Recognizing a Different Style of Photography: The Portfolio Competition

Typical camera club competitions favor a certain type of photography: the single image with immediate impact. However, there are many other styles of photography. Some images lack immediate impact, but their importance becomes evident on reflection. Some subjects or concepts resist expression as a single image; only a series of images can tell the story.

To provide an outlet for club members who wish to practice this style of photography, and to give recognition for their efforts, at its May 2019 meeting the N4C Board approved a Portfolio Competition, to be held annually, starting (hopefully!) next year, resulting in awards being presented at the Annual Banquet starting in 2021.

Definition of a Portfolio

A portfolio is a collection of images arranged in a sequence that represents a coherent body of work that reflects your personal style and photographic interest. A Portfolio has a theme or concept, expressed in a Statement of Intent. In a portfolio the images work together as a whole to express your theme or concept in a way no single image can. Although each image should be as strong as possible, they individually may not have the immediate impact that a winning image in a standard club competition might have. The viewer may need to take more time to appreciate each image and its relation to the others in the portfolio. The whole should be greater than the sum of its parts.

The theme can be anything. The images in your portfolio should explore that theme. One challenge is to have a theme that is broad enough to be interesting but narrow enough that you can give the viewer a better understanding of the subject in just a few images. “Flowers” is probably too broad a theme. “Flowers of California Vernal Ponds” is better. Is “Views of a Fountain Pen” too narrow? Perhaps. Unless you are clever enough to show the viewer something about a fountain pen they had not considered before. Then it might be great!

Creating a Portfolio

Usually when creating a portfolio, you will have a theme or concept in mind and go out and make images to tell the story of your theme. This process could take several days – or several years! Another approach is to look through your archive of pictures and select those which fit a theme that interests you.

In either case you should try to start out with many images. The more the better! On your first pass at selecting images, turn off your “internal critic” and select as many images as possible that mightfit your theme. Then start whittling the images down, looking for ones that best explicate the theme, complement each other, and are technically the best – in that order of priority. Keep repeating this process until you have selected the 7 to 10 images that work best together to share your concept with the viewer. Don’t be afraid to set your work aside and work on it again another day.

Once you have selected your images, decide in what order they should be viewed. Think of each image as a scene in a movie. A photograph of a knife followed by a photograph of one hand grasping another may make the viewer think of someone being stabbed. The reverse order may imply the start of a meal.

Next Steps

More details in how to create and submit a portfolio to the competition will be forthcoming. Meanwhile, you can review the rules for the competition on the N4C.org website. Hover your cursor over “Competitions” and click on “New for 2020: Portfolio Competition”.

Join the fun in exploring another style of photography!

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