Building a Cinematography Portfolio: Tips & Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Choose your best work
  2. Show a variety of styles and techniques
  3. Use high-quality video clips
  4. Include context for each project
  5. Show your process
  6. Keep it short and engaging
  7. Update your portfolio regularly
  8. Share your portfolio online
  9. Get feedback on your portfolio
  10. Stay true to your artistic vision

Building a cinematography portfolio plays an integral role in showcasing your talent and passion. In the vast world of film and media, your portfolio works as your visual resume, demonstrating your abilities and creativity to potential employers. If you're wondering how to create a portfolio for cinematography, you're in the right place. This guide will provide you with practical tips and techniques to help you build a portfolio that illuminates your unique perspective and technical prowess.

Choose your best work

Choosing your best work is the first step in creating a stellar cinematography portfolio. This doesn't necessarily mean you should only include clips from award-winning films or high-profile projects. Instead, concentrate on the pieces that best show off your technical skills, creativity and unique style. Here's how you can go about it:

  • Quality over quantity: It's better to have fewer pieces that are outstanding than a large number of average ones. Remember, you're trying to show potential employers the best of what you can do.
  • Focus on your strengths: If you excel at capturing breathtaking landscapes, make sure your portfolio reflects that. If your best work is in dramatic close-ups or action sequences, don't be shy about showcasing these, either.
  • Consider the narrative: In addition to displaying your technical skills, your portfolio should also tell a story. Choose pieces that convey a compelling narrative or elicit strong emotions.
  • Include diverse projects: Variety is key. Show that you're versatile by including work from different genres, formats, and styles — from documentaries and short films to music videos and commercials.

Remember, your portfolio is a representation of you as a cinematographer. It should highlight your talents, passion, and vision. So, when deciding how to create a portfolio for cinematography, always put your best work front and center.

Show a variety of styles and techniques

Once you've selected your top pieces, the next step is to ensure that your portfolio demonstrates a variety of styles and techniques. This is where you show the breadth of your capabilities and your adaptability as a cinematographer.

  • Style Diversity: Show that you're not a one-trick pony. If you've worked in different genres like horror, comedy, drama, or even documentaries, make sure to include examples of each. This shows that you're not only versatile but also adaptable to different storytelling methods.
  • Technique Variety: Do you have a knack for creating dreamy long shots? Or perhaps you're a master of tight, intimate close-ups? Whatever your skills, make sure they're on display. Show off your prowess with different camera movements, lighting techniques, and color grading methods.
  • Unique Perspectives: One of the things that makes cinematography so fascinating is the opportunity to bring unique perspectives to life. If you've taken risks or tried something unconventional in your work, don't hide it. These pieces can set you apart from other cinematographers and show potential employers that you're not afraid to think outside the box.

Remember, the goal is to demonstrate your range and flexibility. By showcasing a variety of styles and techniques, you're not only showing potential employers your technical skills, but also your ability to effectively tell a story regardless of genre or format.

Use high-quality video clips

When it comes to showing off your work, quality is key. Don't let grainy, low-resolution videos get in the way of your talent. Here's how to make sure you're putting your best foot forward:

  • Resolution Matters: Whenever possible, use the highest resolution version of your work. This can be a challenge if you're pulling from older projects, but it's worth the effort. High-definition videos give a better impression and allow potential clients to truly appreciate your work.
  • Avoid Compression Pitfalls: Be wary of file compression. While it might be tempting to compress your videos to save space or simplify uploading, it can degrade the quality of your work. If necessary, use a tool or software that allows you to compress without significant loss of quality.
  • Pay Attention to Frame Rates: Frame rate is another factor that can affect the perceived quality of your video. If your portfolio will mainly be viewed online, consider the standard frame rates for web video, which are usually 24, 30, or 60 frames per second.

By showcasing your work in the best possible light, you're not only presenting a professional image, you're also making it clear that you understand and value the technical aspects of video production.

Include context for each project

Think of your portfolio as a storybook — each piece of work is a new chapter. Providing context to each project helps to guide the viewer through your creative journey.

  • Project Details: Be sure to include the name of the project, its purpose (a short film, commercial, music video, etc.), and the role you played in it. If you were the director of photography, make sure to state it. If you were an assistant or second unit, make it clear.
  • Challenges Overcome: Every project comes with its unique challenges. Did you have to shoot in extreme weather conditions? Did you use innovative lighting techniques to capture a particular mood? Including these details not only adds depth to your portfolio, but also showcases your problem-solving abilities.
  • The Vision: What were you trying to achieve with each project? What emotions were you trying to evoke? Explaining your vision will give viewers insight into your creative process and artistic style.

Remember, your portfolio is more than just a collection of pretty pictures. It's a reflection of who you are as a cinematographer. By adding context, you're telling a story — not just about the project, but about yourself.

Show your process

Now that you've included the context for each project in your portfolio, it's time to peel back the curtain a bit and show how you work. This doesn't mean giving away all your secrets; rather, it gives others an idea of what it's like to work with you. Here's how to showcase your process.

  • Pre-production: Sketched storyboards, lighting diagrams, or notes from pre-production meetings can offer a glimpse into the early stages of your work. Did you use a drone for some breathtaking aerial shots? Include the planning for that, too. It's all part of the process.
  • On Set: Include behind-the-scenes photos or videos that highlight you in action. This could be you setting up a shot, discussing a scene with the director, or even laughing with the crew. These candid moments help others envision working with you.
  • Post-production: Ever made a cool color grading choice or used unique editing techniques? Share it. Talk about the tools and software you used—like Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, or DaVinci Resolve—and why you chose them. This helps to demonstrate your technical expertise and attention to detail.

