Editing Your Portfolio

I’m currently in the process of updating and printing a new portfolio and I thought I would take a moment half day to talk about the process.

My dear friend, Marc, has said of editing, “It’s like lining up your children and deciding which ones you’re going to shoot.” That quote isn’t going to end up on the front of a greeting card anytime soon but it does get to the heart of the matter. Andy Lee rephrased it to, “…deciding which ones you love more.” Either way, the process can suck but it is a process you need to go through on a regular basis. At least twice a year. Minimum.

I know many of you are wondering why I’m working on a print portfolio. What about web sites, PDFs, iPhones, thumb drives, laptops, etc, etc? Are printed portfolios still relevant? In my opinion they are. That opinion also is held by many in the editorial and advertising world. I know of two leading Ad agencies that won’t meet with you if you walk in with only an electronic portfolio. They want to see your book. The printed output of your work. Anything can look good on an iPad. Can it print? Can it run larger? The devil, and the jobs, are in the details. Wedding photographers know this all too well. Do you want to deliver a disk of zeros and ones or would you rather deliver a beautifully printed album? What is going to live in plain sight? A thumb drive or a book? Which one will be cherished? Which one has lasting value? Which one makes you more excited to deliver? Which one is instant? The book. That’s which one.

A printed book is a thing to take pride in. There’s something tangible about it that holding an iPad doesn’t compare to. Note that I’m a big believer in electronic forms of showing your work. I walk into every meeting with a print book AND an iPad. The book is the best representation I have of the work I do. The iPad holds expanded galleries of work that support the book and hold other galleries of work that don’t find their way into the main book. Things like personal projects, travel photography, video, etc. Eventually I want to have a series of print books that show a range of the work I do.

I’ve lived as a photographer for some time without a book. I wanted a book but didn’t have the time, money, discipline, etc to get it done. Going from having no book to having a book you’re ready to show is a pretty large mountain to climb. Choosing the physical book and making the prints are the easier parts. It’s editing the book that will make you cry and leave you feeling completely inadequate as a photographer. You’ll pray for your strengths while constantly focusing on your weakness through the process but I can’t stress enough how invaluable the process is. For me it’s more about the process of building a book than actually having a physical book to show. Let’s talk through the physical process.

The full discussion can be found after the jump…

Get Organized :: Make a master folder on your desktop or working hard drive. Label it “Master Portfolio” or something like that. Inside of that folder will be a series of folders. Something like “Possibles” “Edit for print” “Print Finals” “Resize for iPad” “Resize for web” “Etc”. You’re going to start off with at least 1,000+ images if you’ve been shooting for awhile. Dealing with that many files and trying to get them down to the top 2 or 3% is going to require getting organized with the big edit. My BIG edit folder has around 1,700 images in it. You may also want to consider making genre specific folders to keep additional copies of your images in. I have folders like “guys” “girls” “hiphop” “rock” “editorial” “personal” “project X” “project Y”, etc. This helps you later organize web galleries and things like that if you feel the need to do so. Everything from your print book to your web galleries are going to live in this master folder. Make sure you are making regular back ups of this folder. You may even want to consider an online service like Photoshelter to keep these RAW files online in case of a drive disaster. This folder will, after all, be holding your best work so you want to hold on to it.

The BIG Edit :: Brew 10 pots of coffee, grab all of your archive drives, kiss the wife and kids goodnight and  start harvesting every photo that you like from all of your jobs. Grab the RAW untouched files where possible. Don’t get the processed JPGs. Get the originals whenever you can. You may think your post production skills three years ago were awesome but as you put your work together today you may not like those 14 crappy actions you dumped on your work back then. Trust me on this… harvest the RAW files every chance you can. Don’t think “is this going to be in my portfolio?” while you do this first step. You’re just looking for photos you like. Like you really like them. Maybe you shot five consecutive frames of someone laughing and you like all five. Copy all five of them to a BIG edit folder. Notice I said “copy” your photos into the BIG edit folder. Don’t move them out of their home in the job folder where they lived. Make a copy. You want ONE folder holding all of the images. You can then copy specific images into genre folders if you want but the main folder holds all of them.

Go through your edits and any other RAW files you may have from the job that you did not deliver to the client. It’s always amazing to go back into a shoot and find a gem of a shot that didn’t make the edit when you first shot and delivered that job. You not only grow as a photographer but you grow as a photo editor in your life. A shot you may have passed up three years ago suddenly jumps out at you now. That is why I never delete my unpicked files. I always keep them. I go through these old folders a few times a year.

You may spend a few days going through this process. Or a week. Or a month. Try to be a bit disciplined and pull a handful of your favorite images into this BIG edit folder after every job. Let this folder live on your main drive all the time. Constantly be adding stuff to it as you are shooting. The first time you do this will take awhile though. Be very loose with your edit. If you like an image, throw it in the BIG edit folder. If you think an image might just be a good texture for a promo or something, throw it in this folder. Anything that has anything to do with your marketing and branding can dump in this folder. Go with your gut on these decisions. You can’t have too many in there. Well, yes you can, but if you’re hovering around 1,000 / 2,000 count that’s fine. You’ll go digging for the jewels in there later. Pretty soon you’ll be going blind looking at a large sampling of your work.

As you can see in the screen capture above, I use Photo Mechanic through this entire process. It’s the fastest way I’ve found to go through a large amount of work. It makes quick work of the culling process as you begin to sort through the work.

Take a day off :: Now that you’ve collected a large amount of work, take a day off. Separate yourself from it all. Get away from it for a day or two. Cleanse the palate so to speak.

Hunker down. Here we go. :: Here begins the process of lining up your children and, ummmm, figuring out which ones you love more than the others. This begins the painful process. It’s painful to not only choose but if you are a true creative this is the part where your self doubt, anxiety, and loathing start to show up. You come back to your BIG edit and it all sucks.

The images that you want to shoot are not in this folder. They are still out in the world waiting for you to capture them. As you start to go through 1,000+ of your “best” images they all begin to suck. You want to trash them all and just go shoot a new book. Well sorry Charlie, you can’t do that. You can’t go shoot a new book. Those elusive images are just that… elusive. You have to harden yourself during this process and realize that you are building a body of work with what you have to work with. If you ever say “I’ll just do this when my work is ready” then you will never do it. That kept me from this process for a long time. Kick the demons out of your head and get to work.

