Musings, Tearsheets, Techniques, Tsc Tempest Photography

Do I Need a Portfolio? Really? Need?


Portfolios. Perhaps the single most daunting and frustrating item in the aspiring professional photographer’s toolbox. I say toolbox, because this item is not a reference, it is not static or fixed, it is constantly changing, getting worn and in need of renewing. That makes it a tool.

And by calling a Portfolio a Tool, we are able to approach it from a different energy perspective, and abandon the anxiety ridden, is right? is it enough? eat your stomach out in worry trepidation that usually accompanies the question of a Portfolio.

So, first off, what is a portfolio? In simple terms it is a collection, album if you will, of what you think is your best photographic work. Most photographers, I think get this. thus it is not so great a cause of contention, however the refining of this definition is what certainly starts the blood pressure rising with self-applied stress.

As we move as photographers into specialisation: Light Painter, Fine Art Photographer, Still Life Photographer, Commercial Photographer, Weeding Photographer, Landscape Photographer, Food Photographer, Fashion Photographer, Travel Photographer, Photojournalist, Radiographer, etc., (well, maybe not Radiographer) then our portfolio becomes a collection of our best work in this specialisation.

As a result, each specialisation, apparently, has its own format for the presentation of one’s portfolio. Frequently, this is not readily known or is so muddled in online chats its difficult to differentiate fact from fiction and evolving change in style.

Often one doesn’t know first time around how to present a portfolio until having presented the wrong format and spectacularly failed on the initial first impression, the caveat in this being outstanding images that stand head and shoulders above anything else seem before or since, but with such failing usually some small feedback or advice will be given to correct the error in expectation and delivery. Another source of information are agencies.

But! You want to go it alone, and don’t want to make that first big fail. Therein you already have. But its from failure that we learn and develop and grow.

So, what formats are there for Portfolios? Lets start traditional and move towards modern: loose photos from 8×10 through to 16×20 held in some kind of Artist’s portfolio Box; similarly mounted photos in similar storage; Photographic prints in clear sleeves and kept in some form of Binder; Photographic Prints in a Bound Book of varying quality bindings varying from paper to cloth to leather; Photobooks, again similarly bound; online gallery, or webpage, an app on a tablet or iPad; similar app on a smart phone.

Which is the right one? OMG, I can’t afford some of those options, Blind Mice! I don’t even have an A3 photographic printer…

Depending where you live in the world these can be significant issues. I currently live in Germany. I used to live in Vietnam, China, and Australia. Until now I have always been concerned with this price issue. Its a Devil’s Choice issue you don’t have the money for the high quality, photographic prints to show off your best work but without them you can’t raise patrons, potential employes or clients. Germany has a number of “Soap” shops, as I call them – Budnikowski and Rossmann are two such stores; where you can download your digital film to a local terminal or upload to an online server and order prints for a ridiculously low price per print, or price per Photobook.

Now, I’ve been dwelling on this for quite some time now… entry level portfolios, entry level… cheap as chips and not as nasty… What’s the quality like? How durable are they? Who cares? They’re every bit as good as photographic printer prints you’d make in your studio at home. They are not printed on gallery grade media and they are not aimed at being a long term investment in limited edition prints for sale or gallery exhibitions. But they’re good enough as entry level tools. To get you started whilst you hone your portfolio and slowly invest in higher prestige portfolio presentation.

Believe me, I sincerely consider such low cost printing services, or online printing services, to be the Procrastinating Portfolio Presenter’s way out. This IS the way to make a start, make low cost, easily remedied, mistakes and still hold your head up high. This is a secure way of building the right photographic portfolio tools for your photographic specialisation, AND, its what I’m doing for me.

For today, that’s what’s in my,
Line of Sight.