By showing your process, you're not just telling potential employers that you know how to create a portfolio for cinematography, you're showing them. Plus, it reminds them that there's a lot more to cinematography than what ends up on screen—it's a process, and you're an expert at it every step of the way.

Keep it short and engaging

If there's one thing you should remember when learning how to create a portfolio for cinematography, it's this: Quality trumps quantity every time. You may have a lot to show, but if your portfolio is too long, it can lose its impact—and its audience. Here are some tips to keep your portfolio engaging:

  • Don't Overcrowd: Just because you can include every project you've ever worked on, doesn't mean you should. Stick to a few of your strongest pieces that showcase your style and skills.
  • Edit Ruthlessly: When it comes to video clips, less is more. A few well-chosen, high-quality clips can speak volumes about your work. Remember, you want to showcase your ability to tell a story effectively, not to overwhelm with content.
  • Consider Flow: Arrange your work in a way that it flows naturally. This could be chronologically, or based on themes, styles, or the type of work. This helps to guide your audience through your portfolio effectively.

Creating a portfolio for cinematography is a bit like making a film—you need to keep the audience engaged, show them something memorable, and leave them wanting more. So, keep it short, sweet, and most importantly, uniquely you.

Update your portfolio regularly

In the ever-changing field of cinematography, staying current is key. Updating your portfolio regularly shows that you're active in your field and always improving your craft. Here are some tips on how to keep your portfolio up-to-date:

  • Out with the Old: As you continue to develop and improve your skills, some of your older work may no longer reflect your current abilities. Don't be afraid to replace these pieces with more recent work that showcases your growth.
  • In with the New: If you've recently completed a project that you're proud of, don't hesitate to add it to your portfolio. Fresh content shows that you're continually working and evolving.
  • Stay Relevant: If there are new styles or techniques in cinematography that you've mastered, make sure to include work that reflects these trends. This shows you're in tune with the industry and adaptable to change.

Remember, your portfolio is a living document of your career in cinematography. As such, it should grow and change as you do. Regular updates are not just maintenance—they're proof of your ongoing commitment to your craft.

Share your portfolio online

Now that you've put so much effort into creating your portfolio, it's time to share it with the world. The internet is an invaluable tool for getting your work seen by a wider audience. Here's how you can make the most of it:

  • Get a Website: Having your own website gives you a dedicated platform to showcase your portfolio. Plus, it gives you control over how your work is presented and makes you appear more professional.
  • Social Media: Platforms like Instagram, Vimeo, and LinkedIn are great places to share your portfolio. They allow you to reach a larger audience and interact directly with viewers. Just remember to keep your content professional and focused on your work.
  • Online Film Communities: Participating in online film communities can help you connect with other cinematographers and industry professionals. These communities often provide opportunities to share your work and get feedback.

Sharing your portfolio online isn't just about getting your work seen—it's about building a network and opening doors to future opportunities. So go ahead, show off your work and see what happens!

Get feedback on your portfolio

As a cinematographer, you're constantly learning and growing. One of the best ways to improve is by getting feedback on your work. Now, this might sound a little scary—who really enjoys criticism? But think of it as a chance to gain new insights and improve your skills. Here's how to go about it:

  • Reach Out to Peers: Fellow cinematographers can provide valuable feedback as they understand the technical aspects of your work. Don't hesitate to ask them for their thoughts or suggestions.
  • Join Online Forums: There are numerous online platforms where cinematographers gather to discuss techniques, share work, and provide feedback. This can be a real goldmine of information and advice.
  • Seek Professional Critiques: If you're ready to take a big step, consider seeking critiques from industry professionals. They can provide expert insight that can help you refine your portfolio to a high standard.

Remember, feedback is not about pointing out flaws—it's about growth, improvement, and mastering how to create a portfolio for cinematography. So open your mind, embrace the critiques, and use them to improve your craft.

Stay true to your artistic vision

In the world of cinematography, trends come and go, and it can be tempting to hop onto the latest style or technique. However, while it's important to be aware of what's happening around you, it's equally important to stay true to your artistic vision. After all, your unique perspective is what sets you apart from the crowd.

Think about it: What makes your work different? What do you bring to the table that no one else does? These are the elements that you should amplify in your portfolio.

Here are a few suggestions to help you stay true to your vision:

  1. Reflect on your Values: What do you value in your work? Is it authenticity? Attention to detail? Emotional resonance? These values can guide your creative decisions.
  2. Identify your Style: Take some time to identify your style. What are the recurring themes or techniques in your work? Make sure these are evident in your portfolio.
  3. Experiment Fearlessly: Don't be afraid to experiment and try new things. This not only helps you grow as an artist but also allows you to build a diverse and dynamic portfolio.

Remember, your portfolio is a reflection of you—it's your chance to showcase your artistic vision, your skills, and how you see the world. So, when it comes to creating a portfolio for cinematography, make sure it's a true representation of who you are as a cinematographer.

If you're looking to further develop your cinematography portfolio, consider joining the workshop 'Creating a Portfolio for Graduate School' by Ciarra K. Walters. Although the workshop focuses on portfolios for graduate school, the techniques and advice shared can be applied to building a strong cinematography portfolio. Don't miss this opportunity to learn valuable tips and tricks from an expert in the field!