Sunday 27 November 2011

The Building the Ultimate Portfolio

At my Turning Pro workshops that I held earlier this year the subject of portfolio's came up quite a bit.

Now before I start let me make one thing very clear, there is no such thing as the ultimate portfolio.

Truthfully it is never exactly right.

Here are my 10 top portfolio tips

1. How many pictures should be in there? 

I'm a great believer in 'Less is more' unless it's a potential client who has been stalking you for an eternity I would aim for 25 to 30 images.
Every art buyer or picture editor I have met is super busy, and it is a matter of making brilliant and representative impression of you and your work without boring the pants off them.
You might just get 10 or 15 mins.

2.What should I put in there?

Well like everything, play to your audience. Include photos that will be of interest to them and their publication. No point in showing photos that will be of little or no interest to them.
Try not to have too many images of the same assignment which 'say' more or less the same thing, it just means you come across as indecisive an lacking confidence in your own work. 
There is no need to make the same point twice.

Oh and if you don't entirely believe in a photo which is in your portfolio..THROW IT OUT!

3. Analogue or digital?

There are no rights or wrongs here but it is about catching their eye and holding their attention, if they have seen 9 photographers portfolios that day on iPads and you turn up with yours on an iPad then you will merge into the herd. 

Likewise if the prospective client has seen acres of physical portfolios and you turn up with an iPad you will be a breath of fresh air.

Content is king at the end of the day so focus on how you are going to talk about your work.

If you are are going into a meeting with an iPad though, make sure your screen sparkles and is not all grubby with a fog of fingerprints.

4. Colour of portfolio.

Does this really matter I hear you ask?

Well, yes it does actually if a retired art buyer whom I once met.

She said nearly every photographers portfolio is black and leather.

Think about it, we are all trying to stand out and what do we do? 

Follow the herd and choose black leather.

Black leather like EVERYONE else.

Yes, you will surely be entirely forgettable, along with all the other shooters who have submitted their black leather portfolio's.

You are seeking an edge over your competitor, no matter how small. 

Here are my portfolios, Key Lime Green the other in Burnt Orange both with Sky Blue embossed lettering built by Bookworks, not cheap but the BEST

With a nice grey interior so as not to distract your eye from the goods...

5. Size

Size really does matter, no what anyone tells you.

Too big and it can't be couriered by bike and it will not fit in a Fed Ex box.

Too small and you don't come across as a 'player'

A3 seems to be about the right size 

But having said that, in pre iPhone days I made a small 'flick' book which would comfortably fit in my shirt pocket to take to Visa Pour La Image, on double sided paper (it took me quite a while, I made 10 of them in fact) bound together with double sided tape and it was possibly the most popular portfolio I ever had.


Most art buyers in ad agencies are women, most of whom are not muscle bound

When they call in portfolio's for shoots may have a whole big heap of portfolios to wade through

If they are big and heavy leather you can imagine how popular this task is, no matter how good the photography is in them.

Say they have 20 to go through, imagine their aching limbs and the temptation of stopping this weight lifting exercise half way through the pile and settling for an early selection......they are only human.

Do I know for certain that this has happened? No, but I can imagine it happening.

7. Loose leaf or bound?

Once again both have their good points and bad points.

If it is a handmade bound book, or a book made by Blurb, Asuka, Bob books or one of the many other similar offerings your portfolio does have a fantastic resolved appearance and does to my mind lend credibility.

Then why don't I use one as my main portfolio?

Well for two reasons, firstly I'm a photographer who is always adding to their body of of work and once you have made your book your portfolio is 'frozen' 

There are some quite good loose leaf books made by Hahnehmuhle(I do use their excellent photo rag paper), Permajet and many others too but they will never have the finish of a custom made or bound portfolio and we then have the other problem that they tend to be black or navy blue, an without branding.

Why do I use loose leaf? 

Well, it means I can add and subtract photos at a whim.

But what is more important is I can tailor my portfolio to a meeting at a moments notice, ensuring it will be something that it is of interest to the prospective client.

One of the downsides is that sometimes a print or two goes missing, but I take that as flattery.

I have had entire portfolios books stolen which is rather more disappointing.

The rather excellent photographers quoting and invoicing software Blinkbid has a portfolio tracker in it so hopefully this won't happen again.

8. It should be able to speak for itself without you being there

What I mean by that is frequently you are asked to drop your folio off at an agency and you have no chance to wax lyrical about your work.

Your book should be able to speak volumes without you being in the room.

9. Don't wait until...

You have the perfect portfolio before you start hitting the mean streets with it.

It will never happen

What's more you stand no chance of winning friends and influencing people if you don't show it.

To hesitate is to lose.

10. The best portfolio is...

To borrow a phrase from Chase Jarvis 'the one you have with you'

If you have a smart phone make sure you have a mini slide show on there.

You never know when the golden oppoutinty will arise to show your portfolio to someone who can hire you.

You would be surprised how many clients I have managed to win with my iPhone.

In summary I have a physical loose leaf portfolio, an iPad version with all the the benefits that brings and my iPhone, I choose the right one for the right meeting.

Sometimes I get it wrong, sometimes I get it right.

