Portfolios

It's the distilled culmination of a photographers work; a collection of their best images, their 'book'. But how do you choose what photographs you include? And in what format? I've spent some time thinking about all this and thought I'd share my thoughts.

First off, the physical decisions. How big do you want/need your images to be. This depends on the style of your work to some extent, as a landscape photographers stuff probably won't look best at 8.5x11". Some people have these books which have hard cases which latch and strap and fold like some kind of matryoshka doll. To my mind, unless your book is really getting messengered around every day, that sort of external vault feels like you're compensating for the work inside. I chose a soft leather covered Pina Zengaro book which I picked up at Sam Flax. It's pages are held by posts, so it's expandable to however many pages you need. And I went with 11x14" for paper size. Because I shoot environmental portraits, I feel like a larger print gives a better representation of the images, regardless of the fact that most editorial use of them would be smaller than that.

As for paper and borders, I've been printing on Red River Arctic Polar Satin with the image centered inside 9x11". Therefore, they don't take up the whole page and feel more like fine art prints. There are those who say that full bleed works better or is more in style, but I say that trends change and while my look may not be "cool" now, my book will look classic and hopefully never passe. Plus as much of my work is in the 3x2 ratio of 35mm, there really isn't a paper I could use to go full bleed without cropping the image way too much for my liking. Maybe 11x17" but that's a wierd size for someone to be looking at, and if there is a landscape image, then the viewer would have to rotate the whole book. Yuck.

However all of this is circumstantial to the real question of which images to include. Not all of my images have the same feel. In fact, a few of my favorite images don't look like my work at all (maybe that's something I should discuss with a therapist). It seems that everyone has different opinions on this topic. I've spoken to other photographers, to art buyers, to magazine editors, to gallery owners, and to muggles. Some say to include your best work, some say to include your favorite work. While I think these people meant the same thing, I think there is a subtle but important difference between your 'best' and you 'favorite' images. Then others will tell me that it's too eclectic a collection and that I should choose one 'look' and have a book just of that. For example, choose one section of my billwadman.com site and create the book around it. They say that editors and buyers want consistancy. They want to know that when you hire Bill you get X. I once asked a big photographer friend of mine about my fear of getting pidgeon holed into a look, to which he said that getting pideon-holed and working is better than better than not.

Because so many people have differing opinions, I've come to the conclusion that they're all just opions and that there is no right answer. Or rather the right answer is that your book should contain the images you want it to contain and to hell with the way the viewer interprets that. You have no control over them anyway. Maybe the person you hand it to will pass you over because they think your consistancy shows lack of range. Or maybe they're looking for something specific and think you're too unpredictable. I've met both on both ends of the spectrum.

I'm currently reworking my book and am ending up somewhere between the two extremes. I have no real problem with an image looking a bit out of place. Yet as time goes by my images are settling more and more into a consistant look all by themselves, and maybe that's a good thing, Maybe it's saying something about my maturity as an artist or something. Funny thing is that I was happy with my book last time I updated it a few months ago, but now I look through and can't believe I let people see half the images in there. Yuck!

Ok, back to obssessing.