With 2014 almost over, and no more shoots planned for this year, I went through my yearly exercise of selecting my top ten photographs, and today I share my selection process with you, as I believe this exercise is something that many of us can benefit from. I’ll be talking a little about each of my final selected ten images in next week’s episode.
I find it incredibly valuable to select my top ten each year. It gives us a holistic view of our year, and of course, forms a record of our achievements within that year. I really recommend that you do this yourself too, and if you do, I’d love for you to share a link to your own Top Ten once completed, via the comments section below this post. I always enjoy seeing what you’ve created as well.
If this is the first time you do this, your 2014 top ten will become your baseline. This is your stake in the ground. But if you’ve done it before, or as you move forward to future years, you can come back and compare your work to previous years, and hopefully feel that you have improved with each year.
As we discussed in The Evolution of the Photographer, if you’ve been to some amazing location in previous years, you may still feel as though that work was your best to date, but that amazing work should still elevate you to higher ground from which you shot this year’s work, and the results should hopefully be more refined and higher quality, even if you were not able to visit the best locations or find the most amazing subjects etc.
The Selection Process
You may have followed my Top Ten posts from previous years, and so some of this will be repeated, but let’s walk through the technical aspects of this exercise as well as my thoughts on the agony that I’m sure you’ll also feel as you do this. I work in Lightroom, so that’s what I’ll focus on today. If you use another piece of software you’ll have to translate for your selection process.
In the Library module I have a Collection Set called “Top Tens” and inside that I have some of my previous year Top Tens inside other Collection Sets. If you only want to save your final Top Ten for 2014, you can just create a Collection called 2014, but I like to leave a record of my selection process as well, so I use Sets.
So, inside my Top Tens Set, I create a “2014 Top Ten” Collection Set, and in there, I create a Collection called First Pass. When I create that Collection I turn on “Set as target collection” so as I look through my 2014 images, I can just hit the “B” key on the keyboard, and that image is then added to this First Pass Collection.
Because I save all of my best photos from the year into what I call a Finals folder, I don’t have to go looking in various locations for my images. I have a Finals folder with all of my best work included, and inside there, I have a year folder for every year, so it’s really easy to see find my 2014 greatest hits. Inside the 2014 Finals folder, my images are star rated so that I can easily filter out images that I don’t want to consider here.
For example, if I create a black and white image, or do anything to an image in Photoshop, or any plugin that causes me to create a copy of my original raw file, I give that original raw file a 2 star rating, and save that in my Finals folder along with the processed image, so that I can always easily get back to the original if necessary. I also keep these images in my original shoot folders, which are organised into Year, Month and then Day folders, but I like having these originals along side my Final images as well.
My 3 star images is anything that I feel is good enough to show people, although it is not my best work. I also submit anything 3 star or above to OFFSET for consideration to be added to my stock library. My 4 star images are better than my 3 star. This is work that I’m more likely to show people, and use in my ebooks and magazine articles etc. My 5 star images are what I consider portfolio quality. They may not necessarily be in a portfolio, but they are my best work. The cream of the crop.
I could of course just filter out only my five star images and start there for my Top Ten selection, but I actually just filter out all of the originals, so I start from 3 star and above. The reason for this is because how I view my images is constantly changing. I can look at my 5 star images one day and think that some of them are crap, and I can go through my 3 star images and wonder why I only gave it 3 stars, so I like to include everything from 3 upwards.
If you are wondering what I use 1 star for, that’s in my original photo folders, and I call it my “once great” rating. As I’m culling down images from any given shoot, I start by giving everything I like 3 stars, and then I remove images from this set by hitting the 1 key on my keyboard, giving them a 1 star rating. I could just hit the 0 (zero) key to remove the rating altogether, but I like to leave a record of what I initially thought was any good, so my 1 star images were “once great”.
To make my selection, I select the first image from the year in the Library, and hit the “F” key to view that image full screen. I then just try to feel my emotional reaction to each image as they appear on the screen. I try not to second guess myself, and think, I really like this, but I know it’s not going to make the grade, so I hit the “B” key for pretty much everything that makes me smile as I work through this first pass. From 2014 I have 318 three or higher star images, and my first pass resulted in 105 images, as we see in this screenshot (below).
If you have a handle on your image archiving to make it easy to get to your best shots for the year, getting to this point is really easy, but it starts to get more difficult from this point on. I now create another Collection inside my Set and call it Second Pass. I actually populate this second collection with all of the images from my first pass, as I find it easier to delete the one’s that I don’t want to include any more, rather than going through and selecting images again.
As you start your second pass, if you have any similar images at this point, it’s a good time to select all similar images, and narrow these down to as few as possible. I try to do this with images after every shoot. My objective is always to end up with as few images as I can get my selection down to. This is also similar to when I’m putting a portfolio together. Generally I start with a target number of images, or simply aim for as few as possible. These restrictions help us to be ruthless, and 10, is a pretty tight restriction if you had even a half decent year.
