Getting a paper portfolio to look professional can be a challenging, time consuming, and costly process. Based on years of experience, professional photographer Inge Prins shares with us how to get it right.

In this series “How to Create a Great Paper Portfolio” we ask photographers about their view on printed photography portfolios and share tips and insights about how to produce a high-quality book. In this piece, all of the rich insights come from Inge Prins, a Cape Town-based photographer. She specializes in homeware, décor and interior photography. Inge is known for her meticulous attention to detail and incredible skill in re-creating natural light.

Do not hesitate to spend money on this as it will show off how much you value your work. It will reflect how professional you are and how committed you are to your job.

Work by Inge Prins

So let’s go straight to the point! With Instagram, individual websites, and platforms like Cherrydeck, is a printed photography portfolio still needed?

Yes, I do think there is value in a beautifully printed portfolio. We see so many images on screens now – and Art buyers and Art Directors work on screens all the time, it is really lovely to have something tactile to look at. 

It is a great way to show exclusive images – that are not necessarily on your website, so the client who gets to see it feels the luxury of seeing something that not everyone gets access to and that they can’t see otherwise on their own.

It’s a great conversational piece to take to a meeting, creating a chance to reveal the back stories and experiences of your work. Print also makes your work more accessible and closer to reality.

From all, what format have you found to work the best?

I prefer a book that’s not too big and heavy, so it can fit nicely on someone’s desk and is easy to page through. My current book is 11×17 inch landscape format and it feels very comfortable. It is also fairly easy to travel with and to DHL if needed. You have to decide what format will compliment your work the best and start from there.

Why did you decide to print your portfolio?

Earlier in my career pre-Instagram, I always had a printed portfolio and I had to do the majority of my marketing showing my physical book to potential clients. I have always loved seeing the images printed out.

I decided to make my current book especially to show to potential clients in the US without me having to be there in person too. The book is currently in Cape Town again, but I have plans to send it to London soon so it can be couriered around Europe easily if needed. 

It is also wonderful to be able to show agencies the physical book when going on Go-Sees as everyone really responds well seeing a book rather than viewing work on screen.

What specificities did you choose? What should you pay attention to?

I have a 11×17 inch screw-post book that is easy to update by replacing images and moving them around. My book was made by Pina Zangaro and has a linen cover with my logo embossed on it. The paper is Moad Lasal Matte paper and it shows the colors in my work beautifully. 

I definitely suggest buying a custom well-made portfolio rather than an off the shelve cheaper version. Do not cut corners here! As a printed portfolio is a real tangible object, presentation is key, it has to be perfect. It’s all in the appearance. Your best shots, well curated selection, beautiful prints, a stunning book. Attention to detail is everything.

Do not hesitate to spend money on this as it will show off how much you value your work. It will reflect how professional you are and how committed you are to your job.

Shinny plastic sleeves are not a great idea as the reflections can be really annoying to deal with when viewing the book. Be careful of high-gloss paper or sleeves of any kind. Consider the printing carefully too – the thickness of the paper, matt or gloss, full bleed or with borders, the layout, colour gamut, luminosity of your prints and so on. Bad printing can kill images. 

What is the average price you should be ready to pay?

Printing a professional portfolio does and should not come cheap. Prices vary considerably. There are many options on the market, but I would say, rather save up and do it properly than try to cut corners. Do your research.

Of course it would depend on the country you find yourself in. I am hesitant to put a price on it – but somewhere around 650€ is not unrealistic and could get you something great. You get what you pay for here.

What would you say is the optimal number of pictures to include? How did you make your selection?

Start off by asking yourself who you will be showing the portfolio to. I have always been told to keep it short and sweet (15-30 pages). Be very decisive about what you include – one weak image can bring everything else down. Art buyers are very busy people – I believe less is more. 

You can custom change the images in a portfolio like a screw-post book in order to show a potential client a tight edit of relevant work only. Or if you’re making one book to reflect your brand, you can start asking questions like what kind of work you would like to be doing, for what type of clients – and these answers might help you decide what to include in your book. 

You should pay attention to the way your portfolio is organised. It’s always a good idea to start with your strongest work – then take the viewer on a journey and end strong again. Watch out that nothing feels too repetitive. Do not show too many images out of the same shoot.

I carefully looked at how my images interact and relate to each other and worked out a layout that flows easily. Some images relate in terms of texture or colour or a visual cue like a prop and so on. I focused in on my speciality – shooting for HOME departments, and picked a variety of images that expressed my skill both on location and in the studio. 

How do you treat consistency in style? Is it better to approach a portfolio in a sense it showcases variety and versatility or a consistent personal style?

To me layout is the most important here. If you can manage to organise your book in such a way that the images relate well to each visually, you can certainly build in variety and versatility – but if that means that the rhythm of the book jumps all over the show, I would rather choose consistency in style.

As long as layout flows well you can pretty much play with your content and try show off your skills. Paging through a book should be like going on a journey or listening to a well composed piece of music. Again, I feel here that the most important question you need to ask yourself here is who you will be showing the book to.

If you photograph a series of different topics, should you have a portfolio for each?

If the topics relate well in terms of style or genre or overall treatment it could work putting them into the same book, as long as the book does not become too thick. I would not go over 30 pages max. 

If the different series do not relate visually I would rather separate them into different books. However, rather than taking more than one portfolio to a meeting, I would very carefully choose one to show. After showing the first series as a book, you can feel out the situation. If the interest is clearly there you could show more of your topics digitally (i.e. on an iPad).

As a final takeaway: what would be your #1 do and #1 don’t?

DO make sure your presentation is superior and of excellent quality. DO NOT ever apologise for your work or say anything negative about any of your images or about yourself when showing your portfolio. 

To see more of Inge’s work visit her Cherrydeck profile or her website, here. For more insights on printed portfolios, keep an eye on our blog. 🍒


Posted by:Cherrydeck Editorial

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