Saturday, March 14, 2015

Print Portfolio vs iPad Portfolio

I recently had photographers' rep, Mark Cook, come speak to my Business of Photography class at SCAD Atlanta. Mark owns a firm called Fotorep and he reps a full range of photographers, make-up artists and hair stylists. During the lively discussion we had with him for a couple of hours he said something that got me thinking. Actually, there were a lot of things that got me thinking, but one in particular got my attention. Mark said that paper portfolios were dead- the iPad was now the only way people wanted to see work. I know a number of people who show their work on tablets, but physical books dead? I wondered. . .

I put an open call on Facebook asking, " Commercial photographers- Are physical portfolios a thing of the past? Is the iPad a suitable replacement? Do you still prefer to show prints when possible? Please help me give my students the best and most up to date information. Thanks!"

The response was significant. Photographers, art directors, photo editors, and graphic designers all tuned in and spoke up. It was a lively conversation. What is my conclusion? You can find it at the end, after you read the whole thread.

I've condensed and summarized some of the comments, so my apologies if anyone finds their thoughts removed.

Ben Colman I believe both physical and electronic portfolios are useful, as I tell my students. You need to do your homework before presenting work, know your audience. What will reach your viewer best, an elegant portfolio/book or the vibrance of an electronic presentation.

Matthew Jones Check out my recent article on petapixel, and/or FStoppers to spark some inspiration. Physical ports are still live and kickin!

Matthew Jones

Make a Pocket Portfolio for a Way to Stand Out When Out and About
As a photographer, I’m constantly striving for new ways to...

Judith Pishnery I found people still like prints. AND if you are meeting them in person, prints are good. Otherwise they can just look at your website. An iPad portfolio is not that different from the website

James Rajotte Print portfolios are a must for meetings with editors in my experience.

Robert Johnson Try a zine like mag cloud as well a nice leave behind.

Jesse JHutch Hutcheson I prefer a student bring me a digital portfolio when applying for an internship. Just my personal preference.

Wendy Marks I prefer actual prints and a face to face meeting with the photographer when curating work for a gallery.

Stephen Mallon No plastic sleeves. Have both, if the work is going to the web its fine to see it on a screen. If you are trying to get a print job, it’s good to see how it looks in paper. Update the print book once a year, keep the iPad up to date

Dara Dyer Sarah Silver (NY fashion photographer) invests a lot into her specially printed portfolio AND promo cards. Apparently messengers there still deliver physical portfolios because she advised me that mine was too large and should be a suitable size for a messenger to carry.

Walter Colley Just like there will never ever be a replacement for the 8X10 chrome, there can be no equal to fine prints-well presented. That said, I have told students & personally believe that iPads are also a "good" alternative when talking cost and ease of use, etc.

Jim Cavanaugh I just made a new print portfolio and have been showing it around the last few weeks. Still an important part of the process. The interaction is far more compelling than swiping by images on a screen.

Aaron Ingrao The entire reason for having a physical portfolio is for meetings. Since meetings are an important part of establishing relationships, with potential clients, absolutely every photographer should have a print portfolio. The impact of a well presented, large scale print cannot be overestimated. An iPad can be taken along as a supplemental, but it's not a substitute. The large scale portfolio, packaged well, presented well and dealt with as fine art, shows a seriousness and care for production value and presentation.
If I were a buyer and met with a photog who only had an iPad, no matter how awesome the images, I wouldn't take that photog very seriously. It's lazy.

Roger Bruce I do you agree with Wendy, but as Kevin Kelly observes, New technology does not replace -- it piles on. The iPad can make for an elegant presentation but its constraints of scale may compromise many kinds of work.

Jim Cavanaugh If I'm going anywhere where I may run into clients, I bring my iPad with the portfolio on it. But for formal meetings, always the print book.

Molly McMullin Prints. I hate ipads.

Sara Elder A couple of photographers have come to the office recently with beautiful print portfolios. It was a pleasure looking at them.

