Stop Waiting for Your Photography Portfolio to Be Good Enough to Show the World

Stop Waiting for Your Photography Portfolio to Be Good Enough to Show the World

I’m baffled by how often I encounter photographers who tell me they have been shooting for years but still haven’t created their portfolio because their work isn't good enough. After a bit of convincing, I can usually prompt them into sending me a few shots to take a look at, only to find out their work is more than ready to be displayed.

The Gap

Most photographers will simply come out and say: “I’m not good enough yet,” but personally, I’ve defined this phenomenon as the "gap." It is the gap separating where a photographer feels they are currently at in terms of skill and where they wish they could be. If that gap is too large, they perceive their work as insufficient quality to show the world.

Personally, I can truly sympathize with that feeling. Like most artists, I have an obsession with chasing perfection, which is an impossible race, yet my heart leads me down that road regardless. My work isn’t even close to perfect in any sense of the word. In fact, there is an infinite canyon separating me from perfection that will never close. I’ve come to accept that, and you need to as well.

There will always be a gap between where you are and where you want to be. Stop worrying about it! Instead, get your work out there; if that is your goal, the best time to start is right now.

Start Building Your Presence

If your goal is to eventually build a photography presence for whatever reason, the sooner you get started, the better. No matter how good your work is, building that presence via social media, search engine rankings, and overall visibility is a long road. If you sit on perfectly good work for years, waiting to find some holy grail that will tip your work into the realm of mystical perfection, you will still have the long climb to do once you feel you are ready.

Instead, start your trek now. Your work will get better over time, but your current work is good enough to kick out of the nest. It is good enough to represent you and show to the world. Most importantly, it is good enough to be the first rung at the bottom of a tall ladder.

Don't Be Afraid of Negative Feedback

If you are someone that is sitting back, afraid to show your work because it isn’t good enough, don’t worry about getting negative feedback. It will happen. Every photographer gets negative feedback. I have a secret for you though: if you have been holding yourself back for years, refusing to show your work, that means you are giving yourself more brutal and negative feedback than the world could ever send your way. There is no reason to be afraid of all the lesser, often uninformed critics when the harshest one imaginable is already running rampant inside your brain.

Only Do It If You Want It

Not everyone is aspiring to build a photographer presence. I understand and respect that. This article is targeted at the students who want it but are afraid to take the first step. If you are the sort of photographer who has no interest in that sort of thing and simply shoot for the love of shooting, then keep chasing that passion.

For the Rest of You

With the exception of a small few who fit into that mold of shooting only to shoot, with little interest in getting their work out to the world, it is time to take that first step. Get your work out there! I don’t care if you’ve been shooting for a week or a decade, there is no time like the present for getting started on building that personal photography brand that hovers in your dreams. There is only one way to ensure failure, and that is by not ever taking that first step because of fear. Stop making excuses. The time is now. Get cracking!

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16 Comments

Kyle Medina's picture

Yes!! (And I didn't even read the article.)

Kristian Lund's picture

Im one of them. Its not easy to take the step when you always want to do better.

Rod Allsopp's picture

My portfolio is probably not good enough, but I'm going to show the world, anyway.

Boris Schipper's picture

True that!!

Marija Smanja's picture

oh lol! so... there are more people like me...

I'm sharing... not as much as I should for building a presence but I hope that will change. I definitely need some courage whenever I decide to post somewhere .. but I'm working on it

Anyway, the article is nice and simple.

Ben Perrin's picture

I think all my stuff sucks but I have to admit that having a fixed number of images in a portfolio is fantastic for learning. Every time you do a photo shoot just try to come home with 1 photo good enough to make it to that list and take one image off the list. Over time you grow and it's a great feeling when you finally get a shot that makes it into the top few.

Ben,
You have a number of very nice images. Your sunsets are very colorful; your shot of Oona is beautiful. Keep shooting and post your favorites.

Ben Perrin's picture

Wow! Thanks Steve for your kind words.

Tom Archer's picture

Recently made the jump after 2 years of self doubt! Felt good.

Cue shameless plug: instagram.com/greyhairandglasses/

Critique away!

Tom,
I looked at your website. I think your stuff is definitely good enough to show. You have a good mix of photographs. Glad you got started.

Tom Archer's picture

Thank you, Steve. Very kind.

Crystal Provencher's picture

Totally guilty of this!

Ciaran McGrenera's picture

I've started. I'm not as good as I want to be, but I can look back and know I'm getting better. It's good to have made the jump!

Terrence Chambers's picture

I'm going to get out of my way and do it. Thanks for the encouragement.

Great post! Your portfolio is never "finished" until you die. You will always be adding stuff and removing things as you evolve as an artist. So don't wait for some magical date in the future where your portfolio is finished and ready for the world. That day will never come ;)

Naeem Congo's picture

I'm new to photography, and I know my stuff isn't good enough, but putting my pics out there forces me to get better.