Pull the images up one by one in full screen mode and start numbering or tagging or labeling them somehow. I typically use a numbered system. Do whatever you want, just start marking or flagging them with a key stroke command so that you can later sort your edits. I typically do the first edit with a 3 star label. Then I go through that edit and hit images with a 4 star label. Then I go through that with a 5 star label. You can do yellow, blue, green, etc. Just find something that works for you and do that. Just keep in mind you want varying levels of ratings so that you can go through this process in waves so to speak. You’re going to cull that 1,000 or so images down to 300 pretty quickly. Then that needs to get down to 200. Then that needs to get down to 100 or so. Remember that your final portfolio is going to have a set of 20 to 40 images. You’re starting with 1,000. The 1,000 are all images you have responded positively to but the vast amount of these have to get cut and won’t see the light of day again for a long time, if ever.

The 100 :: Culling your BIG edit folder down to 100 images is a fairly easy goal to have. It will take some time but it’s pretty easy to do. Maybe you end up with 75 images after three or four waves of editing. Maybe it’s 200. Whatever. Just get it to somewhere around 10% or so of where you started. It’s time to get them off the computer and make small work prints of this smaller edit. We have an inexpensive Samsung color laser printer that we use for this process. From Photo Mechanic I print all of these images four up on a letter sized page. That’s four images to a page. I then cut these pages in quarters.

Once you have your small work prints done start laying them out on tables. Having a dedicated area for this will help. Clear off a few folding tables in your garage, basement, studio, etc and lay them all out. By the time you have culled your 1,000+ images down to 100 or so you know each photo. You have a wide angle view of your work. It’s time to start focusing on the details now. Clear a wall and grab some tape.

Two by Two :: Start picking photos in pairs. That’s the easiest way to get the process started. You’re looking for images that work well when shown together. Your web galleries may show images one at a time but a print book typically will have spreads of photos together. Start finding these pairs and tape them to the wall. Don’t worry about the pacing of the whole book just yet. Just start getting pairs on the wall.

For the last three books I’ve edited I started the process with a set number of images I was trying to hit. Something like, “No more than 30 images”. For the edit we are putting together now I’m not thinking that way. I’m just thinking about a solid book that isn’t too big. I want to see what naturally starts appearing on the wall. I’ll deal with 20, 30, or 40 image counts near the end.

Once you start the process the pace picks up. It’s slow at first and then finds a natural pace. It’s sort of like playing the memory game where you are trying to find matching cards. This is a good time to show two different images from one shoot. Maybe you want to show what you can do in studio AND on location with one client. Pairing two images like this can be done nicely. Once you get a dozen or two pairs on the wall start to step back from it. Look at it as an entire body of work now. Start looking for your kick ass beginning image and your kick ass ending image. Look at the flow of the images on the wall. Read it the way you read words. We westerners will start on the left and read to the right. Start rearranging the pairs on the wall. This spread leads nicely into this spread. Flipping the page from this image will lead into the next two images nicely. Images will get sorted by color, composition, subject material, etc. Start trying a few different pairings that may be a contrast with each other. Take a look at these two pairings.

The first pair work because they have similar tones, compositions, and backgrounds. The second pair works as well based on composition but the tones and backgrounds contrast with each other. It’s this crap that will finally drive you mad near the end of the process. You may go with one of these pairings because one of the images pairs with some other image you have better than the other. That helps in that other photos help dictate pairings.

You’re going to find yourself putting an image on the wall and taking it down and putting it back up and taking it down again over and over. What’s nice about having 100 or so images printed out is you can pull something off the wall and replace it with something. You’ll also find yourself running back to your BIG edit folder and printing out a few more photos at a time because suddenly one image you passed over now fits with the body of work as a whole.

What sucks the most is when a shot you really love just. doesn’t. fit. You LOVE this image but when you view it as part of the whole piece it doesn’t work. It’s one of your favorite shots of all time. Or it’s the best image you’ve shot to date. Or it shows a new direction you’re going with your work but it. just. doesn’t. fit. Period. You have to kill it. It has to be put aside. If the rest of the work can’t support it and it looks like a sore thumb then it is a sore thumb.

Once you have a pretty solid set of images on the wall and you’re ready to punch holes in walls, sit in the corner and cry, scream, smile, whatever, turn the lights off and go to bed.

Take a day off :: Yep. Step away from your work for a day or so. Not too long. Not a week. Not a month. Just a day. Clear your head. Mow the lawn. Play legos with the kids. Chop firewood. Spit nails. Drop acid. Whatever you do to forget about work for awhile.

Gather your trusted colleagues :: You are not an island. You are not an island. You are not an island. You need to pull in some help at some point near the end of this process. You need honest and trusted people for this. People who will give you honest feedback. Don’t bring them in at the beginning. You’re walking in waist deep mud at the beginning. Bring them in when you start to have a solid rough draft. If you are having a hard time with just getting to the rough draft part then hire someone like Mike Davis. Mike is a freelance photo editor and eats and breathes this stuff. I’ve worked with Mike on getting my images together and I can’t say enough great things about him. He’s worth three times his nominal fee to help you get your visual sh!t together. Seriously, call in a big gun if you need to. Mike can walk you through the process from start to print. He’s awesome.

Gather your folks around and have them look at your wall. Take a photo of the wall before you set them loose on it and then give them freedom to move things around. Let them take photos down and put others up. Listen to what they have to say. Let them tell you why you shouldn’t love that one child any longer and why you need to go get the other kid you just kicked out the door. They may be 100% correct and you need to listen to them. They may be a complete idiot. But if five idiots ALL tell you to ditch that one image you love, you should probably ditch it. Five idiots together might just be right. :)

Close your eyes and get it done :: You’ve now spent a week, month, quarter of your life going through this process. STOP second guessing. Stop replacing crap with more crap. Stop rearranging it till you fall over dead. Stop trying to figure out if you should put all your B&W work together then put your color work together or keep it mixed. Print the damn book and get it out into the world. Period. “But I don’t have X kind of photos that I want for my book.” Well guess what you’re going to be going out to shoot soon? “I wish I had this sort of image to pair with this one” Guess what kind of image you are going to shoot on your next job?

The edit of your book will start to show you holes in your body of work that you now have to fill. You wouldn’t really know that if you had not gone through this process. It’s never going to be perfect. It’s never going to be finished. It’s never going to be ready. If you wait until you are ready you’ll never accomplish a thing. Ever. Get the damn book printed and be ready to start replacing images in it as soon as you can. One by one. In pairs. Section by section. In a year you want half of it replaced. If you are a student graduating with a portfolio then you want to replace the entire thing as soon as you put your cap and gown in the closet.