Marjorie Crum I'm seeing both iPad and print versions for design students but I think most prefer decent prints, and not 8.5x11 size, seeing it bigger is always better and that's where the iPad fails.

Scott Hamilton iPad for video work. Custom book makers are building iPad holder within a print box or book. Showing on a iPad can be annoying but also can save you in a pinch of you haven't the time to insert a series or piece within printed book. And good for showing maybe a experimental direction or bunny trial that normally wouldn't fit within context of a printed book. Also just because a new technology comes to be doesn't mean it makes another obsolete it's all about zigging when everyone else is zagging.

W Keith McManus I think a photographer would be best served by having more than one method of presentation. Certainly a iPad (or other tablet) would a good idea in this day and age. My experience as a photographer and editor has been almost entirely in the editorial world and in that environment a one-on-one approach can be the most effective.

Kendrick Brinson Portfolio book. We bring an iPad with our most recent work, too

Emily Harris I've seen more and more people use iPads...but I am still old school and like to show prints, but it is often easier and quicker to show people work when you have it readily available on hand

Gavin Thomas The iPad is awesome because you can update and customize your "book" more often and specifically to different clients with a push of a button. Don't forget to have nice business cards and promo pieces to leave behind!!

Aaron Ingrao The name of that book maker Matthew Jones posted about is

Todd Joyce Both. There's nothing like a big splash to impress someone and an oversized book really is impressive. And making an impression is why we're there. Each has its merits and as Emily says it's what you have on hand. And you're not going to carry an oversized book every day like you would an iPad. Depending on what work I was showing, if I were a student, I would favor a book for those few big appointment opportunities and carry an iPad for any chance/quick meetings. BTW, using an iPad at a shoot to show current clients recent work, is a great way to get more/new types of work from existing clients.

John Robert Brown I would prefer you share photos electronically for first blush, and then show me a few large key prints if you wish. But for the most part, well-saved digital shots are most appreciated by me.

Scott Hamilton Yea John Robert Brown . I often assemble custom electronic PDF portfolios after initial conversations. I have a templated Indesign doc that I use to arrange then output. also at the point of my website I can create a custom PDF. Which reminds me to say that the website is the most important element in my mind, over iPad or printed book portfolio.

Jamey Stillings I have not been asked for a commercial print portfolio for a few years. We usually create custom electronic ones for prospective clients. In the art / documentary world, I always start with prints and only rarely go electronic on first face to face meetings.

Aaron Smith I do a new book at least twice a year and then iPad for all the new work. My reps still like doing physical books and physical mailers!

Timothy Archibald Hey there- the iPad makes for easy updating , but the viewer just rips thru those images very very quickly. Makes all my life work suddenly get reduced to some anecdotal clickbate. I use a book, 13 x 19 horizontal pages printed on Moab Entrada thick and tangible watercolor paper.

Grant Taylor Morning, Forest! For some time, I've been showing prints on 13 x 19 paper, (12 x 18 image area,) when meeting face-to-face with potential clients. The art directors really seem to enjoy the tactile process of leafing through them, and also love the size of the image. I haven't used a book for probably 4 years. The large prints are super, as long as you have the table space to play with. I'll also create electronic portfolios for specific requests, and yes, the web site is important. (Trying to develop a new one now!) While I understand the merit of an iPad, I personally wouldn't choose it over large, gorgeous prints unless the situation made the showing of prints inconvenient.

Anne Esse Hi Forest! While a website is the first place I go to view work for a shooter I'm considering, I love the oversize prints (like Grant described) when viewing work in person. If we need to jump on an iPad to see more examples that are relevant to the discussion that's very okay too.

