Friday, December 4, 2015

Shooting Portraits

From "Faces and Heels- Inside Independent Wrestling" See more here
 The majority of my work has always been of people and the majority of those people pictures have been portraits. The range has been quite large and I’ve shot all kinds of people. I hope the characteristic that is common to all those people in all those places is that the subjects in my portraits seem comfortable. They’re relaxed and appear at peace with themselves. But why? Why do they look like that? 
From"Pursuit of the Spirit"
In many ways, photography, in and of itself, is not that difficult. Learning to properly expose, compose, and print photographs can be mastered with moderate effort. Unfortunately, skill at those elements doesn’t guarantee that one’s pictures will be anything that people will want to look at, much less pay for. All the technological advancements that make photography “easy” can’t tell you what to point your camera at. It will never be able to tell you when to press the shutter button. And, in the case of portrait photography, it can’t tell you how to treat people in order to capture a successful image.

From "European Portraits" see more here
I think the single most important thing to accomplish when shooting portraits is remembering to talk to one’s subjects. A successful portrait is usually one where there is an element of trust developed between the photographer and the person in front of the camera. The sitter needs to feel that they won’t be taken advantage of or made to look ridiculous.  They need to know that they won’t be exploited or sensationalized. In some ways, they need to like the photographer. The most direct way to accomplish this, I think the most honest way, is to have a conversation.
Director of the Zippo Museum in Bradford, PA
I don’t mean to say that this is the only way to make a great portrait. In fact, there are easy examples of photographers who eschew this method and go to some lengths to do the opposite, bullying their subjects into submission as they create their vision of how someone should look. Annie Liebovitz immediately comes to mind and no one, least of all this photographer, would suggest she isn’t a great portraitist. But I think most of us don’t have the force of personality or the raw photographic talent to make this a realistic working method.
From "Day & Night" see more here
When I shoot someone, it’s important to me that when we’re done, they feel good about what just happened, not bludgeoned with demands that made them uncomfortable. It sounds stupid and a little needy, but I want people to like me. Liking me usually leads to trusting me and I find that if they do, the results in the portrait will be stronger.
From "Day & Night" see more here
Talking is the best way to reach this end point, but you have to remember to not allow the conversation to be your monolog. It’s much more important to ask questions and get the other person talking. If you’ve had a chance to do a little research on them, this will be much easier. How did they start their business? Why did they move to their current home? How has having children changed how they think of themselves? Ask them to tell you about how they spend their time on the weekend. Ask them to tell you about their favorite part of their job.
From "Tibet" see more here
None of those questions have one word answers. They’re all what documentary filmmakers refer to as open ended. They all require thought and explanation. They all make follow-up questions easier because they are relatively complex. The photographer can’t help but learn about the person they’re about to shoot a portrait of.
From "European Portraits" see more here
I admit that this is a fairly easy process for me. I’ve been doing it for so long, that I can’t remember whether it was ever difficult for me. I’m naturally a very curious person. I sincerely want to learn as much as I can about anyone I meet. Photography has proven to be the perfect tool to indulge my curiosity. Having a camera gives me permission to ask questions that in other circumstances might be considered too personal or even rude. It provides me with the perfect excuse to be nosy. It’s my skills at talking, not photography, that allow me to go into virtually any environment and come out of it with decent results. 
From "Out on Buford Highway" see more here
I’ve photographed people as widely varied as inmates in prison, neo-Nazi skinheads, Mormons at sacred sites in upstate New York, CEOs, janitors, patrons of rural pubs in Wales, workers in ethnic restaurants in suburban Atlanta, professional dominatrixes, African American rodeo cowboys, and tattoo artists. The thing common to them all is that I am genuinely interested in their stories and thoughts. I want to know why they do what they do, how they feel about their lives, what brings them joy, and what makes them feel sadness.
From "Out on Buford Highway" see more here
The other thing that often happens while talking to a person you’re about to photograph is more specific and technical than the issue of trust. While carrying on this conversation, I try to let one part of my brain stay aware of the visual conditions of the person and the location. I hopefully will get clues as to how to tell this person’s story. Is there a specific prop that I should show? Do they cover their mouth when they laugh, thus alerting me to the fact that they’re self-conscious of their teeth? Should I try to shoot them looking up at the camera because they have a tendency to show a double chin? Is there one corner of the room that will make for a more dynamic composition? While paying attention to our conversation, I’m also letting my eyes do visual reconnaissance. After all, making a great picture is why I’m there.
From "Disappearing Pub Culture" see more here
So what can you do if this whole process seems too difficult and you’re not naturally as gregarious as I am? I have a few suggestions that might help.

