Guest post by Kristina Feliciano
Is it boring to name my website portfolios by category, like portraits, lifestyle, etc.?
In a word, no. Category names like portraits, lifestyle, automotive, and celebrity are the photo-industry equivalent of, for example, entertainment-industry categories like movies, TV, and podcasts. They’re universally understood labels, and everyone knows what to expect when they click on or refer to them.
That being said, sometimes it’s necessary to break the categories down further to make them more descriptive (like “movies that make you cry”) because of the sheer volume of imagery. Dedicated lifestyle shooters, for example, will have too much work to present in a compelling way in a single portfolio, so it makes sense for them to create sub-categories that highlight their specialties and make the images easy to navigate: families, kids, seniors, etc.
Some photographers like to play the numbers game: entertainment 1, entertainment 2, etc. This isn’t wrong in any provable way, but it feels like a missed opportunity. And it’s kind of confusing. There’s no aesthetic or qualitative difference between 1 and 2, so do I click on 1 because 1 comes before 2? If I’m not so impressed with what’s in 1, do I bother clicking on 2? Why put your viewers through that decision-making process? Chances are, you have enough work to create two distinct portfolios, like “entertainment: advertising” and “entertainment: publicity.” Or it’s time to do two discrete “celebrity men” and “celebrity women” portfolios. You can also divide by environment and studio. One more thought: Simply doing a tighter edit and leaving it at one entertainment portfolio might also be the way to go. It’s amazing how quickly portfolios grow over time. You have to keep going back and reassessing to make sure they’re communicating what you want them to.
Now, there are some photographers who choose to come up with unusual names for their portfolios in an attempt to look different from everyone else. It’s a strategy, but it’s not one I’m in favor of. Art buyers, creatives, and photo editors have very little time. Think of them when you name your portfolios, and be kind to them. Do you want them trying to solve an anagram in order to decipher one of your portfolio names? No, you do not.
How do I decide which competitions to enter?
Some broad-strokes advice: If you’ve never heard of the competition, chances are no one else has either. Avoid it. Given that you want to be a good steward of your money and time (which are basically the same thing), it’s smart to stick with the big brands: the PDN Photo Annual, American Photography, the APA Awards, Luerzer’s Archive, Communication Arts Photography Competition, the International Photography Awards, and the Graphis Photography Annual. All of the above have earned their status as trusted arbiters of the medium, as opposed to some new website that’s either looking to build its business model off your name and talent or collect entry fees from the growing population of aspiring photographers; their juries tend to be carefully chosen, with jurors who are well placed; and they have the means to properly promote the winning entries—on their website, through social media, and perhaps even through a notable event. Both PDN and American Photography, for example, draw a sizable and enthusiastic audience with their Photo Annual and The Party bashes, respectively.
Once you’ve decided which contests to enter, be strategic about the work you choose to submit. It should go without saying that you should send in only your strongest images, mercilessly pared down to a select few. But think, too, about what your submissions will say about you—and about what you want them to say. Getting into a photo annual or winning an award is helpful to you only if it aligns with your overall strategy. What’s that, you say? We can talk about it in a future column…
Kristina Feliciano is a marketing consultant based in Los Angeles and the former creative director of Stockland Martel. If you have questions about marketing send her an email and she can answer them here: email@example.com