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28 May 2014

So you want to make a portfolio from your pictures?

Smiles from Infinity
Recent work on my self-marketing package included producing a printed portfolio. Simple enough; I have some four thousand archived images to choose from. Some of them have to be good, if not spectacular. As it turned out, I took a lot of really good, even exceptional, pictures over the years.
So, how do I choose what will represent my style? Well, I had to sort, sort those that I sorted, and sort those again ruthlessly. 
Here's how I start my sorting:
First sort: Pull together images that speak to me in some way. Since I'm in my Archive, I've already weeded out poor, such as out of focus or badly exposed, images and those that were too marginal to fix.
Cloud Crown on a Hill
Second sort: Group images by type, such as landscapes, portraits, architecture, street scenes, and so on. Don't forget to include personal projects, as they can really reflect your style. Reject any orphans. Some images can work in multiple categories, and that's good. They make ideal transitions between portfolio sections. Some, like the cuties above, make the front cover.
Third sort: Look at each image as if it wasn't your work. Blow it up on the screen. Do a test print if you have any doubts. Reject any that become blotchy, have cluttered backgrounds or noise you just can't get rid of.
Fourth sort: Arrange your images into logical groupings. Look for repeats of the same thing, be it model, scene or general type. Do two images look similar enough to be confused for each other when viewed at a distance? If yes, remove one of them as you essentially repeated a picture.
Doorway Silhouette 
After all that, I ran the ones I picked past a trusted friend who would tell me the truth for a final sorting. 
Sometimes, it's worth the time and money to go to a personal portfolio review for a sorting by a professional art director or buyer. They really have seen the gauntlet from "Oh. My. Goodness. Where have you been?" to "Oh my goodness, please take this away." And everything in between. They can give you valuable advice as to what a good picture is, and how you can improve the way you present yourself through your images.
Now, you have something worth publishing. I set up my portfolio using MagCloud because they weren't expensive, their color matching is very good, and they could turn around an order in a fairly short time (about a week). They have a template that I used in InDesign to lay out the covers and the pages that works very well with one minor exception: the inside (towards the binding) margins on the first and last sheets inside the cover are very tight. This is a legacy of the perfect (glue) binding process. While I didn't have text cut off, I still had to move text in a bit to re-balance the margins. 
Colors of a Midway
(HP recently sold MagCloud to Blurb, so I'm inclined to get my redoes and alternate editions done sooner rather than later while the quality control at MagCloud is still in place. We'll have to see how well the color control holds up as the two become fully merged.) 
One thing I did have to do is lighten most of my pictures a touch. As good as my monitors are calibrated, images displayed on my monitors are still lighter than they'll appear in print. Lighten accordingly. Use test prints to double check.
Before sending off your baby, print spreads of facing pages. Look for unfortunate groupings or combinations, make sure your progression through each section, as well as the order of the sections, make logical sense. Adjust. Reprint. Look again. Keep doing it until you are happy with the way it flows.
Are you hoping to market your work to architectural firms? Don't lead with a section of portraiture. Travel? Get your beautiful city-scapes up front! If you are indeed marketing to different groups, then it's worth your while to have separate editions of your portfolio for each one emphasizing that subject. They really aren't that expensive to produce (less than $20 each for mine, and that included postage).
That's it in a nut shell. I hope to be wowed by your book of images in the near future.
All images above are under the copyright of W. Clinton Hotaling. Do not republish the images without written permission.