1.     In the beginning, keep your photography as simple as possible. This might mean shooting with the available light or with a simple one light set up. Make sure you’re completely familiar with your equipment. Don’t use that new or borrowed or rented camera with controls that can confuse you. At first you need to be able to concentrate on your relationship with your subject and not let the photography get in your way.

2.     Scout your location in advance. This can allow you to avoid struggling with the situation in front of you and distract you from the communication with your subject.

3.     Do some research on your subject. This prepares you with a few questions and will hopefully provide you with information that you’ll want to learn more about. You don’t need to know everything about them, just enough to give you the basis for the conversation.

4.     Pre-light the scene so the person doesn’t have to sit around waiting for you to wrestle with your gear. When I was shooting regularly for major magazines, I arrived at locations a minimum of two hours early to figure out where I was going to shoot and how I was going to light.

5.     Don’t forget to ask open-ended questions. “How do feel about. . .?” “Tell me about. . .” “What was it like when. . .?” “How do you go about. . .?” Almost everyone responds to someone who expresses a genuine interest in who they are and what they think. Make sure you’re that person for anyone who has taken the time to sit in front of you and your camera.

As with most things in photography, you’ll get better as you shoot more. Everything in this article is intended as starting points, not rules. With time and with effort, you’ll discover what works for you and how you can make the best pictures possible. The most important thing to discover is how to make your pictures- not mine or anyone else’s. Yours. That’s where the joy comes from.
From "Faces and Heels- Inside Independent Wrestling" see more here
 A shorter, edited version of this article was previously published on the blog Light Leaked

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Best Picture I Never Took

First haircut

In 1989, I did a story on a prison boot camp called Monterey Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility. It was in rural New York State, way at the end of a dirt road. There were no bars, no walls or guard towers, and no visible guns. The program was for young non-violent offenders and, if completed, reduced their sentence from three to nine years to just six months.

It was run like a military facility and the guards were called drill instructors. I spent a total of five days there over a two month period and was able to photograph the entire program with groups of different inmates, from arriving in shackles to graduation day with inmates in jacket and ties. The New York Department of Corrections gave me total access. I was there from 5:00AM to 10:00PM and I could shoot anything I wanted and talk to anyone, anytime. That freedom led me to the best picture I never took.

One morning after calisthenics and breakfast I was passing through the dorm area and went near a bathroom. I looked in and there was a line of toilets, most occupied. No walls between them, no stalls, no privacy whatsoever. Other people, guards and inmates were walking through, so I did too. There was beautiful soft morning light coming in windows opposite and the line of white porcelain, shiny pipes up the wall, gray cinderblock, and a range of skin tones made for an extraordinary image.

I actually brought one of my Nikons with a wide angle lens up to my eye and looked for a moment before lowering it. It was a great picture, no doubt about it. But it seemed unfair to take it. Is there any time when we feel more vulnerable and defenseless than when we’re sitting on the toilet? I don’t think so. I couldn’t bring myself to take advantage of those young men’s vulnerability, no matter how good a picture it was.

I don’t regret not taking that photograph. But I often think about “the one that got away.”

The following are a few of the pictures from that story.
Waiting in line

Dawn reveille

Running to dawn physical training    

48 men shower in 3 minutes

Superintendent Ron Mosicki

Morning PT

Parole hearing
Graduation day

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Elinchrom ELB Review

I got my first generation Elinchrom Quadra in 2010 and I immediately fell in love with it.
I had been using studio/AC strobes for years, but I was sick of the weight and having to be tied to an outlet or generator. Shoe mount strobes were always a possibility, but they were grossly underpowered and dealing with batteries was a pain. There were a few high powered battery strobes, but they tended to be very heavy and very expensive. Along came the Quadra and it felt like my prayers were answered. Small, light, fairly powerful, not too much money, and best of all- they had an LED modeling light which used very little juice. It was bright enough to be of practical value and it didn’t drain the battery with the same speed as the halogen ones in its bigger cousins.