So, taking actually longer than it took to do my first pass, I’m now down to 58 photos in my Second Pass Collection. Now it starts to get really difficult. I am already finding it hard to let go on some of these, but I have to kill almost 5 out of each 6 images. As Zack Arias says, this process now starts to feel like lining up our children and deciding which ones to shoot.
Once again I made a third collection, and called it Third Pass, and included these 58 images, and started again. Here’s my third pass results. 30 Images. It’s time to take a break and go for a walk. Ideally, when you have the time to do this, leave your selection for a day or two. Throw these images up in a slideshow and watch as they pass by on the screen. If you feel even the slightest bit deflated as the next image appears, hit the delete key to get it out of the set.
I was hoping to be down to my top ten by now, but I ended up with a Fourth Pass Collection, containing these 20 images (below). I took these twenty and create one last collection called 2014 Top Ten. I committed to removing one out of each two of these images. I hate this part, and you probably will too, but this is not only an important part of exercise to help us evaluate our year of photography, but it it really does get you used to making difficult decisions.
I started to look at duplicates. For example, I have two crane shots left, so one had to go. Two black and white flower shots left, so one had to go. I had a very similar shot to the waterfall on the right of the second row in last year’s Top Ten, so I removed that. I still had four waterfall shots so I removed the one on the far left of the third row.
Down to 16, and I’m pacing the studio. I both love and hate this exercise. It makes me really think about my year’s work, but at the same time I resent having to remove images that I love from this set. The slideshow trick stops working. Every image that is displayed on the screen excites me, and makes me wish I was back at these locations. Of course, I’ll be back with in Hokkaido in just a week’s time with my Hokkaido Landscape Adventure with David duChemin and 14 crazy participants, followed by two Winter Wonderland Wildlife workshops with the Snow Monkeys then off to Hokkaido, which I’m seriously looking forward to, but right now, I have to look back, not forwards. Aargh!
OK, so, with just a ten image restriction, two snow monkeys is one too many. As much as I want to keep the leaping monkey, the thoughtful loving pose of the mother holding her baby in the harsh cold snow is the better image. It’s time to get rid of the Sulphur Mountain apocalyptic shot too and the Iceland Sea Stacks. I still have two Iceland waterfall shots. OK, say goodbye to the vertical one. I’m down to twelve shots. I still have two Steller’s sea eagle shots. One is more like a landscape than a wildlife shot, so I really want to leave both in. Decisions, decisions…
When I submitted two photos of the Jetty on Lake Towada to OFFSET, they chose the other one for my stock library. Does that mean I’ve got the wrong one in this collection? Who cares! It’s my art not theirs and it stays. Can’t I just do a Top Twelve instead? Nope, that’s a cop out…
I tried the slideshow once more, and got a micro-deflation from the vertical blue iceberg image, so hit delete before I changed my mind, and we now have just one to remove to get to my 2014 Top Ten. Jeez this is hard!! OK, so as much as I love it, the view of the frosty river with the cranes dancing is very similar to my old distant dance shot, and it’s the last image that I can possibly imagine not including, so it’s gone. We’re down to my Top Ten for 2014 (below).
This was probably the hardest selection process I’ve had so far. I wasn’t consciously trying to create a balance between landscape and wildlife images, but the result actually shows pretty much the balance between these two main genres that I work in. Four wildlife shots, and four landscape shots, with the eagle at sunrise being a bit of a mix between the two. The black and white flower shot makes up the ten, and this is an important genre for me.
Art from the Heart
I’ve heard some very vocal photography figures talk about flower shots as low hanging fruit, and slam the entire genre, but I have zero time for people like that. If something brings you pleasure in your photography, do as much of it as you can, and enjoy every moment, regardless of what other people say. I don’t think anyone has the right to tell us what we should or should not shoot, or how we should or should not process the work. It’s out art, and we have to be true to ourselves, and our hearts. Art from the heart as it were.
Looking at these images, comparing them to my previous year’s top tens, I feel as though I’ve improved some. This could just be because I’m viewing these are Martin version 2014, with my current sensibilities, but I hope that it really is because my work has improved. If you’d like to see my old selections, I’ve been posting this every year since 2007, with the exception of 2010, and if you type “top ten” in the Search field in the sidebar of the blog, you will see a pull-down containing each of these years posts.
Unfortunately moving disks etc. has meant that I gradually lost my Top Ten collections from some years in Lightroom, so I’ve started to do this exercise using an external hard drive that I use on both my iMac and my MacBook Pro, so I won’t be losing these collections in future. If I can make time, I’ll go through and rebuild my final selections from each year, as I have a record here on the blog. It would be nice to go back and actually view each set of images in Lightroom too. After all, these are the fruits of our labour of love.
