How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Portfolio

It’s been about seven years in the making, but today I published my first ever photography portfolio.

Welcome to the world

There’s a couple of reasons why it’s taken so long. Firstly, if procrastination was an Olympic sport I’d be representing Australia. Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow? Or the next day.

But more crucially, the long delay is because I didn’t have the confidence to stand by my work – to assemble a group of photos and say “This is the best I can do”.
Yes, I’ve always had a blog, but that’s more ephemeral, it’s based on recent work, not the best work.

I look at most photographer’s portfolio sites and I’m awed by their talent.

I don’t feel I stack up, and to create a portfolio to be judged next to theirs will have me coming out second best.

So it’s been easier to not even enter the race. I’ve survived on word-of-mouth so far.

My path to photography sometimes makes me feel illegitimate. I didn’t go to school for photography and I haven’t paid my dues assisting. And frankly, this career is something of an accident.

I often read the bios on other photographers sites and it seems a common story to say “I picked up the photography bug as a teenager and was destined for a life behind the lens.”

Not me. I don’t come from a traditionally “creative” family. My parents are both university teachers. I never longed for the bohemian freelance artistic existence. A steady income and good honest work would suit me.

I fell head over heels for photography in my mid 20’s, and it was simply for the joy of taking pictures and sharing them. There was no grand ambition to make money from it. It was simply fun and rewarding to see myself get better over time.

I may not have inherited the creativity from my parents, but I did get the desire to learn. And photography is a great craft for that – because you can never master it.

These days I get loads of emails from teenagers asking me for advice on how to become a photographer or offering to assist me. When I was their age I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. If you’d suggested a career as a photographer I’d think it absurd.

But to bring this back on track, I now feel I have paid my dues. I am a competent photographer with something to offer. I’ve shot hundreds of thousands of pictures. I’ve notched up my 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. I’ve made a comfortable living off photography for over 5 years full time and several years before that learning the craft.

And the final catalyst that gave me the confidence to make the portfolio – a creative agency asked to represent me. And they needed a portfolio.

So it was time to get over my hang ups, be more professional and stand by my work.

I had to push through the editing process and ignore the voice in my head saying all my photos were mediocre and I was a fraud.

And once I did, it all came together relatively quickly. I created a portfolio catalogue in Lightroom, selected the pictures, then built the site with Digital Photo Gallery and kept the design super simple.


I don’t share all this for sympathy or replies of “don’t be so hard on yourself”. I do it because I think a lot of people probably suffer the same self doubt and need a reminder that sometimes you’ve just got to extinguish that negative voice and push on through.


  1. It seems to be a fairly common trait for a lot of creatives Dan. That being – holding off pushing things out into the world in fear of getting judged by your peers and the world.

    The best advice I ever heard was just get your work out there. Even if you’re not 100% happy with it, it’s better to get something out there than nothing. You’re always refining your craft anyway, like you said, and you have to start somewhere.

    Get. It. Done 🙂

  2. Dan, if you’ve only “survived” on word of mouth thus far, I’m excited to see how much further this can take you with your career!

    Good luck, and keep killing it! Always been looking to your work as inspiration and motivation.


  3. OMG. Looking at your work, I can hardly believe that self-doubt has been plaguing you – it’s brilliant. I liked your NPPP entry – but it was just the tip of the ice berg I see. If you’re struggling, then I’m just gonna shut up shop right NOW! Seriously. And how intimidated were you shooting Leibovitz? That must have been terrifying.

    Anyway, I’m glad something/someone tipped you over the edge and you’re online. Welcome to the WWW – glad to have someone of your obvious skill and talent on board.



  4. Dan this was such a refreshing post to read! Everyone I know that works in a creative field struggles with this discontent every day – but most rarely talk about it, you have to ‘fake it till you make it’ or something like that.

    I’ve watched your skills build since your early days shooting party pics at purple sneakers (haha!) and I must say it has been really inspirational. I love photography and sometimes it gets me so down, but all I can do is just keep trying to get better!


  5. Hiya Dan,

    It’s always been a pleasure hitching a ride through your online photography journey. And I think you already know this but our stories are very similar. And to finally see this moment and actually take in your full body of work all in one go is just breath-taking.

    Keep on keeping on! I think this has inspired me to finally create my portfolio too.

    Congrats on being represented. I hope it will take you far.


  6. Wow… I could have said many things the same… unfortunately I don’t have the talent to go with it.

    Great portfolio. Lovely.


    • I hope you don’t take it like that. I think practice and persistance is more important than talent.

  7. Nice job, Dan. Pretty impressive seeing your best shots in one place like that. Looks great.

  8. If you’re merely “competent” spare a thought for the rest of us…

    Congrats on another great site.

  9. You’re an inspiration Dan, far from a fraud. I probably don’t have the right to say this but I’m proud of you

  10. Great work Dan! Congrats, love the site, nice and simple, and nav is quick and easy. Well done. One comment, I would get rid of the covers that have images that have been used in other parts of site, no need to double up in most cases.

    • That’s a good point. I’ve taken out the couple of covers that were already represented in Portraits.

  11. Thanks all for your thoughts. It’s nice to see some familiar names who’ve been following along this journey with me from way back.

  12. Great post Dan, really insightful, honest and painfully familiar!

    I’ve always felt that insecurities in our abilities, the fear of not being good enough or being “found out” are the things that separate the good from the great.

    It’s been a pleasure to follow your journey over the years (I remember when you brought that Powershot out for the first time!) and I’m incredibly proud of you for what you have achieved.

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