Today I would like to tell you my story about portfolio books. In the past few years I had different kind of portfolios and different kind of clients. I’ve learned from their advice, compliments and criticism. Although you might think you don’t need a printed book anymore as photographer when having a good website and all your photos on your Instagram and Facebook page, that’s wrong…
When I applied for the Art School in Rotterdam I had to show my work for the first time in print, I was 16 or 17 and I had no idea how this all works. I asked advice from some older students and I ended up with a A3-size book with A3 plastic ringsheets where I was able to showcase around 15 photos. I liked the big size and it was good for that time.
Tip: don’t use to much photos in your book, only the best! Your client will loose interest when you are showing too much.
Printed portfolio book
I remember the day when I was in Art School and we had to make a portfolio (besides my website) to show to apply for the exchange program. I applied for the Art School in Milan, Italy. I didn’t like the cheap portfolio sheets that most of the students used. I decided to make a portfolio book on my computer at a company that was able to print on very thick photo paper and the results where very good! I received compliments every time I showed my book. I would love to show you this book, actually I made two of them, also after my exchange period in Milan I made a new one. But they disappeared when I was redecorating my room a few years ago… I’m sure they are still somewhere in my house, but till now I didn’t find them! I hope to find them one day, because I like to see how my style is changing and to watch my progress.
+ The pros of a printed portfolio book is that you don’t need plastic sheets, it’s looks professional and you can make your own design and add some text to your book, like contact your information and titles. This book will stay forever, it’s nice to see this book a few years later to look at your photography process.
– The cons of a printed book is that when you did a new photo shoot you are not able to add this photo to your book. And when you regret about a photo in the book, you can’t delete it. It will be there forever! ;) I’m that photographer that loves to create new work as much as possible, so for me a printed book will get old soon.
Portfolio book with sheet protectors
After the six months in Italy I had to find an internship for another six months. I loved the work of photographer Wendelien Daan so together with my printed book that I made with my newest photos from Milan I went to Amsterdam to show her my work. And guess what, she liked the book and asked where I’ve made it. I started with the internship and when I saw her beautiful leather portfolio books I was quite jealous. Her books where hand made in New York at Brewer Cantelmo. That sounds expensive, right? So I thought I had no change to get a book like this to showcase my own work. Until that moment when she told me that I could buy one book for a good price! For the first minute I was in doubt because her name was stamped in the leather on the cover… But this was a good opportunity have a professional book as a student so I decided to go for it and I went to a shop where they made name tags for next to your front door at your house. And with some good glue it’s now a book with my own name tag :) To give you an impression of the book, here is the info they write on the Brewer Cantelmo website: “Natural naked leather is unfinished and is very soft to the touch. We created this style portfolio in the early 80’s and are continuing to make these by hand, one by one in our factory. This portfolio comes with padded covers, round corners, and a round spine. There is also a 4th lip on the back of the screwposts to prevent indentations from the posts onto the back cover. There is a horizontal pocket on the back cover for promo cards or any other insert you’d like to include. This portfolio is available with polyester sheet protectors custom made to fit. Polyester is our highest quality, archival, museum standard sheet protector. Prices around $300-,”
I always print my photos at Profotonet in 15x20cm in Fuji Matt paper. I like the smaller size so there will be a black frame around the photo. With this size I’m able to have a portrait-size and a landscape-size photo next to each other. I prefer to start with all my photos spread on the floor or a big table, and then pick one photo and search for another photo (in the same editorial/serie, or maybe combine 2 series) that suits the best when they are next to each other. And don’t forget save the best photo for the first and last page!
+ The pros of a big portfolio book with sheet protectors is that I’m able to change my photos for every client, for every meeting and after every new photo shoot. No more regrets about old photos. A heavy leather book feels good and professional to your clients.
– The cons of a big portfolio book with sheet protectors is that is HEAVY and not very easy to walk around with all day. The sheets can become a little scratchy or dirty after touching it all the time and while changing your photos.
Nowadays a digital portfolio is the easiest option. But be aware that (the most) clients still prefer to see your work in print! It shows that you take your work seriously and that you are able to sort your photos and to think about what photos improve and fortify each other when they are next to each other in the book. Beside my website and my portfolio book, I always bring my iPad to a meeting. Because on a digital screen your photos look a little different (sometimes better) and I’m able to show more of my work when the client asked me to do so. I’m not printing all photos of a editorial for my book, only the best ones. On my iPad I can show the whole editorial if the client is interested to see more because they liked the style, the light or something else. A digital portfolio is a good extra option for all types of meetings and clients. And please don’t forget to update your website regularly with your newest work!
+ The pros of a digital portfolio is that you are able to add and delete photos all the time, it’s lightweight (iPad and tablets), you can bring it everywhere you go and make it as simple or as professional as you want. Make a small selection of your work or add all your work so you can show the photos when you are talking about a certain photo shoot.
– The cons of a digital portfolio is that (the most) clients prefer a printed portfolio. So a digital portfolio is just as an extra. When your battery dies, you have nothing to show.. You don’t see how your work will like on print and you can’t make a layout of your photos (unless you do this in Photoshop like I did).
Tip: print your best photos and place them all over the table, find out what photos will work the best together and which ones are better when they will have a their own page.
Tip: change and update your book for every client. Choose the photos that will suit their style the most. Know your client and don’t wast their time. Don’t add photos of cars when applying for a portrait job.
How do you showcase your work? Do you prefer print or digital?