Share Your Top Ten
I hope you’ve found it useful to walk through the process with me this week though. I really recommend that you set some time aside to do this yourself as well, and as I said, do post a link to your selection in the comments below. I’d love to take a look, and I know that you’ll learn from the experience, especially if you’ve never done this before.
I believe that the ability to edit your images down to a finite number or the minimum possible images, is a skill that many photographers don’t develop early enough. Quite often, at some point, you’ll be asked to provide your 10 best shots for one reason or another. It could be fifty shots, or just five, and it might be from every year you’ve been shooting, not just the current year. When that happens, you could find yourself in a panic, so you might be happy that you developed these skills earlier rather than later, and if nothing else, it helps to view your progress over the years.
Fine Art Print Giveaway
Before we finish, I’d just wanted to let you know that I’ve just drawn the winner for our previous Fine Art Print Giveaway, and will be posting a 17 x 24 inch print of my Jewel on the Shore photograph to Wayne Kowalski in the U.S. tomorrow. Because I’m traveling most of the next two months, I will be drawing the next winner on March 6, 2015, and they will win a 17 x 24″ print of my Kussharo Lake Tree photograph (below). I thought this was a fitting winter print to give away, and I’ll be visiting the location where this tree used to live over the next few months too. Unfortunately, it caught a disease and was cut down the year I made this photo, so this photo is very special to me.
For details of the giveaway and to enter for your chance to win, visit our giveaway page at https://mbp.ac/giveaway.
I recently bought a Pina Zangaro portfolio case, and put together a physical portfolio of some of my work, to take to clients to discuss using my images in their magazines. A portfolio is also useful to present your work to potential clients to win assignments, and most printed media clients want to see a printed portfolio or book of your work.
My old portfolio, a black clamshell box in a leather case, was starting to look very dated, and didn’t really portray the image that I want to show potential clients, so I decided to splash out on the case that I’d originally considered some six years or so ago. Today I’m going to discuss my process for selecting my portfolio images, the format, and also take a look at my new case, which I’m really pleased with.
I actually originally tackled part of this subject back in September 2006, when I released Podcast episode 55. I walked you through my process for creating a portfolio at the time, but the tools have changed, so today I wanted to talk a little about how I edited my selection down in Lightroom. If you don’t use Lightroom, you can certainly do similar things in Aperture, Bridge or even Finder or Explorer on Windows, but we’ll concentrate on Lightroom and you’ll need to rethink this yourself for your own system if you use another tool for your photo management.
Decide Format & Orientation
As you start to consider your portfolio, it helps to make a decision on your format before selecting your images. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from creating multiple portfolios in multiple formats, but if you try to work on too many possible formats at once, you run the risk of weakening them all, or worse, not actually completing any of them. I suggest you set your sights on one main presentation format, and aim to take that to completion, but work in a way that will enable you to easily rework your collections for other formats, or easily extend or create new collections without having to start from scratch each time.
Pina Zangaro Camden Portfolio Case
We’ll talk a little about other formats later, but for my main portfolio, I decided to go with a loose leaf portfolio, that would allow me to easily change the contents and order of the portfolio. The case I bought also has room for some sixty or so prints if I need to, which means I could for example carry two or three large collections of images if I need to. Note that I wouldn’t suggest walking into a clients office with 60 images in a single portfolio. That’s too many. You want to be working with 20 to 30 images or an even tighter edit when you know exactly what the client wants.
Another decision that it helps to make before you start to edit down your image selection is the orientation of your portfolio and whether you will print all of your images with the paper in that orientation. For example, if you print with the pages in landscape orientation, you might want to try to select landscape oriented images over portrait when possible. And for the portrait aspect images you leave in, you need to decide whether you will print them with the page also in portrait mode, or print them smaller with the page still positioned horizontally, to save you or your clients from having to turn the page for portrait images.
Of course, if you know that your potential clients prefer portrait aspect, which is common with some kinds of magazine, you may decide to print in portrait orientation, and even print your landscapes narrower in this orientation, although there is of course the option of printing double page in the magazine. There are lots of possibilities to consider, but whichever you decide, it’s good to make this decision before you start your selection, and give yourself maximum flexibility in your portfolio as you start to print.
One other thing to note is that when I find something in the field that can be shot in both orientations, I usually do. This allows me to select a portrait or landscape orientation of essentially the same subject based on these factors.
Also keep in mind that if your final output is going to be a printed book, although you may still be able to decide to go with landscape or portrait orientations, you won’t realistically be able to flip the book around to change orientation. You’ll need to create a book that most matches your clients requirements and your images, and go with that. The good thing with books though is that it’s easier to include two portrait images facing each other on an open book, and if necessary, spread landscape work across both pages, although in this case you do have to be mindful of what you’d lose in the dead area in the binding of the book pages.
Once you have decided on your format though, be it loose leaf or book, portrait or landscape, we can move on to start our selection process.
