Learn to edit your photography portfolio

It’s 3:00 am and your water heater just exploded. Your basement is filling with water. Do you call the handy-man that knows how to fix everything or the plumber that only fixes broken water pipes? The plumber with his crack hanging out and all, right? If you’re an art producer for an advertising agency or a photo editor at a magazine and per usual, you’ve been told exactly what the photography is expected to look like for your next campaign or edition, do you hire the artist with multiple genres and styles represented their photography portfolio? No, you hire the artist that only does that one thing that you need to make your client / boss happy.

Like most artists that didn’t follow the conventional art school path, we learned the hard way. Our first approach to building a portfolio that will get us hired was a painful lesson learned. Our approach was to impress everyone because we lacked a clear vision and focus. We’ve since learned to develop a portfolio that represents the few things we do well. We still have a great deal more honing to do, but we’re much closer now.

You must fight the urge to add works that aren’t relevant to your photography portfolio. You must not include images that are similar in any way. The body of work should flow in color scheme, style and subject matter. Less is certainly more when it comes to a portfolio. We understand that some of your favorite images are like your babies. If the image isn’t consistent with the overall vision and style, you must kill those babies.

advertising photography our way: concept, build, and shoot!

In todays highly competitive field of advertising photography, a portfolio with a clearly defined style, mood and color palette is more important that ever before. This year we made the decision to select a style, define the brands and advertising agencies that we want to work with. We’re developing a portfolio that gives us the best chance at getting on the radar of our target clients. After much discussion, the glaring style that everyone in the company (all three of us) enjoys shooting the most, is humorous portraits and narrative driven scenes. We’ve outlined and are in the planning stages of creating an aggressive list of 20+ images in 2014. This is the first of the bunch.


The process begins with the ideation phase. Ideation is a fancy word for sitting around and making stuff up. Once we’ve developed a list of potential images, we develop a priority list and create a shoot schedule. With the schedule in-hand, we assign responsibilities for story board creation, location scouting, talent acquisition, set design, wardrobe, hair and make-up, photography and lighting schematics, etc. etc. etc. Some of our final projects look nothing like the initial vision but most are realized as originally conceived.

For this project; Cory had the idea of creating a reverse fantasy for middle aged men. In this case, we played with the cliché vision of a middle aged man laying in bed, dreaming of two young beautiful women engaged in a pillow fight on his bed. Our initial thought was to simply flip the narrative. After a few takes, we discovered that no circumstance exists where the men would playfully fight with pillows in the company of a beautiful young lady. We asked them to really go after each other and this scenario made more sense to everyone on set. It was still missing something. We pulled a down pillow apart (FYI-a down pillow holds aprox. 5 billion feathers that take one month to remove from a studio) and asked 3 people to throw the feathers at the set while a 4th person pointed a leaf-blower at the bed.

We’re happy with the image, it was fun to shoot and we think it’s pretty funny….


Behind The Scenes of the Fried Photo shoot!

We wrapped this one up a couple weeks ago.  It features a long-time subject of our, Good Time Laurie.  Laurie is a friend & a heck of a good sport.  She let us rub bacon grease on her toes to entice my dog, Maybe, to lick em clean.  Here’s the shot:

older lady relaxes in the sand with her dog and a drink

Here’s a peak behind the curtain of what goes on in studio during one of our conceptual shoots.  This short behind the scenes video features our production designer, Aaron Rathbone and our makeup artist, Jen Ray.  Have a look!

Using the 8 Second Window

kids playing

With a love for coming-of-age Americana, we decided that we want the genre represented in our portfolio.  With visions of Steven Spielberg films (his early stuff, not Schindler’s list or the Transformers,) “stand by me” or Norman Rockwell paintings in our heads, we set out to create one image.

We scheduled a small group of first graders.  We found a location.  We created storyboards.  Our assistant scoured used-goods stores for wardrobe and props.  Everyone showed up on time.  Our vision would surely be represented on this day.  We picked our spot, set up lighting and started placing our subjects in place.  Little Sally understood our direction, Ethan got it too.  It took a little longer for Colin and the others to catch on but they did.  We’re ready to go, right?  No, just as the last three understood their roles, we turned around to find that Sally and Ethan were 100 yards away playing in a stream.

After an hour of frustration, Cory decided to Google “attention span of a 5 year old.”  A: 8 seconds.  With this new found knowledge, we decided to do two things.  We worked within the 8 second time frame for each shot and we offered chocolate chip cookies as reward for paying attention. The cookies are like currency to them.

We didn’t get the portfolio image we had in mind but we’ve learned how to control 5 year olds on set and they had a blast once we learned their language.

We’ll be attempting this again next month with agency models.  We’re told they can hang in there for an entire 30 seconds.

boy in costume playing banditolittle kid cowboy with a rifle and a mustache

Every Shoot Leads to Something

In early 2012 we were contacted by a young actor out of NYC named Ashley.  He just finished shooting his first feature film.  His agent told him to “find a photographer and pay for images to promote yourself.”  Ashley didn’t want typical head shots, he wanted stylized imagery to set himself apart. He liked our work and contacted us with a proposition.  He wouldn’t get paid for his acting work until the following year but he had enough money to buy a ticket to LA (where we are) and pay for the shoot expenses.  When he got his next movie, he would fly us to Japan and pay our full rate to shoot him there.  We’ve heard this story 1,000 times before. These jobs never lead to any real money and it some cases, the people we’ve helped have actually hired other photographers when they could afford to pay.

As much as it discouraged us when we first started, we’ve come to realize that if we get one good shot from a pro bone job, it’ll come around to good paying work someday.  We look at free shoots as a way to try new things without worrying if the client likes it.  We usually get the expenses paid, so it’s like someone is paying us to add to our portfolio.  In the case of Ashley, we liked one of the images enough add it to our web site.

In January of 2014, almost two full years after photographing Ashley, our theory proved true.  A large advertising agency contacted us to bid on a national advertising campaign.  During the initial meeting with the creative, to explain the exact style of imagery they’re looking for, they opened our web site and pointed to the photo of Ashley.

When we’re not getting paid to shoot, we’re shooting because we know it all comes around.

poppy portrait of actor


Thanks Ashley.