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Photography-print-portfolio-a Business

8 Easy Steps To Building Your Print Portfolio

By Michelle Bird on October 23rd 2014

In my last article, I highlighted some important overall key things you need to keep in mind when thinking about putting together your print portfolio. At the request of a few readers, I’ll be jumping a little more in-depth by breaking down eight easy steps to make this task achievable. Yes, it is time consuming, but keep in mind that this is one way you can tangibly show off your work and hopefully, get more clients.

So, enough of the thinking, now let’s get to the planning and creating.

1. Seek Inspiration

Don’t know exactly where to start? No problem, seek inspiration from photographers in your same field, or those who share your interests. Study their portfolios, the colors, sequence of images, number of images, what commercial quality images worked well. You can find recent good photography material at libraries and museums.

2. Who Is Your Target Audience

Ask yourself that same question, who is your target audience? Is this portfolio going to be presented to current and future clients, magazine editors, companies, etc? Will these clients be parents, bands or artists, nature magazines, lifestyle websites, brides?

Your print portfolio needs a clear purpose, and that is what’s going to determine the layout and which images you’re going to include. You’re not going to present children’s portraits to a music magazine, nor are you going to present mountain photographs at a bridal convention. I should also mention, write all these things down. Don’t just brainstorm them. By having a visual and clear concept of your goal, it will be easier to put together.

3. Dip Into Those Photo Archives

Now that you have a clear purpose and objective, create a portfolio folder– start going through all of your past photos in your archives and choose the ones that scream “WOW!” Not “Great!,” but “WOW!” These photos should be a representation of your skills, artistry and craftsmanship. Also, take this time to see if there are any you’d like to re-edit and include. Perhaps by looking through your past work, you’ll find that you want to add some new photos to any existing collections.

4. Quality Over Quantity

Remember that quality over quantity is always key. You want to make an impact with your presentation, not bore or overwhelm the person you’re handing your print portfolio to. How many images you should include will vary from photographer to photographer, but essentially you should try to stick to between 15-40 images.

[REWIND: What You Should Know About Print Portfolios]

5. Bigger Is Not Better

Size is also a big factor to take into consideration. Traditional print portfolios are either 8″x11″ or 11″x14.” You don’t want to go any bigger than that– or it will be a hassle to carry, show, and ship. Maybe you want to break the traditional route though, and do something in a square shape, or perhaps more of a lighter, smaller sized pamphlet to easily handout to folks. Depending on what that ultimate goal is, you’ll know what the correct size is for you.

6. Tell Your Story

Write a short one to two page bio about yourself, your goals, your artistry, what you specialize in, why you do what you do. Don’t forget to include if you’ve won any awards or have been featured somewhere. Those are important things that will also make you stand out.


Photo: Tim Murphy

7. Gather And Assemble

Once you’ve gotten all those key factors in, it’s time to bring your story to life. You can draw it out on a piece of paper as a draft, or do it on the computer. Start by arranging your images as if they were telling a story. Transition is very important. Start with your best one, as that will make the biggest impact. Put photos together that will compliment each other, visually and color wise. You can even divide different sections into chapters if you want to. Furthermore, make sure you stay true to your brand, by including colors, logo, and overall signature design that resonates with your business. P.S.- don’t forget your contact info! You can run your final draft by a trusted friend or mentor and get an outsider’s opinion.

8. Print and Prosper

If you’re satisfied with how everything is laid out, and are confident with your choices, then it’s time to send the goods to the printer. You can hit up your local print shop, or use an online source to do so. A few online favorites of mine are: Artifact Uprising, Artisan State, and Blurb.

What are your favorite online sources for printing portfolio books?


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Michelle Bird is a Southern California based freelance photographer and writer, with a strong focus on music, editorial and portrait photography. She is the founder and creative force behind the music+culture online blog Black Vinyl Magazine, and can often be found in the photo-pit shooting the latest concerts in town. She has a strong passion for art, exploring, vintage finds and most of all animals. Connect with her through Email,
Instagram , or Facebook

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar


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  2. Hans photoWerks

    Didn’t realise there is so much to it.

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  3. Eric Sharpe

    Probably the hardest challenge a photographer faces. Picking images for his/her portfolio. I hate it.

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