I won’t go into the physical book, the printing, sleeves vs. no sleeves, Blurb vs. DIY, etc. Those are all personal preferences. I can’t tell you what your final book should look like just like I can’t tell you what the photos inside of it should look like. It should look like “you”. It shouldn’t look like someone else. Period. I will tell you that after getting tired of using sleeves I’ve gone to printing the book. My right hand Dan is the guy I lean on the most to keep me motivated through this process, help put the edit together, print the images, and build the book. He has a truck load of initiative in this process and he’s the one who keeps it on track. I have him to thank for most of the process of brining the images from the hard drive to the printed page. I’m using an 11×14 Pina Zangaro book that I have destroyed modified the front and back cover to match my promo materials. We are printing on an Epson 3880 on a rag paper. Dan found a print shop to score and drill the paper so the pages fold easily and we don’t have to use those stupid adhesive strips to put the pages in a screw post book.

I’m also not fully happy with the off the shelf portfolio books out there. I’ve looked at most of them. There’s always the classic black leather cover with your name/logo embossed into them. You can make a strong case for and against those. They are industry standard / everyone does that so do something different. Whatever. The size, materials, format, paper choice are all personal preferences and that process will drive you nuts. Just get one and build it and go show it to people so you can get hired.

For some examples, check out noplasticsleeves.com

I’m an editorial / commercial shooter. Do portrait photographers need a book? Maybe. You definitely have to have a web site. How do you put your images together for your web galleries? Scroll to the top and read again. Print, web, iPad, wedding album, it’s all the same process for me. When you have to collect a body of work and present it you have to edit it to a cohesive collection. Book editor. Magazine editor. News editor. Photo editor. There’s a reason that job title exists. Whether you are going to print your book or just have a web site I can’t recommend this kind of process enough. You will learn so much about your work and the work you need to be shooting.





  • JC Ruiz said on October 13, 2011

    Very insightful as usual.

  • dan @ sparkfly photography said on October 13, 2011

    good stuff Zack. Now I have to actually do it… ugh. it sounds horrible.

  • Chris Bergstrom said on October 13, 2011

    Zack, you continue to inspire me to get better and move forward. I like the portfolio book photos you are posting so far. My vote is the white guy with his eyes closed and the black guy with his eyes opened to be next to each other. When I bounced quickly back and forth between the two photos it just made sense. I’m impatiently waiting for my photos to reach the noticce of the blogosphere. I’m continuously trying to come up with new ideas, but nothing has stuck yet…

  • Anon said on October 13, 2011

    Nice writeup, but don’t know if I agree. I actually think you have an impressive portfolio. Messy, and the photography isn’t strong. Not entirely sure how you’ve become a messiah of sorts to the photo community.

  • Zack said on October 13, 2011

    Anon – Huh? Impressive but messy and not strong? Do you mean unimpressive?

    And yeah. I have a lot of work still to do in my life. One reason I’m a voice (not a messiah) is because I’m pretty open about the fact I don’t have it all figured out.

    The best thing though? I put it out there, right or wrong, with my name on it. Give it a try. Add to the signal. Not the noise.


  • Michael Montalto said on October 13, 2011

    …..I’m exhausted having read that myself!


  • Nina Parker said on October 13, 2011

    Sorta eerie when you’re thinking about doing something (like rehauling your portfolio) and then BAM…..there’s a fantastic post from Zack on that exact subject. It’s like the Arias has some sorta crazy Vulcan mind meld situation with your blog followers. Great post, btw–thanks for the inspiration and information.

  • Levet Christophe said on October 13, 2011

    Very interesting process for choose the best photos!!! Thank you for sharing these good ideas!!
    Great post!
    Christophe Levet, a french photographer

  • Russ Robinson, Band Photographer said on October 13, 2011

    Always tough to determine the perfect mix of photos for one’s portfolio, because we’re often our own worst critics, and it’s such a subjective process. Anyway, I appreciate you sharing your insights here…lots of good stuff to chew on. ~Russ

  • jason flynn said on October 13, 2011

    Brilliant … really appreciate the inside scoop on what to do to take it to the next level.

    Now, go enjoy a cold beer!

  • Frank T said on October 14, 2011

    Damn. I have a lot of work ahead of me. Time to GOMA and get to work.

  • Bret Douglas said on October 14, 2011

    Good info, despite a few typos. The link to noplasticsleeves.com should have two e’s, for example.

  • Bret Douglas said on October 14, 2011

    When I first started taking photos a photographer friend told me to put my 10 best pics on the wall and replace them whenever I took something better. He echoed your comments about replacing the original 10 within a short period of time.

    I suppose if this seems to restrictive one could sub-divide them by subject. For me that would be something like Landscapes, Birds, Sports, Macro, etc.

  • Bret said on October 14, 2011

    Oops, I meant “too restrictive.” Damned typos!

  • Chris Bergstrom said on October 14, 2011

    Zack, I read Anon’s post above and it annoyed me. Not because I want to defend you, but because of the rudeness of it. I personally don’t think of you as the messiah, but you are true to what you do and you even admit that you don’t know it all. That says volumes about you as a person and a photographer. I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with you for two days and I wish I lived closer to you so we could hang out more. You are an inspiration not only for your photographic work, but also the person you are. I look up to you in a way, but at the same time, you make me feel like we’re equals. We’re peers and are both trying to figure out this whole photographic thing with only ourselves to blame if we don’t live up to someone else’s standards. In the end, we need to live up to our own standards and that’s where I think you shine. You are not afraid to call crap, crap, even your own work. Anyway, thanks for just being you Zack and for inspiring more than 10 photographers! lol I’m sure it’s more like hundreds of thousands. :-) When you get stuck in a rut, try to think of something to do that is totally whack!

  • Adam said on October 14, 2011

    Your timing couldn’t be better. I’m moving soon, and trying desperately to break into an already massive market, and I just know I’m going to be spending an inordinate amount of time doing this. Your method will, with some possible changes, become mine. I can’t wait to irritate my girlfriend with yet *another* wall of my work to stare at for hours!

  • James Davidson said on October 14, 2011

    Great write-up on a process that truly sucks! Thanks for reviewing my photo book the other week, and it’s a good thing that you did. I went to an ACP Portfolio Review about a week later, and in that week I had a new portfolio printed based on your suggestions/critique. I mainly narrowed it down to scenics and deleted all of the portraits/weddings/etc. One reviewer mentioned how it was very scattered and random and I said no…you should have seen my book last week! It was much more concentrated but Darren Ching from PDN mentioned that it did not tell a story, and therefore there was no way for him to know if this was just a collection of lucky shots.