The Selection Process
As a standard process, I’m a big believer in keeping tabs on my best work as I shoot, and I actually make a copy of these best images to make selections like this easier. I do all of my rating leaving the stars on my original RAW files, so that I can easily go back to my original folders and sort by the star rating, and see exactly which images rose above the rest and made it to my Best Images collection. I also leave 2 stars against everything that I thought was good, but didn’t make the final cut, so that I can easily go back and look for something similar later if necessary.
Once I’ve completed my selection process, I create a copy of the best images in a different location, and archive the originals. The result is that I continuously build on a collection of my best work, so I don’t have to trawl through over 130,000 and growing original files when I start a project like this. If you don’t already do this, it’s a good idea to start. It makes things much easier.
There are currently some 3,000 images in my Best Images folder, although the selection is ready for a bit of a pruning session. I live with my images all the time though, looking through my library often, and I always have a bunch of stronger favorites in mind. The first thing I did when I decided to put this recent portfolio together was decide on my main theme, which was going to be Japanese Winter Wildlife and Landscape, one of my stronger genres. I also decided to select and print a few of my other season images, so I went through my 3,000 best shots, and started to select my favorite Japan nature and wildlife images.
I find the easiest way to make your selections in Lightroom is to create a Collection in the Library module called Best Shots or something like that, right click it and select “Set as Target Collection”. Once you’ve done this, you can just go through your images and hit the B key on your keyboard to add it to the collection, and hitting B again will remove it. If you don’t already have that batch of your best work, like my 3,000 shots, then you’ll need to go to your archives, and add everything you are confident showing people and that represent your best work.
Be Very Selective
Even at this point though, be very selective. Your portfolio is only as good as the worst image it contains. If you are undecided between on or two images of a similar subject, at this point it’s still OK to put them into your collection, but the next phase of the process has to be another run through your images to whittle that selection down to as few strong images as possible. If you are doing this for the first time, I suggest you do include both portrait and landscape oriented images, even of the same subject if you have them, as that will give you more flexibility in producing a portfolio in various formats later.
My first pass through my best shots with my Japanese nature theme in mind resulted in 79 images in my initial selection. (Click images to view larger.)
Japan Nature and Wildlife Best 79
Once you have your selection of best shots, it’s time to really narrow this down to only the images that you intend to include in your portfolio. By all means, make a copy of your collection at this point, and that will be your intermediate base for creating larger or more varied portfolios, but we still want to move on now and whittle this down to a much tighter edit for your printed portfolio.
Let’s continue the selection process though, now really bearing orientation in mind if you have to. I decided for my loose leaf portfolio I was going to print full page, regardless of the orientation, so that people would be able to see my images as large and detailed as possible, although when I had the option, I selected landscape over portrait orientation to avoid making the client turn the pages, as much as possible at least.
Next I reduced my selection to just Winter Nature and Wildlife shots, and I still had 55 shots in my collection. My goal was to keep the main part of the portfolio, without any other backup images, to no more than 30, it was time to start getting really ruthless. I still had to kill off almost half of my selection.
It was at this point, that I enlisted the help of my wife, as I feel it’s important to get impartial feedback from a trusted third party. My wife can certainly be ruthless, and although I don’t agree with her on every single choice, in general, she’s really good at helping me to weed out the images that the selection can live without.
After a nasty afternoon deciding which of my images had to go for the sake of the greater good, I was finally down to 32 images, and decided to sleep on the selection. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the process, and remember that each of these images is selected from what I believe is my best work. They’re like my children. In fact, Zack Arias did a post last year about his portfolio creation process, and in that post he mentions that one of his friends said “It’s like lining up your children and deciding which ones you’re going to shoot” and someone else rephrased it to “…deciding which ones you love more”. I can totally relate to both of these sentiments. It’s hard, but you have to reduce your numbers to something reasonable.
After walking away from my selection for the night, the next day I was able to reduce my selection by two more, to my initial goal of thirty, and as I continued to work on the printing, I actually removed two more, taking the portfolio down to 28 Japan Winter Wildlife & Landscape images. For a large printed portfolio this feels like a good number to me.
Lose the Emotion!
Something to note here is that one of the images that I killed last was one from this year’s Hokkaido Workshop. I’ve mentioned a number of times in previous Podcasts that I like to sleep on my images for at least three days, and usually more than a week if possible, before making my final selections to post to the Web or otherwise show people. Well, this emotional attachment that we have with our images continues to wear off as the memory of the experience and hard work that we went through fades.
The last image that I removed is a nice image, and it will continue to live on in my Best Shots folder for years to come, I’m sure, but it was probably only in my final selection because of the emotion of the experience and any viewer of an image in a portfolio doesn’t have that. They only see the image in front of them, and if you have to spend time explaining why it’s “good”, then it probably isn’t. At least not good enough to be in your best of the best portfolio.
