"Pocket" Portfolios, Anyone?

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by fretlessdavis, Feb 14, 2014.

  1. fretlessdavis

    fretlessdavis Member

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    Hey everyone,

    So some quick background-- I don't *actively* sell my photography. I print for myself and friends, and give away small prints to friends and family, which has in turn lead to the occasional sale-- not anywhere near enough to quit my day job, but enough to fund film and paper here and there. I have thought about marketing myself, but these days, that seems to be frequently online. I spend most of my time during my work day sitting in front of a PC, so I've never really had the desire to keep doing that after work.

    Anyways, I abandoned digital a while back for that reason, and was often approached by skeptical and/or curious onlookers about my cameras and film usage. That has increased tenfold since dragging around MF gear, and I suspect will increase again when people start seeing me with my old 4x5. It also seems like I frequently get asked if I am a professional, and/or where they can see my results. I do spend a lot of time backpacking and hiking to my locations, sometimes very remote, sometimes not. Previously my answer has been along the lines of "I don't scan and display digitally, as my B&W work loses something when comparing to the actual prints". I also can't really point them anywhere to see my work.

    Anyways, I don't know if any of these types would actually buy prints from me or become customers, but a lot of the time I feel like I may be missing out.

    I can't really carry a portfolio of large prints around with me everywhere. I've been thinking of ways to display smaller prints that can stay with me in my pack or camera bag for these situations. Maybe I'll sell some more prints this way, and in the least it'll get them to stop asking a bunch of questions while I'm in the middle of things, lol.

    So, does anyone carry something like a 5x7 portfolio around? Also, if so, does anyone have any recommendations for displaying at the smaller sizes that won't look cheap like the flip photo books in the days of minilab C-41?

    Compact and professional is what I'm after, if such a thing exists.
     
  2. momus

    momus Member

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    I've often thought of doing something like that, but my gut feeling is that curiosity in odd cameras on the street does not result in sales. Just my experience w/ talking to people who approach me, which usually happens when I'm shooting a folder.

    For galleries I have two schemes. One is a nice little box that is made of warm toned handmade paper, and inside the box are small fiber prints. I do not put them in clear sleeves, but leave a couple of pairs of white cotton gloves inside the box on top of the prints, and I ask the people to don them and take the prints out and look at them if they are interested in viewing them. The other approach is to put the small prints in a handmade binder book, w/ the prints held in place by corner mounts that are glued to the handmade paper. I prefer the former, but it's less convenient to carry. There's something about actually holding the prints in your hands.

    I do something similar when showing lino cut prints or paintings to galleries, and always have. I refuse to give them slides. If they would like to see the work I come 'round w/ some of it, or invite them over to view it. If that doesn't work for them, and sometimes it doesn't, I thank them for their time and leave. Later, when I come by to see their new shows, we often talk again. You want to let people know that your work is high quality, unique and special, and first impressions can be important. I hate to say this, but unfortunately it's true. You're selling yourself as well as the work. The art game is all about knowing who the players are.
     
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  3. sjauch

    sjauch Member

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    I used to carry a small book, 5x7. It was spiral bound with black pages. I used clear corner mounts to hold photos in. I didn't have more than about 20 photos. The first half were 4x4inch b&w prints from my Rollei and the rest were 4x6 color prints.

    It was very helpful with curious people and helped break barriers. I've gotten leads and access to things I otherwise may not have been able to photograph.
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have a small 5x7" Kolo book of albumen prints--6x6 in the cover window and 4x5" dry mounted to the inside pages--that I usually carry in my bag when I'm shooting large format, mainly to show people who ask me about the strange looking camera. I keep it in a glassine sleeve that I change occasionally so it doesn't get too damaged, but it's meant to be handled, and people can touch the prints.
     
  5. fretlessdavis

    fretlessdavis Member

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    Thanks for the tips. For my "regular" portfolio, I do something similar, with mounted 8x10s, but plastic sleeved and RC prints (don't have the capacity to do a lot of FB in my home darkroom) in a nice box but I don't approach galleries with it... If I did I would do those on fiber.

    My concern for doing something similar in a small size would be someone dropping everything everywhere. I like the box type presnetation. Maybe a "flip book" of single weight matte with 4x5's mounted, kept in a box would look good.

    I spend so much time backpacking, and often find myself by people with cell phones and tiny digicams, I figured that maybe if I have a small portfolio with prints superior to what they get on their preview screen, they just *might* spring for a reasonably priced 8x10 or 11x14 from me.