    You also mention throwing out the one that you really, really love, and I didn’t. I kept my little light bulb photo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/edgewatermedia/3817978082/in/set-72157622228775924) which is great on its own, but completely threw off the flow of the book which consisted of rustic country scenes, and every reviewer noticed, and paused where they were in the book and just looked confused. Having to narrow it down to your top 20-30ish images sucks, and you definitely feel like a crap photographer at times in the killing process. But when you get that edit and you see it in print, man does it feel good…

  • Vinny - Open Iris Photography said on October 14, 2011

    Dude… As mentioned above … No one needs to defend you. Your work speaks for itself. You have become my favorite photographer not because you have it all figured out , yet instead because you are in pursuit of better photography. You have inspired me to produce even when I feel like I suck. I love that you say it , and you believe in what you say! Keep up the awesome work! Hopefully one day we will cross paths! Thanks for the work that went into this post!!

  • Jenn said on October 14, 2011

    I just went through this process myself and it was gut-wrenching. I don’t have anywhere near the portfolio you do but I really see the value in putting prints into my clients’ hands when they’re looking at my work. I knew I had a long way to go but really looking at my faves with a critical eye really made me see what I need to work on and where I want to go from here.

    I picked up my prints earlier this week and am sitting down tonight to put them in sleeves. Pina Zangaro 11×14 in vista mist. :)

  • Zachary Long said on October 14, 2011

    Good reminders on the twice a year thing too. Looking back at my own portfolio makes me realize that I haven’t really given the website a hard look in over 6 months and I’ve probably shot 10,000+ images since then (ok it’s weddings so they are images heavy, but still!). Perfect time to get things re-organized before the Winter booking season for next year which was on my To-Do list when the Fall wedding season is over.

  • Younes Boun said on October 14, 2011

    I wanna go home and cry now…
    thanks for the insight though :)

  • claire said on October 14, 2011

    You mentioned starting by gathering your RAW files. At what point in the culling do you post process them?

    Thanks for all the tips! This is a great write-up of the process you discussed on your last Creative Live workshop.

  • Zack said on October 14, 2011

    @Claire – When you’re ready to print.

  • Ranger 9 said on October 14, 2011

    My problem isn’t deciding “which ones I love more”… it’s that once I line them up, I can’t stand any of them! I feel exactly like Robinson Jeffers at the start of “Love the Wild Swan”… “I hate my verses, every line, every word.” The odd thing is that I like them better, or at least dislike them less, once the thing is together — but it’s REALLY a struggle to get to that point.

  • Chris said on October 14, 2011

    Best thing about this post? The way you responded to the anonymous comment. That speaks volumes.

  • Matt Fitzgerald said on October 14, 2011

    Sounds very reminiscent of the process my wife and I went through to get to the current version of our wedding photography website. Great advice for all photographers, regardless of area of specialty!

  • Eric Mastrangelo said on October 14, 2011

    Great post though one thing I find interesting is how many artists seem to dread going through their work for presentation. Call me odd, but that’s the fun part; it’s what it’s all about – putting your shit together to be born into the world. Whether they like it or hate it, it’s exciting and can be a rush (I do prefer if they like it, naturally).

    One point where I differ from Zack though is regarding RAWs – for me, unless it’s something for a client where it may need to be re-edited for some reason or another at a later date, I prefer to do my PP, set it in stone as a finished edit, then dump the RAWs. I like the permanance of a final set image and figure that if it doesn’t hold up on its own after a period of time, it wasn’t a very strong image to begin with. Maybe odd thinking I suppose, but it’s too easy for me to second guess myself if the RAWs stick around, so I eliminate the temptaion all together. Makes me a lot more careful about my images than I might otherwise be.

  • Mick Buston said on October 14, 2011

    Can you mix portrait and landscape in one book? Really struggling with this as I put together a portfolio for Uni admission as a 43 year old student for 2012. Cheers Zack

  • Zack said on October 14, 2011

    @Mick – You can. If you have a designer you can call do so. They can help lay images out in spreads that look good. My book mixes horizontals and verticals.


  • Dallas said on October 14, 2011

    On the comparison samples you showed above, I prefer the second set. Why? It shows two different aspects of your work. The first pairing is more of the same.


  • Swarren said on October 14, 2011

    Thanks zack, this is my biggest issue for me at this moment in time, getting the portfolio in line and doing it twice a year consistently. Thanks for the post, I picked up that a lot of this I already do, where I break down is near the end, the final 100 or so, awesome advice,getting away for a day and especially the drop acid part. Cheers mate.

  • A. Scrubb said on October 14, 2011

    You’re making my head spin Zack. Great stuff! @Chris – Agreed!

  • Deidra said on October 14, 2011

    I love your polaroid wall, I have a ridiculous one going right now for a port edit as well.

  • Edd Carlile said on October 14, 2011

    That was really good to read Zack…..and I agree completely about a book being a special media (after all it did do us all proud for centuries before all this new fangled electronic media arose)as I have a book of portraits from a project I did in Glasgow a few years back ( http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/invited/656314/e088466f19d64b1d72c74c9a8912c96b ) and it is a book my friends love to look at, my children delight in (coz daddy is in there too) and it has impressed clients as well.
    Great post man.
    Thank you.

  • Sam Figueroa said on October 14, 2011

    Hey, Zack, this post is really great. I really love all the detail you put into the workflow description. Thanks for sharing.

  • James Dyas Davidson said on October 14, 2011

    This is not getting my hoovering done.

    I was looking for this post on Monday but today will do. I thought I had the guts of a book but the cull had different ideas. I’m off to Skye to try again. This process was worth doing just to find out how much crap we keep (and in my case take!).

    Thanks for taking the time to do these posts. They are very much appreciated.

  • Jason said on October 14, 2011

    Really great article. As someone who is tackling this task it’s fantastic to see it articulated so well, with tactical advice.

  • It was very late last night that I came across this post in Google Reader. I could see it was a long one and on a topic I need to do myself. So I decided to sleep first and give some wide awake attention today. It was worth it.

    I like your photography. I like the way you teach too. But did you know you could also work writing into your career? Seriously Dude. The spelling and grammar get a bit sloppy later on but that was a riveting read.

  • Andy said on October 14, 2011

    Exhaustive and honest as always, thanks bro.

    Any chance of a few snaps of your Book? I don’t understand your description (cos I don’t know all the materials, etc.).

  • Mark-André Pierre Sass said on October 14, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    http://noplasticsleeves.com/ is AWSOME!!!!!!!!!