Jonathan Rutherford Forest! I believe it is still important to present a traditional portfolio, especially when the potential job has a printed output. When I have a face to face review, I bring a traditional printed portfolio, an iPad portfolio, and a small printed portfolio to leave behind. (I just started using the 'book' function in Lightroom - printing with Blurb. I will send you my latest one) I have been loading my iPad with additional work that is not in my printed book. These images are usually specific to the client. I also add 'tears' to the end of the presentation if it is appropriate. My last thought on the printed portfolio: Even if a client isn't specifically requesting a traditional book, why wouldn't you present them with one? Imagine how may digital images a photo editor or art director consumes in one day. As humans we are inherently tactile, and by presenting work in a tactile fashion, I believe it makes your work more memorable and makes a greater impact. Lastly, a week after a meeting or portfolio review, I will follow up with a promo card and thank you note.

Rob Neiler I’d say 90% of the designer portfolios that I see are digital. When we present concepts to clients I prefer boards (I like the interactive nature of holding the work and passing it around the room).
The photography portfolios I see are still printed boards by a big majority. I think the printed boards work for photographers the same way. The prints are passed around the room and evoke more conversation. For some reason the digital counterparts seem to get less discussion. Less interactivity, less theater, less personal.

Wayne Calabrese Hey Pal, clients still love the tactile experience of looking through a print portfolio. I feel it slows down the interview process and gives the artist and buyer time to connect as 2 people who may eventually spend time in a foxhole together. Showing work in print form is usually the 2nd or 3rd step in the sales process, after viewing a web site or iPad presentation. So by the time you are actually face to face, it's nice to have a different media to share your work. Actually, it's very Italian, you never show up at someone's home without some special goodies to share.

John Neel An iPad or laptop doesn't represent scale or intimacy. There is no surface or tactility. The presentation is cold and distant. Everything is less remarkable. Likewise, a poor presentation of prints can undermine the experience. I would take a selection of my better works as prints along with a well thought out presentation to show electronically on a tablet.

Josanne DeNatale Hi Forest. I'm in agreement with several other posts, with a preference for prints because they encourage more interaction and conversation. It's cumbersome to pass around a device, it might fade to black, and you lose one image as soon as you move to the next one. Prints can be spread out and passed around, which results in a more connective conversation. And that is what will make me remember someone. I seldom remember the images that swiped past my eyes on a small screen. I still will refer to website before/after the meeting, and if there is an image I really like, I will print it out and tape to my wall. I like to stare at powerful images.

Billy Howard I've used an online portfolio since before online was cool, It works with my clients and my niche, but I know a lot of advertising agencies and magazines like physical, it depends on your market. I will admit, there is something to actually holding a portfolio book and there are so many options for designing them that really show off your work....There is my non-answer.

Robbie McClaran I still prefer to show printed work. To my mind, that's what makes it a photograph, a 2 dimensional object, and while images on a screen certainly can look nice, there is no substitute for a good print. I have to admit, I don't get the opportunity to show printed work as often as I would prefer, but I do keep an updated printed portfolio at the ready. And FWIW, I show prints either bound in book form, similar to what some others described, as well as individual prints in a nice box.

Richard Kelly I like both depends a great deal on the reason for the presentation. I find that designers - I work with graphic design firms a lot. Really like a well designed and printed portfolio, unless the project is e-based. I've had photo editors react enthusiastically to a printed book as well. Especially if looking at a Personal project. I like the iPad for spontaneous meet ups and clients looking for quick updates on recent work. Forest McMullin this is a wonderful topic thanks for posting.

Nancy Newberry Always prints here

Molly Roberts Hi Forest, for the most part I am happy to look at portfolios on iPad. But it's also really fun to see handmade books or prints if that's how the photographer intends for the work to be seen.

Billy Howard Even if you have a print/book version of your portfolio, it would be impossible to have the reach you have with an online portfolio. For those who have both they can target their most desirable clients with the physical book and reach a broader audience with the online portfolio.

Michael Weschler  We're seeing that art buyers largely still want to see a print book occasionally. When it comes to editorial & advertising, they like having the confidence that your work doesn't just look good on a screen. Print is a higher standard and if you're expected to deliver visual assets not only for Digital, you should also expect to be asked to show examples first. For example, our New York chapter has three portfolio reviews per year & screens are not welcome: Fine Art, Commercial & Student. Incidentally, this is a free benefit with membership which more than covers your annual dues.

