In this digital age, it’s become easier to show your work off to potential clients through a website, Tumblr or swish Instagram account. Of course, there’s still unparalleled value in meeting someone face to face, so rather than huddle round a computer screen to show people your work, an offline portfolio is a great accompaniment to those first meetings, interviews or informal chats.
Here, photographer Guy Archard gives some advice as to what makes the perfect offline portfolio, with tips that can be applied to any discipline and also an insight into why he chose G . F Smith’s Make Book service to create his portfolio.
I find bringing a physical portfolio to meetings really helpful, especially if it’s the first time meeting a client. Seeing photography in print seems to elevate it, especially as everyone is so used to seeing pictures onscreen these days. If your portfolio is beautifully printed on lovely paper, it can add quality and value to the work. This is especially important if the client works in print themselves.
I always try to meet clients face to face before working for them, as it gives them confidence and trust in you – it also lets you see if you really want to work for them! Bringing something to show during these meetings gives a focal point to your discussions. It means you can talk about what you’ve done in the past with passion, and elaborate on interesting parts of each project, which is something you don’t get to do if they just see your work online. If you can get excited by the work in front of you, chances are they will too, and it will be a more memorable experience for them.
For me, I think only your best work should be in your printed portfolio – I often use online as a kind of experiment, because you can easily put things up or down. For instance I’m on Instagram and put up a lot of stuff I don’t show elsewhere. Once I know I have a good response to a picture, I’ll consider committing it to print.
You should be ruthless when editing your work. I know everyone says this, but less is more – it’s more important to have a strong, consistent voice than it is to show how many projects you have been involved in. Remember your portfolio is just the starting point – usually a client will ask for follow up pictures of specific things that relate to their practice, so you don’t need to show everything at once.
Consistency of style and clarity of voice will make your work more appealing, and make potential clients want to find out more. You don’t want to show one great image followed by three dull ones just to bulk out the portfolio. It dilutes the good stuff, and also makes the client think this is what they will get when they hire you – 75% of what you turn out for them might not be so good. Keep it concise, consistent, and have confidence they will be back for more!
The best way to make your portfolio stand out is to have great work – there is no magic way to make poor work appear good. However, by really considering the aesthetic package you are showing (quality of materials, print, and overall design of the portfolio) you will already be ahead of the game.
I wouldn’t say there’s a perfect size for a physical portfolio, but most I see could do with being cut down by at least a third. Obviously it depends on your work, and I can only speak for the kind of thing I do, but I find portfolios that jump around a lot in terms of style can be really confusing. You’re better off choosing images of just one style that not only describes your work best, but shows the kind of work you want to make in the future.
Self-belief in your work is so important when pitching for jobs, and if you do one thing really well, it shows you have confidence. You’ll start to get known for your distinctive style, and your own voice will then come through. I think the biggest mistake I have made in the past is putting pictures in that don’t sit comfortably together in terms of style, a real mish-mash, just to show that I’d worked for some “big” names in the creative industries. You can always talk about the interesting work you’ve done, or names you’ve worked with – often these stories are more impressive than the pictures!
I made a portfolio with Make Book because of the quality of the materials, it’s as simple as that really. Having prints made with a proper photographic process is a big plus, and the fact that each page prints seamlessly over the spine is awesome.
Make Book is hand made by G . F Smith and delivered within 7 working days.
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