'No Plastic Sleeves' Excerpt: Creative Career Portfolio Pointers

When it comes to your career portfolio, one bad apple spoils the bunch. That's why it's crucial to select your pieces wisely.

In their new book, No Plastic Sleeves: The Complete Portfolio Guide for Photographers and Designers, authors Larry Volk and Danielle Currier guide you through the process of conceptualizing, designing and developing all the interconnected aspects of your total portfolio package. Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite.

Evaluate, Edit, and Define

You may have work that is worthy of your portfolio, but needs to be adjusted, improved, and refined. It is never too late to do this, especially if you recognize changes that need to be made after having had some time away from a project or assignment. Never let a subpar piece of work slip in. If someone reviewing your work questions a project, then you need to address this, or at the very least confirm with another set of eyes what might need changes. Perhaps many of your portfolio pieces come from college assignments or client work, which although strong, may not necessarily be the best representatives of the type of work you want to pursue. You may want to consider eliminating work that you feel deviates from your intended goals or audience and create additional portfolio pieces that take you in the direction you want to go.

Here are three guidelines:

  1. Concise: What are the fewest number of pieces that effectively convey everything you wish to suggest about yourself as a designer/photographer? Can you create the most concise statement? In fact, this might be a starting point. You need to bear in mind that if you have too many pieces, the impact of individual works can get lost. As the viewer of your portfolio looks through it, an impression can be built cumulatively. Once you establish this, you don't need to go any further.
  2. Convincing: What quantity will demonstrate that you are capable of the scope of work and production required for your intended goal? What will show a viewer definitively that you have the goods and chops to do the job?
  3. Clear: Show too many pieces and the viewer will lose the thread about you. The pieces will get lost in the breadth of the portfolio. You want the viewer to be seeing a statement that builds on itself. If it gets too lengthy, he or she will not be able to tie everything together, nor does it show your ability as a developer of tight concepts.

How to Start: Describe Yourself as a Creative

Start by writing down a list of adjectives and adverbs that describe you and your creative self. Begin by looking inward for these qualities. Describe your personality, your work ethic, your sense of style, your strengths, your attitudes, and the kind of work you enjoy making. Consider how best to position yourself given the kind of work you've done and the kind of work you want to do. What are your unique talents, conceptual abilities, and skills?

Exercise: Reverse View/Reverse Roles

View yourself as a new client who you are trying to access. You are being asked to make a branding and identity piece that features the work that this client produces. What are the questions you would ask if you were hired to design or photograph for yourself?

Reprinted from No Plastic Sleeves: The Complete Portfolio Guide for Photographers and Designers by Larry Volk and Danielle Currier with permission of Focal Press. Copyright (c) Larry C. Volk and Danielle P. Currier, 2015.

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