Putting A Professional Artist Portfolio Together

Creating and maintaining a great Artist's portfolio is essential for a career as a fine artist. The art world is very competitive. Many of the better galleries receive portfolios from hundreds of different artists each day. A shabby portfolio is one of the first things that will get your work dismissed by a gallery. If you don't care enough about your work to present it in the best way possible why should a gallery care about it? Fortunately what is expected in an artist portfolio is fairly standard industry wide. It is possible to create one master portfolio showcasing all your work which you can use to assemble portfolios meeting each galleries unique criteria. This hub will guide you through the process of creating your own professional artist portfolio.

Artist portfolios are a standardized way of representing artists' work to prospective galleries, museums, and schools. The traditional format for the artist portfolio has been in 35mm slide film. More and more galleries are accepting or requesting portfolios to be sent in digital format,however it is very easy to convert a master slide portfolio into digital files and vice versa. Whether you create your portfolio in film or digitally is personal preference, however it is a good practice to keep both slides and digital copies of your artwork.

Whether you choose digital or traditional photography it is absolutely essential that the photos be of the highest quality possible. If you are unsure of your photographic abilities pay a professional. Your portfolio is documentation not art. All your paintings should be shot from the front to fill the entire frame, unless for documentation of your work you require they be shot from other angles also. Sculpture should be shot from as many angles as necessary to accurately represent the piece with a neutral background.

When it comes time to shooting your pieces make sure your shoot them with indirect lighting. You could spend money on a bunch of lighting equipment or you could shoot them outside on an overcast day. Make sure you use a good SLR camera, and (if you are shooting in film) 100 speed color slide film. Use a good brand like Fuji, and make sure you buy professional quality. Set your shudder speed according to the film speed or at 125.

It is always important get a good light meter reading but it is more important when you are shooting art, and it is especially difficult. A camera lens only "sees" in black and white, and you will get the best light meter reading when light and dark are equally balanced. When you are shooting nature or portraits this works fine. Artwork is not always balanced equally between light and dark so you should never get your light meter reading from the actual piece of art. Instead you should place a large sheet of color aid neutral gray #5 where your painting will be when getting a light meter reading immediately before shooting your slide. Bracket your exposures, or for each slide shoot one slide at correct exposure, one slide at one f-stop below correct exposure, and one slide at one f-stop above correct exposure. Shoot each painting this way. Retest for proper exposure with your light meter and the neutral gray #5, before shooting each new painting.

When you have shot all your artwork have your film professionally developed and view each developed slide on a light table. Most photo shops will have a light table available for use. Choose the slides that most accurately show your artwork. Place the other slides aside. Remove the good slides from their cases and mask off any remaining background with silver mylar tape (available at photo supply stores). Use a light table and make sure you are very careful not to smudge the slide with your finger tips or mask out part of your art work. I usually do this at the store's light table. When this is complete return the slides to their cases. These slides will become your originals. I store mine in plastic sleeves which I keep in a three ring binder.

Use your originals to make copies. Make sure you request the digital files when you have your copies made. Portfolios I submit to galleries never include all the artwork I have slides of, but it is a good idea to request at least one copy and digital file of all your original slides. Store the duplicates separate from your originals. Only send duplicates and digital files.

When you are ready to submit a portfolio look up that gallery's submission guidelines and follow them exactly. They are rarely exactly the same from one gallery to another and oftentimes galleries will use their submission guidelines to weed out entries. For example; If the gallery says to mark the front of the slide on the lower left corner with a green dot, make sure that dot is green; otherwise they might not even look at your slides.

Treat your portfolio like you would a resume. Only send relevant slides when you submit a portfolio. The people reviewing the portfolio aren't interested in viewing slides that don't pertain to the show or contest you are submitting them for. Make sure they are properly labeled, and that they correspond properly to the slide list that you will also submit. Don't let little over sites prevent you from a showing or grant.

Along with a portfolio most galleries also expect an Artist's statement. You should begin this when you make your master portfolio and should revise it regularly. Make sure that it also follows the formatting exactly as the gallery requests.

Portfolios are how artists show off their work to achieve success. It is important that you take the time or spend the money to obtain the best portfolio you are capable of having. Make sure your slides are shot as accurately as possible by shooting in indirect light, properly exposing your film, and keeping them filed neatly. Follow submission guidelines exactly and begin your artist statement when you shoot your slides.The art world is highly competitive as it is make sure that you give yourself a leg up with a great portfolio.

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Robie Benve profile image

Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

Lots of information here! Thanks for answering my question. :)

flashmakeit profile image

flashmakeit 4 years ago from usa

Excellent description and information on how to make an artist portfolio.

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