How to get started with your own photography portfolio

Create your own portfolio
(Image credit: Luke Davis)

If you were to tell me five years ago that photography would become my life, I’d probably just have laughed. Back then I was balancing touring as a metal musician, waiting tables and studying. 

That all changed when I took the plunge on a second-hand Canon EOS 600D. It was a magical moment for me, like that scene in Harry Potter where Harry picks up his first wand! I’ve been through various cameras since then, but my passion for image making has only grown.

To this day, nothing compares to shooting purely for yourself. More often than not, you’ll find me exploring my home county of Dorset with my better half; Panasonic G9 (opens in new tab) in one hand, snacks in the other. My goal with photography is to leave you with a feeling, not just a good impression. With the advent of social media, I think it’s easy to fall into the traps of chasing trends, pleasing algorithms and going for quantity over quality.

To me, a well-crafted, impactful image wins out every time. Once you have found your own groove, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can create a portfolio with your own stamp, style and consistency.

Top tips for building your portfolio

(Image credit: Luke Davis)
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1) Passion over product

Nowadays we are truly blessed with the gear available to us. Virtually any camera released in the last ten years is capable of creating stunning images, so don’t let anyone tell you that you need the latest and greatest. Heck, some of the biggest names in photography right now make their living by exclusively shooting film!

(Image credit: Luke Davis)
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2) Embrace semi-auto

It’s no secret that learning to shoot in manual is vital in understanding exposure. That said, I shoot in aperture priority mode at least 99% of the time; as long as the shutter speed is fast enough to avoid camera shake, I can pay more attention to things like my composition. It’s a perfect halfway house, so don’t be afraid to use it.

(Image credit: Luke Davis)
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3) Hear that? Exactly…

Being able to shoot silently is severely underrated in mirrorless cameras. When it comes to animals (and indeed, some humans!) your electronic shutter is your greatest ally. You run less of a risk of startling your subject, enabling them to get more comfortable with you, giving you a chance to get much closer to the action.

Luke’s advice on the importance of editing

(Image credit: Luke Davis)
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I’ve always felt that learning to edit images effectively and efficiently is just as important as learning how to control your camera and compose an image. I liken editing to seasoning when cooking; most dishes would be bland without it! Sure, cameras nowadays can produce some incredible-looking JPEGs (I’m looking at you, Fujifilm), but shooting in RAW and post-processing is the best way of ensuring maximum control over the final output.

I’ve always been enamored with the look of film: it lends a certain 'feeling' that digital doesn’t do right out of the box, so is something that I try to replicate when editing my images. I don’t feel that my work would invoke the same feeling without it. Conversely, many people nowadays prefer a punchier, contrasty look, and that’s great. It’s what sets our images apart from one another and ultimately makes this medium interesting. You should never be afraid to play with those sliders.

(Image credit: Luke Davis)
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Just be yourself

It’s incredibly easy at times to forget what made us all pick up a camera in the first place: the love of image-making and documenting the world around us. Joining trends and limiting what you shoot can be great for Instagram followers, but capturing moments that resonate with you the most is great for the soul. Just get out there and start creating the work that you want to see.

See more of Luke's work on Instagram (opens in new tab).

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