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Portfolio Design

Lesson 31 from: How to Start a Photography Business

Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

31. Portfolio Design

Learn how to show off your work in a portfolio. In this lesson, Pye shares why less is more, how to choose the images in your portfolio, and more.
Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of this lesson is portfolio design for a photography business. The instructor emphasizes the importance of showcasing your best work and ensuring that each image fits your brand message and target audience. He also discusses the importance of web usability and the use of watermarks in portfolios. The instructor provides examples of his own portfolio mistakes and emphasizes the importance of cohesive and trimmed-down portfolios. He also discusses the relationship between portfolio quality and pricing, and encourages students to seek critiques and be open to feedback in order to improve their work.


  1. What is the main mistake people make with their portfolios?

    The main mistake people make is putting too much in their portfolio, instead of focusing on showcasing their best work.

  2. What should you consider when selecting images for your portfolio?

    You should ask yourself if the image represents your best work, if it fits your brand message, if it moves potential clients, and if it meets web usability requirements.

  3. Should you include every client in your portfolio?

    No, you should only include clients that fit the type of clients you want to attract.

  4. Should you watermark your images?

    Yes, you should watermark your images, but the watermark should be small and non-intrusive.

  5. Should you be able to recreate the images in your portfolio?

    Yes, you should only include images in your portfolio that you are confident you can recreate, to avoid disappointing clients.

  6. Should you show a diverse range of styles in your portfolio?

    No, it is important to have a cohesive portfolio that showcases a consistent style.

  7. How should you handle critiques of your work?

    You should view critiques objectively and not take them personally. Being open to feedback will help you improve faster.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Common Myths & Unknown Truths


The Road Ahead


Find Your Passion


The Lin & Jirsa Journey


Part-time, Full-time, Employed, Partners?


Stop Wasting Time & Money


Your 12 Week Roadmap


Great Plans Still Fail


Strategy Vs. Planning


Mind Mapping


Select a Focus


Competitor Research


S.W.O.T. Analysis


Strategy & Long Term Goals


Values, Vision & Mission


Effectively Managing Your Time


Artistic Development


Create Your Plan


What's Your Product


Luxury vs Consumer Products & Experiences


Quick Break for Econ 101


Your Target Market & Brand Message


What's in a Name


Your Client 'Why'


Crafting the Why Experience


Document the Client Experience


Business Administration Basics


Book Keeping Management


Create the Logo & Branding


Portfolio Design


Design Your Services & Packages


Pricing Fears & Myths


Three Pricing Methods


Package Pricing Psychology & Design


Psychology of Numbers


Pricing Q&A


Grass Roots Marketing


The Empty Party


Friends & Family Test Shoots


Join Groups


Second Shooting Etiquette


The Listing & Classified Hustle


Make Instagram Simple


Your Automated Pinterest Plan


Facebook Because You Must


Giveaway & Styled Shoots


Content Marketing & SEO


The Monster: SEO


Selecting Your Keywords


Testing Your Keywords


Grouping Main & Niche Goals


Your Content Road Map


Content Marketing Q&A


Inspiration to Keep Working


How to Craft Your Content


Internal Linking Basics


Back Link Building Basics


Link Value Factos


Measuring Link Value


Link Building Strategy & Plan


Link Building Plan: Vendors & Guest Writing


Link Building Plan: Features, Directories, Comments


Link Building: Shortcuts & One Simple Tool


What is Sales? Show Me!


