Showing Your Portfolio

When I first started out, a budding young Los Angeles Photographer, I did not have a rep. I had to get out there and pound the pavement on my own and get my portfolio in front people. It was a daunting task. I have learned a lot of lessons over the years and have realized that I was approaching this task in some ways from the wrong perspective. But I was also doing a lot of things right (at least for me).

Over time I realized the biggest mistake I made was the motivation with which I went out to show my portfolio. I was going out to “Get Jobs”. You might say “Well, duh! Isn’t that the whole point?!” The answer is yes. But if that is your driving motivation, you won’t get very far. You see, I had a very strong attachment to “getting a job”, and who wouldn’t, being a “just starting out” creative type. The problem is that despite how hard you try, that underlying motivation ultimately shows through. And people sense it. They may not be able to verbalize or identify it, but it’s there. And it affects how you come across. I found that to successfully pull in work, I had to come from a different space.

About 5 years into my career, I had an “Ah-ha!” moment. Maybe one that is obvious to others or maybe one that is completely lost on them. But for whatever reason it made sense to me and changed my outlook on showing my portfolio. This may sound completely simplistic but it made all the difference for me.

I stopped making the appointments to show my portfolio about “getting work”, and started making them about meeting new people. Not meeting them as potential new clients, but just meeting new people. And instantly the pressure was gone. And I am sure that the new people I was meeting, sitting across from me, sensed an entirely different person than the one sitting across from all of the other folks I had seen previously. A much more relaxed, easy going, stress-free person. And in the course of meeting these new people I would of course have to show them my portfolio. After all that was the premise under which I was making all of these appointments. But for me, that was a side note. And if the portfolio garnered any interest or if I got a call a few weeks later to estimate out a project, that was just gravy!

But none of this was on any superficial level. This was not something I needed to “talk myself into” each morning. It was truly where I operated from. Showing my portfolio and “selling” myself was no longer this task or part of my job that I hated. In a sense, because I wasn’t doing it anymore! Instead I had this great part of my job, where the only thing I had to do was drive around and meet new people. Not a bad job!

I’ll talk more about the mechanics of it tomorrow and some thoughts on portfolio content the day after!