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artifact-uprising-instagram-book-4 Tips & Tricks

What You Should Know About Print Portfolios

By Michelle Bird on October 16th 2014

Even though we live in a digital age, there’s nothing like having something tangible in your hands. Our websites might be prime real estate to get work as photographers, but many opportunities might be missed when you interact in the real world and are not fully prepared. Yes, anyone can easily look you up online, but it’s not the same as handing someone your photographs in a small print portfolio and instantly taking them on a ride, making them a fan or better yet, future client.

Consider the time you had a conversation with someone about your line of work. You tell them you’re a photographer– perhaps they haven’t seen your work before– when they get home, or back to the office, they might forget to look you up or lose your business card amongst the hundreds they have,  but by presenting them with a small sample of your work right then and there, you’re imprinting your images in their mind on that first interaction. Even more so, if they fall in love with one of your images, or it reminds them of something about their lives, you’re instantly making a connection with this person.

Now that you have the idea in mind, think about these other aspects when you’re ready to put your print portfolio together:

Plan It Out

Making a print portfolio is like putting together a small exhibition of your best work on paper. It should be exciting, not overwhelming. So, plan it out. Once you have a visual, your mind won’t be running a million miles a minute. Start with some sketches of what the cover and inside will look like, what pictures you want to add, where you want to put your bio and contact info and then you will be able to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Grab a buddy, or colleague, and brainstorm ideas with them. Having an outside perspective will help you see things you might not have even thought about.

Express Yourself, Let Your Personality Shine

Your print portfolio should be an introduction to who you are and what you do best. Just like any other marketing material you present, it should blend-in with the rest of your brand. Apart from pictures, share some details about you, perhaps one or two pages giving a brief bio. By opening up, you are building trust with the folks you meet.

[REWIND: A Business Card That Turns Into A USB Drive That Shares Your Portfolio & Turns Heads]


Photo: Ali Sharaf

Stand Out From The Rest

Make sure the photographs that are in your print portfolio are the best you’ve ever taken. We all have that stack of good pictures, but I’m talking about putting nothing but your best high-quality images in your print portfolio. Those are the ones that should make the cut. Also, your book must set you apart from your competitors. Think of creative ideas: whether it’s in the type of material you use, the format, shape of the book itself, colors, etc. Just make sure you don’t make it too complicated, and keep pages to a minimum, I’d say no more than thirty spreads; remember the goal is to keep focus and make an impact.

Or you can be like this guy who made an action figure of himself to accompany his print portfolio.

Have you used print portfolios before? What are some key things that you’d like to share with your fellow photogs?

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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. David De Fotograaf

    I see some fantastic representation examples in that article. I wish I was that creative. :o
    Hmm, I have a part of my portfolio hanging on my wall, so I leave an impression to anyone who visits me anyway.

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  2. Geordi Thomas makes it easy to create a printed portfolio. They start at $20 for a 5×7 book with 20 pages. Check them out, it’s a good starting point.

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  3. Tony Benher

    This has actually been a topic of mine recently. I wish there was more out there about portfolios in general. It would be great to have a follow up on maybe the rules to follow when building a portfolio or what is expected or what NOT to do in your portfolio. I’ve been on the fence for a while but would love some more resources on the matter.

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  4. Mircea Blanaru

    The idea of a printed portfolio is very good. It would be great to find right persons interested in watching it…

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