This post started as a comment I left on another photo blog and has morphed into something bigger, as I’ve spent more and more time both showing my work on an iPad and contemplating the reactions from the people I’ve showed it to.
There is some reasonable discussion taking place among photographers and photo buyers whether or not the iPad can “replace” the printed portfolio.
Most of the big photo buyers that I know have used electronic media (such as photo websites) to find new talent, and then requested printed portfolios to seal the deal. When it comes to dealing with the big agency art buyers, the iPad won’t replace that printed portfolio right away, but I believe it will supplement and augment it. Since plenty of photography is sold outside the realm of the agency art buyer, you may never need a printed portfolio.
Depending on your market, the portfolio takes on different forms. Editorial and advertising agency buyers generally want to see printed portfolios, but at the studio level, I don’t think that’s nearly as important. Furthermore, I think it’s about to be less important. As time rolls on, it will be less important still.
If you can deliver an exciting and beautiful experience to prospective clients using your iPad, you may not need printed work. If that’s not the case now, I believe it will be soon. Here’s why: It’s a better “experience” than just looking at a screen.
One aspect of the iPad as portfolio that I have not heard enough said about is the ability to pass it around. This is where the EXPERIENCE comes in. I think it could be the anchor point for the success of the device as portfolio.
Think about it…we’re used to handing prints or a book to someone who then takes control of their own viewing experience. This rarely (if ever) happens on a computer screen. But the mere act of handing the iPad over has (in my personal experience) been transformative. I have done very well showing my work on the iPad, and had several new jobs come in already as a result. None of the clients involved asked for a printed portfolio. I am convinced that the light in the eyes of the photo buyers who I showed my work to was directly related to the experience (the tactile experience) of holding the iPad and viewing the photos at their own pace. Zooming and pinching when THEY want to. Moving from picture to picture and back when THEY want to. It’s remarkable to watch. It reminds me of the first time I projected my slides using a Kodak Carousel Projector. (Dating myself here.)
The screen looks great. The images look great. But it’s the difference between pointing to a Cinema Display and HANDING OFF your portfolio that I find notable and exciting.
There are many ways to look at this, but the only wrong way to look at it in my opinion is to ignore it. There’s something here. I’ve been at this game a long time, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s how to spot new trends that lead to more business. Currently, most of us use at least one vendor to get help showing our work. Even if you print your own portfolio, you buy your paper and presentation materials from someone. If you use a lab, they handle it. I hope they are paying attention to this. We will need them to become active partners in helping us to make the iPad an integral part of the workflow.
Online portfolio sites like LiveBooks and SmugMug might want to consider making sure their sites are iPad friendly. Labs and photo product companies like White House Custom Colour might want to start offering products that make presenting on an iPad more attractive and enjoyable.
If we work together as an industry, I think we have an opportunity to show our work to more people than ever before with the help of the iPad. And showing the work is the one simple thing that anyone can do to increase the chances that their photography gets purchased, published, or at least remembered.