Your First Massive Failure


The Sales Process


Your Second Massive Failure


Understand Buyer Psychology


Step 0: Building Rapport & Trust


Step 1: Identify Need or Want


Cognitive Dissonance


Steps 2 & 3: Value Proposition & The Solution


Step 4 : Close, Make the Ask


Step 5: Follow Up & Resolve Concerns


Family Photography Hot Seat


Business Example Hot Seat


Boudoir Photography Hot Seat


The Best Sales Person


Your Mindset, Vibrations & Frequency


Always Positive, Always Affirming


The Second Money & Dual Process


Chumming the Price Waters


Creating Want or Scarcity


Timeless Advice on Being Likable


Selling Over The Phone


Forbidden Words in Sales


Lesson Info

Portfolio Design

This is one of those big things that I'm sorry but everyone of us makes this mistake. I'm not, I'm putting myself in the exact same boat because I did the exact same thing. You put too much on your portfolio. Way too much. Less is more. Less is so much more. Seriously though, less is more. Your best work is to come, that's all I want you guys to remember right now, that all of your best work is down the road. Why would you fill up a portfolio of average right now when you can just populate it with ten great images and be done and keep refreshing it? Correct. So this is the checklist for your portfolio. I want you to ask yourself these questions with every image that you put into that portfolio. Does it represent my best work? Does it beat out the last image? Meaning every subsequent images, like if you wanna put 20 images in your portfolio by all means. Put 20 images in your portfolio, but every image better be better than the last one. That makes sense? Does it fit my brand message? S...