I travelled all over Europe with those Quadras, shooting portraits of small town shopkeepers and residents. They performed flawlessly. At 400 watt seconds, they had plenty of power to give me the apertures necessary. They set up quickly and I especially loved the modeling light. Whether shooting in the low light of a hotel lobby at night 

 or in practically no light in the caverns of an 18th century winery,

 the LED modeling light was a life saver allowing accurate focus and framing.

Later, I began using them with the ECO ring flash in conjunction with my AC strobes. The ability to power way down and use the ring as a fill in some fairly extensive lighting scenarios was extremely useful. The quality of that fill is very different from using a traditional source or even a bounce card as fill and it gave my work an interesting quality that was difficult to define.

By 2012  Elinchrom had updated the battery in the Quadra from a lead gel to a lithium ion battery.  

What a difference! It was significantly smaller and lighter, the number of flashes per charge was much greater, and the recycle time was reduced. These were all welcome improvements.

Now it’s 2015 and I’ve been working with the latest version, the ELB 400, for a couple of months. 

This time the improvements to the Quadra, while still not revolutionary, represent significant improvements. I must admit, I was very happy with the previous iterations, but this new ELB is really way ahead of the older Quadra Hybrid.

The first thing you notice after unboxing the ELB is that the top panel looks very different from the Hybrid.  

Elinchrom has replaced the hard plastic screw covers on the head outlets with quick flip rubber covers. I wouldn’t consider this a big deal, but it does make set up and tear down that much quicker.

Next, you’ll notice that there are two small outlets on the right side of the panel. One is for the synch cord, but the other is a mini-usb outlet for future firmware upgrades. My guess is that this will make it easy for Elinchrom to add more hyper-sync (the ability to shoot with strobes at a shutter speed higher than the normal limit of 1/160-1/250) and TTL (through the lens metering) capabilities in the future. But there may be other features I haven’t even dreamed of that could be added.

The biggest change to the top panel is the reduction and simplification of the controls. The older unit had seven buttons and five glowing indicators in addition to the power display and battery meter. The menu system was fairly cumbersome and un-intuitive. This didn’t bother me too much since I rarely had a need to change my settings, but when I did, using the manual was absolutely necessary. Even then I sometimes got confused.

The new panel has reduced the buttons to six and an OLED (organic light emitting diode) display. Besides simplifying operation, the best part is that the OLED speaks English and is very intuitive. In fact, it’s modeled after the menu system in the ELC AC strobes, so it felt very familiar to me. There’s really no need for the manual- although I plan to keep mine close by for a while, just in case. It’s really easy to scroll through the options of: 1. photocell 2. skyport 3. audio 4. flash mode 5. power settings 6. statistics

These menu choices give an indication of some of the internal improvements to the ELB. The first three are items we’ve all come to expect from quality studio strobes- an optical slave that we can turn off and on, built in wireless support, and a variety of audio settings. The fourth, flash mode, is a major addition. This adjustment lets you choose between standard operation, delayed synch, sequential firing, or stroboscopic firing. I’ve been using the ELB for fairly traditional location photography, but these new settings will be a huge advantage for action sports shooters, allowing them to do multiple exposures and motion studies in ways previously difficult or even impossible without a truckload of gear and assistants. These options have been available in the Elinchrom ELC series for some time. If you’d like to read about my uses of the ELC go to

There are some fairly significant internal changes to the ELB that I’m very happy about, too. The first is that between an increase in power from 400 watt seconds to 424 and the introduction of the Pro Head, I’m getting almost a full stop more juice out of the unit. The Quadra Hybrid had plenty of power for most of the things I did with it, so what this means is that I can reduce the output for my shots, thus getting many more pops per charge out of the already large capacity lithium battery. I don’t have the patience to accurately test exactly how many pops I’m getting, but I estimate that at 50-70% power, I’m getting well over 500 pops- enough for most days of shooting.

