Posted by: kerryl29 | March 6, 2023

A Portfolio this is Not

I recently received a communique from someone complimenting me on several photographs that I’d posted. It was a bit of a backhanded compliment, however, as this person went on to state some puzzlement over the sense that–I’m paraphrasing–not all of the photos that appear on this blog are of equivalent quality.

The Fire Wave at Dusk, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Let’s set aside any discussion of the inherent subjectivity of “quality” when it comes to art. We’ve been down that road on this very blog a number of times previously. The truth is, I share the opinion that the quality of imagery that appears on this blog is uneven. This is particularly the case when I endeavor to chronicle photo expeditions. I am deliberately not limiting the imagery that I post to that which I consider my best work.

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunset, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

More than a decade ago, I laid out an image typology. Using the parlance of that post, there is a lot of Category 2 material that appears on this blog. In fact, the vast majority of the photographs that appear here fall into that category.

Virgin River Intimate black & white, Riverside Walk, Zion National Park, Utah

Why is that? Why don’t I limit myself to posting portfolio-quality imagery?

There are two basic reasons. The first…[looks furtively in multiple directions]…I don’t have that much portfolio-quality imagery upon which to draw.


Little Cut, Coconino County, Arizona

Seriously–and, again, without getting into an ultimately pointless debate about what, exactly constitutes a portfolio-quality image–there’s simply a finite selection of truly top-notch images from which to choose. In short, if I limited myself to portfolio-quality imagery to accompany blog posts, I’d be recycling images with regularity and I’d have to dramatically limit the number of images accompanying each post.

Aspen Intimate, Dark Canyon Loop Trail, Kebler Pass, Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

The second reason is, in my view, the more important: the primary purpose of this blog is not to showcase what I consider to be my best work. (If you want to see what I consider my best imagery, go here and here.) This blog’s principal purposes are 1) to relate an experience; or 2) to make a point. (Or occasionally both.) In my view, sometimes this is best accomplished by posting some of what I consider to be my best work; frequently it is accomplished with imagery of secondary and tertiary quality. Regardless, the imagery selected is intended to support the theme of the post. (On the very rare occasion when irony rears its implacable head, showcasing what I consider to be my best imagery is the theme being supported.)

So, yes, the image quality is uneven, purposefully and inevitably. A portfolio this blog is not.

Kekaha Beach at Dusk, Kauai, Hawaii


  1. Quality is in the eye of the beholder. I love these pics, particularly the B/W long exposure one. I’ve often tried that without success!

    • Thanks very much!

  2. Kerry, I expect that most of your readers DO understand the concept of a blog, and don’t expect “portfolio-quality” (whatever that is) images with each post. If that was the expectation, it wouldn’t be a blog, it would just be a collection of “how I got the shot” posts. Those are, of course, interesting but have a completely different purpose. I expect that your readers enjoy your posts precisely because you describe the full experience and share enough of the outcomes (whether exquisite or just good) to illustrate the point of the post. That is, after all, what the rest of us experience in the field. Once in a while we are “lucky” — in the right place at the right time with the right conditions and WE ARE READY — and we get a wonderful image. Much of the time we are working with less than optimal conditions and we do the best we can. Few of the images in my trip galleries are “portfolio-quality” — my purpose is to share (and relive) the experience of the trip, and I often include images that have personal meaning for me and are more valuable for their accompanying memories than for the quality of the image.

    Keep up the good work, and keep the posts coming. We enjoy them and find them educational and informative.

    • Thanks, Steve.

      The principal “use” of my photographs is as a memory stimulant. (This is a large part of the motivation behind the “Story Behind the Image” posts that I produce from time to time.) The fact that I’m not simply attempting a “record shot” doesn’t change that fact one iota. Viewing the images I make take me back to the time and place in which they were made; part of that memory involves photo technique, but mostly it’s about the experience of being there in the first place.

      This entry probably best expresses this gestalt:

      The Moment

  3. I don’t think it is necessary to always put forward portfolio quality images. As you say, sometimes you are chronicling a trip or trying to make a particular point. The images your select for those purposes should support your purpose. Readers (viewers) should be inspired and gain further understanding. Heck, they might even say, “I can do better,” and get out there and do so.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

  4. Your “Aspen Intimate” photo is gorgeous, in my opinion and your post is thought-provoking. My philosophy is that one’s “best” art should never be posted anywhere on the Internet, be it in a blog or Flikr or any other photo-sharing space. I’m sorry to read that the commenter you mention took you to task over uneven quality. We do expect consistent quality and menu offerings at a chain restaurant, but a personal blog is not that. Keep on being true to your vision and artistic moods.

  5. I occasionally post a picture for what I call “informational purposes,” typically to show viewers the site where I took my “real” pictures.

    • Yup, that’s as good a use of a(n) (intentionally) non-portfolio photograph as any I can think of.

  6. What a strange way for that person to complement your work. I enjoy all of your images, which I think are quite beautiful — and I feel similarly to you in your intention with your blog with my own. This is a fine place to share experiences and thoughts, especially for those, like me, who strive to take that one striking image but want to share more than that with others who, hopefully, aren’t looking for high-tier images.

    • Thanks very much.

      Just to be clear, I wasn’t upset with the note I received. I mean, it was probably phrased a bit carelessly, but it made me realize that at least some of the readers of this blog (at least one, in any event 🙂 ) don’t realize that the main purpose of this blog is not as a showcase of what I consider to be my very best work. And I thought I’d better make that clear, to the extent such a misunderstanding was a bit more widespread than just a single individual.

      It also gave me a subject to write about that week, and in that regard was very much appreciated. 🙂

  7. I am not an expert and frankly some experts I know are doing nothing to inspire me. Your blogs take me on a visual journey, possibly places that I might like to go and I learn from your photography. I don’t want to dissect every thing I see, I want to enjoy the images for the stories they present and the emotions they bring up. I have a little plaque in my room that says, “Listen to your heart. It knows where it is going.”

    • Thanks very much, Jane!

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