o if your luxury, refined, do you show the image? I know the clients might ask you to take that one photograph, where they've got signs of that are like, I just married her, and they are like smoking a stogy. Do you put that in your portfolio? No, you put the images that fit the clients that you're attracting, not the clients that you may have heard. Okay. That's a big thing. You can capture great images. Look, I'm not telling you, if you've got that crazy client that wants that kind of stuff I love it, it's fun. It's fun to do jumping shots. It's fun to do, I'm gonna step on your shirt. It's fun to do like all the different kind of shots that all these people want. That's great, but I'm gonna put the images in my portfolio that attract the kind of customer that I want to have not the kind of customer that we have currently. That's a big thing. It's okay to not put very client in your portfolio. Does it move my potential client? This is, think of the order of things that we just did. Who is your potential client? I want you all to say where you identified your potential client. Where? In this class, where do we identify our potential client? Personas. So when you ask yourself that question, you look back to the persona and you say this is the client that I'm actually going for. Does this image fit them? Would it move emotionally that person? Does it meet web usability. This is basically sizing, making sure that you're not putting five megabytes jpeg files in your portfolio. Usually the templates will size and handle that kind of stuff but you wanna test it. Demonstrate something that I can recreate. This is a big one. We sometimes get the idea that it's a good idea to go to portfolio building workshops, where the instructor will set up everything. Look over your shoulder, help you, then you go and place those images in your portfolio. Now, most of my in person workshops I say this is a portfolio building experience on top of all the education you're gonna get, and then I warn the students in the class do not place any of these images into your portfolio unless you're 100% confident you can recreate it, because you're gonna shoot yourself in the foot, when a client comes to you with the expectation of this portfolio, and then what they end up getting deviates far from it. Yes. Dan, right? Yeah. Yes. Yeah, what about watermarking? Watermarking is great, you should be watermarking... You should watermark everything then or? Yeah, and what I would say to that is small. Small. Put it in the corner, non-intrusive, and the big thing behind that is nobody wants to share your images that advertise you. If you've got a big fat watermark on there, your clients won't wanna share it. Your vendors won't wanna share it. Nobody wants to share it because its just an ad for you, and it becomes distraction to the actual image itself. So we keep them small in the corner. We used to have a bar that goes across the bottom which was still fairly small, and the we were like you know what, we need to go even smaller. We put it in the corner, and if somebody chops it off, do you think we will send an email to them? Upset. I can't believe you did that, no. They chop it off, let them chop it off. I know that probably is gonna, that will probably send the internet into a blaze right now. What did he just say, chop of our logos? Again, my response is, who cares? Because you know what, let's say Dan you took the most amazing picture of me and I use that picture. I'm gonna give you example this, Casey. CreativeLive Casey, he took a portrait of me, while I was here teaching a class that I used for literally everything. There is no watermark on the image. He's requested no credits whatsoever, but I loved that portrait and I use it everywhere, and because I love it and I use it everywhere, I credit him every single place that I use it, and when somebody asks me who took that picture, even if it wasn't credited I would say, oh my friend Casey took that picture while I was at CreativeLive. My point is, if your image is good enough to stand on its own without a watermark, you shouldn't worry whether it has one or not, because if somebody asked the person who took it, they will tell them, and if that person loves that image and they love you and the experience that you gave them, they always talk about it. But as soon as they get that email from you saying, hey I would really appreciate you not cropping off my watermarks. That one thing, one thing, is going to tarnish and experience that up to that point was perfect. Makes sense? Are the Internets on fire? Just a quick clarification, if you don't mind, coz people are asking, wait do we watermark our images that we are putting on our own website? On your website, no, alright. Okay. If it's in your own portfolio, like on your blog, yes, because people are taking stuff from your blog to go use it at other places, that's fine, but in your own portfolio it's like, I don't know why you need to do that. Like you're on Apple's website and they're like this image was taken by Apple. I mean like yeah, I'm on your website man, relax. Like there is no point to doubling up. They already are on your site. Okay, this is the checklist that we're gonna ask ourselves with every single image we put in there, and this is what I'm gonna remind you with. Everyone of you is gonna make a mistake of showing too much. So think this in your head, 10 to 20 seconds. Write it down. 10 to 20 seconds, I want you to think that every single time you review your portfolio to add or subtract images. 10 to 20 seconds, what that is, is the average amount of time that someone is gonna spend looking at those photos. Okay, before they move on to either another website or before they move on to a different page on your site. Which 20 seconds is on the long side. How many times have you guys stopped on a page for 20 seconds to look? And if your best images are buried three deep, they're gone. They're not even gonna be seen. Is that making sense? Think cohesive. We have a little fun thing, I was gonna, we're gonna do a whole co-example together and I was gonna bring it up on lightroom. We are not gonna have the time though. So instead, I have some of my very first shoot here guys. This is my first engagement session followed by my second engagement session. Roping my friends in to come and do things that I would never right now ask anybody to do ever again. So what do we have? Beautiful sepia tone images next to black and whites, next to color and a mixture and sepia because you might want some of those. We have some full poppy images over here. I had a friend that asked me several years ago. He said Pye, do you think it's important, this is like nine and a half years ago when I was putting out this kind of stuff on the blog, do you think it's important that you define a look in a style? Is like no. No. I want my clients to know that I am diverse like they are. Yah, it's really important. It took me about another year to figure that out. Some of you has such a great headstart it's fantastic, it's great. There is nothing about this that is cohesive though. When you look at this as a derivable, if you saw this in a portfolio, you will be like, man, that dude sucks. Let's be honest. Let's be honest. Yeah, see Joe back there. Yeah, I can do that. Look at the dutching along everything, coz dutch angle means creative guys. It doesn't, don't do that. Then this is my second engagement issue, with Justin Yvette, my business partner and his lovely wife, well fiance at the time. I mean I got good stuff in here, I got like blasted direct flash with like sepia tones. I mean I got, like dutching was my thing right now, you can tell. There is good leading lines, another great sepia tone, coz what if they want sepia next to black and whites on the wall. You never know. You never know guys. Under exposures like it's all good. Little dark, it's, in case they want something more moody you know. There is nothing about this that is cohesive. Nothing about that is good. Now here is the magic of it, nothing about this that is cohesive. Same craptastic images. If that's what you saw. Still not fantastic, but what's the impression of those four images compared to that? Okay. So if the average person is gonna spend ten seconds on my site, which one do I want them to see? When you saw this, you would probably say right now, oh that person is okay. Not bad. It's the exact same set of images. What just happened? It's the exact same set. I just trimmed it. I didn't even do anything different post processing, it's all the same. Does that help hammer this home for you guys? Now this is the next question, what about when, I'm charging an amount and my clients don't get my portfolios stuff and they're unhappy, coz we talked about this, right. Not showing images that you can't recreate. Do you think I could recreate this consistently at the time? No. I didn't know why things looked a certain way. I didn't know why it looked like a certain image. I didn't know any of those things, I was learning it. These are my very first few shoots I'm learning it. This is the big things about price points is that if you're always charging below what you're worth, you will never run into that issue. So back then I wasn't charging these people. What did they have to be upset about? It was just a little bit of their time. They got a few images that they liked out of it and then I moved into the 250 dollar cloud, and the 500 dollar weddings. What do they have to be upset about? They got 50 great images and 750 not so good ones, but it's what they expected, right? If they pay a certain amount they're not expecting Jose Villa to show up and take all sorts of crazy images. They're expecting, hope we get some good shots, and they got some good shots. That's where your packages and your price point and your portfolio is gonna come into play. If you're charging a higher amount and you're showing just beautiful stuff, that better be what every image looks like. So my final recommendation on your portfolio, once you have it set up, join, like say SLR Lounge photography community on Facebook and say I would like to request a portfolio critique. Join any of these groups. Find the toughest critique out there and the internet has the toughest critiques out there. Everybody on the internet is an amazing critique. Mostly not so great at the creation part, but they can identify poop for you. Ask them to review your work, and you know what, I'm gonna give you all a piece of advice that if you heed, will be one of the things that makes you advance faster than anybody else in the industry. Stop thinking of your photographs as your baby. I know it's your work. I know you're proud of it, it's gonna stink. You're gonna have photographs that are not good, and even five years into your business you're gonna post things that are not good, and if you can look at the critique and say lemme look at this objectively. You will be in a whole different world emotionally, from a growth standpoint, everything. Then if you look at every image as our baby and you get offended by what everybody says. Does that make sense? We have a very open standard of critiquing inside of the company, where we have an actual critique log. It is a public log inside of Lin & Jirsa where everybody is on blast. Pye, WTF, image number. Everybody, all 30 shooters, anybody, a post producer, a shooter, a blogger, a social media person. Anyone can point out an image and go register in the log and say that wasn't good and it's public. That's the level I want you guys to get to in terms of like the way you think about your work. Think of it, be proud of it, that's fantastic. Be proud of it but be ready to be critiqued and to improve because if you listen to it, oh you're gonna get so good so quickly.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

