It may be surprising to learn that even as the internet is the first choice for displaying photo portfolios, printed portfolios are still an important piece to have to share with clients. As you might expect, my online portfolio (aka my websites, www.materaphoto.com and www.stephenmatera.com) are the first place that clients go to look at my work. And for most clients, that’s enough for them to get an idea of if they like my work and want to hire me. ‘Nuff said.
But in the commercial world, especially on the agency side, things are different. The online portfolio is only the first step in getting in the door. Often, there are also emails with electronic promo pieces, printed promo cards, and repeated phone calls to try and get through the din of all the other photographers. Of course, even with all of that, only the best work gets noticed by creative directors and art directors at agencies. When a good connection is made, an invitation is extended to come in for a meet and greet. You don’t get that invitation unless they like your work enough to potentially hire you to shoot for them.
Once that invitation is extended, the meeting is largely about matching up personalities and getting an idea of how the CD/AD likes the photographer and how they think it would be to work together. Part of this meet and greet is also looking at a printed portfolio.
An online portfolio is good way to introduce your work. Viewing a printed portfolio will give the CD/AD a better idea of the quality of your work. Often images that look good online won’t hold up well to printing. A printed image will show the technical flaws that an online image will hide. Often, the printed portfolio will have better color accuracy, depth, and sharpness than an online image, if printed well.
With that in mind, I recently redid my printed portfolio. I redo my portfolio about once a year to keep it fresh. But beside the value in keeping an updated print portfolio, the process of going through and selecting images helps me clarify and understand my creative process and changes in style since the last portfolio. The creative process is so complex it’s easy for me to miss subtle and not so subtle changes in my images until I sit back and look at them all together.
There are tons of great ways of printing a portfolio, including hand made/bound. I print my portfolios using blurb.com. I’ve used them for years and have been happy with the print quality, color accuracy, and turnaround time. I love the wraparound cover option and the new pearl finish paper is fantastic. It’s inexpensive enough to create specific portfolios for each time I meet with a client and tailor it to what I think they will like best.