  • Harold said on October 14, 2011

    Although I’m no way near a professional photographer; this post makes me think we all need a book! Cut through the sludge and figure out what the [ ] we’re doing. And! Zack if this photography thing doesn’t work out, you won’t have to run down to Kinko’s for a job, you are a first rate blogger. You tell the truth and that, after all, is what we need. Thanks!

  • Tim Graedon said on October 14, 2011

    So helpful, thank you! It’s great getting some solid insight from someone who’s been around the block.

  • Alexandre said on October 14, 2011

    Thanks Zack for sharing and inspiration !

  • Carl Spring said on October 14, 2011

    Great advice as always.

    I did this process for my latest website edit. Got it down then got some help towards the end.

    A little tip is if you can get one of those promo offers for photo printers giving away 100 7×5 free prints etc. This way you get your printing for the price of P&P. Not always an option, but a bit of googling will usually throw something up.

  • Gray said on October 15, 2011

    Good stuff. I’ve been putting off making my own portfolio website for a year just because I don’t know how I’m going to be able to trim it down into something presentable and worthwhile. This’ll help me on my way, so thanks!

  • Haakon Eltvik said on October 15, 2011

    Great post Zack ! Thanks for sharing your workflow and your thaughts!

    Now I just have to shoot more, so I can make a portfolio, hehe.

  • Moritz said on October 15, 2011

    Haha, crazy but true: this post appeared one day after I ordered my freshly assembled portfolio from Blurb. Zack, thank you very much for the extensive explanations about your workflow for the portfolio, my forehead has become a bit flatter from the various slapping-moments. I think the most important part of the whole process is actually MAKING a portfolio. Only once you finished it, printed it and started using it, the next (and improved) version can start evolving. I truly believe that you need these milestones for your personal growth, even if (or because) directly after producing them you will find the first flaws. Or as the former German soccer coach Sepp Herberger put it: “After the match is before the match”.

  • Bogdan said on October 15, 2011

    I’m thinking when you really like a picture but it does not fit a certain layout or a spread (I think in album terms) I dedicate the whole layout to it. Sometimes an extreme cropping on a full panoramic spread (think horizontal – or landscape type) might surprise you and make for a good “hook” in one’s portfolio… (will save some hair pulling as well).

    I give you an example. If I design a wedding book for a couple, I always make the layouts fit the story and the pictures I want to use. I tried the other way around (AKA your way) and the result looks a bit contrived IMHO (and it takes a million hours to do). Just my two cents…

  • dtbsz said on October 15, 2011

    Have you tried http://www.acdsee.com/ ?

    Any other Blurb-like book printing services you liked?

  • Zack said on October 15, 2011

    @dtbsz – I’m on a Mac. acdsee is Windows only.


  • sam said on October 15, 2011

    Thanks! Great read!

  • Amy Cham said on October 15, 2011

    Love this post, and the timing couldn’t be better. Thanks for busting my delusion that I can rehaul my portfolio by sifting through my processed final sets for a few hours. Your buddy Marc nailed it, and I recently heard the same idea at a Sal Cincotta seminar: you have to be willing to kill your darlings.

    Nice handling of the anonymous troll, btw. Totally fine to disagree with a post author, but no reason to have a ‘tude about it.

  • Amy Cham said on October 15, 2011

    Ah, with regard to printing, as a wedding photographer I’m a fan of AdoramaPix for basic hardcover book printing. They turnaround fast and use a nice pearl photo paper…looks great at 12×12, and the prices are pretty good too.

  • robert blu said on October 15, 2011

    Editing? It is an hard work but someone has to do it ! And in my case I have to do my own editing! Thanks for sharing your workflow. And it is true, a book is always a book !

  • Harvey Spector said on October 16, 2011

    I love this post for it’s insight into a difficult process. Thanks so much.

  • Fabio Giraldi said on October 16, 2011

    Hi Zack, thank you for sharing this post; I found it really useful and really direct. The creative processes behind photographic choices are the main content I’m following your and other photographer’s blogs for. Thanks again!

  • T-Bag said on October 16, 2011

    Well… I think I should also make this. The only thing is that most of my photos are made on film, which might add some frustration…umm…”time needed for the project”. It is easy to do look at the slide films in sleeves at light table but negatives… and scanning them to make a new-era-digital-blingbling-book is a little bit time consuming. But once again, thanks for inspiring post.

  • Zack said on October 16, 2011

    @t-bag – Have a lab make small work prints from your negs or contact sheets. Then only scan the ones you love.

  • djaka said on October 16, 2011

    thank you for sharing the process, I think this is very useful. how far should you go with the other’s view, as you ask someone’s opinion regarding the pictures.

  • wedding photographers dc said on October 17, 2011

    Thank you for interesting and useful article!


  • Christian Melgard said on October 17, 2011

    Hey Zach! Love your work and willingness to share your ideas and skills. this is rare among photographers.

    anyway just wondering what you think about a Portfolio on an iPad verses a printed one? i feel they’re large enough to show a good view and small enough to easily carry around…. ?

  • Thanks for the this post, Zach. You’ve inspired me to go through this process and have a long hard look through all my images. I appreciate the honest description of the psychology behind it, so I can remember that it’s just part of the process.

  • marvin said on October 18, 2011

    I can empathize. I’m perpetually tightening up my web portfolio. Fortunately, I have a few photographer friends I can call-in to help with those final edits. I don’t always agree with them, but I respect their work and trust their opinions, and grateful they make the time to help; it’s an exhausting amount of work assembling a portfolio, regardless if it’s for web, print or ipad. The thing I enjoy most about this process is the creative transformation. After my first round of edits, I always walk away from the experience with a slightly different perspective… a perspective I hadn’t considered otherwise.

    Thanks for sharing, Zack.

  • Matthew Carter said on October 18, 2011

    Thanks Hoss! You and some others have shared this with me before but for whatever reason, I never got around to it until a few weeks ago… I’m in the process of letting others help me edit and reorder now. It’s funny I was just reading through a book last night about having a book and I made up my mind that I was going to FINALLY make a physical book. Then I see this post this morning.

    Thanks especially for telling me to get off my ass with this post. Make the freaking book because it’s not ever gonna be where I want it to be. I can see the holes now and shoot to fill ’em. Thanks moneygrip.

  • Doug R said on October 18, 2011

    editing hurts. a lot.

    even for folks like me, amateurs who shoot for kicks and giggles editing is incredibly helpful. it makes me cringe to think about creating another personal project to edit for. I know I should. Adding to the signal, not the noise and all that. To share, motivate and inspire others just to make something.

    but it hurts. it also can heal. i found that once the project was done and i started sharing that maybe it wasn’t as crappy as i thought and it helped a few people here and there. inspired them even. then it was worth it.

    momentum is a tough thing to get going and easier to lose then create.

