Assembling a portfolio for college, advice?

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by Phillip P. Dimor, Mar 19, 2005.

  1. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    I am seriously considering returning to college and taking up photography.
    Aside from the normal college admissions requirements, I must submit a portfolio of my work. Does anyone have any advice? I've never assembled a serious portfolio before. I do have a fairly extensive collection of images, many of which 'fit together'. What I really need help on is what to package these drymounted prints in..

    I was thinking of FB glossy 5x7" prints drymounted onto 8x10 mat boards, interleaved with tissue paper and assembled into an archival drop-front box.
    Possibly 12 to 15 images all of similar style. Is this acceptable? My girlfriend likes the idea of an album. I don't like having a sheet of plastic or photo corners detracting from the image.

    I feel that my content is strong enough on it's own that I don't need to prove my versatility by including portraits, landscapes, maco, color, etc..
    Is this a bad way of thinking?

    Scholastically speaking, I am a failure. I need all the help I can get and having good recommendations along with a strong portfolio would help me enter the program.

    Sorry if this question is open-ended and broad!
    -phil
     
  2. CraigK

    CraigK Member

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    As the owner of a photography school (www.prairieview.ca) I see a lot of portfolios of students applying for entrance.

    So here are my two pennies....

    A super-slick professional portfolio is not necessary. There is no need to have an extensive array of images that show you are just as good at underwater photography as you are at aerial photography and electon-scanning micro-photography.

    A modest selection of a potential student's best work is what I look for. I want to see that the student has enough passion for the art to pursue, of his/her own accord, a particular line of interest or type of photography . I would much rather see an entire portfolio of one person's quest for the perfect shot of say clouds, or trees, or skateboarders in mid-air, than I would of someone's "bag of tricks" as it were.... Don't show me a sunset shot from your last vacation next to a lame still life of strawberries and cream next to a "fashion" shot you took of the girl next door in front of a painter's drop cloth. Show me the kind of photos you are driven to take. The ones that you make for you....not for what you think others would want.

    That said, I must point out that for me at least, I look for a clean, organized portfolio. Woa be to he that shows me un-spotted prints or poorly cut matts. Show me that you really care about your work, enough to take the time or spend the dime to present it perfectly. Show me that you can take an idea and really work it, that you have passion and drive, that you really want to learn the art.

    Then I will choose you over the fellow with sloppy prints of naked babies in the arms of a muscle man.
     
  3. brent8927

    brent8927 Member

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    Phil,

    I can speak from a little experience and from a lot of research. The first thing you should look at is whether or not there are any requirements or restrictions for the porfolios. Some will give you a maxiumum size, number of works, they might require you to send slides instead, and many other things. Off the top of my head I would say mounted work would be unacceptable. However, almost all the research into porfolios I have done were for architectural portfolios. For the few M.F.A. in photography programs I looked at, I believe all asked for a set of slides.

    I think the most important advice anyone can give you is to start early. It looks like you're doing that because as far as I know most programs have deadlines in December or January, but I'm unsure of how many admit students in the middle of the year.

    Also, I am assuming that you intend to apply to a shool nearby, but if you are willng to move, you might want to look up information of the faculty of the programs, and whether or not you would want to work with them. You should usually chose a school based on its faculty, rather than its name.

    My personal experience is that my work was way too traditional for any program. My work has more in common with Eugene Atget and Ansel Adams than Robert Parka-Harrison (whose work I do like) and Joel Peter-Witkins (I might have spelled his name wrong). Every program I looked into wants that sort of "modern" and "edgy" look. I talked to a number of professors about my work and most did agree that it probably wouldn't get me into the program, which I decided was O.K. beacuse my goal is to be an architect and to just keep doing photography on my own.

    I tell you this in case your work is the same. If your work is a bit on the traditional side too, then it might be harder for you to get in, though it certainly isn't impossible. Also keep in mind that everything I just said applies to graduate programs, I'm not sure how undergraduate programs work because I was in an undergraduate program and I wasn't looking for a second bachelor's degree.

