Why? It’s physical, it’s real… you have to flip through the thing. I have always felt like the photograph is complete when it’s printed out on paper. When I’ve done post-processing an image, sometimes I print it out just to look at it and see how it feels. Personally, I don’t like doing meetings on laptops or iPads, but I’m not fully against them. I’ve seen other photographers use those and succeed with them as a means of displaying their work. I’m not a purest in any way, but perhaps just this once I will join those annoying artist-types who preach “you know man… there’s just something about seeing it printed on paper.” (Okay, but just this once.) To make it short- I’m trying to get hired for jobs in which the final output will be printed, so why not display the result I’m trying to pitch for? Even if I can’t be there to show someone what I do in person, I would prefer potential clients to see my hardcover portfolio over anything.
How it works
In the advertising world, when there’s a job on the table, typically the process is this:
1) You or an agent has a meeting with a potential client. Art buyers, art directors, producers, music labels, etc
2) You share your portfolio. If they like the work and feel it fits the projects/accounts they work in, perhaps they will remember to call you when a new opportunity pops up
3) Time passes. You twiddle your thumbs
4) A job comes up that suits your style, the client calls for a book to show their colleagues and compare it with other photographer’s books they are considering. They may call in several other portfolios to make a top choice
5) You or your agent submit an estimate. This may include production budget, photographer’s fees based on day rate and usage, assistant fees, travel expenses, post-processing, etc
6) If both the estimate works, and your portfolio is their favorite of the bunch, then you got the job
7) The portfolios are returned via post (whether you get the job or not.)
During this process, I don’t want to just link them to my site… It’s just not the same. How do I know every screen that sees my work is calibrated? All those hours I spent making the color and tones exactly the way I wanted could be spoiled on a bad monitor. When I send a printed book, I can ensure the quality in which the work is displayed.
What’s in a good, successful photography portfolio?
Your strongest images that show a cohesive, yet a diverse body of work
An advertising client is looking for a specialist. You wouldn’t go to an eye doctor for an ear infection, and someone is not going to hire an automotive photographer for a job requiring portraits. Cohesive photographers fulfill a niche. Your images in your portfolio should have a stylistic unison. This way, photographers typically get hired for shooting the stuff they’re good at or have proven themselves in.
Yes, there absolutely needs to be variation and freshness to each individual picture… But the trick is to not be good at shooting everything… Be amazing at one thing.
This is why since I am not quite a specialist, I am more of a generalist, I have multiple portfolios for different bodies of work, I have a Portrait Portfolio, an Advertising Portfolio, and a Fashion & Beauty Portfolio for example.
Your portfolio should fit together like a good album, a collection of songs.
Your collection of images should have a “flow” to it. When I say flow, I am referring to the images flowing into one another as you turn each page. You can do this by means of subject matter, light, and color.
Example 1: Subject matter – Your portfolio will be easier to follow when your images are grouped into stories or sections. Depending on what you shoot, within the same book, you could have music, fashion, entertainment, and advertising in sequence, for example.
Earlier in my carer, my portfolio was broken up like this: The themes of the images should not be scattered and mashed together, it should take the viewer on a “guided tour” of your work. One of the major problems I had with my older portfolios was the separation between my personal and commercial work. Even though stylistically sometimes the stuff I shot in Mozambique is similar to my commissioned work, the subject matter is very different. For some reason, a portrait of kids and a favela in Rio de Janeiro just didn’t flow into a picture of the musician Rui Veloso.
The solution I came up with was actually separating my work into three books. Simply keeping one section at the front of the book and the other at the back was not enough. No matter what, when the package is sent out the client always gets a package with three books, however, there is separation.
Suppose my book goes out for a Luxury brand job photographing some high-end watchmakers. The art director might take interest in my personal work for the light and technical treatment, but the brand itself may only be interested in seeing more commercial portraits and advertisements. Showing too much of one thing could spook either party, so I leave it up to them which book matches their interests and what exactly they will present to their colleagues.