Japan Winter Wildlife & Landscape 28
So here’s my final 28 images for this initial Japan Winter Wildlife & Landscape portfolio. It looks a bit bleak compared to my very colorful Nature of Japan selection, but this is to show a Landscape centric client, so I’ve tailored it for their use, and this is an important point, and one of the reasons that I went for a lose leaf portfolio as opposed to a printed book at this point.
Specific but Flexible
In addition to the above 28 images, I have printed 10 of my images from other seasons from around Japan, and 5 images from last year’s Antarctica expedition. These are to have ready if the conversation moves on from the Winter work, and as I mentioned earlier, having a lose portfolio allows me to print various images and mix and match what I include for any given meeting, depending on client needs. In the coming weeks I intend to do more printing to create a full Nature of Japan portfolio, so that I’m ready to take that out at the drop of a hat too.
Note too that I can also reorder this set depending on what I think is important to any given client. One rule of thumb that I touched on back in my 2006 Podcast episode is that you do want to lead and finish with your best two images of your set. Of course, you have worked hard to get this selection down to what you consider your very best work, but even within that, there are going to be varying degrees of greatness, so select the best two and put them at either end of the set.
Note that in Lightroom if you drag and drop an image into a different location in your list of images, it will automatically switch your sort style to User Order, so you can easily use Lightroom to decide on the order in which you’ll present your images. This is also useful if you are going to print your book, as you can use Lightroom to work on the order without printing your images out if that works better for you. When I first started keeping a printed portfolio, I used to print out the images on plain paper, and lay them out on the floor, which works, and is great for collaborative editing, but at the moment, I prefer doing this in Lightroom initially, then physically reordering the prints, and making any adjustments necessary after that.
The Printing Process
So, as I set about the task of actually printing my portfolio images, I used a few techniques that made the process easier, which I wanted to pass on here. Firstly, before I printed any of my images, I used the new Soft Proofing feature in Lightroom 4 to check and adjust all of my images. I touched on this in my Lightroom 4 Beta video in episode 319, so I won’t go into detail today, but being able to move through all of these images, checking how they’ll look when printed, and making any necessary adjustments right there in Lightroom made the whole process much quicker. I soft-proofed all 28 images in less than an hour, including adjustments, whereas it would have taken me probably a day to do this in Photoshop. This new feature in Lightroom 4 is incredibly useful.
Lightroom 4 Soft Proofing
As you soft-proof in Lightroom, if you make any adjustments to the image specifically for print, Lightroom will create a virtual copy of the image, appending the printing profile name to the copy, so that you can identify it correctly later.
To make the printing process smoother and easier to track, once I’d finished soft-proofing, I selected all of the soft proof virtual copies, and the images that had not required any soft-proofing, and created a second Collection called “For Print”, and told Lightroom to include the images that I had selected.
Then, when I started to print each image, I selected to only show images without a color label in the Attribute toolbar in Lightroom, and as each print was completed, I hit the number 6 key on my keyboard, to add a red label to the image I’d printed. This not only made the image disappear from the list, so that my current view of the collection only contained images that still needed to be printed, but it also gave me an indicator later on that the image had already been printed, should I select the image or soft proof copy in the future for another variation on my portfolio. I use number six for red, as in stop, to make me stop and think before printing, but you can of course use any color, or even star ratings or the flags, whatever works for you.
Pina Zangaro Camden Portfolio Case
Let’s just take a quick look at my new Pina Zangaro Camden Portfolio case (no longer available) before we move on too. As you can see, I had the case Laser Etched with my company logo and a part of a landscape scene across the bottom of the case.
Laser Etched Pina Zangaro Camden Portfolio Case
To create the artwork, I used Photoshop to roughly cut out part of one of my winter landscape shots, and then posterized it to make the details almost totally black, and then I opened the image in Adobe Illustrator and created an outline from my image, which is what you have to submit for etching. I then just placed my logo at what I thought was an esthetically pleasing position on the case, and sent it in for the Etching to be done.
MBP Portfolio Case with Leading Photo
As I said earlier, I’ve been hankering after one of these Camden cases for around six year or so, and so I was really excited to be finally placing an order. I went for the 11×17″ case, which is probably named that way because you can put 11×17″ portfolio books inside, but my plan was to place my prints directly inside the case, which has internal dimensions just over 13×19″ so it’s perfect of course for 13×19″ prints too as you can see here (click image to view larger).
The case in incredibly well made, and I’m very happy with it. It was certainly worth the wait, and I’m pleased that I personalized the case with some artwork and our logo.
You can check out the pricing over at www.pinazangaro.com but just to let you know that this particular size and case without the laser etching costs $220, and if you add the laser etching allowing five days for the work, they cost $292, plus shipping. I wasn’t in a hurry so five days was fine for me, but if you are in a hurry there’s a one day laser etching option too, for $364, plus shipping. These certainly aren’t the cheapest portfolio cases around, but the impression that this will give my future clients, could well be priceless. 🙂
There are times when a client just wants you to send them a physical book of your work, so my next job is to decide whether I’m going to send off to Blurb to create an actual book of this current portfolio, or create a book matching my new Camden Portfolio Case, with something like the Pina Zangaro Machina Presentation Book. I must admit this is what I’m leaning towards, as it will allow me to add printed pages either in polypropylene sleeves, or with adhesive hinge strips, and I can add business card or DVD pockets to make the presentation totally self contained.
