Here at Wonderful Machine, there are many ways that we work with photographers to tighten the focus of their brand and develop their portfolios. Without question, one of the most important ways a photographer can shape the presentation of their work is through the development of self-assigned projects. For your portfolio to feel current and directed in an aspirational way towards your marketing goals (what clients would you like to attract), you need to show work that expresses your current style and showcases your unique strengths as a photographer.
I had the good fortune to support Dallas area-based Lifestyle, Still Life, and Beauty member photographer Jami Clayman in developing just this type of project. Jami and I have been working together over the past year to tighten the focus of her existing portfolio and then to discuss what kind of work could be developed to draw in new commercial clients. We quickly zeroed in on Jami’s lifestyle work, realizing that it offered opportunities to tell stories, show emotion, and capture more interaction between people. We began to talk about how Jami could bring her unique upbeat, authentic yet polished style to bear as we brainstormed some potential ideas for new projects.
Anyone who has worked with Jami will quickly come to appreciate her incredible work ethic and creative spirit. She is constantly developing ideas, finding points of interest in the work of others or everyday life. Throughout our conversations, Jami came to each meeting with many ideas, thoughtfully sourced references, and a clear sense of purpose. My job would be to help prioritize which potential shoot ideas offered the most significant opportunity for success in both the execution and impact to Jami’s overall portfolio.
Jami had a fantastic idea for a shoot involving a group of skaters she was familiar with. She had already put in time scouting locations in the Dallas area and lining up talent. As a skater herself, Jami had a strong personal connection to the subject and an existing relationship with many of the potential subjects. The challenge would be to pull together a crew to support her in her efforts and bring the energy and spontaneity of the skate park concept into an indoor environment.
I’d been working with Honore at Wonderful Machine on my website refresh. She really understands my style, and I knew she’d be a wonderful resource during preproduction as I geared up for the shoot. Setting up meetings with Honore gave me space to talk through the creative and build up a solid logistical plan for the shoot day to set me up for success.
Leading up to the shoot, Jami and I had several Google meetings to go over Jami’s reference images for styling, potential shot list, and scouting shots with a few favorite tricks and angles documented from the skate park. It was clear that Jami knew what she wanted and that she’d found subjects who were a great fit for the project. The next step would be to simplify the overall shot list and identify what types of images would ultimately be needed to build a story and think through some of the logistics of lighting, camera positioning, and styling.
After the shoot, I assisted Jami with narrowing down the edit and working through a processing style that was consistent with her original vision for this shoot. As a photo editor, I know that one of the most important things I can do for a photographer is let them know which images make an immediate impact. That sort of gut reaction to what you feel is jumping out at you from a shoot is critical to recognize early on when working on an edit. From there, you can build a story out of those key images. Sometimes, it is challenging for photographers who have been so close to the work and into the production to see the shoot with this clarity.
For me, here are a few that jumped out at me right away from Jami’s project:
A week after the shoot I had three portfolio reviews, and the images were a hit! Capturing a project that embodied everything I love set me up with great stories to share along with images that showcased my style. This project gave me a lot to talk about during reviews and meetings. It also made me memorable, and helped me show my personality.
I appreciate how quickly Honore and Wonderful Machine helped me turn these images into a website gallery and printed portfolio pages for my meetings. And, most recently we worked together to design an email newsletter that received a lot of clicks and pushed traffic to my site – which was my goal from the start. This was a large personal project to tackle, but it the commitment paid off.