But the important thing is to get your work out there.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Interview with Giles Babbidge

I bumped into the likeable Giles Babbidge of the Active Photographer at the Manfrotto Imagine More Lab in Convent Garden on Friday.

He collared me for an interview on life the universe and everything.

I haven't listened to it in full (I do hope I have not said anything too controversial!) but it was wide ranging and definitely of the moment.

Much more very soon.

Thursday 10 November 2011

My view on the Canon C300 and RED scarlet

Well 'it' is here.

Depending on your viewpoint 'it' could be the Canon C300 or the RED Scarlet

On the face of it the announcement of the long promised almost fabled Scarlet and has stolen Canon's thunder, not to mention some colourful and interesting views from the web.

Regarding the Canon XF codec and it's ability to shoot to CF cards ' what good is that to someone who wants to shoot something decent?'

'Canon C300 announced and already made obsolete'

'Scarlet X totally blows Canon out of the water'

'The Canon C300 is dead in the water'

I did not have to look very far for Strong and emotive quotes.

But let's have a closer look.

Now let me make one thing plain straight away, though I am a Canon user in the shape of the 5D Mk II and the XF305, I have massive respect for the crew at RED, who have been making game changing equipment for the movie industry for some years now, in fact one of the first relatively well priced alternatives to film. 

To me at least, RED was always a 'big boys' option, niche and rather out of my reach.

RED has snatched the limelight with an impressive feature set which at first glance Canon seemingly is outgunned by.

On further investigation though I believe what we are looking at is two different approaches.

RED uses its sensor, in many ways to do many things, using only a small portion, by the time you get to higher resolutions

Canon uses its 4k sensor in a completely different manner by effectively using the sensor as traditional sensor block.

DV info give a great explanation of how it works

'The 8.3 megapixel Super-35 sensor in the C300 is a new CMOS design by Canon. It is not borrowed or re-engineered from the still photography side of the company; instead it has been created “from the ground up” and dedicated specifically to digital cinema applications. The sensor has a resolution of 2,160 pixels tall by 3,840 pixels wide, which qualifies as native 4K. Canon claims that rolling shutter skew is greatly reduced in this sensor relative to current HD-DSLR camera models. Also, each frame can be scanned by the Digic DV III processor more quickly compared to an HD-DSLR, such as the 21 megapixel CMOS sensor in the Canon EOS 5D Mk. II, which has 2.5 times as many pixels as the C300.

Canon says that their Digic DV III processor reads this new sensor differently; it does not use the line-skipping method found in high-res HD-DSLR sensors. Instead, every four pixels (two green, one red, and one blue) are sampled for each final output pixel. In other words, color is assembled the same way as a traditional three-chip sensor block… two megapixels of red, two megapixels of blue and four megapixels of green (twice as much green as red or blue, since green carries the luminance info). Each primary color sampling off of the sensor is native 1920×1080, each color value alone is equal to the final output resolution. Canon claims that the processed signal has 1,000 lines of TV resolution, and the moire, diagonal line stair-stepping and other artifacts are greatly reduced in this chip compared to HD-DSLR cameras.
The benefits of using a large Super-35 sized sensor are high resolution output, high image sensitivity in low-light shooting situations and shallow depth of field for fine focus control.'

I use a Canon XF305 and that uses the same codec as the C300.

I have just produced a documentary on a pair of XF305's and this codec is truly made for the grade, lots of information in the files, really lovely.

In terms of files produced, this camera and its codec spelled the end of my love affair with HD DSLR's.

And then there is the pricing.

The RED costs half of the Canon C300.

Well not exactly.

The RED only costs $9900 if you buy the 'box' with not accessories included..if you buy the Canon Eos mount the price listed jumps to around $14,000.

Still a handy saving of $6000, right? Well perhaps, but I cannot help but think that the launch RED Scarlet will not have passed Canon by, and I would not be surprised if they responded accordingly in terms of pricing.

Speaking of which, one UK Canon stockist is already listing the C300 at £10,000 around $16,000

So not quite so half price anymore.....

Over at they make a similar point too, though they received a ton of Rabid comments.

RED also have done themselves very few favours by promising spectacular product and then not delivering.

The first Scarlet for instance was touted around 2 or more years ago and then never materialised.

These maybe one off occasions or perhaps the user was plain unlucky, either way I'm pleased it was not me, can you just imagine????? Guys I feel for you.

I always felt it was only a matter of time before one of the seemingly sleeping mainstream giants, in the shape of Canon, Panasonic or Sony, woke up to what RED had been doing, and came up with their very own alternatives.

I believe that is the scenario that is with us right now.

I do hope that RED continue to thrive though, as more choice for the end user, inevitably means more competition, and better product.

My disappointments with the C300? I would have to say the lack of 60fps at 1080p is the one glaring omission.

I too initially questioned why RED were able to offer EOS lens AF when Canon did not offer this function for their own lenses on their own camera. I'm willing to bet that they tried it and it may not have worked in an optimum fashion, so they left well alone.

I could well be wrong though.

But my views, nor the intemperate comments surrounding the C300 do not count.

All that counts is what use these Camera's are put to, and how happy those users are with them.

The proof in the pudding will be in the eating, not the ranting and raving on the net.

The last Canon I can recall which received such a rough ride on its debut was the Canon 5dMkII....and that did not work out so badly did it?