As interest in my work here in Japan increases, having these various ways to approach potential clients and present or have them view my work in a way that works best for each situation is going to be very useful.
We shouldn’t close either without noting that I do also usually take either my iPad or MacBook Pro when I’m meeting clients, so that I can quickly show them other work that I have, should the need arise. I make sure that I have a number of collections loaded on my iPad for impromptu presentation, but I actually have all 3,000 of those best shots loaded too, and I know roughly where each image is if I need to show something relatively obscur from my library.
If I’m using my MacBook Pro, I just fire up Lightroom and I can show them collections right there, but the great thing about the iPad is that you can give your clients a more tactile experience and let them control the experience by just passing them the iPad.
I have been using a few portfolio applications on the iPad, namely Foliobook, and I recently also picked up Xtrafolio as well to compare the two. Both work great, although I haven’t yet reset these up fully since upgrading to the new iPad, but I’ll be revisiting these applications soon. I will probably do a Podcast episode on them both once I’ve taken Xtrafolio through it’s paces, and seen which of the two I personally start to sway towards.
Oh, and on resolution, I know that there are lots of schools of thought on how to resize for the iPad, but honestly, I just export full sized JPEGs to a folder on my hard drive, and I just sync that to the iPad. I let Apple deal with the resizing and it works great. You can zoom right in on the details when necessary, and the images look stunning, so I’m a happy camper.
To round off the discussion on the portfolio, I should also note that I will often also take a number of relavent tear-sheets of previous uses of my work, to show the potential customer not only how my work is being used, but this is a good chance to show that you are actively working with other clients, which obviously becomes a more powerful tool as you get more big names in your previous client list.
I also keep a digitized version of these tear-sheets on my iPad and iPhone, as you never know when this stuff might come up in conversation. All of my images and collections are on my phone too of course, which is always with me, and the Retina display actually makes this a viable method of showing images to someone that you meet unexpectedly.
I don’t think there’s any one way to present your work, though I do suggest that you make your image selection process robust enough that you can easily go back and pick out some relevant images to cater for various client’s needs. I was recently asked to go and meet a few people at Canon, with very short notice, but because I already have my best shots identified, I was able to quickly create a collection of some 40 images on my MacBook Pro to show them, and they sat through all of them, commenting on each, which was great.
If you do have clients that deal with printed images, I do suggest that you try to create at least one printed portfolio, and although I know money doesn’t grow on trees, don’t scrimp too much on your presentation either. Whatever type of portfolio you choose, makes sure it’s as classy as you and your images, and you’ll get the right message across to your potential, and hopefully future clients.
Pina Zangaro Camden Portfolio Case – removed link because no longer available.
Some time ago I saw a Luminous Landscape Video Journal interview with Lenswork’s Brooks Jensen, in which he showed some work in a card folio, and I immediately fell in love with the look of these folios. I thought it was such a unique and practical way to package smallish prints to be viewed hand held, and even passed around. It took a lot of work and patience to actually get to the point where I have something to sell, and to be honest, there’s not much point in my going into much detail about the process, because the same resources are not going to be available to many of you that don’t live in Japan, but I’ll give you an outline of what I did, and then talk a little about the folios themselves.
If you are at a computer now, and want to understand better what I’m talking about, you might want to go over to www.mbpfolios.com, and take a quick look at the folios themselves, and to get the best idea of what they are, click on the Videos link, and take a look at the short video I have published to show you the inside of one of the folios.
Martin Bailey Photography Fine Art Folios
If you think back to episodes 192 and 193 of this Podcast, I spoke about some fine art inkjet paper tests that I’d been doing, and I also released a PDF file with the results of those tests. What I was actually doing at that time was trying to decide the paper that I would use for these folios. Based on those tests I narrowed my choice down to a few papers and set about the task of sourcing the paper in bulk for the folios. Unfortunately, as I looked for the various components originally, including a matte board that I would stick to the back of the folio both for strength and so that you couldn’t see the back of the title photo stuck to the back of the window in the folder, I was not able to find everything in a common size.
I won’t bore you with the details, but after much though, I decided to use 8.5 x 11″ paper for the folios. I think also the paper I had chosen was not available in bulk in A4 and also with the boilerplate that I was going to put along the bottom of each print, I would lose some height, and so I wanted a slightly taller aspect than A4. I also found that I could order the papers I wanted in boxes of 50 from B&H in the States, which would help to keep costs down. Of course, I have to ship the paper to Japan, but the papers I wanted are just not available here. This is one area where we are pretty much all on a level playing field if you decided to do something similar to this yourself.
