6 Tips For Building Your Film Portfolio

Even with all the connections in the world, and the most expensive camera money can buy, you probably won’t go too far in the film industry without a great body of work. Your portfolio is arguably the most important asset you have, and in order to gain the attention of the people you want to meet and work with, your portfolio must be relevant and meaningful.

How do you build this portfolio? If you’re struggling on how to get your portfolio in motion, here’s six useful tips for getting started:

Stay Active in School

As a film student, it can be easy to get caught up in exciting plans for the future (or even the weekend), but you should keep in mind that the school projects you’re currently working on aren’t just for a grade – they are your time to build a portfolio.

Your time in film school, while it can sometimes seem neverending, is perhaps one of the few times in your entire career where you sit down and entirely focus on YOU. Not your clients, your boss, your producer – no, you are focusing entirely on self-improvement during film school. Taking advantage of this time and taking it seriously will be the biggest way to get a jumpstart on your portfolio.

Get ahead in school and make the most of it by:

  • Quit procrastinating and get started early. Act like you’re getting paid to work on every project.
  • Stay humble and assume your work needs improvement whenever possible.
  • Ask instructors lots of questions and don’t be afraid to bug them.
  • Volunteer to assist other classmates with shoots and edits.
  • Ask for feedback on your work from classmates and instructors.
  • Attend extracurricular workshops and events whenever possible.

Search the closest job boards and attend school functions to connect with your most experienced teachers or fellow students. Initiating relationships with these people will provide you with a valuable network of directors, editors, and actors. Your network will follow you when you graduate.


Start a YouTube Series

When you’re competing for gigs in the film industry, it’s highly advantageous to showcase a multifaceted skill set. Soon after graduation, challenge yourself to write, produce, and direct an original series. Execute the entire process from inception to final product to marketing it.

Regardless of the success, completing this project will give you real world experience creating and producing a project from end to end. It will also send the message to potential hiring producers that you have the work ethic and diligence to finish what you started. Many people coming out of film school have never put together their own project or have what it takes to see something through outside of film school. Don’t get too caught up in view counts or trying to launch the next Stranger Things, the key is that having the ability to show that you can produce a whole series will speak volumes.

IMDb Pro

IMDb pro is a useful resource for obtaining the contact information of nearly anyone in the film industry. There is a monthly membership fee, but you will benefit greatly from being able to reach thousands of producers, directors, editors, and crew. The service provides filmographies and credits for millions of titles along with access to in-development projects not listed on IMDb. Many of these features will gain importance as you progress in your career and must evaluate track records, cast relationships, and search for casting alternatives.   

When you’re first developing your portfolio, you should use this tool to contact people you’re interested in working with. Get creative on how you can become a part of their network and give them a call. Rather than spam the entire catalogue, do your homework on the person you’re contacting and know the right time to make your move. Lead with your strengths and learn to project confidence rather than desperation. If you are genuine and effective, doors will open.

Start In Commercial Work

Every artist would like full-time film work, but sometimes things don’t line up immediately. Commercial & corporate video work can help keep you active in the general video production industry. Apply for corporate video jobs or offer services to business owners in your personal network to make web videos, commercials, marketing content, and other videos they might need. Even if you make a few thousand dollars, it’s money that can be used to refine your portfolio even further. You can pull shots from these videos that look more film-like to build your overall demo reel and they’ll never know it was a small business video.

48 Hour Film Project

The 48 Hour Film Project is a multi-city contest in which teams of participants draw a genre from a hat and then write, shoot, and edit a movie in 48 hours. Teams have full control over plots except for a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue that must appear in their film. The award for Best Film and a cash prize is awarded to entries that demonstrate artistic merit, technical merit, and adherence to the assignment. Films are then premiered at a local theatre for friends and family.

An event like this is a fun way to add a completed project to your portfolio. Additionally, if you produce a good piece, there’s always a chance you could win. Contestants have gone on to have success in other film festivals and others used recognition of their film to get paying work. Film Festivals are also great vehicles for making connections with people in your craft, particularly those who have an interest in your preferred genre. Make the most of the platform these organizations provide in order to get new people talking about your work.

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Produce Music Videos

Music videos are one of the more fun ways to bring good work to your portfolio. There is constant demand for this service from young people who are rappers, singers, or in bands. Building a network of music artists is considerably easy to do via Twitter or Instagram. As you acquire more paying clients, shooting music videos can turn into a solid source of money for new equipment. It is actually much easier to get funding for these videos than a short film.

