Like so many aspects of photography, there are a variety of ways to achieve success. This is true with portfolio building too. For some photographers, it makes sense to show only the type of work they want to be hired for. Although they may shoot a wide variety of subjects, they don’t advertise it. The reasoning is sound, and in theory it makes perfect sense. Why show a landscape photo to a bride and groom to be? Instead, a solution may be to create a different portfolio for that type of work. For the majority of working professionals, this has proven to be highly effective, and therefore is largely recommended. Still, there are some photographers who feel this approach closes the door on potential opportunities.
After ten years of navigating a business through the recent economic downturn, I've come to realize that “labeling yourself is limiting yourself”. For example, I've been hired to shoot a series of portraits for a book author who proceeded to decorate his library with scenic mountain images from my website. Had I not shown those landscapes, I may have missed out on the sale. Similarly, I've had clients purchase a fine art B&W print in October, and ask me to shoot their corporate office party in December. I define these sales as “crossovers” and they add value to my company. This slightly less conventional method of marketing can actually clear the way for new connections and jobs. Sometimes it pays to show your versatility.
If you are the kind of business person that thrives from structure, working with the conventional marketing option would likely be the most beneficial. Your work is clearly defined, and you walk down a well marked trail in the footprints of all who have gone before. For those of us who feel the need to trail-blaze a new path, the risks are high, but the rewards greater. As stated above, both of these methods are valid. In fact, in these uncertain economic times, a hybrid approach that adopts portions of both plans may ultimately be the winning formula.