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Portfolio Content - Rules of Thumb
Mike Zarrilli, Photographer
Atlanta | GA | USA | Posted: 9:57 PM on 11.11.08
->> I apologize if this topic has been tackled on here in the past, but I've looked pretty hard throughout the previous threads and haven't found anything specific to this question, so I'm starting a new discussion. Just recently, I purchased and have been designing a Livebooks site and am interested in creating at least one main portfolio gallery for display online, with possibly some additional specific galleries around some other topics.

Anyway, besides the online portfolio pointers such as "make sure the pictures load quickly", "make sure it's easy to navigate" and "no music", I am wondering if there are any tried and true methods of portfolio development that can be pointed to as success cases, such as:

a) How many pictures should you include in your main portfolio and should your best ones be first, last or in the middle?
b) Should you just include recent pictures over the last year or ,or can you include older ones that may be some "classics"?
c) Can you point out right in your portfolio if you've had signficant placement for one of your pictures in a publication, by including the tearsheet directly within the portfolio?
d) Captions - Full caption or just brief mention of the subject?
e) Anything else anyone can think of that has worked for them without giving up your best secrets!

Any and all feedback is appreciated. Also, if someone does find a good thread elsewhere on the site so as not to reinvent the wheel, feel free to pass it along.
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Myung Chun, Photographer
Los Angeles | CA | USA | Posted: 1:32 AM on 11.12.08
->> a) -- Only include your best photos. There is no correct number. Display pictures that also show off your versatility. Your best photos should be first, middle and last. You're judged by your weakest pictures.

b) -- Show your most recent work, maybe the last year or two. You want to show what you're doing now, not what you were doing four or five years ago. No "classics," unless it's a Pulitzer winner.

c) -- No tearsheets. Most don't care where it was published.
d) -- Full captions (proper grammar and no typos).
e) -- If I gave you my best secrets, I'd have to kill you :)

Good luck.
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Lane Hickenbottom, Photographer
Grand Island | NE | usa | Posted: 1:53 AM on 11.12.08
->> "You're judged by your weakest pictures."

Myung is spot on here. Remember this when making your selection.
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Jim Merithew, Photo Editor, Photographer
San Francisco | CA | USA | Posted: 2:11 AM on 11.12.08
->> Mike,
I would agree with Myung on all counts.
I would just add you should target your audience, if you know who it is.
If you are trying to get editorial portrait work, you might want to go light on the sports action and vica versa.
And I don't mind a couple of "classics" if it helps me to understand your unique "vision".
Finally, words are powerful when combined with photographs...use the power wisely.
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Jim Rinaldi, Photographer, Photo Editor
Chillicothe | OH | United States | Posted: 9:04 AM on 11.12.08
->> Mike,

I would echo Myung's comments.
I think it's important to make sure you show your versatility in your portfolio. With the number of photographers out there today, being able to go into any situation and photograph it confidently, consistantly, and efficiently is extremely important and makes you more marketable.
From a photojournalistic viewpoint, it seems that the younger generation of photojournalists have this idea that their images must be "artsy" and that becomes their focus of the image rather than telling the story for what it is. Yes, an interesting composition is helpful, but telling the story and evoking a response and emotion good or bad is far more important. Just look at some of the greatest images in history, not very artsy, but have great impact!
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Ron Erdrich, Photographer
Abilene | TX | USA | Posted: 10:36 AM on 11.12.08
->> In the words of Denny Simmons, Tight is Right!

Try to limit the number of images you present as singles, no more than 20 is my rule of thumb, but 10 or 15 is better. Stories should be between 8 and 12 pictures (generally) but can be 20 or more if you're talking about a long-term documentary project.

At least two picture stories, but maybe no more than five depending upon their size. Too many and you risk boring the editor and wearing out your welcome. Better to leave them wanting more.

I would include classics if they won some kind of national award like PoYi, BoP, or perhaps in APJ or NSC. That's because the editor might be familiar with those high-profile competitions and seeing a recognizable picture would serve in your favor. But if you won that award 10 years ago and it was an Honorable Mention, it might be time for that picture to move on.