The recycle time has been reduced, too. From full discharge to 100% ready, the original Quadra took almost 2.5 seconds to recycle. Not bad at all. With the introduction of the Hybrid, that was down to just under two seconds. Now with the ELB, recycle time is just over 1.5 seconds. I’m a people shooter and having a recycle time that fast is enormously helpful. My most recent projects have necessitated shooting in very public situations (flea markets and rodeos) and the faster I can shoot and let folks get back to whatever they need to be doing, the better.

One of things that sold me on the original Quadra, still holds true of the ELB- it’s easy to use all of Elinchrom’s modifiers with it. There’s a convenient adapter that lets me use all of my softboxes, grid spots, beauty dishes, and octabanks with this little powerhouse. I think Elinchrom makes the best modifiers out there and there have been many times when the ability to pop one of my “baby” heads into a sophisticated modifier has been a lifesaver.

Lately my work has leaned heavily toward a documentary approach and the ELB is the perfect tool. It allows me the versatility and power of larger, heavier strobes in a package that’s easy to carry and quick to set up and tear down. There are photographers out there who rave about the results they get from using multiple shoe mount strobes and I don’t disagree that it’s possible to do that. But for the money you can spend on three or four of the top of the line shoe mounts, you can get a pretty complete ELB system with two heads and batteries. It will give you way more power and flexibility than the shoe mounts ever could. And you won’t have to invest in hundreds of AA batteries anymore, either.

The following shots show a few of the things I’ve been doing with the ELB and Hybrid. I’ve been using a 17 inch silver beauty dish for a lot of it. I really like the sparkle and punch of that modifier used in daylight situations. The African American cowboy series uses the Ringflash ECO for fill. Shooting on sunny days, people with dark skin wearing cowboy hats is a real challenge trying to get detail in my subjects eyes. The ring on low power opens those shadows just enough without over powering the effect of my main light.

If you have any suggestions or questions about anything in this review, please contact me. I'll get back to you as soon as possible.

Read more about Elinchrom and their products here.

If you'd like to see more of my work, go here.
 (above photo by Hastings Huggins,
 (above photo by Joshua McFadden,

Friday, April 10, 2015

Chris Buck's Five Tips for Becoming a Professional Photographer (and my thoughts, too)

Recently the excellent photographer, Chris Buck, posted the following advice on Facebook. Chris has been one of my favorite photographers for a long time. His portraits of the famous and not so famous are consistently surprising and provocative. He's never been a slave to trends- he just continually strives to produce the best work possible.

With all that said, I found his tips a fair bit contrarian. Which is why (with Chris' permission) I'm re-posting them here. Many of my students will tell you that I encourage them to disagree with me. I believe that healthy debate over positions is one of the best ways to learn more about yourself and your opinions. I've taken the liberty of adding some comments of my own in italics after each of his. (Chris, I hope that's OK.)

Here it is:

Much of the conventional wisdom on how to become an advertising and editorial photographer is wrong, so I’ve written up five tips that counter the common narrative. It’s exciting to meet young people who are creative and driven, nothing would make me happier than to see them thrive as professional shooters.

1. Don’t go to College
More and more I’m meeting emerging photographers who are saddled with over 100K of college debt. My advice to young people – skip photo college. You can learn everything you need through books, mentors and short-term courses. It will be a more challenging road, requiring openness, experimentation, and plenty of trail and error but the dividends are astronomical. Imagine spending your twenties with the freedom to live and work anywhere you wanted without a crippling debt hanging over you demanding a substantial and regular income. College is great but spending $150,000 to be a photographer is insane.

Anything I say here has to be taken with a grain of salt since I teach full time at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. That said, I can't agree more that taking on huge amounts of debt to get an undergraduate degree in commercial photography is a very questionable strategy. When you start your business, there isn't a client in the world who will care whether you have a degree or even a high school diploma. (If they do, they're clearly an amateur.) All clients care about is whether you can produce what they need, when they need it at the price you agreed to. In fact, most gallerists and curators care only slightly more whether you went to college.