Creating videos for music artists allows you to explore creatively and will add things to your portfolio that commercial work won’t. Try to find artists who are looking to incorporate elements of film to their videos. While music videos are generally 2-3 minutes long, they usually welcome obscure or artistic concepts. It’s the perfect chance to showcase precise visual storytelling, and to capture a few extra shots for your demo reel.  


Article by Mike Clum.

Mike Clum is the founder of Clum Creative, a corporate video production company that employs 16 full-time video production professionals.

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5 Tips For Landing Paid Fashion Photography Work

As we covered in our earlier guide to photography jobs, fashion photography is one of the most competitive niches you could ever hope to enter as a photographer.

In fact, it’s notoriously cutthroat to break into at a professional level, but those who overcome the hurdles can expect all the glitz and glamor that is associated with the industry, and a nice paycheck to boot (with the average earnings reported at being around $59,000 per year.)

So, how best to crack the fashion photography nut? Presenting:

5 Surefire Tips for Landing Paid Fashion Photography Work

fashion photography tips

1. Put Yourself in the Right Place

Location naturally plays a big part in the job prospects of any photographer, but this goes doubly so for those hoping to work in fashion.

You may be able to score gigs doing product photography for catalogs and websites all over the country, but if you want to get where the real action is – the photoshoots, the magazine spreads, the catwalk shows – you’ll need to consider moving towards one of the fashion hotbeds.


Throughout America (and in order of influence from top to bottom), the cities which have the most sway in the fashion industry are:

  • New York City
  • Los Angeles
  • Columbus
  • Nashville
  • San Francisco
  • Portland
  • San Diego
  • Seattle
  • Cincinnati
  • Providence

While it’s not strictly necessary to permanently relocate to one of the above cities, it certainly won’t hurt your chances to do so.

2. Your Portfolio is Everything

In an industry as competitive as this, you’ll want to instantly capture a prospective employer’s attention and hold it for as long as it takes to land the job.

Short of meeting him or her in person and grabbing them by the lapels, you’ve only got way of doing this: your portfolio. So you best make sure it’s a damn good one.

fashion photography portfolio

Don’t make your portfolio look like an “evolution” of your craft, with the images getting better and more advanced as the pages turn (a common pitfall.) Trim all the fat; leave only the excellent stuff. Get as many second pairs of eyes on it as possible so you can get better perspective on how it looks to an outsider before sending it off… and remember to pay close attention to their faces to pick up on their initial reactions to each shot. It’s a great way of figuring out which images are mediocre, and which make a genuine human impression.

3. Develop Your Own Eye

A layperson would be forgiven for assuming that it’s simply about taking snaps of nice clothes, but as a photographer, you’ll know that there are many layers of nuance and subtlety at play, as well as a deep sense of personality inherent in the photography.

Finding your own “voice” is an exceptionally long process, and you should be prepared to be in it for the long haul. But if you want to advance the pace and develop a deeper understanding of what works and, more importantly, why, attending photography school should be a serious consideration.


Oh, and don’t forget to list all of your academic achievements on your portfolio for maximum impact.

4. Don’t Just Shoot. Read.

The fashion industry is a fast-moving one. Styles change at a lightning pace, as does the gigantic list of people and entities in the business that you should be intimately aware of.

As such, you’ll need to throw yourself into the magazines. The glossies are a great place to start, but since they can be expensive, set up an RSS feed filled with fashion blogs and make sure you flick through it daily.

5. Get Paid Well.

Given the competitive nature of the industry, you’ll often be offered exposure in lieu of hard cash for your work and sold it as if it’s a great deal and you should be grateful.

Exposure doesn’t pay the bills.

While there’s nothing wrong with doing work for free when there really isn’t any budget and you’d love to do the gig anyway, recognize that there’s nearly always a budget for larger jobs or anywhere that products are being sold. Chances are, a lot of people are getting a healthy pay-off from the back of your work, and you should be the first person in line… and unapologetically so.


In short, it’s a tough road to walk but there are plenty of rewards to be reaped along the way. There’s no reason why that journey shouldn’t begin right now—best of luck!

How To Create A Game Design Portfolio That Stands Out

It wasn’t long ago that having an online game design portfolio was unheard of. In fact, when most people think about an online portfolio that showcases skills and experience, what usually comes to mind is a colorful web page with galleries of concept work and other forms of art– either that or pages with short stories, articles, and other written work.

But in this ever-growing industry, developers are realizing just how important it is to have more ‘designers’ in their team to figure out how to make their games fun. At the same time, more people are competing for that famed ‘game designer’ role more than ever.