How to Launch a Photography Business Workbook
Experience Pricing Example

Ratings and Reviews

Armstrong Su

This class and materials are to the point and eye-opening on the business side of photography. Pye Jirsa is an amazing and fun teacher as well! Most photographers need more business classes offered to bring us who love to create art back to reality for a more successful business that makes a living on it's own. This course will definately get you started in the right direction and so cheap too! Great investment! armstrong outdoor tv case outdoortvcase Pye Jirsa is one of the best instructors that I have the pleasure to learn from. He and his team have given me so much more than they'll ever realize. Knowledge, wisdom, training, friendship, mentoring, inspiration, joy... I cannot thank Pye enough for changing my life for the better. I owe them more than they'll ever realize. Thank you, Pye Jirsa!!!

Angela Sanchez

This class has been an eye opener for me; a point of change in my vision as photographer. Pye is and AMAZING, INSPIRING, GENEROUS instructor, with an, authentic desire to help people and to share with them the best of his knowledge. I will not have enough words to say thanks to Pye Jirsa, as a teacher and as a human being, and thanks to Creative Live who allows us to benefit from the experience of such a knowledgeable, educated, well-versed photographer and instructor. 1000% recommended!

Yenith LianTy

Been following this guy forever. Pye Jirsa may be well known in the wedding & portrait photography world and if there is something that this guy knows it is how to create a business, a sustainable one. The workbook he provided is comprehensive, and I honestly wish I had this when I first started out as a photographer! I love that he talks about his failures, keeping it real and honest for anyone starting out. He is definitely one of the best instructors around, super humble, down to earth and with a sense of humor to boot. The course is worth it! THE WORKBOOK is AMAZING! SUPER DETAILED!

Student Work