Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Skinny on Portfolios

With everything being digital these days most of us either don't have a book or hasn't updated it in a long time.  I have to say that at this point in my career I hardly show my book nor does it get requested.  Plus, I always get away with just sending people to my website.  But one thing is for sure, I always keep my book updated.  Yes, I admit that sometimes I go on a bit too long w/o putting new things in there but for the most part, if I ever have to meet with a last minute client that wants to see a physical book, I know that my portfolio isn't super backed up.

I also understand that when first getting a book, you don't really know where to start building.  It can be a stressful and daunting task.  You're not sure if your pictures are good enough or if you even have enough images to put into the book.  Heck, sometimes you don't even know what kind of book to get!  All these questions burning in your brain and you have no idea of the answers.

Hopefully the following can serve as some guidance:


  • Standard industry size is 11 x 14.  Sometimes when starting out 9 x 12 is acceptable but here's how I see it...why buy a 9 x 12 if you're going to eventually upgrade to an 11 x 14?  Save yourself some money and just go with the 11 x 14.
  • Books should be black.  I've seen them in different colors but personally I like dark colors.  I feel it looks more professional.
  • Always go with either Leather or Waxskin.  Most of the time you can't even tell the difference...but your pocket sure will!  Leather can run you about $250.  Waxskin, $150.  Mine is waxskin.
  • Pages should never be scratched or fingerprinted.  Always make sure your pages are crisp and clean.  That means no dents or bends on the pages.  Replace any pages that don't look neat ASAP.  The same goes for the page insert (which should be black).
  • Get a book that you can take apart so you can add/subtract any pages from it.  It also makes it easy when putting new work into your book.  
  • Your book should ALWAYS have your name imprinted / embossed on the front cover.  Keep the font readable and don't go with crazy cursive fonts.  


  • Most books come with a standard of 20 pages (holds 40 images).  Does this mean that you have to have 40 images in your book for it to be complete?  Absolutely NOT!  Remember it's about Quality, not quantity.  Always make sure that everything in the image is top notch.  Everything (makeup, hair, photography, model, styling and retouching) has to be in tip top shape.  If even ONE thing is off, it will ruin the image as a whole.  If you only have 10 amazing images, simply just take out the pages you're currently not using and store them in a place where you know they wont be ruined and bent out of shape.
  • Some books also come with an inner pocket on the back flap.  I always suggest to get a book that comes with it.  Why?  Because it's a great place to store your resumes, comp cards, reference list and some extra pictures (in the case that 40 isn't enough).  By extra pictures I mean a few, 3 - 6 images.  Don't stuff that flap with a million pictures.  It makes the book look cluttered and unprofessional.
  • Put a sticker / label with your information on it (name, profession, phone number, website and email address).  Get one done at staples / kinkos or buy a label maker and stick that sucker on the inside front flap of your book--preferably at the bottom.
  • Tear Sheets!  If you have any tear sheets they should always be neat and placed right in the middle of the page.  Just because they're called tear sheets doesn't mean that you tear them out and slap them in your book.  Gently take them out of the magazine and carefully cut the edges to perfection.  You can do this with a paper cutter or a ruler and an x-acto knife.  Put a tiny piece of folded up tape behind the tear sheet (one on top and one on bottom) so it sticks to the page insert and wont move around all over the place.

    *Note:  Buy more than one copy of the magazine you were published in.  Some agencies are known for losing your book and if that's the only copy you had, then you're in some deep doodoo.  OR, go to a copy place and make copies of the original and put the copies (in full awesome color) in your book.


Your book should always be set up to meet the requirements of the client.  Every client is different so if you're going in for a skin care job, don't take any of the high fashion stuff and creative--yellow lipstick--beauty story with you.  Take it out and keep only the clean work in your book.

And not just any bag.  Buy a portfolio carry bag.  Don't carry your portfolio in a plastic bag, your backpack or purse.  Not only does it look good in there but it keeps your portfolio from getting dirty and dusty.  The carry bag should have your information on it (name and address) so in the case that you send your book to an agent, they know who to send it back to.

So how much is this going to cost me?  Well, depending on the book type, how many letters in your name, the printing of pictures, the carry bag...I'd say anywhere from $250 - $350.  But it's worth every penny.  Your portfolio is your resume and without a resume, you can't book jobs.

Good Luck!


  1. Even though I also rarely show my book I just personally love having a hard copy of my work! I don't care what anyone says it still looks nicer in print in 11X14 then on the computer IMO.

  2. Thank you Yisell for the information. Is the 11x14 size used if let's say, I live in Europe?

    Are there any online portfolio retailers that you recommend? I live in Paris so international shipping would be nice.

  3. Flexina,
    To be honest I'm not really sure about Europe standards but I know that industry standard is 11 x 14.

    I got my portfolio from House of Portfolios ( I don't think you can order online but you can call them and ask if they take any orders over the phone.

    Good luck! =)