In the photography world, there is a lot of emphasis on having a portfolio, but hardly any attention is ever given to the photography resume. So do you even need a photography resume at all? The question is largely debatable and boils down to the type of photography you are aiming to do. In this post, I’ll highlight some scenarios when you might need a photography resume (along with what to include in it), and when you do not likely need one.
When You Might Need a Photography Resume
In my seven years of working as a freelance corporate photographer, I’ve been asked to present a photography resume only a handful of times. Each time, it was when I was being considered for a part-time or full-time photography role. If you’re applying for a salaried photography position within a company or being listed with a creative agency, this is when you might need a resume.
While it’s rare for any commercial client to require a resume for a freelance photography job, it’s still good to have one on hand just in case. But if your target client is non-commercial with a focus on something such as weddings or families, you probably won’t ever need to submit a photography resume.
When You (Probably) Don’t Need a Resume
For most freelance photographers, it’s rare that a client will ask for a resume in order to be considered for a gig. Typically, the emphasis for freelance photo shoots is more on your portfolio and how you handle your correspondence (i.e., email, phone calls, in-person meetings). This is true for both consumer (eg. wedding, family) and commercial (eg. corporate event, headshot) photographers.
Can you imagine a bride asking a wedding photographer for a resume? Or better yet, can you imagine what a wedding photographer’s resume might look like? Having a list of all of the weddings a photographer has ever shot doesn’t matter unless you’re aiming to be a celebrity wedding photographer.
Keep a Resume on File
The good news is that resumes aren’t terribly difficult to create, especially with the existence of LinkedIn. For all of the naysayers who don’t find LinkedIn relevant, I admit that it may be more or less useful depending on where you’re located. Here in Seattle, LinkedIn is a very active recruiting tool and social network where you can also store your electronic resume for anyone can see. As a full-time freelance photographer, I think it’s a good thing to have my professional resume seen by as many prospective clients as possible.
What to put on your resume
What should you include on your resume? There are a few staple items that should definitely be included, but the rest of the details depend entirely on why you’re submitting the photography resume in the first place. Personally, I have zero educational background or full-time employment that has anything to do with photography. Yet I still include my education and work experience to show that I have some.
As for my position as a full-time freelance photographer, I list that as my most current work experience. Writing the description for this position was rather awkward at first, but it actually became quite interesting when I put all of the skills I actually perform as a photographer into words. Consider every single part of your photo shoot workflow, from scouting and booking locations to post-production and delivering final photos to your client under tight deadlines. There are a lot of professional skills that go into being a photographer, so detail it out for both yourself and prospective clients. Include the following:
- Your name and contact info.
- Educational background.
- Any relevant experience you have.
Focus on Your Portfolio
Instead, what should matter to are these things:
A Curated Portfolio
As a photographer, your portfolio IS your resume. It should contain only your very best work that visually showcases your skills. How many images you choose to include in your portfolio is completely up to you, but generally, 15-20 images per category is a good amount.
Testimonials From Clients
Testimonials are basically your references. They should be short, accurate statements that reflect your process and what your client liked about working with you. Although it’s rare for anyone to actually call and verify your testimonials, they’re still important to include as they give the potential client a glimpse at what others think.
Most consumer (wedding, family) photographers won’t need a client list unless the names of the couples and families are recognizable. However, commercial or corporate photographers may want to include a list of notable clients with whom they have worked. Typically, it’s okay to just make a list of client brand names, but you can also include tear sheets (a screenshot or copy of your published final product). This helps prospective clients get an idea of the types of clients and projects you’ve worked with before.
Consider taking your portfolio a step further than the average photographer by including a few case studies. Simply pick your top 3-5 photography clients that you’ve worked with, and include the best 5-10 images to showcase from each project. Use those images along with some personal written commentary that describes how you decided to tackle the photo shoot. Also, consider adding any behind-the-scenes photos or diagrams that show any setup details. Use these case studies to show off how you approach a photo shoot. After all, a prospective client wants to know not only that you can create an image, but what it’s like to work with you.
Depending on your ultimate goal as a photographer, you may or may not ever have to create a photography resume. It depends entirely on what you strive to achieve as a photographer. What are your thoughts on having and using a photography resume?
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