You know how it goes: The Art Director says, “I know you can photograph right-handed baseball players but can you photograph left-handed ones?” An unfortunate reality of the photography business is that you have to constantly prove to potential buyers that you can produce—or have already made—images just like the ones they need right now. Your key marketing tool during this aspect of the sales process is the portfolio.
In this postmodern iPod world, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to producing portfolios that work as hard as you do. Your best choice may be a combination of using both print and digital methods:
Prints: One of the advantages of making prints with a photo quality desktop printer is your ability to update and customize a print portfolio. Larger format ink-jet printer, such as the Epson Stylus Photo R2880, let you output images onto 13”x19” paper. A friend produces customized portfolios for specific market segments, such as architecture or business portraits and places them in Art Leather Preview albums. These binders come in different colors and can be imprinted with your studio name or logo. If you use both sides, an album can hold up to fifteen inserts with a thirty print capacity.
Website: A website can be indispensable in making sales to Web-aware clients but won’t help you with digital phobic photo buyers. Or you can use some of the many image-sharing sites that also let you sell your photographs and even do the printing. (For a fee of course.) A Web site is less expensive to change and update than traditional, non-electronic media. Four-color printing is expensive and if you order 5,000 brochures, it may take some time to distribute all of them. By the time you’re down to brochure number 4,989, you’ve probably created better photographs than the ones pictured on the brochure.
Digital: A digital portfolio loaded onto an iPod Touch, iPhone, or IPad can be a powerful marketing tool that will fit inside your shirt pocket or purse. A portfolio of glamour images on my iPod touch was used to sell the concept of my book “Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography” to a publisher. It worked.
While the temptation may be to show potential photo buyers the length and breadth of your work, keep the overall number of images shorter rather than longer. While selecting photographs, look for “signature” images that show your unique perspective and clearly represent your style. Be sure to feature the kind of work that you would like to do as well as the kind of projects you normally tackle.
Lastly, get some advice about what images to include in whatever portfolio format you decide to use. (Who says you only have to use one; why not try all of them?) Because it’s sometimes difficult to separate the image from the conditions it was made under, photographers are not always the best judges of their own work. Ask your significant other or someone whose opinion you trust to help you select the final group of photographs. Lastly, remember that any portfolio in whatever form is never finished. Keep updating and improving your portfolio using the latest tools and technologies as well as your newest photographs.
This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store