There are three basic considerations for a strong portfolio; story-line, technical consistency, and clarity of vision. You will often hear the obvious elements like, “Show your strongest work”; “ Start strong and end strong”; and “Be selective”. While each of these are good points, what is the criteria for accomplishing each of these? If your portfolio exhibits a story-line, is technically consistent, and has the clarity of your artistic vision, everything else will fall into place. Let’s take a closer look at these three concepts. Here are three things to consider when building your portfolio for presentation.
First, let’s consider the story-line. The story that you’re telling can be either explicit or abstract. Whether your story takes the form of journalism or poetry, it’s a picture story or photo essay. This story should have a clear beginning, a related middle and an ending. So, when you have photos that look almost identical to each other, make a decision and pick the one that best tell your story. You can always keep those second choices as a “B-roll”. They can come in handy for slide shows or when there’re opportunities to show more photos later.
Technical consistency has two parts. The first is quality of image. This includes the standard stuff like proper exposure and image clarity/focus. The second is presentation format. This will include choosing between black & white and colour, presenting prints or electronic slideshow. When speaking about quality of image, we’re basically talking about the beauty of the image. The photographers from Oakley sunglasses are an excellent example of this, shooting images that are clean and crisp, and yet suit the post processing done by the brand to aid their media. If you have used Photoshop to salvage an image rather than enhance it, that’s a good sign you shouldn’t use it. If you’re showing prints, they should be easy to handle by both you and your reviewer. Sizes over 16 x 20 inches may be impressive, but if they’re a hassle to work with because of space consideration, that hassle becomes part of the reviewer’s experience and will take away from the visual impact your images. If you’re showing an electronic portfolio, use a tablet. A laptop can be a space issue like large prints. Using the reviewer’s computer can become a setup hassle real fast, and should be avoided.
Finally, there’s your artistic vision. This is the why you’re doing the work in the first place. If you’ve done your job and homework with the first two aspects, your artistic vision will be self-evident. If you’ve presented a clear story-line with well-ordered photos that are easy to look and work with your portfolio will generate a conversation. It’s important for the portfolio to start that conversation, not you. Be ready to answer questions in a clear and succinct way that keeps the conversation going. Keep in mind that your artistic vision can be explained from different perspectives, so be authentic and don’t have a script or a single canned answer. Good luck!