The folios needed to be die-pressed and de-bossed which I obviously can’t do myself, so the next thing I needed was a design to show my idea to the paper processing companies that I would approach. I designed my folio in Adobe Illustrator, bearing in mind that unlike Lenswork, I was not going to be able to make different folios for various purposes. I would need to use one folder for multiple folios, so I didn’t add anything in the folder design that would be folio specific. I just added my logo and Martin Bailey Photography to be de-bossed on the front and back of the folder and a window in which I would put a representative photo from the folio with the folio title. That way I could change the folio to work for just about any content that I want.
To house 8.5 x 11″ prints, the folder ended up being 482mm high by 554mm across. To check that the folder actually folder as planned, I printed it out on 13×19″ paper, which is much smaller than the actual folder, but it allowed me to fold and check the design. Once I got something that I was relatively happy with, I started to look for a company that would work with me on the die-pressing and de-bossing. This was probably the most difficult part of the whole project. I mailed and called a number of companies that looked as though they could help, but none of them had machinery large enough to die-press my folder.
I got in touch with our good friend Landon Michaelson in the US, and Landon was kind enough to put me in touch with a good company that did me a reason quote, but with me being in Japan, they were difficult to get hold of by phone, and while I was still trying to get hold of them, a company here in Japan that I’d reached out to replied to my mail. They took a few weeks, so I’d given up on them, but they told me straight away that they thought it looked like an interesting project and they’d love to help. I double checked that they could work to the sizes I required, and was delighted to hear that they could. It was one of those punch-the-air moments! Funnily enough, it’s the same company that makes the quick reference guide that ships with every Canon Camera around the world, so we hit it off pretty quickly. I visited their facility, about a four hour drive from Tokyo, and was impressed with their machinery and processes. In the following weeks they sent me various paper samples until we decided the paper that I’d use.
This same company ended up helping me to get the heavy tracing paper that goes between the prints and the introduction pages. They also put me in touch with a company to order the transparent plastic sleeves that each folio will be slipped into. They weren’t so hot on getting me matte boards for strength, so I ended up having those order made, cut to size at another company here in Japan. They also got me some pH neutral glue to stick the photo and matte board to the folder.
Things to note that we found most difficult were that because every component has to be acid free, pH Neutral, archival quality, we had to double check with every supplier that their materials met our standards. Another limiting factor that would hold people back from creating these folders is that to keep the price down, you have to order a lot of stuff. The paper that I used for the folder for example comes in 250 sheet lots. We can die-press 2 folio folders from each sheet, so this means that I have 500 folders to sell. The heavy tracing paper comes in lots large enough to not really make it worth making less than a thousand of these. The matte boards price started to make sense from 250, and as I don’t have a lot of space to put all this stuff, I had to make a trade of between space and cost for every component. Once I run out of matte boards, I can order another 250. If I sell 500 folios, I can get another 500 made about $350 cheaper, because now we already have the dies for the folder and for the de-bossed logos.
That reminds me, although originally all the die-pressing, the de-bossing of the lines for folding, and the logo de-bossing was going to be done in one press, the guy at the paper processing factory roped a friend at a nearby factory into the project to de-boss the logos with a special heated die process for an even cleaner and sharper finish, so the paper went through two processes before being shipped to me. You need to de-boss the lines to fold along by the way, or you don’t get clean folds. The card will crack and look horrible if you just fold it without a de-bossed line.
I should say, that if you decide to try to create these folders yourself, be prepared for a lot of work. I probably can’t help you with the process any more than what I’m relaying today, because how you go about this and the companies you work with will really depend on where you live. Brooks Jensen has just released a Folios Workshop DVD with instructions on how he makes his folios. I didn’t buy a copy as I’d finished mine by the time it was released, but everything Brooks does is top quality, so if you want to make something like this yourself, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of the Lenswork Folios Workshop DVD.
So, with the folder and all components to be manufactured in Japan on order, 10 boxes of Harman GLOSS FB Al paper arrived from B&H. I’d decided on the Harman GLOSS with its Baryta layer because it came out top in my fine art inkjet paper tests. I’d actually been very close to buying the Canon Platinum Pro paper, but eventually decided on the Harman because the Canon paper has Canon written on the back of the paper, which I don’t think it very cool for fine art prints, and also because B&H didn’t have enough stock. As the Harman paper winged its way over to Japan, I had continued to soft-proof my selected images with a box that I’d bought earlier to test with. It was this soft-proofing task that led to Episode 215 on soft-proofing recently.
During that process, I found that there were a couple of prints in the Flowerscapes folio image set that I could just not get to print as I wanted on the Harman paper. This isn’t a problem with the paper I should add, rather some prints just don’t suit some paper. So at this point, I decided to try the Flowescapes set on one of my favourite fine art matte papers, Hahnemühle Photo Rag. B&H have 50 sheet boxes of this Photo Rag, and I had some in Japan already to test with, and the Flowerscapes images looked beautiful on it, after a lot of soft-proofing I should add, so I ordered 5 boxes of this from B&H as well.
