A significant part of our customer base for portfolios are photographers. They hail not just from the UK but from around the world and their photographic subjects and disciplines are just as varied as their geographic locations. From our point of view, they share one thing in common - They all want to present their printed work in the very (very!) best way possible.
Depending on use, each have their various preferences and questions. Portfolio books or portfolio boxes? If it's books should the pages be bound directly into the portfolio, or do you use hinge strips or are sleeves the answer to solve grubby fingers??
After many, (many!) conversations with our customers, we decided to put together this brief guide to commissioning a bespoke professional photography portfolio (book or box) for your printed work.
What sort of 'milage' or handling is your portfolio going to see?
Firstly, If you are being represented by an agent, then a lot of the time, it will be your agent that’ll answer the portfolio book or box question. Also some agencies, certainly in the U.S. keep your portfolio and send it out independently of you. This means you aren’t going to be around to handle it with kid gloves - Not that anybody else won’t look after it! But it needs to combine durability along with creating that ‘at first glance’ impression of the portfolio cover that you want it to.
Our first advice is; The cover has to be durable, which means either a Buckram cloth which is a fabric covered in an Acrylic coating, or a Faux Leather (False Leather). Both of these materials can be wiped clean, take a bit of moisture and then be dried by a towel. This takes care of spilt mugs of coffee and tea. Glasses of water, beer, coke and bits of lunch (mayonnaise in particular!)
Leather is not a bad choice in this scenario of ‘big milage’ and multi handling, but beware. Our brown 3.5mm single hide veg tanned leather will age and will show life. It will also mark if anything sticky is placed on it. This does not apply to our Casebound Leather Portfolios and our 3.5mm black is more forgiving than brown.
If your portfolio lives with you, depending upon who your clients are and who is going to handle it, you can afford to be a bit more adventurous with your cover options. Book Cloth becomes an option for you. Windsor and Colorado book cloths are Rayon fabric. There is a striking swatch of colours that are tactile and matt in appearance. That said it is a cloth and does not have a protective covering. As such it will absorb whatever liquid, oil or fat it comes into contact with and cannot be cleaned. Take particular care with Main black book cloth, as it seems to have magnetic qualities for lint and dust and will show marks purely from human touch!
If you would like to taker a closer look at cover materials on offer click here. Lastly if in doubt, we're happy to send you sample cuttings.
Portfolio Book or Portfolio Box? It depends on your style of presentation.
Photography presentation divides into two camps. For commercial or strategic reasons, there are photographers who want to present their work in a particular order, with each print being viewed one image at a time. You have control over how and in what order your work is being seen and how your presentation or story unfolds. If this is you, then you are a portfolio book person.
Then there are those who might still prefer to still go through one image at a time, but then want to lay the images out to be seen as a whole body of work afterwards. If this is how you like or need to present your work, then a portfolio box, is what is best you for you.
There is no right or wrong choice here. It's down to what presentation style sits best with you, your work and who you are talking to. Purely from a demand point of view, portfolio books are more popular than portfolio boxes. For those that have the budget, we’ve made both.
Let's look at Portfolio Books first.
The different portfolio binder mechanisms available
There are 2 different mechanisms available to you. The ring binder mechanism and the screw post mechanism. Our screw post portfolios tend to be the preferred choice amongst photographs and comes in 4 different portfolio cover styles. The exposed screw post, the case bound screw post, the hidden screw posts and the leather screw post. All the of the above can be seen in the photos above. The first two examples are both screw post portfolios, but are specifically made to fit a price and are called 'student portfolios'.
The ring binders we offer are either case bound or full leather covers. Below is a guide to both.
Available in International spacing distance 2 ring or 4 ring, or American 3 ring. Also in a variety of binder capacity. It's just a matter of finding which one suits you best. Click on the button below to find out what binder mechanisms are available.
The overall size of the portfolio cover is based on what is being placed inside it. The H&Co rule of thumb is that the contents of the portfolio have to sit perfectly on the inner cover (in the example above, in purple).
We take the measurements from what you are placing within the portfolio covers (the contents). Therefore if you are placing pages directly into the portfolio, (as in the left example above using an A4 page), the cover size will be 220mm x 313mm. If you are using our page protector sleeves as in the example above (right), the cover size will be 240mm x 319mm. This also applies to pages with hinge strips or polyester page sleeves in which case height doesn't change, but width does.
Consistency is key though. If you choose to have a portfolio that is made to fit just paper stock, and you change your mind at a later date and opt to use hinge strips or page protectors, then you will find that your portfolio cover will be smaller than the work inside it. If in doubt, it's always better to order a portfolio sized for page protectors, as clearly its better to have a slightly wider and taller book than one that is fractionally too small.
Your portfolio is being individually made to order. That means it can be made to any size or format you require.
Although our prices are based on standard international and US paper sizes, as mentioned above, we measure the exact size of the portfolio on what is being placed inside it. Therefore if your paper stock or contents are larger or smaller than what is mentioned on our website, we will make the size you require without any problem, but it will be priced to the closest of our standard sizes.
How Many Pages Fit into a Portfolio?
