What is a Performance-based Powerful Portfolio edit?

A powerful portfolio edit is one, that when seen by your target audience, delivers on one of three E’s:  

It Excites them,

It Educates them, or

you Earn money from it.


Who can benefit from getting a professionally edited and sequenced portfolio? Everone.


It doesn’t matter if you’re a photo enthusiast seeking to excite your friends and family while showing your amazing vacation travel adventure photos; an engaged citizen seeking to motivate your tribe of social media followers to take political action and/or get a photo editor interested your story; or a professional photographer seeking to get hired to shoot an assignment.


The common thread is that a good edit can inspire your viewer to take a desired action.


A performance-based portfolio edit is one that has that as a goal. It is designed to meet your photo business’ income objectives. Usually you create sales and marketing objectives to generate assignments for your commercial, editorial, or portrait business.


But even for photographers who don’t–or have no immediate desire to– make a living from their photography, can benefit. If you are primarily sharing your travel photos with friends and family –or sharing images of your other personal passions such as gardening or cooking with a local club or other organization – creating a performance-based portfolio presentation is still worth creating.


Let’s look at three examples. Which group(s) do you primarily belong in ?


  1. Advanced amateur/photo enthusiast.  You want to share your take on something you feel passionate about. e.g. your photos of your trip of a lifetime. But there’s actually an art and science in showing your photos in a darkened room to your friends and family. How do you avoid delightedly showing them 1000 of photos from your trip to a far-off land without hearing the gentle sound of snoring about 15 min. into your show?


  1. Semi-pro who’s passionately involved in a cause. Perhaps you’re a part-time blogger. You want your followers to become more interested in your passion.  You’ve got the heart of a photojournalist, but you’ve got a day job and aren’t looking to “go pro.”  Nonetheless, you want to harness the power of your photography to engage your like-minded target audience. E.g., you might want to bring awareness to a local ecology threat; raise money to support a favorite charity; show people that a healthy meal can be both beautiful and delicious, etc., etc. You want to showcase the best storytelling images that you can.


  1. Working professional photographer. You know the drill. You understand that you must showcase your best images so your prospective clients will even consider you for an assignment. The competition these days is fierce. You need to showcase both your unique creative vision and your problem-solving abilities. You might have created a new body of work to appeal to a new target audience but you’re unsure which images should be in this new portfolio. You’re also unsure how many images to show and what to name this new collection.

While all three groups are targeting distinctly different audiences, they all share one portfolio-creation problem in common: the photographers are all too close to the “backstory” of their images to be objective about them.


It is almost impossible to edit your own images into their best presentation.


Why? You can’t forget where you were, who you were with, or what problem you solved to get that shot.  The stronger the memory of creating the shot, the harder it is to be objective about it and, ironically, the harder it will be to let go of it–even it’s hurting your presentation and/or does not meet the needs of your target audience.


Paradoxically, there are many of your images that are simply genius but you overlook them! Why? Because you didn’t have to sweat to create them. You think because there wasn’t a huge amount of effort and problem-solving involved in creating them they aren’t worth as much.


Far too many times I have ended up selecting an image as a primary image in their presentation that the photographer has overlooked. Sometimes that previously-overlooked image when added back into their portfolio now lands them an assignment they’ve wanted or an award they’ve craved.


Why do those “jewels” get overlooked by the photographers? Consider it a Western-culture bias. Working hard is rewarded here. Those times you’re fully present, without much mind chatter –some call it “being in the creative flow”– occurs in the lives of all photographers. But that “Zen-mind” isn’t as highly valued here as a high creative objective as it is in some Eastern cultures. We’re more big on problem solving here.

[Ironically, it’s in that quiet mind space is the place wherein photographers usually create their best shots. The good news is that that fertile ground that yields those “happy accidents,” can be cultivated. I personally recommend acquiring those habits. But that’s another subject you read about here….]


But back to why you need to have a performance-based portfolio edit…


Showing way too many images– or showing them in the wrong sequence– can actually dilute your chances of achieving your goal of engaging your target audience. The viewer gets bored and/or overwhelmed by having to sift through content of yours–especially if they’re on a business deadline– that they’re not that interested in at that particular moment. They get frustrated and move on to another photographer whose work is more focused and is organized in a way the makes sense to them.


True fact: Presenting twenty images that are highly-targeted and perfectly-sequenced, can outperform 60 images from the same photographer who hasn’t refined and focused their portfolio presentation. 

Here’s what one of my clients recently wrote:

As photographers, we are so connected to our work, it is really hard to separate yourself from the work and look at it objectively.  As a photo editor, Carolyn goes straight to the point: Is it a good image or not?  It doesn’t matter how hard it was to get the shot, how personal the background story is, or what technical miracle you pulled off to get it. She cuts through all of that.  She is firm, but  does it with compassion and positive criticism.  She understands that we are showing a piece of ourselves and is not trying to tear you down, but to build you up, helping you understand why and how it can be better.  She has been a great resource not only helping me grow my business but to grow creatively as well. -Paul Turang


To mix metaphors, one is a laser-scoped rifle approach to targeting and the other is the “throw spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks” approach.

Ready to get a more focused presentation? Then shoot me an email with “Performance Portfolio edit query” as the Subject line and we’ll set up a free 20-min. consult to see if it makes sense to work together.