The Print Portfolio Revival

Presenting your work to potential clients has been made extremely effortless and efficient with the rising popularity of social media platforms and template-based portfolio websites. It has never been simpler to upload your photos to the internet and reach out to employers with a hyperlink. This method certainly works for a few, but many photographers still have trouble with securing assignments. This is where a sizable print portfolio can help you stand out from the crowd, as advertising photographer Erik Almas explains in his straightforward video tutorial.

According to Almas, the people responsible for hiring photographers are feeling burnt out from the endless stream of photos they view on the internet. To combat this “social media fatigue,” photographers should seriously consider going back to basics and building print portfolios for targeted clientele. Visiting people in person, print portfolio in hand, still holds strong value and may be more effective today than ever before. People are delighted to see prints larger than a laptop or tablet screen that they can physically hold and connect with. 

Searching for portfolio books and page inserts online, I found that even large presentations can be a relatively inexpensive business expense when compared to the potential income that they might swing your way.

Do you currently utilize a print portfolio to present your work? Have you noticed more success coming from your personal meetings with a print portfolio than by using social media and the internet?

[Via SLR Lounge]

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Alex Chessare's picture

Digital representation (in its current state) will always be lacking in comparison to prints, in my opinion. Computer, tablet, and phone displays will always vary wildly from each other in terms of contrast and color. One has complete control over how the image is displayed when it comes to physical prints. Of course you can always take a digital display with you to minimize the discrepancy; I still feel that physical prints are a better choice because, as was stated in the post, digital is ubiquitous!

Mark Kauzlarich's picture

Last fall I was invited to the Eddie Adams Workshop (for those not in touch with the photojournalism community, please look it up for context) and I was one of about 5 of the 100 emerging photographers who brought a print portfolio.

At this point in my career, it's probably not very practical to do a print portfolio as my portfolio is continually evolving and probably will so dramatically over the next two years or more. That said, what I did bring to EAW left an impression based on the printed factor alone. Everyone else had iPads and when I walked up to famed portrait photographer Marco Grob with a print portfolio he paused. He opened the case and after staring at the first 11"x17" print for a long period he first said "now this is how you do a portfolio and THIS is an image you should start on". He put his fingers on the edge of the print and instantly started asking about the paper and the process to print, which I had done each by hand. He then pulled each individual print carefully and was much slower and measured in his evaluation and seemed to have an experience in REVIEWING the work, not just with the work itself.

That paper is now no longer made, so I'll have to start from scratch when I do this again. You can do books, you can do sheets, but my recommendation is that you never sleeve them. It looks terrible under variable light. Be careful what you pick for paper and for your transport. It's a pain to fly with a box of prints, even a nice Pina Zangaro box like I had, especially since certain ones will open on you. If you have the time and your portfolio is in a place where printing a book and binding it, or even making a book that you can put sheets in later, would make a good impression. But every person that looked at the photos of any of the people at the reviews with prints seemed to enjoy that tactile process and do so much slower.

Final tip, if you do single sheets, don't go bigger than 16"x20" as one person there did. It looked like he was carrying a raft around and to view those images in a small space was too difficult, it seemed (though the work was, frankly, incredible).

Serghei Tolstov's picture

Love his work, and totally agree, there are less and less personality in digital social media - it's becoming more like a tool.

Ted Nghiem's picture

Digital portfolios are great for the elevator speeches, but once you get to sit down a print portfolio has so much more potential.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I'm wondering some things...

For those that use print portfolios, do you enclose your prints in clear plastic (which I find to be very shiney and reflective) or do you show your prints naked with the inevitable wear and tear on them?

Do you show your images in portrait / landscape but filling the sheet - or do you sacrifice size of image so the portfolio doesn't need to be turned.

I use a portfolio box so my images are separate. This allows easy re-ordering of images and different selections - and it also allows more than one person to view my pictures (instead of a few people fighting over one book). Does anyone else do this?

Mark Kauzlarich's picture

No plastic, and no turning.

Brett Martin's picture

I use a portfolio binder with removable sheets. I print everything close to the same size as the sheets. I havent found a better solution than to use plastic but the Portfolio boxes look cool. I guess that depends on your print though wether it can handle some abuse.

Anonymous's picture

This article has inspired me to revive my print portfolio...tHANKs

Muhammad Rafiuddin's picture

wow.. amazing work. :)

Moe Osama's picture

Love his work , Pure Inspiration

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I read a study back in college... I was a photography and digital imaging major and digital was on the brink of exploding (back in 2001ish). Print vs digital ANYTHING was a hot button issue. Anyway, someone brought in a psychology study that basically concluded that the brain sees and absorbs information differently on paper and on a screen. So it stands to reason that a person can look at a photo on your website or a gallery on the iPad and view it differently than they would the print they are holding. It has more to do with appearing more or less professional based on a print portfolio, your work may be viewed differently and that's a good thing (hopefully).

I'm partial to portfolio boxes. That's what I had when I applied to art school and my portfolio presentation is part of why I was accepted - almost 2000 people who applied to art school didn't have a portfolio at all. I have total control over what photos are included at any time, their order, and I don't have page orientation problems to solve. Several people can look at a time. If one page gets messed up, it's cheap to replace. I can leave a couple behind too.

mike charlton's picture

Good info...once I feel satisfied with my work....I'll definitely create a physical portfolio