Perfecting You Portfolio: 3 Steps to More Powerful Images



You’ve devoured a half-dozen photo classes, photographed everything from a blade of grass to the nearest galaxy, and invested hours editing, enhancing, and perfecting those images. Perhaps, by now, your photo collection could fit inside a football stadium.

You love your pictures. Your friends and family love them.

Now what?

The time has come to build, hone, and perfect your portfolio. As you take the leap and reveal your work to the public, here’s three tips that will take your pics from stellar to interstellar.

1. Get it right in camera

Yeah. Obvious one, right? Gettin’ it right might seem like an easy suggestion, but as your Photoshop prowess multiplies, you may be tempted to think during the shoot, “I’ll fix that later.”

Don’t get lazy!

As you are shooting, use all your skills to maximize the awesomeness of your images—right out of your camera.

Your shot might require a reflector to open the shadows under the eyes. Or maybe you need to rotate her arms to see the end of her waist. Perhaps a 200mm lens to deemphasize his nose or a change of angle toward the light source.

In this image I had just shown the senior the back of my camera. (The subjects tend to be the photographers’ biggest critics, eh?). She hesitated. As I gently pressed, she pursed her lips and said, “My eyes look small.”


Amber Fife Behind the scenes

Good call, sista.

I brought in the reflector—bam! Catch light enhanced her eyes. I changed my lens—hurray! The distortion of the lens made her eyes appear bigger. I shot from above, giving her that princess-in-a-disney-movie look.


Photoshop can’t do all that. But shooting it right from the get-go can.

Another example

This one-month old baby was a tad too old for a newborn session. After doing everything short of anesthesia to get him to fall asleep, he finally dozed off. I took a test shot and noticed his face was quite shadowy.

Fife Photography || Norman, OK

With the caution of a field mouse in a snake’s burrow, I rotated the basket toward the window. Without fancy pantsy filters, and 5-30 minutes of editing, his skin glowed from the sunlight. In post-production, I only needed minimal editing.

Take thirty seconds to rotate his basket? Or take 30 minutes contriving artificial light with a keyboard and a mouse?

Fife Photography || Norman, OK

Play smart; get it right in camera.

2. Draw attention to the focal point.

Good photography tells you where to look—drawing your attention to the focal point of the image, the whole reason the image was taken, and away from non-focal points.

With solid composition, the viewer knows exactly where to look in your images.

But sometimes a little post-processing can help.


A subtle vignette can deepen the tones of the edges and bring focus to the brighter part of the image. (Be careful not to let the vignette become too strong to distract from the image itself!)

Layers in Photoshop

You can also use layers in Photoshop to draw your eye to the focal point. In this image, I darkened the grass and background with various layers. This naturally leads the eye away from the darker areas and toward their now-brighter faces. In the edited version, the family’s interaction and expressions are more pronounced and draw you in more quickly than in the first image.



3. Remove distractions that compete with the focal point.

This is where Photoshop (and Lightroom!) can be your best friend. Whether it’s a tree branch growing out of someone’s head (which you’ll catch AS you shoot next time!), an awkward underwear line, or a well-placed (and well-timed) zit on a senior’s nose, take the time to fix those things in your portfolio images. These should be the best of your best work.

This lovely newborn needs little help in looking adorable. The image would have looked just fine and caught the attention of my viewers. But the crumpled state during shipping left the hat uneven. My efforts to smooth and stretch out the hat did not fully work.

But using Photoshop, I was able to make the cap crisp and firm enough for inspection at West Point, making it easier for people to focus on the focal point (the baby) and not on a non-focal point (the bumps in the hat).


As you look at your favorite images, ask yourself some hard questions.

  • Are her hair fly-aways making it hard to focus on the cuteness of the couple?
  • Does the telephone pole in the background destroying the symmetry of the bushes?
  • Is the spit mark on the baby’s shirt distracting?
  • Would lightening the dark circles under her eyes just a bit help me see her personality pop?

By minimizing these types of distractions, you let the viewer more easily interpret the message of your image.

Let’s look at another example. In one of my favorite maternity sessions, the mom was wearing bright pink nail polish. Pink is fun, but didn’t match the mood of one particular set. I felt a subtle creamy color would match the look I wanted for my portfolio. But, I was shooting for them, not me (which could be an article by itself!). While the numerous outfits and the images in her session had bright pink nails, my portfolio image is different. Here is a close up on her hands so you can see them clearly…

Fife Photography || Norman, OK

A simple layer in Photoshop brought it to a soft pink color, so in my portfolio, you don’t even notice the nails. Instead you see the elegance of her soft maternal glow.

Fife Photography || Norman, OK

And the final image…

Fife Photography || Norman, OK

Hot pink can be fun, but in this case would distract from the final image. The differences may appear subtle, but attention to detail as you perfect your portfolio will create a body of work with greater impact than before.

You can do it.

You’ve worked hard to create the images you have. Push yourself to create more stunning images, keeping in mind to get it right in camera. Determine what your focal point is in the image as you create it, and then use tools to enhance that focal point and minimize distractions that draw you away from visual success.

I would love to have you in class with me someday to learn more skills in Photoshop, whether you’re a beginner or intermediate user. So much to learn!

If you’ve had a great experience making your portfolio images more powerful, we’d love to see them! Share with us during our The Getting Clients Experiment on our Facebook page or leave a comment below.

You can do it!


Amber FifeLiving in the heartland of Oklahoma, Amber Fife is a mother to 3 boys, with a little girl on the way. As the owner of Fife Photography, Amber is a photographer and instructor in Norman, Oklahoma. She loves spending time with her family and watching her husband make their house beautiful with landscaping and interior design.


Are you interested in learning more about editing? There’s much more to learn in class with Amber. Sign up for our VIP list to see when the next courses open up: Get Grouded in Photoshop, and Branching Out in Photoshop.



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Amber Fife

Amber Fife


She brings her years of experience working with Photoshop as well as Artificial Light — wonderful skills for you to have to take your photography to the next level.

Despite being a world traveler, Amber loves being at home with her 3 boys and husband. She loves curling up with a good book, and editing her pictures– it’s like Christmas morning every time she gets home from a shoot, when she gets to download and edit her pictures. She hopes you can find the joy of learning to love your images and not be overwhelmed by Photoshop any longer.
Amber Fife