    Also, my last bit of advice- I promise! Most (maybe all) photography professors say it's more important to show your style and for all the work to fit together, than to show versatility in all sorts of areas. Some professors say to even construct the portfolio so that the entire set fits together, like one long series. I chose for my work to all fit together, but it's not meant to be a long series (because I usually don't work like that) but rather I had a couple of paired photographs that went together, along with other work since I was applying for an architecture program (for people with no experience in architecture, hence the photographs). Of course, I have only heard back from one school out of five so I'm not sure how successful my idea was.

    On a side note, since you've been away from college for a while, or at least I assume you have been since you say you're considering returning to college, you should have the opportunity to talk about what you have been doing since college, which could help you and make up for what you say is your scholastic failure (remember no one is a failure!)
     
  4. VoidoidRamone

    VoidoidRamone Subscriber

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    I am going to art school next year as a freshman undergrad, majoring in photo at Parsons School of Design. So the past several months have almost entirely been devoted to making my portfolio for colleges. All the colleges I looked at seem to only want slides or something of the like. In my experience, most don't want prints, and especially matted prints. Parsons accepted a cd of my images, or slides... I gave them a cd (the story of that goes that I slacked off at doing my slides, I picked them up the day before they were due, and they were about 2 stops overexposed! I figured it wouldn't look good sending out poor slides if I'm applying for the photography program. That night I put all my images to a cd... and I got in, but I did bring the originals to my interview. I only brought the prints in a case with no matting).

    The whole point of my portfolio, 20 pieces, was to show that I could shoot in a variety of styles. I chose to do a variety instead of focusing on one aspect for what reason I don't know, but it made more sense to me. Parsons also required a "home-exam" where I had to shoot under their topics. One was to create a collage of an indoor area, the next was a series of three photos, the last was an interpretive self-portrait. So in total, I had 25 pieces to my portfolio- 20 of my personal work, 5 of topics they provided. If curious, the images I had in my portfolio are here --> http://photobucket.com/albums/v411/VoidoidRamone/ (starting after the color stuff, with the piece titled "collage").

    Good luck!
    -Grant
     
  5. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Grant

    I am impressed, I always dreamed of going to the Parsons School of Design, I wish you the best of luck with all your endevours. I think you have made an important step. By the way your portfolio in wonderful to see..

    Philip - I think you have been given good advice by the above, keep your work clean and simple, as well do not jump all around with the imagery as also stated. good luck
     
  6. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    Actually, the school I am interested in does accept 35mm color slides..
    Am I supposed to photograph my prints using 35mm color slide film?

    Thank you for all the replies, I really do appreciate it!
    -phillip
     
  7. VoidoidRamone

    VoidoidRamone Subscriber

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    If you have access to one, use a copy stand. If not, set up two lights pointing at 45 degree angles so they cancel out the shadows. And use a tripod. If you are shooting under tungsten lighting, use a tungsten balanced slide film (or else you'll get a color cast)- and if you end up shooting under natural light, use a daylight balanced film. When you're shooting slides of your work, try to fill the frame as much as possible with the photo so that you don't have any wasted space. And from my experience, remember to take good meterings.
    -Grant
     
  8. geraldatwork

    geraldatwork Member

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    I don't have lights or copy stand equipment. I've found copying outside on an overcast day works well. The light is dispersed pretty evenly and there is less chance for reflections. I've had pretty good success with just a tripod as my camera (Nikon N80) which I use for copying has a grid in the viewfinder to get edges parallel and even.
     
  9. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Copy work can be done with one 500 watt halogen (about 8.00 2 set to the left and right work better but...) set on the floor about 3 feet beneath the print.

    Move the light around until there is no glare or shadows on the print. If the light is too bright shine it through a thin sheet.

    Put black constuction paper, black felt paper or black velvet behind the print.

    Use epy, ept or rpt II.

    It will take some testing, but I have successfully done it this way and with 2 halogens set left and right with diffusers.