Debbie Weiss Benkovich Hi Forest. I would say large printouts are really nice to view and I find us art directors do take more time with the prints over the iPad. Websites are really important to review photographers that I'm not familiar with.

James Wondrack My $.02: Consider the audience and ultimate placement of the images. We may all like to look at big prints, but if the gig is for digital use, I'd prefer to see how well a photographer can shoot for screen use and for potentially smaller sizes.

IN SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION- It seems to me that most photographers and buyers agree- for face to face meetings, a selection of beautifully printed photographs still makes an indelible impression. Bringing an iPad to offer additional and/or specialized content is a good idea, especially, of course, if video is part of what you do. Several people reminded us that plastic sleeves are a good thing to avoid. And, no surprise here, a well designed and functional web site is the best way to make a good first impression. A few folks agreed with Mark Cook- a tablet presentation is the only thing you need.

There you have it. Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion. Let's do it again some day!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Manfrotto Articles

I've recently been writing some articles for my friends at Manfrotto. They give some additional background on projects I've been working on lately. If you have time, head on over and take a look.

Ken Iron Horse is Apache and Algonquin Indian. He's an artist and makes crafts inspired by his heritage which he sells alongside his paintings at the Blue Ridge Flea Market in Blue Ridge, GA.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why social media matters and excerpts from an article about Day & Night

If you've been following this blog or watching my other social media outlets, you know that I've been getting a lot of press lately. I thought it might be useful to understand why that's happening.

Back in January, I was invited to join a web site called Lens Culture. I was only slightly aware of them, but after going to the site and realizing it wouldn't cost me anything, I joined and posted a couple of my projects there.

In June, I was lucky enough to spend two weeks at an artist residency in the north Georgia mountains. I wrote about it here. When I returned I posted a number of pictures from a new project called American Flea on my Lens Culture page. Then on August 6, Lens Culture posted American Flea in the Spotlight position on their home page as one of their Editors Picks.

Within a few days, apparently after seeing my work on Lens Culture, a number of widely read blogs ran pieces about another project of mine, Day & Night. These included Beautiful Decay, Dark Silence in Suburbia, Design Taxi, and USvsTH3M. These stories were re-posted dozens, possibly hundreds of time, all over the world, in a variety of languages.

Then came the two big ones. About August 22, Distractify and Huffington Post each ran stories. Distractify's was about American Flea and Huff Post's was about Day & Night. These sites get millions of hits a month. I immediately saw the hits on both my blog and my Lens Culture profile page skyrocket. This in turn has generated a number of inquiries from web publications asking permission to run various projects of mine.

The big question is (or should be), that's nice, but is there any income involved in all this? Well, I've just signed with a picture agency in the UK to syndicate Day & Night worldwide. They're confident that there will be print sales to magazines internationally. So that's a good thing.

Most of the pictures in Day & Night were taken in 2009 and 2010. I've had them exhibited in a number of shows in Atlanta, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC. Now I'm hoping, after all this publicity, some curators will take notice. I'd like to show this work again.

Another nice result was the posting this week of Day & Night on the web site, Feature Shoot. Their writer, Ellyn Ruddick-Sunstein did an e-mail interview with me and I'm especially pleased with her insightful comments at the beginning. Below is an excerpt, posted with her permission.

"For Day and Night, Atlanta-based photographer Forest McMullin explores sexual desire and its relationship to human identity, photographing individuals and couples once throughout their daytime routine and again in the privacy of their own bedrooms. On the left, we find a standard vision of middle-class American men and women, enjoying the conventional activities of daily life; in the righthand frame, we discover the same subjects adopting nighttime fantasy roles, morphing into dominatrixes, bondage players, cross-dressers, swingers, and furries.