I finished my soft-proofing of all three folio sets as I waited for the components to arrive. The last thing to arrive is the packaging. I’ve ordered boxes made to fit from one to three of the folios, as I’ve released three folios in this first batch. The last thing to do was create a Web site to showcase and sell the folios, which I did last week, and that is the address that I gave you earlier, www.mbpfolios.com. Someone has registered the .com site, although they are not using it. Still, as I’m in Japan, I figured the .jp URL would be OK.
I’ve selected 12 images in the sets that I’ve called “The Colours of Japan”, “Season of White” and there are 10 images in the “Flowerscapes” set. The reason for the difference is basically the number of prints I can fit in the folio. The Hahnemühle paper is thicker than the Harman paper, so I can only fit 10 prints in the folder along with the introduction page.
I spent a lot of time selecting the images, as you can imagine. I really wanted these first three folios to be special, and represent some of my main areas of photography. Flowerscapes is a word that I use, and might have even coined, to describe flower scenes, though not close up photographs of flowers as such. They’re really segments of a large flower scene or landscape, hence, “Flowerscape”. I shoot a lot of this sort of image, so I made my selections based on a balanced selection of colours, types of flowers and season. This set is probably where my use of shallow depth-of-field is most prominent, and was the main reason why I bought the 300mm F2.8 lens, so that I could edit these scenes out of a large landscape and still get that shallow depth-of-field.
Flowerscapes Folio Prints
One of the other things I pay a lot of attention to is vivid or fresh colours, so I chose my second folio of image to represent the Colours that I find in the natural world around Japan, hence “The Colours of Japan”. In this set I have leaves from Spring and Autumn, as well as the frail pink cherry blossoms, and lush green of the Oirase mountain stream. I also included the bright orange-red persimmons covered in snow, and the blue twilight waterfall with fresh spring maple leaves in front. There are bright reds, shocking pinks and beautiful yellows in this 12 image set.
The Colours of Japan Folio Prints
The last set is the “Season of White” folio. This was the most difficult folio to select images for. I wanted to represent my work from Hokkaido in some way, but as I started to sort through my images, I found myself with a set of Eagle shots, a set of Red-Crowned crane shots, a set of Hokkaido Landscapes and Winter Trees. The result was more like a reference book than a fine art folio, so I decided to select images that best represent my memories and feelings of what it’s like to be in Hokkaido. I selected images from the frosty river, with the cranes and the Heaven on Earth landscape from the Tokachi mountain range. The Cranes appear often, but when shooting the cranes you’ll often see a fox. The Ezo Deer in the harsh winter are simply beautiful, as are the Whooper Swans, Steller’s Sea eagles and White-Tailed eagles. Then of course, there’s the winter tree in the driving snow storm and I had to include a shot from a few years ago where I panned with some cranes in the last light of the day as they flew to roost. All of these things really engraved in my mind when I think of Hokkaido, so I chose to tell a story with this set, rather than give a sterile reference set of images.
Season of White Folio Prints
The photos of the prints here give you an idea, but as I said there’s the video on my folios site, and I take you inside the Flowerscapes folio to really get a feel for what they are like. I also put together a small gallery of all of the images from each set. Here you can best see that each print also has a boilerplate, with the title of the image and the date and location that it was shot, as well as the title of the folio that it is included in.
I included the Introduction page and a photo of the front of the folios in each gallery too. I didn’t include an Image List in the Flowerscapes folio, as I didn’t think it needs it, but the Season of White folio and The Colours of Japan folio also contain an Image List, with captions for each image in the set. The introduction page serves a second purpose, which is that of a colophon, or record of the Edition. If I make any minor changes to the folios I’ll increase the edition number. I am also numbering, dating and signing this page with an archival pen. The number is the copy number, so when you buy one of these folios, you’ll know how many were made before it. The date is the date that I made the prints for that particular folio, and then I sign it at the bottom right.
The folios are I think reasonably priced at $285 each, which is just $23.75 a print for the Harman paper prints, and $28.50 for the Hahnemühle Photo Rag prints. I’ve also knocked $120 off the set of three for a limited period, so the three folio set is for sale at $735. If you are interested, even just to take a look at what I’ve put together, please do take a look at the www.mbpfolios.com Web site.
Please tell your friends too. I believe the price I’ve set will make these accessible, and when you hold the folio in your hand, and feel the quality of the folder and of course handle and delve into the quality prints inside, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a totally different experience to looking at the images on a computer screen.
Thanks for listening/reading today. As creative people, I think it’s great to be able to take that creative process past the capture of the photograph, and even passed the printing, to create something like these folios. It’s been an education figuring out how to do this, and working with all the people that I’ve had to, to make it happen. This probably hasn’t been that useful as such, but I hope you’ve enjoyed going through the process with me.