  • Tristan Milnthorp said on October 18, 2011

    I can certainly attest to the power of printed books or albums (or even just prints). I used to show images on just an iPad, thinking it was a great way to show off the most recent wedding photos I had taken (and it still is!) but people seem to really love holding a finished album or prints in their hands. And I have to agree. I always show both!

    Thanks for the tips in compiling a portfolio. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the number of images you consider “must shows”. Just getting started is half the battle!

  • Danielle Currier said on October 19, 2011

    Hey there, Great article. Chock full of great info. I’d like to quote you on my site and provide a link to your article. Is that cool with you? I found your article b/c I saw a bunch of people coming to my site through the link you provided. Thanks!

  • Zack said on October 20, 2011

    @Danielle – Go for it! Thanks!


  • Lynn Donaldson said on October 20, 2011

    I love you, love you, thank you, thank you for this!!!! I haven’t shown a print book to NYC photo editors in over 5 years. My website is horribly dated. I am about to begin the process (I set aside Nov & Dec for it) of editing for a new portfolio AND website. I’ve done a dozen or more portfolios in my career (and I absolutely hate doing it) & haven’t touched my website since it went up in 2005–ugh. (I live in Montana and have had 3 kids in the interim & have somehow kept getting assignments…but I definitely put the book and the website on the back burner and it’s time to nut up!) I always work much better with direction. You laid it all out step-by-step with great insights! THANK YOU. I knew I’d like what you had to say from the first bit about brewing ten pots of coffee. Your post gave me a jolt/kick in the tail at exactly the right time. Can’t thank you enough!!!

  • Peter Bohler said on October 20, 2011

    Sounds like my last month, almost day by day. GREAT description of the process.

  • Andrew Macpherson said on October 20, 2011

    Your post weighs heavily on me as in the past I’ve had as many as a dozen constantly updated folios in circulation. They contained a broad range of work, are expensive to print and ship to clients, and took a lot of time updating and maintaining.

    The obvious liberation of the iPad the weight and waste of paper, and the cost of FedEx, both things I’m thrilled by, but the hidden joy is that each picture stands alone, and doesn’t have to be paired. Overall I can’t wait for the rumored 10″ version.

    All my books were made on the old Fujix Pictograhy, a machine that is now no longer even around, so to do printed portfolios again I’ll be going back to scratch. What would be very useful is a disussion on the kinds of folios that are doing the rounds today and the impression they make.

  • jann said on October 20, 2011

    Absolutely fabulous post, Zach! Thank you for sharing your portfolio editing process with us. You’ve given me lots of food for thought.

  • enjy said on October 20, 2011

    Very interesting, thanks Zack for sharing your experience, what’s more in a funny way!

  • Andrew said on October 20, 2011

    Working with little prints like that is always helpful, but I find it tiresome when it comes to creating, editing and keeping track of different variations.

    I decided to create my own personal web-based application to help with this. I’ve found to be invaluable, especially when I don’t have access to a printer to make work prints or a big wall to pin things up on. It’s pretty much removed my need to ever scatter things out on the floor.

    In a nutshell, it lets me upload images, then move them around on the screen in the order I want. I can then save as many different variations as I want to be able to reference later or share with someone to get their feedback. I’ve found it to be great tool for collaboration. I can send someone a sequence/selection of images and they can send it back to me based on their own ideas.

    I also included a number of other features that I find useful like “view as slideshow” or “shuffle” which is good for when I want to look at options I might not have considered before.

    A video demonstration can be found here: http://vimeo.com/29115178

  • Michael Miller said on October 20, 2011

    Wow. What a great article. I am just beginning the process formally. Lightroom reports I have just under 60,000 images on file in the current ‘catalog’. Many have not yet been imported. Some folders have been weeded, but most are not keyworded.

    I just looked at one old folder and it hasn’t even been developed yet.

    But, IT’S ALL FUN!

  • Brian Feulner said on October 21, 2011

    Awesome info. It’s these posts I treasure the most. Making a printed portfolio, can sound easy but when you actually sit down to start its a baffling process. Thanks for sharing your workflow and thoughts.

  • Christopher Beauchamp said on October 21, 2011

    Thanks for acknowledging the feelings of inadequacy and the all the other forms of inner emotional toil that are the hallmark of looking at your own work honestly.
    I really think this can be the biggest barrier to getting where you want to go with the work, book, website,etc.

  • sebastian pfütze said on October 21, 2011

    thanks for sharing this. it really nails it! have been through it, will have to go again…



  • david said on October 21, 2011


  • Tom Legrady said on October 21, 2011

    You say, “What sucks the most is when a shot you really love just. doesn’t. fit. You LOVE this image but when you view it as part of the whole piece it doesn’t work….”

    I find the same thing in writing. College essays, the “artist’s statement” for my one show, project proposals …. When I go back to edit, the phrases and sentences I find most dramatic, most picturesque, have no relevance to the rest of the paragraph. In fact, they don’t belong anywhere in this document.

    Maybe I should save all those lost sentences and put them together into a book all of their own?

  • timothy Macauley said on October 23, 2011

    sound advice with a very methodical approach Zack.

    Editing is not one of my strengths :( I love all by babies equally. Like you said no one is an island. For those down Australia way Sally Brownbill is the bomb. She can photo edit like no one and creates page layouts that just work. She also has this thing of matching colours in unexpected but striking ways. If your down Australia way definitely check her out http://www.sallybrownbill.com/

    Also for anyone in Australia Irwin and Mclaren design stunning folios that you want to put you photos in http://www.irwinandmclaren.com.au/design.php

    It will be interesting to hear what clients make of your new folio, once it’s ready to rock.


  • Pradeep said on October 23, 2011

    I read Anon’s post above, and I was wondering what is it that I like about your work. And I think it’s the openness and the blunt honesty. Be it how you come across as an individual, or as a photographer, on in your work. I have followed you for a while, read your blogs, and seen your interviews and videos. And I know how passionate you are about your work. How you keep on experimenting.

    It takes time to be where you are. And some good work. Keep them coming.

  • Nigel Pinto said on October 24, 2011

    Great post. I need to short list my best photos too. Wondering if slideshows would work.