"In arresting diptychs, we are presented with two sides of the same human coin, the easily accessible public self set against the vulnerable sexual self. In these stolen moments of intimacy, in which the protagonists radiate a palpable sense of confidence, the gap between what we consider to be ordinary and atypical is diminished, reduced to the space as narrow the thin white border that separates the images. Here, we are asked to abandon judgements for a deeper understanding of human erotic diversity. McMullin’s sitters are remarkable for their perceived eccentricity, but they ultimately become surrogates for us all, boldly bringing to light private yearnings that most keep in darkness."

I have no idea how long this will last. But it sure is fun for now.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Doing what's right vs doing what is your right

My project, Day & Night has suddenly been receiving a lot of attention. It's a little weird for a project I shot most of four years ago, but I'm not complaining. It started when the site, Lens Culture featured my project, American Flea, in the spotlight position on their home page. This drove people to my profile page where they found several of my projects, including Day & Night. Within days, excerpts from Day & Night appeared in dozens of widely viewed web sites and blogs like Beautiful Decay, Dark Silence in Suburbia, Design Taxi, and sites around the world in countries like France, Portugal, Greece, England, Spain, Russia, and South Africa.

After Huffington Post did a story on it last week, I got an urgent email from one of the people in the photographs. This person told me that they had radically changed their life since I had shot their portrait, they had found Jesus, and they were terrified that if the wrong eyes saw the picture they would lose their job and it would ruin their life. They asked if I could please get their portrait taken off the Huff Post site.

What was I to do? Whenever I shoot people for Day & Night, they must sign a model release before I take out the camera. Besides signing the release, I emphasize that my intention is for mainstream publication, not some shady little web site that hardly anyone will see. I could not have been clearer. I wanted everyone who participated to be completely comfortable with the process and results. They were, after all, opening up the most intimate details of their lives to me and to public scrutiny. And I'm grateful to them for the trust they show me. I want the pictures to be honest and direct, but respectful. I believe they are.

So- I have every right, legal and otherwise, to include this person's picture when the project is reproduced.

But. . .

What is my human responsibility? How can I, in good conscience allow the possibility of my photograph having a major negative impact on someone's life? How can I say, I'm sorry, but you're not allowed to change your mind, especially if it inconveniences me? And, would Huffington Post even care if I asked them to remove the picture in question?

As it turns out, Huff Post was willing to remove the picture. (Thank you, Katherine Brooks.) And I removed the picture from the Day & Night section of my Lens Culture profile that Huff Post linked to. I told the concerned individual that I would not include their picture in submissions to any mainstream web sites or publications based in the US in the future. I would not include their picture in any exhibitions in their home city. I also made it clear that the picture is already available in many many web sites and blogs around the world and I have no control over who sees them or re-blogs them. This person needs to be prepared and there's really nothing I can do about it at this point.

I suppose this is a bit of a compromise. I haven't promised to do everything in my power to remove all traces of this person's photograph from Day & Night and its circulation. But I'll try to keep it out of places where it could conceivably do damage. And I'll sleep well tonight.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Residency

Dan McInturff, Rabun Flea Market, Rabun Gap, Georgia

My two weeks at The Hambidge Center was the most intense period of creative energy I can remember having. It was the first artist residency I've ever had and I certainly hope it isn't the last.

I started on a new project called American Flea. I traveled to four different flea markets in rural North Carolina and Georgia shooting portraits of vendors and customers. I'm very excited about the results and plan to continue the project for the foreseeable future. I met unusual and interesting people and recording their faces and hearing their stories is a great experience.
Shannon Pyle, Uncle Bill's Flea Market, Whittier, North Carolina
 I read over six hundred pages. The new memoir from Tom Robbins, Tibetan Peach Pie, was a delight and I burned through that in three days. Then I dove into The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. I last read this masterpiece forty years ago or so. It's massive and brilliant and I hope to finish it soon.

