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.


Robin said...

We added the portfolio tracker because we know just how easy it is to lose track of the darn thing! Thanks for mentioning Blinkbid!


Anonymous said...

Great Tips, Particularly for bookworks, i just emailed them a quote, as I'm in the black and dull portfolio camp. I print my folio on Hahnemühle cotton Rag - do you place them in sleeves or leave them, as is?

Unknown said...

Hi Blog

Just say your question.

In my opinion acetates are horrid, and just obscure your photo's with reflections.

Have a great weekend