A regularly asked question, but one that does not comes with a definitive answer. The quick answer is “as many as you want it too”. Screw posts come in a variety of lengths, so as few as 1 sheet of paper and as many as you like.
The consideration is the weight (thickness) of the media being inserted. 30 x 300 gsm art stock is thicker than 30 x 100 gsm pages; also page protectors are thicker than paper.
So, How do you calculate the answer? Rather simply…
1, If you have it, measure the thickness of your contents. (Sorry we did say it was simple!) We can tell you that one of our polypropylene page protectors with a 250gsm page in it measures 0.40mm. Roughly the same applies for applies for a polyester sleeve with an image.
2, A standard spine width which gives you 22mm will therefore comfortably fit 20 page protectors with images inserted. If you think you might be needing space for 30 - 50 images in page protectors then ask a bigger than standard spine.
3, If you need a bit of padding, then we’ll happily supply 1.5mm cardboard spacers free of charge.
What if the size of portfolio varies depending upon each project?
We recommend either commissioning an Exposed screw post portfolio or within reason a Leather screw post portfolio. An Exposed screw post does not have a spine cover, therefore by changing the lengths of the screw posts can be made to fit any thickness of work. Just let us know, what sizes you require and we will happily include a variety of posts free of charge.
Inserting your images into your portfolio
There are 4 different methods to choose from and all come with pros and cons. There will be advice and preferences from your agents (if you use one) which of course you should stick to, but for the vast majority of you, it will be down to your own preference of how you want your work to be seen. There is no consensus on as to which is the better option for displaying your work, except if using poly based (plastic) sleeves, don’t get cheap quality ones.
An outline of the 4 options can be found below. Remember, each choice impacts the overall size of your Hartnack & Co portfolio.
This involves punching holes directly into your paper stock and then inserting the page over the screw posts or into the binder mechanism. The clear advantage is that there is nothing between the eye and the print. The disadvantage is that you are punching holes in your paper stock and having to score the margin.
These are clear polyester (plastic) strips 25mm wide with a 13mm sticky adhesive strip that you attach to the edge of you print. The other side of the hinge strip is punched and it is this that you place over the screw posts of binder mechanism. These are only available in one length size, 293mm.
Available from us in 11 x 14” and A3 Landscape. Effectively they are acetate sheets which are crystal clear, that are folded and creased with punch holes. The electrostatic nature of polyester holds the prints in to place. They’re the ’top end’ of print sleeves, but aren’t cheap.
The second option after portfolio books are portfolio boxes, which if specified well, lend a lot of impact to the brand and the great reveal.
As mentioned at the top of this page, portfolio boxes suit those with a particular presentation style. Equally some photographers like to mount their work, thereby immediately ruling out the option of using a binder mechanism in a portfolio book.
If this is you, this is your section! And it’s quite a simple and brief one as it only involves two choices.
The Two Clamshell Box Options.
You have two options with portfolio boxes. The full clamshell box which has two trays which fold into each other and the half clamshell or drop back box, which has a single tray with full wrapping cover and magnetic closure.
Just like portfolio books, our portfolio box prices are based on International (A4, A3 etc) and US paper sizes, but also just like books, portfolio boxes can be made bespoke to fit what ever sized prints you are want to place in there. We work on a basis of the print size or contents size plus 3mm top and bottom and 2mm added to each side.
The depth of the box can also be bespoke. Our standard depths are 4cm, 6cm and 8cm. Essentially though, we can make the holding tray fit whatever is being placed inside it. This just needs to be pointed out when completing the order.
Portfolio cover options
We covered (no pun intended) this bit of advice at the top of the page, but it is the beginning of your ‘visual’ branding and the packaging of your work where an impression is made even before a cover is opened - Some things to remember.
1. Ideally, go with two colours or fabric textures. There is no extra charge for this but there is however a cost if you use a non-standard fabric (see our fabric swatch for more info) 2. Outer covers should be durable unless you are using a slipcase or clamshell storage box. This means buckram or faux leather. The inner cover is where you can use book cloth (Windsor or Colorado) 3. Full leather portfolios are luxurious and give the senses a real lift, but they will “gain character” as they wear and age. If this might bother you, avoid them.
If in doubt about any colours, then ask us to send you some material cuttings in the post.
Next to your choice of cover material, this is what makes having your portfolio stand out against an anonymous black art book or print box.
You have a number of choices ranging from a standard no colour ‘blind’ debossing to a foil stamped. The full-colour impact can be achieved via a sample recess into the cover where a printed card is glued snuggly into place or a full-colour UV inkjet printed design directly onto the cover. More information on Personalisation options can be found on this page here.
Just like the cover of a novel, the cover of your portfolio is going to be the first thing the viewer touches, feels and lays their eyes on before they’ve even seen your work. Like any shop front or packaging, it’s going to be making a statement about you the person, before they get to you the photographer. Whether your preference is for books or boxes, mounted, inserted directly or page protectors ensure the first sense the client gets about you the professional is the one you want.
As members of the AOP (Association Of Photographers) we asked them to interview Photography Agents and Commissioners on their view of Photography Portfolios. We put forward a number of questions that we get asked a lot. Now bear in mind that these were London based offices and other countries might have their own opinions, but this was there reply -Read the article here