But since we're talking about *your* portfolio and, I'm assuming, it will be web-based, there are options for those pictures. You might create a linked page from your index page called "Classics" and have those pictures placed there. You could blog about them on that page, kind of like a photo column, and use it as a vehicle for the editor viewing the page to get to know and understand you as a photographer. But to re-emphasize, Tight is Right, don't go overboard, maybe 10 pictures here.

And finally, diversity! I want to see a *range* of pictures. I don't want to see repetitive pictures, I want to see a mix. Tight shots, wide shots, interaction, portraits, pictorials, feature, action, decisive moment. All this applies whether you be a photojournalist, sports photographer or wedding shooter.

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Phil Hawkins, Photographer
Fresno | ca | usa | Posted: 12:02 PM on 11.12.08
->> ->> "You're judged by your weakest pictures."

I would respectfully take issue with this; "weakest" is a matter of subjective opinion. I'm sure all of us has experienced showing our images to co-workers or friends for opinions, and getting a divergence of responses. I've had shots I thought were super given two thumbs down. Others that I thought were mediocre get rave reviews. Often we are too close to the trees to see the forest, so what we would consider to be our "strongest" shots might get a different reaction from different people. When looking at a portfolio, I judge by how many shots knock me over, and discard the ones that don't. I've never seen a portfolio that didn't have "weak" shots in it, as defined by my gut. Your gut may give you a different reaction.

Now, having said all this, we all know what our strongest body of work is, and the images that have received the best positive reactions. Obviously we feature this in our portfolios, but I dare say I can look at Brad Mangin's website and there are shots I consider to be "Eh..." although the vast majority of his work is "Wow!". I would not judge his talent on the few shots I consider not my favorites.

The moral of this story is don't agonize over whether this shot or that shot is "weak". Go with your reading of what has received the strongest feedback (i.e., SI covers, double trucks, Pulitzers, smiling PEs, etc), throw in some personal favorites and you'll be hitting the mark with 90% of people who look at your portfolio.
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Steven E. Frischling, Photographer
Live HVN : Work SFO-NYC | | | Posted: 12:07 PM on 11.12.08
->> "c) -- No tearsheets. Most don't care where it was published."

This is true with dealing with newspapers, wires, magazines, however if you are going after some corporate/PR clients they do seem to care. Also, if you've been published in some significant magazines or something unique and venture into wedding world, brides seem to like it.

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Carlos Delgado, Photographer
Long Beach | CA | USA | Posted: 12:32 PM on 11.12.08

This book is a good resource.
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Phil Hawkins, Photographer
Fresno | ca | usa | Posted: 1:55 PM on 11.12.08
->> Carlos,

Holy crap; thanks for the link. I did some research on John Kaplan's book, and apparently he knows what he's talking about. (Is that an understatement?)

"First rate! Absolutely the best book on the subject available..." Rich Clarkson, Former Director of Photography, National Geographic

Uh, OK; I'm in, please pass the Kool-Aid.
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Brad Mangin, Photographer
Pleasanton | CA | USA | Posted: 2:46 PM on 11.12.08
->> A few more comments here about this terrific book by Kaplan:

Yes my friends- John Kaplan most definitely knows what he is talking about. I still remember seeing his great work in the Pittsburgh Press back in 1989 when Bob Larson and I subscribed to the paper when we were working at the San Ramon Valley Times just to be inspired.
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Debra L Rothenberg, Photographer
New York | NY | USA | Posted: 2:58 PM on 11.12.08
I was just talking about him the other day to some "I know it all and everyone" photographers who never heard of him. Tsk Tsk. In the mid to lase 80's, John Kaplan was THE PHOTOGRAPHER. His work was everywhere. A great photographer and a super nice man. I had the pleasure of meeting him when I was just starting out.
By the way, these same "know it all's" didn't know who Harry Benson was either.
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Mike Zarrilli, Photographer
Atlanta | GA | USA | Posted: 5:50 PM on 11.13.08
->> Thanks, everyone, for the vast amount of info that you provided here! Printing this discussion out as we speak!!!
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Thread Title: Portfolio Content - Rules of Thumb
Thread Started By: Mike Zarrilli
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