Portfolios

Luckily for artists and designers, gone are the days of shooting, developing, and storing multiple copies of physical slides. Today, nearly all of the portfolios you send to graduate schools, potential employers, and galleries will be in the digital form.

The following are guidelines for creating a digital portfolio:

Look for instructions

Whether you are applying for a job, grad school, or an exhibition, there will probably be some kind of written guidelines for submitting a portfolio. Use these guidelines to make a check list for yourself. In particular, check for supporting documents (e.g. artist statements), file size and type, number of image requested.

Quality

Digital images are the main way your work will be represented in the world, so make sure the images are good quality. If your work lives outside of the computer, that means that photographs should be taken with a good SLR camera, they are properly lit, they are color-corrected, and in proper focus. If you need to get help or even hire someone, do it!

File formats

If there are guidelines, follow those exactly. If not, make sure to use file formats that will work well across all platforms (ex: .jpg or .png).

File size

Since your images will likely be viewed via a computer screen or projector, set your image pixels per inch to 72 ppi. If scaling your images for PowerPoint, the maximum dimensions should be 1024 × 768. Dimensions of the image do not need to be larger than an average computer screen (e.g. around 1920 x 1080).

Larger images can take longer to load but won't actually look any better, and if your image takes too long to load the person evaluating them may become frustrated. Remember to keep larger copies for yourself. This way if a gallery needs an image for print, you'll have one on hand. It's best to keep these large files in TIFF format as this is one of the most stable formats for digital images.

File names

It's a good idea to give your image files meaningful file names. All image file names should include at minimum your last name, unless you are instructed otherwise. You may also want to make sure that the file names will keep your files in the order you'd like them to be displayed (e.g. 01_DoeJohn_portfolio.jpg, 02_DoeJohn_portfolio.jpg…).

Curate

Remember to select only your best work. Put strongest piece first. You want to make an impression, and if your first piece isn't strong reviewers may not go on to look at the rest of your work. After the initial piece, carefully decide how to order the work based on what you want to show with your portfolio (e.g. breadth vs. development of a series, etc.). Include a one or two detail images or alternate views if they help aid in representing the work. If no specific number of slides is requested, send between 10 and 20 images.

Label and package

Label everything with your name and the position or exhibition for which you are applying. Protect the DVD of your images with a sleeve or plastic case and mail in a padded or cardboard envelope. In most cases, you will not get your DVD returned to you. If you can have it returned, remember to include a self-address envelope with the proper postage.

Further reading:

Shooting Artwork: Less is Not More
Quick Tips on Photographing Your Works of Art
Rent equipment from the Pfau Library's Multimedia Center