If you’re planning to make a portfolio and want to know what it takes to stand out and best convey your skills and abilities as a ‘designer of games’, check out the following tips that could help you catch the hiring team’s attention and possibly earn you a job.

Show You’re Already Making Games

You can’t convince someone that you’re a ‘game designer’ simply by putting it on your resume. If you really think you’re destined for a career as a game designer then, simply put, you should already be making games!

And no, we don’t just mean a big-budget AAA game or even a high-selling iOS title. We’re talking about anything: a few simple Flash games, a card game, or even a table-top game made with materials you purchased at your local arts and crafts store. Anything that shows the person looking at your portfolio that you actually have a passion for designing games.

Just because the developer you’re applying to makes digital games, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to see your experience with non-digital games. Of course, with so many resources these days that allow even someone without programming knowledge to whip up a project, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a few digital games to boast about as well. If you have access to a computer and internet then you have no excuse. So check out some of the free products like GameMaker, RPG Maker, or Adventure Game Studio and make something!

Let Us Play Those Games!

The only thing better than showing pictures of the neat games you made and talking about the challenges along the way is to actually let us play them. Of course, with physical games like table-tops and card games it’s unlikely that the hirer reading your instructions is going to actually build the game themselves just to check out, so this is geared more towards digital games.

Remember those products I mentioned in the last section? All of those allow you to create a game that you can actually share with others with hardly any work. Provide a link or downloadable version of those games so people checking out your portfolio can actually play the game you claim to have made.

Talk About Your Experiences

Developers are interested in finding someone with a genuine passion for making games, but more importantly, they want designers that can actually articulate their experience. This means talking about challenges you ran into along the way, as well as breakthroughs and failures. Any designer will tell you that although playing games is fun, making them can be a difficult but enlightening learning experience.

Are you able to explain why you think that 2D platforming game you made with Flash is fun? What were the challenges of making a card game that players of all ages, from 10 years old to 50 years old, can enjoy? Can you explain why your game is intuitive enough for anyone to pick up but engaging enough to keep them playing for hours?

If you can prove you have an eye for determining what makes a game fun and what makes it boring, you’ll certainly impress the people looking for designers that know what it takes to design a good game.

Don’t Rely On The Design Docs

Lacking programming or artistic skills but still wanting to prove that you can design a good game? You can’t just add a detailed game design document or two to your portfolio and expect visitors to read all 200 pages of it before realizing you’re the next Miyamoto. Yes, knowing how to write a good design doc is important, but it will probably not land you the job by itself.

Why you ask? Think about what a game is for a second. It’s an interactive medium that can’t truly be enjoyed unless it is in motion, and for this reason an awesome-sounding design doc could very well turn out to be a terrible game. But if you can prove that you prototyped your game idea and actually learned from the experience as it was being played, you’re more likely to impress.

This doesn’t mean you should toss your game design doc in the recycle bin. After all, the ability to write a design doc is certainly a tool all designers should possess. However, as mentioned before, the doc alone won’t be enough when the other 99 guys applying for the same job have a link to a playable game they designed. Would you rather read about how a game plays or actually play it?


With your portfolio, you are trying to convey your ability to look at games from a design perspective, whether it be a simple indie title or a trading card game you made out of pieces of cardboard. The best (and perhaps only) way to do this is to actually make games. So focus on demonstrating your passion and desire as a game designer and your portfolio will no doubt stand out because of it.

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Five Reasons Why Every Game Designer Should Have A Portfolio

Considering how many applications developers and studios receive these days whenever they post a ‘Game Designer’ position, it’s easy for a hiring team to completely forget about the guy that only provided a resume and cover letter. Instead, they’ll probably take more interest in the person with a portfolio that offers a better idea of their skills, personality, and more.

Here are a few reasons a portfolio is a must-have for anyone seeking that game designer role at a dev studio.

A portfolio…

1. Shows Your Skills

Although your resume should have a brief list of skills, a portfolio offers a better and more attractive way to show off the abilities you claim to have. If you think about a concept artist, their CV will no doubt talk about their talents and experiences, but it’s not until you see their gallery of brilliant (or terrible) work yourself that you can assess if they’re actually good or not.

It’s the same with a game designer. If you have a portfolio with links and images of games you’ve made, it will be much more impressive to hiring teams considering you as their next game designer.

2. Shows Your Experience and Previous Work

Going along with the above point, a portfolio is the perfect avenue for showing off the games you’ve already made in an attractive way.

It’s one thing to say “Designed a sci-fi 2D platformer” in your resume, but it’s another to actually have pics and links that viewers can check out – better yet, a playable version.

