Help me with my Portfolio!
January 4, 2008 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Photography Portfolio Filter: I'm finally hanging out my shingle *officially* to do portrait shoots and show my more *artistic* work beyond the few small galleries I've already been in. To whit, I'm putting together two portfolio books. One for prospective portrait clients and another for gallery work. My question is one of formatting the pictures within the portfolio book. (More inside....)

I'm currently doing a mockup of my portfolio (until I have time to rescan and edit the chromes, etc) and my pictures are split evenly between square medium format and rectangular 35mm and a healthy amount of digital. Before I go any further, I wanted to clarify a question.

My question is whether it's best to use the whole 8.5x11 space on the portfolio page for each picture and fill it in edge to edge or is it best to laydown a solid background (black/white) and put the picture smaller but as intended with it's cropping correct and in it's correct ratio in the center of the page?

Which would be more pleasing and accessible to both clients and gallery owners? Is it a aesthetic choice or one of standard industry practice?

Since my body of work is small still and I'm relatively new I'm really wanting to use these to attract new people willing to try out a newbie so I can expand my portfolio, experience and knowledge.
posted by damiano99 to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My opinion is that you should use the correct croppings, as they are part of the composition. And make them as large as possible to minimize dead space. If it's a slip-in album, make your empty space the same color as the backing paper so it seems to disappear (in other words, don't add white extra space and then slip the photo into a sleeve with black background paper). It's a great big no-no to have a book that needs 90° rotating for some images, so choose horizontal or vertical based on the majority of your images (horizontal is more common) and add blank space to the (vertical) images so that they can be presented on a horizontal page without the book needing to be rotated.

Source: I took a class on portfolios with Laurie Kratochvil & Carol LeFlufy at ICP.
posted by xo at 10:17 AM on January 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

If your portfolio will be mostly traditional portraits, I'd keep whitespace around the edges as opposed to going with a full bleed (i.e. to the edges). The faux mat will help to frame the subjects and draw attention inwards to them. If your portraits are more contemporary and candid, the full bleed might permit them to "break out" of the page and look a little more exciting.

That said, my personal preference is to always leave space around an image, and I utilize it even with vast landscapes.
posted by Hankins at 10:47 AM on January 4, 2008

I vote for space around the image. Separate the photos for appreciation with a page-matte/spacing. Another advantage of whitespace: no finger prints on the photos from flipping pages :).
posted by fleeba at 11:20 AM on January 4, 2008

Ok, I think the consensus so far is to allow faux-matte space around the edges. I can handle that. That being said, it is better to go all white? All black? Or even some type of lightly colored textured background?

Maybe even something more fun ... my wife is a digital scrapper and has tons of interesting faux-frames and textured backgrounds I can overlay on the proper cropped pics. Is that overkill or too juvenile?
posted by damiano99 at 11:28 AM on January 4, 2008

No color! No faux frames! No textured backgrounds!!
posted by xo at 11:54 AM on January 4, 2008

If you're showing B&W, definitely use white. Color landscapes are often accompanied by an off-white matte, but portraits would probably benefit from a black matte.
posted by fleeba at 12:10 PM on January 4, 2008

The key word with making a portfolio is consistency. I personally don't think you should have multiple formats in the same book, the presentation of your images should be exactly the same from page to page. If you shoot square (or whatever) pick a book size that presents that in the best way possible. If you shoot multiple formats now would be a good time to pick one and stick with it. You don't want anything to distract from your work, the purpose of a portfolio is to communicate your unique vision and if you have multiple formats, cutesy scrap-book borders, faux-frames, or any of that crap it's just a distraction for whoever looks at it and makes it look like your work is all over the place.

White vs. black, full-bleed vs. border, slip-in book vs. double sided prints, glossy vs. matte paper... those are all decisions only you can make. Make a couple of mockups and see what works best for your images.
posted by bradbane at 12:12 PM on January 4, 2008

Thanks! You've all been a big help! I've decided after tinking to go with a black background and place each pic dead center with a bit of gutter on the inside and about and inch or so all around. Horizontal and square pics I'll just place dead center.

I think all the advice will go a long way to making it look nice. Thanks again to the hive mind.
posted by damiano99 at 1:50 PM on January 4, 2008

Why are you using 8.5x11 for your pages? If you would like to keep the crop, there are paper sizes that correspond to the original crop of your pictures. I use 13x19 for my book...which is definitely on the big (and expensive) side. But I think 11x17 is similar.

I print with a healthy sized white border and I like that look. If you do that, make sure that you burn down any white edges in the picture to just the faintest touch of gray so that you can tell where the photo stops and the border starts.

Also, I think loose pictures in a nice box is way better than pictures in sleeves.
posted by sully75 at 9:15 AM on January 14, 2008

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