cuts, and my biggest pet peeve, not leaving photo examples on for long enough to see them. These are all small things, but they add up, and along with the topics meandering, left me a bit disappointed. I'm curious who you would say this class is aimed towards. Amateurs, mid-level, or experts? The assumption of who you are addressing changes throughout the course. I feel like with a bit of work from an instructional designer, and some editing cleanup, you could help hone this course to be one of the best out there. I feel like I need to do a more in depth review than will fit here, to actually explain this well. Let me know if that would be helpful to you. One other note: When I signed up for a workshop on Adventure Photography, I honestly thought it would be more field focused. The field examples were all shoots for products, and not shoots documenting an adventure. I guess I had just hoped to learn that side of the storytelling process more. Getting into the nitty gritty of being wet, cold, and dirty, and still shooting bangers. The section on filters (going out and building the snow cave) was more what I thought this course was going to be. Anyhow, with all that said, I still found it valuable and worthwhile. To summarize, the course feels a bit unpolished and in some ways unfinished though there is still great value. I've taken Jimmy Chin's Masterclass on adventure photography and it felt very structured and highly polished. I purchased "Adventure Pro" on the "finish in a month" discount. I would have felt ripped off if I had paid full price with the course in its current state. Thanks for reading and I hope my criticisms come as helpful. As I've already mentioned I'd be happy to further elaborate.

Topher Hammond

One of the best photography investments I'm only 1/4 of the way through Alex's course and I feel like I already have a loose plan on how I can move forward in my own career as a photographer. I felt like my work was lacking a specific feeling. The way that Alex articulated ideas on how to convey emotion in your imagery and building that overarching story arc for your own life narrative were super helpful to focus on how to make my work better. Super looking forward to the rest of this course. Thanks Alex and team!

Sergi Mas de xaxars Rosell

Great Workshop I learned quite a lot with this workshop. Because I'm in the industry for 5 years now, there were a few things I already knew. On the other hand, Alex showed me different and more effective ways to improve my business. I like the way he gives the lessons, always in a personal and close way. This is the knowledge I wish I had when I started. Totally worth it!

Student Work