The make it or break it collection of images that can put you on a track to stardom or leave you stuck in a pile of rejects in the corner of that Director of Photographyís office. It only takes one thing to turn off a prospective employer so how do you know how to tailor your presentation to maximize your appeal?
Since, Iíve had the pleasure and sometimes pain of looking at hundreds of portfolios in the past 5 years or so. Iíll offer some ideas and basics on how to improve your chances of taking that next step up the ladder.
First off, it helps to know what you want to do with your career. Do you want to be a ďjack of all tradesĒ newspaper shooter or are you looking to specialize in sports? Are illustrations a passion of yours or do you sleep with the police scanner on?
Next, know the job you are applying for. Find out the job description of the opening and investigate what type of portfolio is best suited for the position.
Be a journalist. Make sure there are no spelling or grammar errors in your cover letter, resume and captions. Have at least two people proofread your portfolio words. Do research on the publication that you are contacting and personalize your cover letter, highlighting how your skills will improve their product.
Follow up interviews or phone calls by sending a postcard of one of your favorite images, thanking that person for their time. If you donít get the job, keep in touch by sending current work every several months or so. It never hurts to have your picture thumb tacked above a photo editorís workstation.
Now for the important part- the photos. As for presentation, I love prints over cds. Anything that makes your work more accessible is a bonus. With prints you know exactly what your work looks like and thereís no need to worry about mac versus pc, viruses, monitor calibration or any other technological stumbling block that might derail your portfolio.
As for the make-up of the portfolio, some want to see a variety of images. And if youíre applying for an internship, youíll most likely be shooting a little of everything. But the risk you take with that approach is that your news, features, sports, picture story portfolio might get you nothing more than a lumping in with every other cookie-cutter body of work. I prefer personality. Style. Humor. Wit. An insight into who you are. The best portfolios I have seen have told me something about the person and not just about the talent. Include a biography. Sharing your life story will help personalize your work.
Less is more. If you only have 10 portfolio-worthy pictures, leave it at that. If you have two kick-ass stories and no singles, just put in the stories. Play to your strengths. If youíre not interested in doing illustrations donít put one in your portfolio. Leave them wanting more.
At a certain level, the talent is there and the hire will probably be based mostly on personality and how well one will fit in with a staff. Ego will turn off people quicker than rotting meat. There are many incredible picture-takers out there but not that many picture-makers. Donít get discouraged and if you have passion and focus, itís almost impossible to fail.