A note to myself: You must continually update the printed portfolio. Whether you print it or the lab prints it, you must keep moving forward. Like a Shark. You must have new work to show.

I've had a number of new clients ask me to come by their offices and show them work. They'd like to integrate my work further into the work that their companies are producing. They are looking for a pairing that would be advantageous for both of us. But implicit in the invitation is the assumption that I'll bring along a really great portfolio which they will be able to share with their teams. The portfolio is the cement that makes the working relationship initially bond. It provides a concise statement to their peers that says, "See, I told you this guy could do good work!"

But I've fallen down on the job. Like so many other photographers and visual artists I've let myself believe that the web could be a good, all purpose portfolio. "Need to see my work? Head on over to the website." The sad thing is that I know better. I know how important it is to sit across the table with someone and be there when they look at the work. I also know how much more appealing two dimensional art is when you show it big and well. We should all have up-to-date portfolios that we can toss in the car and go show at a client meeting. It's like bringing your own welcome mat.

I have a number of printed portfolios here in the studio but most of the work in them is older, and that makes no sense at all. I've done about a hundred projects (both personal and business) in the last year and at least half of those projects produced work that I like and which I would enjoy showing. But there's an inertia against moving through the process to a print.

I wrote over the weekend about buying a 50 sheet box of matte surface, 13x19 inch ink jet paper and my intention to fire up my personal printing press and see if the truly ancient Canon Pro9000 was still capable of outputting acceptable prints. Well, as it happens I am not as unorganized as I sometimes pretend to be. There's a folder on my desktop entitled, "Portfolio Files to Work on and Print, 2014."
I opened that folder up today and started fussing with work in PhotoShop.  I downloaded and installed the printer profiles for the exact paper and printer I am using. And, with more than a little anticipation, I did a test print.

Why "anticipation?" Because getting a good or a bad print will also tell you volumes about the quality (or horrifying lack of quality) of your monitor profile. I waited the five minutes or so it takes to print out a high quality, 13x19 inch print and then I exhaled happily and held in my hands a print that is so exactly like what I am seeing on the screen of my current model iMac 27 inch monitor that I almost cried. I'd presumed that printer tech had moved on in the last six years but I wasn't seeing much wrong on my output.

I have a 13 x19 inch portfolio book just waiting for dry prints. By the end of the week I should have a hundred new prints from which to choose. I'm promising myself that I'll keep up with my promotional materials from now on. I love seeing big, detailed, wonderful images come inching out.  For the first time in months I feel like grabbing the phone and making some dates to show off the work. That's how it's supposed to feel. That's when you know you're on the right track.

And I'm happy to see that I don't need to run out an buy a new printer.  More ink? Yes! But more printer? Not so much...


MikeR said...

Just so this non-pro (aka, amateur) can visualize it, what exactly does a "portfolio book" look like? Is it really a book? Is it more like a photo album? Do you leave it with a client, never to see it again? Maybe you covered this in your "Commercial Photography Handbook" which I have not read?

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Hi Mike, A printed portfolio can take many forms these days. I have a friend who has actual, large books made and custom bound. The contain about 40 x 13 by 19 inch images. I buy large Itoya Art Portfolios which are 13x19 inch albums with clear plastic pages that hold the prints. The outer case is (fake) leather. Each album has 24 sleeves which means each book holds 48 images. I make 13 by 19 inch prints and put a black border around two edges if I need to crop to a different size. We always get the portfolios back from clients. In the old days of non-webiness we used to send the "book" to out of town clients via Fedex and companies made nice looking shipping cases in which to ship the portfolios.

Now most out of town clients are willing to use the websites as proof of experience and style. If you are in the running for a big job (over $10,000...) you might be asked to send a physical portfolio so the client can really look at the fine details of your work. Nuances that wouldn't show up in a web size.

I don't like to drop off portfolios and we are rarely asked to do that these days. The real benefit of a portfolio show is being able to meet and converse with the prospective buyer.

As to what goes in a portfolio it all depends on your market. My current book is all portraits, mostly on location. Very stylized. Very rich tonality. Lots of stuff that looks like available light (but isn't). It's my style and that's what I want to show off. I would never mix people and products or products and landscapes. One book for one kind of work.

That's about it.

Spike said...

"...the quality (or the horrifying lack of quality) of your monitor profile." The issue of monitor calibration applies to the prospective client, too. One huge advantage of the printed portfolio is that you can be sure clients see exactly what you see in terms of color balance, brightness, contrast, and scale.

MikeR said...

Thank you, Kirk. You've cleared up several mysteries. Also, you gave me an idea for what to do when recycling a frame to show a new print. I can place the replaced print into a "portfolio."

Gee, if I have a portfolio, maybe the next step is .... naah!

Michael Matthews said...

Speaking of printing and monitors -- does that 27 inch iMac monitor serve you well without any third party calibration?

I've tried the Spyder4Pro, since everything I've read says a monitor MUST be calibrated, frequently. The result is a slightly warmer image on screen but it also reveals a faint, gradient color cast tending toward red as the eye travels from top to bottom of the screen. The same effect is seen to a lesser extent edge-to-edge.

Do you find the 27" iMac screen reliable on its own?

John Krumm said...

AS an amateur I use those portfolios (11x14 sized mostly, prints 4/3 perfectly with a border) just because it's fun to print and also fun to hand one over to a visiting victim once in a while. Totally makes sense that it would be more impressive with a client than an iPad or even a 4k television.

Anonymous said...

Great article, Kirk. When I print on 13 x 19 paper I usually make the printed area 12 x 18 so I have a white 1/2" border. It forms a frame to stop the eye from drifting of the page. I know it is the old way, but I am old and I like it. I never miss your posts.
Jerry Kircus