Any time someone suggests something, I have always found it beneficial to take it with a pinch of salt. It’s good to question things, to analyze what someone says. There is no perfect solution to anything, and ideas can always evolve. So when someone asks me an opinion on what should and shouldn’t go into a portfolio, or how it should be presented, I can only offer an opinion. Everything is subjective, especially portfolios. That aside, here are some points that I think may help someone come to their own conclusion on how a portfolio should be designed.
I think the first thing someone should ask themselves is what is the portfolio for; what are it’s goals, what do you want to achieve with that portfolio. Maybe it is for a specific client or industry, or maybe you want a portfolio that lets you shine in many different sectors. As the industry is ever diversifying, it is often good to have more than one portfolio. Tailoring a portfolio to certain needs is always a good idea. And as with everything in the imaging industry, it should always be evolving.
I personally have 3 main portfolios, all within my website. Book I is designed for my fashion work, Book II showcases my beauty portfolio, and Book III is dedicated to my conceptual work. This allows me to direct clients to specific books, and allows them to look through my other work too. I also have a hidden book (good luck guessing the link), which I have in case I need to tailor a specific portfolio for someone. It’s quick and easy to edit so I can adapt it with very little notice.
A lot of people ask how many images should be in a portfolio. There is no simple answer to this, and as with many things, there is no one right answer. It entirely depends on the person and the body of work. A very ambiguous answer would be to not have too many images, and to not have too few. Too many creates confusion to the person viewing, and too few only suggests you don’t have much good work at all. A quote I always think of when deciding on what to choose it is “A portfolio is as strong as your weakest image.” I have mentioned that quote before, and I’m sure I will mention it again. Any weak work will stand out, and it will only show you as inconsistent.
When deciding what is a strong image and what isn’t, it’s a good idea to take a step back, and view it from a neutral perspective. A lot of people cling on to images because they have personal feelings involved, either with the subject material, or just because they worked so damn hard on the image. You might have these feelings, but the person viewing the image will often miss these personal elements. I think it not only helps to try and view an image with a neutral perspective, but it can also help to ask others on their opinions. An unbiased opinion may point towards a stronger set of images. But as with everything, it is always subjective. Just remember who you want to view the images, and try and think how they will think of your portfolio. They are looking at elements that will tick the right boxes, and you might want to try and help tick the boxes for them.
Lastly, the presentation on the portfolio is the devil in the detail. Falling at the last hurdle will most likely affect how someone views your work. Companies still view actual physical portfolio, but online portfolios are certainly the fastest way to get your portfolio sent out. It is also the cheapest. A decent leather bound portfolio, along with professionally printed images, can cost anywhere from £200 to £500+. Anyone can get a website set up for next to nothing if they put the time and effort in to learn basic website coding. Even the quick and easy template themed websites still cost a fraction of what it costs to get a physical portfolio created. But I do recommend doing some market research. Look into how other artists have their work presented. While it is good to try and be unique, it is also good to take inspiration from well proven methods of portfolio presentation.