Game devs are looking for potential recruits that are actually making games already, be it simple Flash games or even a card game you made from supplies around your home. So you definitely want to show them off in a visual way on your portfolio.

3. Shows Your Personality

Game devs, more than probably any other industry, have very social environments where the teams working on a game end up becoming good friends.

This is why the guy or gal being paid by Blizzard to hire the next member of the family wants to make sure they find someone that will fit into their culture, even if they’re not the best or most experienced designer that applied.

Although no one will get to know you completely through your portfolio (that’s what interviews are for), a portfolio does offer a little taste of your personality.

4. Appeals to Visual Learners

Considering that 6 out of 10 people are visual learners, a portfolio is the perfect way to share information and make yourself stand out to hiring teams.

Just ask yourself what’s more interesting to look at: lines of text or a gallery of images and videos?

We’re not saying that your online portfolio should bombard viewers with colors and pictures everywhere. But definitely try to provide a visual impact that will simply make your portfolio a positive experience to check out.

5. Makes you more accessible

There’s just something about having our own place on the world wide web that makes us appear more approachable and professional. It’s a big deal to have a page where you demonstrate your work, offer contact info, and talk about yourself a bit. It will definitely pay off.

This is because developers want to know they’re considering hiring someone that is genuinely interested in the gaming industry and not just sending an application because they like the games they make.

You may not realize it but the recruiter at a game studio will usually share the portfolio of potential recruits to the head honchos there, including lead designers, producers, and directors. You WANT this to happen. But it probably won’t if all you send in is a resume and cover letter.

With a portfolio, there’s something visual to share that’s more interesting than your CV’s list of skills and experience.

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How To Break Into The Game Industry In Three Basic Steps

Author: Chris Swain, Chair, Game Design Department, New York Film Academy

Break Into the Game Industry

First, the good news: the game industry continues to grow as more and more people turn to interactive entertainment on their phones, tablets, handhelds, consoles, and PCs. The top grossing category in the Apple App Store and Google App Store is games. All this means that demand for talented and passionate game designers is as high as ever.

Now the not so good news: Lots of people want those dream jobs. There are a handful of best practices that differentiate the people who break in and those who don’t.

Best Practice: Portfolio

The number one thing that will help you break into the game industry is proof that you can build good games. To do that, first make a personal website at yourname.com. Next, start posting your projects to your site.

With portfolio sites ‘more is more’. That means post your pictures of your paper prototypes, links to your mods, design notes, concept art, and anything else that shows that you are a real builder.

Pro tip 1: Playable games count much more than concepts. If you can make your game play in the browser (versus as an EXE) more people will actually play it. Likewise, providing game play videos of your projects will make it easy for prospective hires to see your work.

Pro tip 2: The people who want to hire you are really busy and won’t play more than a few minutes of any one of your games. That means it is better to make a variety of short games than one long game.

Best Practice: Network

Starting right after you read this post start a LinkedIn profile. Then, add your portfolio site to it. It’s okay if you don’t have much work in it at first. Networking takes time.

Next, join a number of LinkedIn game groups and become an active participant.

Finally, go to Meetups, IGDA events, game conferences, and any other events where game developers congregate. If those things don’t exist in your town then start your own Meetup. If you can’t afford to get into a conference then a) contact the organizers about being a volunteer conference associate and/or b) lobby crash.

Even getting a gig as a volunteer takes time and is competitive, so look at the calendar of events for the coming year and start contacting people now. “Lobby crash” means hanging out in the lobby and talking to people. You will find out about parties and events.

Pro tip 1: Get business cards printed that include the URL to your portfolio site. Do not get cheap paper. High quality cards are available at low cost these days from online printers. It’s economical to order small runs of cards – e.g. a box of 100 at a time. Check out Moo.com, 4over4.com, and Overnightprints.com for prices and design templates.

Pro tip 2: Every time you meet a game developer give her a business card and follow up with a LinkedIn request. I mean every single time. In short order you will have a legit network that you can call on for job recommendations, informational interviews, internships, etc.

Best Practice: Hard Skills

The fact is people with hard computer skills have an easier time getting jobs than those who don’t. Examples of hard skills are Adobe Tools, programming languages, SCRUM master certifications, etc.

The reason is that when companies are hiring for entry level jobs they want you to help them execute on their vision for a game. Much later – once you are established in a company – you can be the one that comes up with the vision. In the meantime, being able to show that you have hard skills – on your portfolio site – will differentiate you from the competition.


Image Source: H.Adam