The biggest surprise to me is that, at the urging of my wife and daughter, I started writing again. Fifteen years ago I started writing a novel. I got fifty or sixty pages into it before life got in the way and I put it down. While at Hambidge, I went at it again and wrote over forty new pages. I figured out several important plot points and I hope to be able to continue on it in a more timely fashion now.

It's kind of amazing what you can accomplish when you have no cell service or television and the only internet connection is a quarter of a mile away. And it's great fun to be reminded that I still have something to say.

Oh, one more thing. Today is my birthday. I've realized that being in my sixties doesn't suck.
"Uncle" Bill Seay, Uncle Bill's Flea Market, Whittier, North Carolina

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Stags, Hens, and Bunnies- A Blackpool Story

A year ago, I spent three weeks traveling through England, Scotland, and Wales. I spent a Saturday night in Nottingham and was amazed at what I was told is a very common ritual. "Hen-dos" and "Stag-dos" take the experience of the pre-wedding party to an extreme that American brides and grooms would be surprised by. Besides the requisite heavy drinking and generally outrageous behavior, Brits like to dress in themes, carry sex dolls and sex toys, and make very public spectacles of themselves.

London based photographer Dougie Wallace has spent what I assume is considerable time documenting this tradition. His pictures are raw, vivid, and occasionally a little obscene. And really, really good.

They've been published as a book, available from the UK here. It should be avaialbe here in the States in a couple of months. Here's an excerpt from what's written on the web site:

"Blackpool,  a Northern English town once the granddaddy of the seaside resorts.  Enjoying renewed popularity as one of the UK’s major hen/stag destinations.

Blackpool… A dirty great whorl of debauchery, licentiousness, laughter, vomit, furry handcuffs, fancy dress and drunken oblivion. Turned every weekend into the heart of social darkness. Marauding packs of brides and grooms, close friends and family, on a mission to consume dangerous, liver-crushing levels of alcohol. This, their rite of passage acted out on the last night of freedom, before the conventions and responsibilities of marital life, mortgage, children.

Once a fun diversion from the industrial heartlands – a bit like Las Vegas with a Victorian twist – is a town that has a palpable and genuine energy of its own. The promenade offers up its gala of grotesque and carny seediness; a whole Golden Mile of pubs and bars for swollen bodies to crawl through flashing scary, carrot coloured midriff flesh. The unbridled hedonism is magnified by an inter-pack competitiveness that manifests itself in drinking games, fights or sex in the toilets! Its twisted and ghoulish, and it’s hard not to laugh."


Take a few minutes and check them out here.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mena Ethopian Restaurant

I visited Mena, 3680 Clairmont Rd. near Buford Highway, on the spur of the moment. I had been shooting in a Cuban place and someone mentioned that there was an Ethiopian restaurant across the street. I went over to check it out and it took a little time to realize it was in the back of the Bethlehem Food Store through an unmarked door on the side. Not a terribly auspicious start, but once inside I was greeted with wonderful smells. There's a large dining room with a full bar in the center and the walls are a riot of bright colors.
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens, ISO 1600, 1/45 @ f/3.2

There's a dimly lit back room with a hookah bar.
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens, ISO 3200, 1/2 @ f/3.2
And off to one side, a woman was crouched on the floor roasting coffee beans.
Munu Wasse roasting coffee, Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens, ISO 2000, 1/17 @ f/2.8 
This, I learned, is a traditional Ethiopian ceremony and ritual. I sat and asked my waitress what she recommended. She liked the gored gored, she told me, so that's what I had. I was a little surprised when she brought a plate of cubed and spiced raw beef.
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm, ISO 200, 1/30 @ f/6.4
After getting over my initial hesitance, I was delighted. It was very tender and delicate. I used the slightly sour injera bread as a scoop and dipped it in mitmita  and other spices. I later learned it is very popular in both Ethiopia and Eritrea and is considered a national dish. I finished it completely satisfied. I plan to return and try other (cooked!) dishes, but I'm not sorry I tried the gored gored.
Miheret Bekele, Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm, ISO 1600, 1/25 @ f/3.2