The print portfolio

Sometimes you need new eyes. That’s why we have portfolio reviews and consultants whose only job is to hone in on our strengths and bring these to light through the best possible selection of our work.

During the holidays my friend Peter Nash and his wonderful wife Laura LiPuma Nash graciously waded through a boatload of my images to come up with a set that made sense. What these guys offered wasn’t just a fresh outlook but also an insane amount of combined experience in photography, creative direction and marketing know-how. That they did this as a favour is something I still can’t wrap my brain around.

It’s always interesting to see the results of such an exercise because it usually shatters a few preconceptions you have about your own work. It’s not unusual for things you thought were a sure bet to be left out while other images, stuff you weren’t really considering, make the grade. But that’s the point: to get an opinion untainted by emotion and bagage. As much as I try to perfect my editing skills, I’m still way too close to my images to get a proper perspective.

Their idea was to create a portfolio based on two-page spreads, with images playing off each other. I have to admit that when I first saw their edit I was slightly perplexed… Some of it was immediately obvious but other pairings seemed a little strange. It wasn’t until I started putting the book together that I finally “got” their choices; a lot of these were not only eye opening, they were things I would not have thought of — and that’s exciting.

For this to be effective though, I needed a support that allowed the pages to lay flat, without a gutter spoiling the view. Something also big enough to have impact without costing an arm and a leg. My first idea was to print the images myself on 13x19 paper and use a portfolio binder. It’s a great way to have complete control over the process and it allows quick changes to be made without fuss, which is a great way to keep everything fresh. But with a total of 77 images to print (I know it doesn't add up math buffs, one image is on its own!) I was still looking at a good chunk of money and quite a bit of time to put in.

I looked around for options and decided to give MagCloud a try; specifically their 17x11 tabloid format. I use MagCloud’s magazines quite a bit and while they’re obviously not printed on high end Hahnemuhle paper, they look great and more importantly impress the heck out of clients. The specs of their tabloid product felt like a good fit, with 80# stock and wire-o-binding that would keep the book perfectly flat. I figured it was worth a try.

When the book came in the first thing I noticed was the weight: at 84 pages this thing is heavy. The heft, combined with the size, makes it feel like an object much more than a book. It feels serious. The pages are double-sided but thick enough to manipulate and images don’t bleed though at all.

Now, what about the prints themselves? It’s still not high end, crazy D-Max, perfectly detailed prints. There’s a bit more shine than I’d like and metamerism is visible at certain angles. But… The work still looks great, the impact is totally there and it costs… $32.24. I’m in Canada so shipping was a bit more than in the US — in total it came up to $50.10. That’s crazy inexpensive. The 84 page book itself is the price I would’ve paid for a cheap portfolio binder.

I’m not advocating bargain hunting here. You want the work to stand out and show off what you can do in the best light possible. But at the end of the day a portfolio isn’t going to hang on someone’s wall — all it needs to do is draw people in. At this price, I can afford to send them or leave them behind much more easily than something I need to spend four days putting together, at a couple of hundred bucks a pop. The images below don’t really do it justice but I wanted to give you an idea of the selection.

Huge thanks again to Peter and Laura. I owe you guys big time.
Now I just need something to carry this thing in…