    I do frequent pretty common scenic trips, most recently Havasu Canyon, where I'm amazed at the money people throw around for the 'luxury' experience. Might have some luck in places like these, but I think you're probably right with the average situation.

    edit: in response to momus above, didn't see the other replies until after I typed this up.
     
  6. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    View attachment 82296

    Years ago I found the above in a charity shop and have not yet quite filled it up, but it measures 5.5" X 4" X 1" thick and I think it's kind of cute.
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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  8. fretlessdavis

    fretlessdavis Member

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  9. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I don't actively sell my stuff either. But if someone shows interest, I'd either sell it or give it away, depending on who and why.

    I have full size prints of some of my best work mounted, matted, and sleeved, and in a box, ready to show. To me, a photograph must be presented in a way that shows the best. Most of my "stuff" look so different when matted. Also, size makes difference in how it shows. So that's why I do it that way.

    I also have a pair of mount board and mat board with window on the side. I can quickly put other work (from folio) and show it.

    I rarely show my photos in folio by themselves.
     
  10. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I usally carry 8x10.

    Jeff
     
  11. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Member

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    The best portfolio for me has been my 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab-2. An iPad would work fine too. Some other cheaper tablets have crappy displays that do not make the photos look good, but the iPad and the Samsungs have pretty nice screens. I'm a working professional. I have no desire to carry more stuff than I need to, and taking the attitude that you will not scan anything to show people is just plain dumb. Without a website today, you might as well not even bother if you want to sell or exhibit your work. You should not let emotions get in the way of business.
     
  12. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I would agree with Chris about using a tablet, except for one issue.

    If your work has very distinct physical characteristics (e.g. carbon prints or wet plate) you would want to complement the tablet with at least one actual print.
     
  13. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I've made some small books of fibre based prints, they are in storage (or I'd measure them) but I mean small - I had to make reduction prints from 5x4 negatives. Others are a bit larger.

    Small books are great, a wonderful exercise in editing and sequencing, and a powerful way of showing images in an understated way. So you cut the hype (of overly large prints) and show the content, good content looks great at all sizes.

    Ian
     
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  15. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    When I was traveling for 6 months with a 4x5, I carried a 4x5/25sheet film box filled with loose 4x5 contact prints to share with others, or just to go thru myself when I was bored. It was a nice informal portfolio -- no mat board to get dirty, I did not worry about how people handled the prints...and the prints made for fun gifts if the occasion warranted it...or a very nice business card.

    I carried a second 4x5/25 sheet film box contained my spare GG.
     
  16. fretlessdavis

    fretlessdavis Member

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    Don't want to do the tablet thing... see my OP about getting approached while out on long hikes/backpacking/climbing/canyoneering trips. Also, never said I was a professional that was *actively* trying to sell my work. Again, if the situation comes up or someone likes my work, I'll sell prints, but it's not a huge deal. If I ever did, I would definitely scan my work and get it online. As it stands, I can't stand editing on a computer, and don't have a decent scanner.

    I like the idea of carrying around a box of contact prints/4x5 prints, actually, seems simple, as there's nothing to really worry about. An old film box or paper box would be easy to toss in with my gear.
     
  17. Richard Man

    Richard Man Member

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    Whatever you do, especially if you do go with physical prints, even though you may think of this as informal thing, make sure the quality and consistency are there. Most people do not appreciate the finer differences but some do. So please think of this as a portfolio that you will show to a National Geographic or New York Times or equivalent reviewer, and not just a random person on the street. You never know who you are going to meet.

    The tablet does have an advantage there - with the bright and "interacting with a tablet" experience, some times it can mask off the defects of a portfolio.
     
  18. fretlessdavis

    fretlessdavis Member

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    Thanks for the tip on that. Subpar prints never leave the darkroom, unless I'm tired and the defects are really tiny. I'll usually sort through things a few more times, too... So the quality will be there, I just need to figure out an easy/durable/decent way to carry/display them. Again, tablet doesn't really work for me =/ An intriguing idea for the future, though.

    Off topic a bit, but what are people using to scan prints these days? I've got an Epson 4490 in storage that has striping issues. If I *did* decide to put together a website, which wouldn't be too bad, I guess, I have enough experience to put it all together and effectively market it, I'd rather do medium res scans of prints instead of trying to get film scans to match my prints. I'd also have to get over my perfectionist issues... selling prints to people who occasionally ask seems totally fine, but I doubt I'd ever think any of my work was *really* good enough to market and sell.
     
