Tuesday, 2 December 2008


Well, my latest email promo went well, with a number of requests to send in my portfolio.
Which is great.

The only problem is that I have one portfolio - which means I can't send it out to more than one agency at a time! So it's time to get another one, or even another two.

So here are some things to think about when getting a portfolio.

1) Get ready to spend some cash - you'll probably be up for about £300 to get a decent portfolio.

£300! I hear you cry. Yes, while there are binders available from stationers or art supply stores, these are not what art directors and photo editors are expecting to see. Custom made portfolios are a lot more expensive, but they create a professional impression and will last for a long time.
You'd happily spend that kind of money on a new piece of photo gear, so why waste it all by presenting your prints in something that looks cheap?

2) Check how easy it is to change pages. You will constantly be tinkering with your portfolio; adding new material and changing the running order. So you want something where you can easily change the pages. Most portfolios are of the "screw and post" style, that allows you to swap out hole-punched pages which when closed look professionally bound. You also want pages that won't get damaged - you are hoping lots of people will be flipping through the pages after all.

Acetate sleeves are the norm, although some people prefer to put in naked prints, as they are more tactile and less reflective under standard office lighting. The disadvantage of this is the prints get easily damaged, and having double sided pages is a great deal of hassle requiring double sided printing, and can prove to be a nightmare when you want to change the running order or add new material. I use acetate.

3) You will need to think about what size you want. I highly recommend going with A3 or A4 pages. Having pages that are standard sizes for inkjet printers is a huge time and cost saver. I print all my portfolio on my HP Designjet 90. Modern high-end inkjets from Epson, HP or Canon are perfectly capable of producing outstanding prints as good as anything from a professional lab. In fact, your local pro lab will almost be certainly using one of these printers in any case. This way you can update your portfolio and tweak the prints quickly easily and (relatively) cheaply.

Also, standard A3 and A4 prints have almost exactly the same proportoins as a 35mm frame, so you won't need to crop images to fit the pages, which you will have to with 11" x 14", another popular size.

4) Finally you are going to want a courier bag to go with it to get your shiny new portfolio from one place to another without it getting damaged. Standard black ones are available from art supply stores from about £30, but more interesting looking ones with colours and can be had for about £80. House of Portfolios have a great selection.

My current portfolio is made by Plastic Sandwich and is very similar to the one in the picture. They make beautiful one piece leather books, with interchangeable acetate pages and your name embossed on the front. The only fault with it is there is no place to put business cards or a leave-behind promo card inside.

Follow up: Simon Stanmore has a very useful blog-post detailing the options available for professional portfolios in London here. Well worth a read.


  1. thanks Julian, I'm preparing to build a print portfolio, and the time you spent writing about your experience is appreciated.

  2. Scott - glad it is useful information.

    In response to Ken - there are only a few things you need to sort out to get a good image out there:

    1) a good body of work
    2) a professional looking website
    3) a professional looking print portfolio

    The first can be daunting, but the second two are easy and should not cost you more than £600-700 in total. If you think how much you spend on equipment, that's not very much...