On the other hand, I firmly believe that the more you know about art, politics, literature, cinema, psychology, the world, etc, the more you have to bring to your work. The more interested and interesting you are as a person, the more interesting and complex your work will be. College can be a great place to gain that kind of knowledge. The best photography schools are the ones that require significant coursework in addition to students' majors. The work of students and professionals whose aesthetic views come primarily or exclusively from photography  are little more than technocrats or borderline plagiarists. It's not what we choose to photograph that makes for great work. It's who we are that does that.

2. Don’t be a Photo Assistant
Photo assisting is a procrastination tool. One can make amazing money in their mid-twenties as a photo assistant – and have fun and strange experiences on a variety of photo sets - but what you won’t be doing is building a creative foundation that you’ll need when it’s time to get serious in your early thirties. The longer one waits to transition out of assisting the harder it will be – one goes from making great money to no money (at least initially). A better choice would be interning for a great photographer for a season or two, you’ll be immersed in the world that you want to be a part of, and have the license to ask lots of questions.

Here, I think he's kind of right. Assisting can be a trap and I've seen a few of my assistants fall into it. But, mostly, I've found that when the time comes for them to go out on their own, they start being really shitty assistants. I've had to encourage them, sometimes by firing them, to start their own businesses. When Chris says one should intern instead of assist, I think he sees that as a way of avoiding the trap. I would say that how you do that is what's important. Call it interning, call it assisting- just don't do it for too long.

3. Don’t Move to New York
I’ve met more than one young person who told me that they moved to New York to be inspired and be a part of a creative community only to find themselves feeling isolated and exploited. It seems that there are two kinds of people in New York, those with a vision, and those without who work for peanuts for those who do. New York (and other important cities like Los Angeles and London) is primarily a marketplace – cultivate your vision elsewhere then bring it to market and show us something new. New York welcomes you – but come when you have something to say.

Boy! Do I ever agree with this one, although not necessarily for the reasons Chris gives. I believe that success can be measured in a lot of different ways and being a big time New York or LA photographer is not the only way to do it. I think that success can come by means of a healthy life and a solid family. I believe that great work can be done almost anywhere and being in a major metropolitan area is not the only way to achieve it. I spent most of my career in the Rochester, NY area- not the center of the communications and publishing world by most measurements. But I lived in a big old house on an acre of land and my wife and I raised three incredible kids who are now incredible adults. And I did really good work, work that I'm still proud of. Some of it was for national clients, some for local clients. And while I was doing that, I lived a life that I was proud of, too. And, even more importantly, the life that was right for me.

Now, as Chris says, if/when you feel the time is right, then, of course, move to New York. Dazzle them and continue to do great work. But remember, if you decide not to go, that doesn't mean you're a failure. It means that New York wasn't for you. And that's all.

4. Don’t be Successful
If you’re any good you’ll find yourself at some point as out of line with the culture. Your clients will be uninterested or confused by your latest work. Go with it, as it means that you’re onto something special. Of course one needs to make a living, so hit the sweet spot for your clients too, but keep shooting the less obvious pictures along the way – this will be the work that really makes your name down the road.

I like this and have nothing to add. Well said, Chris.

5. Do be a Hater
I’ve found that I make my most interesting and original work when reacting against a prevalent trend rather than being inspired by some well-achieved work. When you’re inspired by a great photographer you tend to make some variation on that person’s work. But when you react against something you set the bar higher, “these folks are getting it wrong, and I’m going to show them the right way.” For me that means digging deep into myself and asking the hard questions about where photography should be going and how I might help bring it there.

I like this one, too, although the title sounds a little like, "Do be an asshole" but that's OK because the reasoning that follows is sound. I'd add that you need to figure out what's interesting to you and then figure out how to make pictures about that. I've found that if I pursue a topic that I'm kinda, sorta interested in, then the pictures are only kinda, sorta interesting. But when I follow up on something I think is REALLY interesting, then the pictures are almost always solid.

His last line is the best. By asking the hard questions we get the most fruitful answers, the ones that allow us to make the most progress and produce the work that has the most impact. And if you find any of those answers, let me know. I'm pretty good at the asking. The answers, not as much, but I'm still trying. 

Thanks again to Chris Buck for starting this conversation. Please let it continue in the comments section below.

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!