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How to Make a Photography Portfolio

written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/29/2009

When you're ready to advertise your photography services, you'll need to have a portfolio to show your talent and skills to potential clients. Putting together a photography portfolio doesn't have to be difficult, just follow these guidelines to create an impressive photography portfolio.

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    Creating a “Hard Copy” Photographer’s Portfolio

    As a working or budding professional photographer, you need to have both an online photography portfolio and a “hard copy” photographic portfolio you can carry with you to show to prospective clients. In having both kinds of photography portfolios, you are able to show off your best images using a number of different display media types and as alternative content. You’ll sort out your best images and order them into a collection illustrating a broad range of genres with which you have experience. You can also include photographs using different media types as well.

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    An Open Book Type Photography Portfolio

    In order to show prospective clients examples of some of your best images and the variety that you offer in your digital photography skills, you can assemble your collection of photography into a book-like portfolio. Models, fashion designers, artists and architects also use these types of portfolios to carry and show off their photos, art samples, drawings and designs. These portfolio books are available in a variety of sizes to accommodate photographic prints, tear sheets and pages up to 16 x 20 or even larger. Many feature a handle to make carrying easier. Since you’re going to include a variety of photographic media and sizes in your portfolio, select a portfolio book size that will allow you to show off at least up to a tabloid-newspaper-sized page without folding. Pages are clear plastic envelopes allowing inserts to be viewed without direct handling. To view the portfolio contents, one need only to flip through its pages containing the different-sized media. The smallest sized media, usually 5 x 7s and 8 x 10s, are placed first, with successively larger, 11 x 14s and 16 x 20, sized media following in order by size. Pages of translucent media such as transparencies and slides should be quickly removable for closer viewing by clients. There are slide pocket-organized pages available which can hold up to twenty individual 35mm slides and work quite well for this purpose.

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    Photography Portfolio Media to Consider

    Never allow yourself to think of your “hard copy” photographic portfolio as just a collection of prints. There are, in fact, additional media you can well consider for inclusion into your photographic displays.

    Consider for example:

    · Photo shows and video clips on CD-ROMs and DVDs

    · 35mm and other film format slides (many magazines still accept and use slides)

    · Whole tear sheets of published photographs from magazines, newspapers, book pages and other print media

    · Proof sheets and contact sheets from negatives

    · Small products featuring your images such as key chains, mouse pads, coffee cups, pens, T-shirts, refrigerator magnets, lapel buttons, stickers, etc.

    · Book covers

    · CD or DVD covers and labels

    · Posters

    · Calendars

    · Advertising artwork

    · Your photography services business card

    If you have prints on small items like T-shirts, key chains, coffee mugs, lapel buttons, pens, refrigerator magnets, stickers or such, you might consider also placing your name and contact information on these and using them as a sort of “calling card” to leave with prospective clients. Don't forget about leaving a photographic traditional business card, either.

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    Using a Photography Portfolio to Sell Your Services

    While you can and should have a complete digital photography portfolio online, the importance of also preparing a physical portfolio too cannot be over-stressed. A great number of clients like to be able to see your work first-hand. The impact of your images used on small products and items is amplified by having actual samples the client can hold and examine. We are more impressed when we can use two or more of our five senses to impress information on our minds.

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    Use your photography portfolio to advertise and sell your photography services. Start by selecting your best twenty to fifty images. Print these in various sizes with lower resolution images printed in smaller sizes. Check with local novelty printing companies about having some of your images printed onto a run of small products such as one-page calendars, mouse pads, key chains, etc. When you call for appointments at advertising agencies, media offices, print media houses, real estate offices, law firms and other prospective clients, tell them you have a portfolio to show. If you “cold call” on prospective client businesses, have your photography portfolio with you to show to interested parties on-the-spot. With the double-barreled approach of using both an online digital photography portfolio and a physical, hard-copy photography portfolio, you’ll expand - and keep expanding - your paying client’s list in record time.