  • Adrian Frost said on October 24, 2011

    Hi Zack

    i have been following your work for some time now. i have huge respect for what you do and for the way you do it. also love the humor…..drop acid. this is the first time i actually have the balls to comment though and probably won’t have much to do with porfolio work.

    your posts usually have me feeling like someone is standing on my chest and all i can think of is tranform. i have been doing the photography thing full time now for almost four months. i have no idea what kind of photographer i want to be one day but i know i want to be a one. it scares the shit out of me that i dont always know where the next months rent is coming from. i’m still working on my style but i think it is very easy to become some one that is not really you just to get the job or impress people. i would rather strugle now and build something strong and durable than a fake facade that will not last. is this the way or should i take the easy money?

    you and dave jackson are two of my favourite photographers. the way you do what you do is really inspiring. i feel like crying when i look at your work. i just realise how much there is for me to still get a handle on! but i always come back, wanting to look, get new ideas and be motivated.

    i have my first wedding on the weekend. i dont think that is where i want to go one day but for now that is where the money is in the town i am in. i usually get all emotional about this path that i have chosen when i haven’t shot for myself in a while so i think tomorrow i will be taking a personal day.

    sorry if this doesn’t make any sense. i have a lot to learn and still doubt my ability and talent so much.

    anyway, thanks for the inspiration.


  • Zack said on October 26, 2011

    @Adrian – Keep the hustle holmes. Keep the hustle! We’ve all taken jobs for the money because sometimes, that’s what you have to do. And still do. And do again. It ain’t easy. If it was everybody would be a photographer… Oh… wait. Hmmm. :)


  • David A Rogers said on October 24, 2011

    I got as far as this line and felt the need to reiterate:
    “The devil, and the jobs, are in the details. ”

    nuff said

  • Raymond Chou said on October 25, 2011

    wonderful post zack, you just inspired me to revamp my printed portfolio

  • Cedric said on October 25, 2011

    I’m actually trying to put together my book right now, and I’m sure your post will be a lot of help. Never thought it would be as difficult, frustrating and rewarding as editing text. Thanks Zack! :)

  • andy kemmis said on October 25, 2011

    great article. Thanks Zack. I’d love to see photos of your finished book.

  • Jeremy Corbin said on October 27, 2011

    Hey, Zack!

    I’m still trying to bust my ass to get off the ground. I look at my whole pallet of images and I hate very single image I’ve ever made. When I brought them to you it confirmed my thoughts… “I Suck” …but that realization has gotten me to work harder, work smarter, experiment more, FAIL MORE, and stop shooting on the stupid grey seamless that I never liked in the first place.

    I’m a bad photographer today. In ten years I hope to not suck. In twenty years I hope to be good. I’ll die before I’m a great photographer. But if you hadn’t kicked my ass in front of the world on creativeLIVE I would still suck when I died.

    Seriously… Thank you. Expect my photo book in the mail at the end of April 2012. I made a promise I intend to keep.


  • george said on October 29, 2011

    I don’t know what is genuine on the internet anymore:

    “You may even want to consider an online service like Photoshelter to keep these RAW files online in case of a drive disaster.”

    how that would be different???
    “You may even want to consider an online service to keep these RAW files online in case of a drive disaster.”
    I don’t mind ads but at least be honest about it…

  • Zack said on October 31, 2011

    George – I have no relationship with Photoshelter. I pay full retail price for my account just like everyone else.


  • IdeaLIZe said on November 1, 2011

    Greetings Zack!
    Just wanted to say that although this article is geared towards photographers I do have to say that I found it quite resourceful because building a portfolio for any industry parallels a similar process. I’m a product designer on hiatus.( thinking of revamping portfolio).
    Also, having had a bad experience with my wedding photographer has pushed me think about creating my own wedding album. I’m guessing this process can also work well.
    To show thought process and skill we must show product development, any suggestions as to how I can explain a thought process more visually than verbal? Any suggestions appreciated !
    Ladtly, i appreciate the sharing of knowledge and leave a side note that you inspire and help more than just the photography audience! thx
    I’ll definitely bookmark your site!

  • CW said on November 3, 2011

    thanks for this Zack :) Very king of you for sharing all this great blog post :)

  • Charlie said on November 3, 2011

    ops meant to say kind!

  • Ed Tritton said on November 6, 2011

    Thanks for this Zack,
    Its come at a really good time, i’m just about to start gathering all of my work together and making a book because i’m applying for university, this has helped me no end!
    is there any chance of you bringing your workshops to the UK?

  • Stan said on November 7, 2011

    This post, like most of the ones i read, came at a good time, since a friend has been complaining about me needing to update my site and facebook photos. I have found that my port contains my clients choices, not my own, so I’ve been revisiting old shoots and looking in my folders for the gems I missed.

  • Daan said on November 9, 2011


    This post is very useful as i need to get some work on the web, personal website and Google+, and don’t know how to start with the amount of photos in Lightroom and a stack of negative i still need to scan.
    One thing i don’t get is why use the raw files and not the processed in the selection process?

    Also this post is useful for the participants of the Twit Photo contest, the search for the Hottest new emerging photographer!


    @t-bag maybe a bit late, but what to think of the contact sheet way to present your work? Lay all the negative/slides on the light table and take a digital photo of it, then mark the best photo of that contact sheet and scan it and put it next to the contact sheet as a spread!

  • Keane said on November 10, 2011

    This is an awesome and vaulable post. Thanks for sharing, i think I read this few times already…. now I just gotta jump in and do it. Thanks Zack.

  • Justin caridi said on November 12, 2011


    As always inspirational at all the right times. I took your workshop in Cincinnati, OH last year and it really helped bring me closer to understanding my craft. I am just about to start working on selections for website brochure and I come across this post. This will help me tremendously.

    Thank you again for always sharing your knowledge.

    Hope to see you at GPP


  • Shannon Rosan said on November 15, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing the process of crafting a portfolio. I have tried to complete this process many times and have got hung up on feeling like there is so much more I have left to photograph. And that right there is what is stopping me from completing…from moving forward. To stop beating myself up.

    P.S. LOVE your candid, honest and highly informative writing style!

  • June said on November 15, 2011

    Your article was a kick when I needed it. Great! Half guiding industry voice/half good friend telling you to sack up. Thanks!


  • Blaise - Wedding Photographer said on November 17, 2011


    It’s like you’re reading my mind. I printed a book of my wedding photography 1.5 years ago and when I look at it today I feel like it’s not me anymore. I’ve tried using the ipad to present my work, but it’s really not as impactful as a 30x30cm book (that would be 12 inch).

    So not only is putting together a book a lot of pain, but it needs to be updated regularly to keep up with who you have become. Yes – I’m with you on the importance of keeping RAW and reviewing the edits made 3 years ago.

    Well written!


