Print is dead, right? With the incursion of instant digital communication, photography in print is a fading art, but I do believe there is an elegance to it. In the music business, I learned how to show off and attract attention to our songs and image. Whether it was eye-catching album artwork or flashy personalized non-solicited packages, we did our best to allure every eye and ear possible that could make our dreams happen.
With my photography brand, I’ve decided to forgo the glitz for a boutique-expensive approach for gaining attention. As a young photographer, my first portfolio was a cheap-plastic-book made up of cheap-plastic-sleeves filled with random metallic paper prints with no organization or flow. It looked like a high school project with some quality prints. I was too embarrassed to show it off, so the book collected dust in my office for a couple of years. I focused my marketing efforts regionally and relied on relationships, not pitching my work. Out of curiosity, I started to dip my toes into the idea of a professional portfolio book and began to look into the overall production, but I hit a wall. The wall was not due to the cost or the work involved, but rather it just never felt right. I needed a high-quality book, but I didn’t believe my photography was where it should be to make such an investment. I was in over my head.
Eventually, my career hit a bubble. I knew the steps I needed to take in order to breakthrough the regional ceiling: I began to define a style, I re-branded my photography and re-branded my image. Finally, it all felt right. I sought the advice of my friends Erika Blatt & Stacy Swiderski at Wonderful Machine, a photography consulting firm based in Philadelphia, to guide the process. Wonderful Machine recommend we start at square one with portfolio edit. While it was an investment, I trusted the course and began the overwhelming process of collecting every photograph I’ve ever captured in its final form. The collection was then passed to one of their photo editors who browsed through thousands of images to land on the best 60 images. The edit was then passed back and forth twice until we landed on a collection that would become my book in print.
During the edit, Wonderful Machine referred me to Scott Mullenberg with Mullenberg Designs for the creation of book itself. While each print would be made in-house at Wonderful Machine, we had to focus on the overall look of the book. I poured over dozens of samples with varying fabrics, colors and sizes. The approach for my new brand & identity was simplicity and minimalism, I wanted my portfolio book to reflect that; no flash, all photography. Therefore, it was an easy decision.
I landed on a 11x17 full case portfolio with a slipcase enclosure, which is large enough to show landscape photographs in a beautiful format and provide plenty of white space when placing two portrait photographs on one page. A hard slipcase shell shields the inner book which are both covered in a tough arrestox fabric. My logo is embossed into both the slipcase and book with a hand-crafted magnesium dye. The slipcase is black with a white logo and the book is white with a black logo, which is a cohesive look across every medium I use, including web and social media. I’m constantly shooting and constantly evolving, so the book is built with a hidden screw-post binding, which provides the option of switching out prints with ease. The book is filled with 60 images spread across 11x17 sheets of double-sided, 0.28mm thick, Moab Lasel Photo Matte Paper. It’s beautifully flat with zero shimmer which I prefer. Colors look boldly full, and it can be viewed in any light without blinding reflection.
Is a portfolio book crucial to a photography career?
No. But, I believe in this day-in-age you need that extra flair, a boutique statement to stand out from the noise. An expnesive hand-crafted book can show you provide an expensive product.
How do I know I’m ready for a portfolio book?
Are you confident in your photography? Have you defined a style? Have you defined your brand and identity? If those variables are at a level of poise and fortitude, then yes.
How much does a portfolio book cost?
A portfolio book is an investment in time and an investment in money. But, as a full-time professional photographer, I take calculated risks with the hope of a return. My book cost nearly $2,000. That includes the portfolio edit, consulting time and book design.
How much time was invested in the creation of the portfolio book?
In all, I worked hard with Wonderful Machine and Scott Mullenberg for several weeks spread across 24 months off and on.
Once the book arrived, I let it soak in. I browsed through the pages dozens of times. It’s exactly what I wanted. The actual photography in the book left me inspired to be better, but I know this book will last a long time. While many professional photographers print several iterations of their portfolio, I opted to start small and print one book, for now. Therefore, I had to ship it off only a couple of weeks upon arrival to my first portfolio review in New York City. Today, the portfolio bounces from one agency to another where it can be easily marketed to potential clientele.
All in all, I stand taller knowing I have a polished asset to show my photography to the people that can further advance my dream.