Is More Better?

When compiling a portfolio you need to strike a careful balance between achieving the quality you desire or are capable of against quantity – numbers of examples for the viewer to examine. How many examples should be considered a minimum? That is difficult to say, but personally I think anything less than 5 makes it difficult for the viewer (client) to make a reasonable assessment of your work; what you are offering is a small number of individual pieces that may not provide a clear idea of your abilities or indeed potential. So having established that a larger number of examples on show will make it easier for the viewer to form an opinion about your work, particularly from a commercial point of view, should there be an upper limit to the size of your portfolio? Most definitely yes, but what is it? Again, there is no hard and fast answer to this and a lot will depend on who your potential viewers are and how long they will be prepared to spend browsing your work.
This is a problem I have been considering recently. My portfolio on this website has been slowly growing over the past year or so and currently stands at some 105 images spread over several galleries. I am aware that the “People In Places” gallery with only 2 examples is quite light and lacks depth for the viewer; a sort of “take it or leave it” situation, whereas the “Rural” gallery offers a much larger degree of interest. Of course this will only work if quality is maintained as stuffing the portfolio with lesser examples will devalue its overall impact. But even if all the examples are top quality there is a limit to a viewer’s patience or interest when it comes to working through the gallery. My approach to this is that the new image must add value to the portfolio, it must improve the quality or why is it being added in the first place? I also make regular re-evaluations of the images already in the portfolio; are they still worthy of being there? If the answer is “no” – for whatever reason, then the next line must be, “you’re fired!”
One other aspect that needs to borne in mind is that as time passes ability improves (hopefully). To that end, it is always worth looking afresh at older pieces of work to see if they can be improved. I’ve done this with a few images, “Dambuster”, “Against The Elements” and “Edinburgh Castle” are some examples – be it applying a new process or even reverting to colour! Whatever is done I always aim to keep the portfolio fresh and therefore hopefully bring the viewer back tomorrow.