  19. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i used to carry pratt pressbooks around all the time
    just for the reason you are talking about.
    i got mine at pearl paint in cambridge mass,
    but i am sure they sell similar things at any art supply store.

    good luck !
    john
     
  20. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    I've done what Vaughn did. A 4x5 box with contact prints. I'd carry a variety of things- straight prints, sepia/split toned, hand-colored, and a few (sleeved) color transparencies. I also kept a few matted/bagged enlargements in the car, if anyone cared to see them. I actually sold a few of the matted ones that way.
     
  21. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    Instead of trying to scan a print (especially a large one requiring multiple scans being merged) just use a decent digi camera on a copy-stand. I spent years doing this with flat artwork and an 8x10, and it works just as well with a digi-camera.

    Having said that, small prints can easily be shown off in a "luxury" manner in a selfmade Japanese-folder style booklet. A sort of concertina style arrangement of one very long page. That Moleskin company make them too, if one doesn't have a bookbinder friend to glue up the covers.
     
  22. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    All of my prints are 344 x 277mm on 30 x 40 paper so a scanner would have to be A3 and that would be a big expense for me plus they are pretty big things to have in our cramped flat. What I do (all images on my website were done this way) is to use a small digital camera. I bought a secondhand Lumix LX3 for a very reasonable price based on many recommendations from friends and it works a treat (albeit the longest end of the zoom is still rather short).

    As we both produce work on a regular basis, I photograph our work twice per year. To photograph my work and my partner's paintings, I fix four nails with right angled heads to the wall (spaced so that they hold my mounted prints flat to the wall) and then I set up a 'studio' setting with the Lumix on a tripod, two builder's lights at 45˚ and a large piece of matt black card with a hole cut in the centre (to stop reflections off the prints) that fits over the lens. I then place a sheet of white paper mounted on a board where my B&W mounted prints and the painting will be placed and use the custom white balance feature to get accurate colours. I then take a meter reading and set the camera exposure mode to manual. This method gives very good results with minimal requirement for editing later (other than making the images of my work greyscale).

    I have found that carrying around small example prints was not really worth it (I very rarely get approached when I am photographing despite using a Mamiya 7 with a shoulder brace). However, when at exhibition openings, meeting with friends or social gatherings people are generally very interested in what work I make (often prompted by someone mentioning that I work with film and make my prints in a darkroom) and giving them a card with my website address and offering to show them the real prints if they find my website interesting has proved to be very successful.

    I do not sell enough to make a living but, through the website / visiting to see the prints, having an 'open studio' once per year and through solo exhibitions I certainly can subsidise my work (I sell on average 20 prints per year).

    I would recommend making a website as a way of people being able to get a 'first glimpse' of your work.

    Bests,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  23. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    would an ipad work?some of my B&Wimages lokk better on a screen than in real life;better midtone contrast I think.:laugh:
     
  24. fretlessdavis

    fretlessdavis Member

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    Thanks for the tips everyone. I'm pretty handy, but mostly with woodwork, so I may commission my girlfriend/printing partner into making something. I alos have lots of scraps of exotic wood laying around from my guitar building days, I may do a simple bandsaw box to hold bleed-mounted 4x5 prints and contacts.

    Thanks for the tips on the copy stand-- we do have a nice Pentax DSLR for the family/friends/quick turnaround type deals (no idea where the charger is at this point), and my F30 pulls double duty as a copy stand. I'll try that combo out and see what I can do. Unlike a piece of film, I think I could capture the range of a print pretty nicely without a bunch of digital trickery.

    Int
     
  25. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

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    Why? It's sounds like you are a like most on here, a photo enthusiast, not a working photographer...

    I have great, clever ways in which I show actual prints in the field while I am working, but being the "CEO" of my own small company, there is no way in hell I am sharing that stuff with enthusiasts online, lol!
     
  26. fretlessdavis

    fretlessdavis Member

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    I wouldn't expect anyone to share their personal business practices with me, just looking for tips from the other 'photo enthusiasts' that make up this community =)

    I agree though, I run a small engineering project management company, and as the CEO, I would *never* share about my practices on an online forum, but am more than happy to share tips and tricks from any of my hobbies.

    I've got some great ideas from here, and I'll work something up that is my own-- not really going to copy anyone on here either.

    Thanks for the tips, everyone!!!