How best to format photography portfolio CD for gallery submissions?
September 24, 2006 10:18 AM   Subscribe

How best to format photography portfolio CD for gallery submissions?

My girlfriend is a portrait photographer in the L.A. area. She is looking to submit her portfolio to a number of galleries to be considered for an art show.

Some gallery owners she spoke with mentioned that CD is the best way to send work. But the question now is: What is the best way to format the photos on the CD? Should she just save them as JPG files, or create a more compelling presentation with Forward and Back buttons (slideshow?) What do curators want to see, and does anyone have experience with this sort of thing?
posted by dvjtj to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how it works in galleries, but I can speak as a photo editor, and as a former student who submitted countless portfolios to newspapers.

Every editor wants to see your photos the way they want to see them. If they're asking for a CD, they've got a way of viewing photos that they like. Just send numbered jpeg's. Include business cards and a nice cover. Contact information should be on everything. Keep it simple. This is about the photos, not the graphic design, not the label, not the layout. Keep it clean, simple and professional.

I'll post a link to a discussion board where photographers and photo editors discuss what they like about portfolios. Keep in mind this is newspaper/photojournalism stuff.

I will say that an almost universal comment is that flash/html anything fancy presentations tend not to work well. Don't assume the computer at the gallery will have the latest version of flash installed, or be compatible with whatever it is you use, or will even render your HTML well. (Imagine they've got a huge screen, or a really tiny one

When in doubt, people generally don't mind being asked what they're looking for.
posted by thenormshow at 10:52 AM on September 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

I’ve no idea what a curator would want to see, but if you do decide to create a presentation, from a technical perspective, using HTML may be both the simplest and most broadly compatible option. I believe Photoshop can create this sort of thing automatically as a batch process and you could always edit the output to personalise it a little. From there you could put the files on the CD with an Autorun for Windows machines, an Autostart for Macs and so on.

I hope I understood the question properly!
posted by ed\26h at 10:54 AM on September 24, 2006

In most cases, each gallery's website will have a submissions section that will detail the formats they prefer.

Many galleries list specific calls for entry (click "opportunities" within this link and search out a photography exhibit prospectus to see what I mean), and they too always specify their preferred format.

That said, I have only ever seen JPG files (and occasionally TIFs) requested, usually 300 dpi at 8x10 or smaller resolution. They often request that the CD be named the artist's name, and that the images be each named their title, sometimes additionally the size, such as Falls_30x40.jpg or Untitled104_16x20.tif. The artist also needs to include a bio, an artist statement, and a contents list (name of image, size, medium, date) in the package with the disc.

I have never seen a request for a slide show, and I'd guess that curators would particularly dislike such a construct, since they can't control the navigation, and it may not work on all computers. Her website could have a full presentation, though, that they'd surf to if they were interested in seeing more. However, most fine artists that show in galleries (as opposed to commercial photographers), have a fairly plain website as well (examples: Alec Soth, Todd Hido).

A great book to learn about this stuff is: Taking the Leap: Building a Career as a Visual Artist.
posted by xo at 11:02 AM on September 24, 2006

When I send out gallery packets - remember first, gallery owners/directors are busy. They get gazillions of submissions, so anything you do to cause them hassle will not be a good thing. jpgs are the way to go, no fancy graphics programs the gallery may or may not have available to them.

If you've called ahead and asked what the gallery preferences are for submissions, follow their wants to the letter.

If you are cold-mailing gallery packets, keep the format simple, just jpgs are fine. Remember in the packet you send to include a hard copy listing of the jpgs included on the cd. Remember to include a jpg with the photogs name and contact information. Don't send 50 jpgs (unless the gallery has requested that many - be ruthless about which pieces are the absolute best - 12 to 20 is more than enough. In your packet/letter include a link to the photog's website, so the newly enthralled gallery owner/director can fall in love with more of the photogs work.

Make viewing the photogs work and subsequently contacting the photog as simple as possible. Remember to include a SASE with enough postage to return the cd (sometimes it even happens) if the gallery isn't interested. Some galleries will keep the cd 'on file' (they usually say, if they will) and some will simply toss the packet; don't be astonished if it isn't sent back even if you include a SASE.

Good luck!
posted by faineant at 11:16 AM on September 24, 2006

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