  • Kismet said on December 9, 2011

    I feel like such a dumb ass because I don’t even have a website simply because I am scared of this process!!! But seeing you struggle to is inspiring (yeah its fun watching other people suffer!!) and actually understanding the workflow makes me want to just jump straight in to it!


  • willi said on December 24, 2011

    Hmmm where/who is Anon ? thanks Zack for puting it out there

  • Richard Johnson said on January 9, 2012

    Thanks for this article, I am in the folio editing process myself and its great to know that i’m on the right track in terms of process. All the best for 2012! Rich

  • Louisa Catharine Forsyth said on January 11, 2012

    Fabulous post, one which has me inspired now to sort out all my work too!

  • Kieran Wagner said on February 5, 2012

    Um… guess I should visit your blog more often. I just edited a portfolio for my website (still need a book, tho – thanks for the nudge on not waiting) using a similar technique from Wonderful Machine photo editor, Sean Stone (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMgLuAiUFV0). The depth you go into here is extremely valuable. My biggest takeaway from your post? Take what I’ve learned from the process and use it to become a BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER! Thanks for that.

  • Clay Toporski Photography said on March 13, 2012

    Wow. I just found this post and I have to thank you for this. Taking thousands of photos and picking a handful for your portfolio might be one of the most daunting tasks I can think of. Thanks for sharing your insight for everyone!

  • Michael Lothner said on August 26, 2012

    What a great communicator! My good friend Steve S. hosted you at Coke Headquarters for the MK shoot. He turned me on to your BLOG shortly ever after. I have been quietly following you ever since. Not only do your pictures speak volumes . . . so do your words. Having 3 children myself . . . I can totally relate to your print portfolio selection process. Keep it loose . . . keep it tight. Thanks for the affirmations. I hope we cross paths someday.

  • Michael Sullivan said on September 28, 2012

    I hate this post and love it all at once. I’m currently going through this and every point you make is an echoed thought in my brain. Damn you for reiterating everything I KNOW I SHOULD be doing, even though those are the two most dangerous words in the English lexicon.

    You do an amazing thing here, photography aside. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, but hear it again, thank you for putting it all down into words for us to read. Every post you create is a gentle reminder that I’m in fact NOT crazy. Or maybe we both are…who knows.

  • Max Almonte said on October 8, 2012

    Hey Zack, thanks for pouring in this elaborate blog about print portfolios and the steps to take to get it done. I been thinking really hard and already started the process of re-organizing and filtering my work to create one, the funny thing is that it started happening before i came across this blog post. Your work is amazing point blank, Some people say “hes Ok”, but to each is own, is the learning process that I can get from your work that inspires me. I am also thinking of re-doing my website, is good but I will love more flexibility since everyone in their mother is using iphones and ipads to go online and mines is flash – I hate adobe for this part on mac devices! Do you think photoshelter is the way to go when it comes down to website building? I been researching my assets for a new webhost.

  • Anne said on March 12, 2013

    Hi Zack. Great insightful post. I am currently in the process of making my first book. My question is; is it ok to pair a vertical photo next to a horizontal one scale-wise? obviously, one will be half the size of the other… is that acceptable? or should horizontals always be paired with another horizontal?
    My book is vertical, should my horizontals be centered in the middle of the page? I am in the mud. I need to go mow the loan for a day… thanks for your input.

  • Zack said on March 12, 2013

    Anne – totally acceptable.

  • Dirk said on April 12, 2013

    Hi Zack!

    I just wanted to say thanks! Your honest way of explaining everything and your straight approach is helping me a lot with the reboot for my photography ‘career’. Bought my first DSLR 3 years ago and had a flying start but crashed 6 months ago and yes….started working my old day job again.

    Sold my D3100 with 35mm and just bought the Fuji X100 (relatively cheap now the X100s is out) this week and with all the info from your blog and webinars I feel like I kinda know what i’m doing now and getting some structure. O yeah and can’t hide behind the ‘I’m creative I don’t like & know the business side’ anymore.

    Anyway, thanks!


    Dirk (Holland)

  • Sean said on April 22, 2013

    Creating a print portfolio is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Reading this post was awesome, thanks for posting this up.

  • Animesh Ray said on April 23, 2013

    Professional portfolio reviewers!? I never knew something of the sort even existed!

  • Avril said on July 24, 2013

    Irresistible reading – thanks, Zack! Funny thing is I’m not sure you’ve told me anything significant I didn’t already know. Just that I’ve never seen it laid bare in black and white like this before. I’ve been starting and restarting this process for sooo – tooooo – long because I know and agree with all you say about the beauty and impact and magic of print. Only I keep getting sidetracked by the unbelievable, non-stop torrent of junk life loves to drown me in every day. But with considered use of technology I can put it down and pick it up again as necessary – more or less.

    Which leads me to the one thing I would add, and I can’t think of a reason it might not work for anyone, is that you don’t need physical folders, along with all the file duplication and associated disk space devouring, for all your editing collections and stages if you use a decent DAM tool. I find Lightroom helps. It’s not perfect in many ways, but using its Smart Collections coupled with adding keywords as you sift your seemingly infinite library is a HUGE timesaving help. Have a smart collection for, eg, BIG EDIT and define it so that anything with a keyword of BIGEDIT is included in the collection. Files can be in multiple Smart Collections while only one copy of the file exists.

    The most frustrating aspect of Lightroom, for me, is that it slows down to the point of becoming a work inhibitor if you lump all your tens of thousands of images into one catalogue. Which I did when I first used it – and counted the seconds it took for each little edit to take effect. I nearly gave up on Lightroom completely until I read on a forum that it’s best to split it into lots of smaller catalogues. But then I find that whilst you can export selected images (which could be the contents of a smart collection) to a catalogue, there doesn’t appear to be a way to export your defined collections or smart collections – or your develop presets for that matter, so you have to re-define them all manually. Even so, Smart Collections based on file type and keywords make this portfolio process far less painful. Even across multiple catalogues and having to combine collections into new catalogues. I haven’t gone into spoon-feeding detail because I don’t think your blog is read by complete beginners, but I hope this helps others embarking on this epic voyage.

  • Zack said on July 24, 2013

    Thanks Avril!


  • Bradley Cummings said on August 20, 2013

    Zack — I’m curious to know if any of your ideas and thoughts about putting a portfolio together have changed since you did the ‘5K Challenge’ video for Kelby. I found that video really insightful and well worth watching, by the way, so thanks for making it.


  • Zack said on August 21, 2013

    One thing that has changed is I’m hiring Stella to help edit my portfolio!


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