Taking the Medicine.

I have to confess something a little embarrassing.  I only showed a real portfolio a couple of times last year and now I'm paying for it.

Can you really blame me?  I mean I had one really cool client who sent me to cool places like West Palm Beach for week long shoots.  I did lot of work on a continuing basis for a great industrial giant and also for several top designers and ad agencies.  
How was I to know everyone I worked with would fold their cards and leave the table when slapped in the face by the nastiest economic downturn since 1929?  Like everyone else I figured it would get ugly for a few months and then everything would get all better like last time.  Boy was I wrong.  It's like people dived underwater to look at something interesting in the stream and the monster from the black lagoon ate em.  So here I am doing what I should have been doing all along instead of being rather smug and self involved about writing books.  I've actually put together a new portfolio and headed out into the world to show it.

But since I am a contrarian I am doing it all "wrong".  Instead of presenting a titanium skeleton portfolio case, inlaid with adamantium and  covered with rare gemstones and finger painting, along with branded leather trim, I'm putting a bunch of loose prints in an anonymous, black clamshell case.  And, horrors, the prints are NOT painfully extracted from a giant ink sucking desktop "giclee  (ha. ha. how pretensious) inkjet printer, they all came from Costco.

But my biggest contrarian contribution comes in quantity (and alliteration....).  The old screed commanded photographers to only show no more than 20 of your best images.  Bound.  Under Swiss plastic covers. But I shoved about 50 big prints (12x18 inches) into the case and, if my first two portfolio showings are any indicator, the audience is hungry for depth.  I showed 20. They devoured them and asked for more.  I showed another 20 and that only made the room full of art directors and creative people more desperate.  I tossed out the last ten and felt like the host of a ripping party who'd just opened his last bottle of wine  as more beautiful people sauntered thru the front door, thirsty.

So my portfolio show lasted 45 minutes.  And in those 45 minutes I made two more mistakes.  I showed medical images, portraits and food.  And I almost skipped showing the food because I'd read one of those "all knowing" books from the 1990's that insisted clients are only smart enough to peg you to one subject matter.  Well, nobody at the agency got the memo because, guess what?  They do healthcare and food.  And they liked both.

Long version short.  I booked a few jobs from the first three showings (I'm batting 66%) and got some nice, vague promises for future stuff.  I'm out taking my medicine and my own advice and pretty gratified that it's working.  I guess I do need to leave the comfortable confines of my house and the neighborhood coffee house from time to time.

The economy is bad but you'll make it worse if you buy into the idea that a website takes the place of a face to face meeting.  You'll make it stink if you think a Facebook page replaces the real social networking of lunch.  And you're business will probably be on life support if you think that everything revolves around how fast you can type on your blackberry.  I've just found out for the millionth time the power of human interaction.  And it really only happens face to face.  Take your medicine and get out there.


  1. I love the no BS aspect of the blog Kirk. Interesting as always and thanks for sharing the insights.

  2. Hear, hear! But one question remains: do you put your best of the best in the first folder of 20? Or in the second, or the last 10? Or scattered around them all?

    Hmmm. I guess you have 50 "best of", easily. For my own output, I'm not quite so sure about that...

  3. Do you bother backing prints in your portfolio with anything, or just leave them as is? And would you go with borders or no borders? I have mulled over comments you made in the past about showing prints, and I came away with the impression that you liked photo albums designed to show large prints. I would like to put together my own portfolio, but I am not sure what format to use.

    1. The bigger the better. I like a box of loose prints if I'm going to be at the portfolio show. Otherwise it's a 13 by 19 inch book now.

  4. Is this post a golden oldie, Kirk? It's well written and the message is strong (as always), but the tone seems more 2009 than 2013. Just curious as to the vintage.

    1. Man, you are good. It is one of the deleted blogs restored. Circa 2009 or 2010. Bravo. If I had VSL coffee cups as swag I would send you one. For now, you get a virtual coffee cup!

  5. Really like this post Kirk.

    It just goes to show that the "right thing" to do is just to present work to new customers.


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