Is The Print Portfolio Making a Comeback In the Age of The Internet?

In an age where social media fatigue is a real and prominent problem, photographer Erik Almas tries to stand out from the crowd by means of the age-old print portfolio. Detailing the ‘whys’ and ‘whats,’ he briefly goes over what it is that made him decide to go back to the physical portfolio and how his work is organized in the interesting video above.

The main problem, as Almas sees it, is that the growth of social media is stripping the online portfolio of its personality and sincerity.

In a world where hundreds of millions of photographs are shared each day, Almas wanted to take a step back in time and bring a more personal touch to his work when he showed it off to clients. And what better way to do that than to hand them a massive album full of high quality prints.

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It’s fairly well-recognized that hands-on time with a product — or in this case the work of a potential hire — builds a deeper connection than something seen on a screen. By using these albums, Almas does exactly that, standing out amongst a plethora of photographers whose only physical product is a business card with a link to their website.

As for the ‘how’ of his albums, he also explains the organizational scheme behind his portfolios. Another vital component of marketing is knowing your customer and what it is they’re looking for. For Almas’s, this means breaking his work down into three major categories and building a respective portfolio for each.

This allows him to bring the appropriate portfolio with him to the first meeting once he’s determined what a particular client is looking for.

All of this and more is explained in the 8-minute video at the top: a great watch that offers some wonderful tips and suggestions for those of you looking to take a more tactile approach when pitching your work.

(via ISO 1200)

  • Kris J Boorman

    I love this. Whenever I’ve taken an iPad to a bar or restaurant for the owner to look through, its swipe… swipe… swipe… Theres no reverence.

    Same photos in a nicely presented, printed album results in them examining and really taking in each shot.

    Its the mentality of instantly digestible media, I think. We recognise art as printed, and digital media as disposable and instantly replaceable.

  • Matt

    I fully agree with this. I shoot a lot of local bands for fun, and my portable 3×4″ printer has become a staple part of my kit. There’s a big difference between the photographer who the band sees flitting about, and the one who comes up and presents a little print that they can hold, stick on their fridge, and see daily for the next three weeks. Being able to show “this is what I got _right now_” has netted me a couple paying gigs from bands I hadn’t heard of before walking in to the venue.

    From other events that I attend for fun, that include a lot of fans in awesome costumes, I sometimes show up on the second day or the next year with 5×7’s or 8×10’s that I’ll give out, if they’re still there. Made some good friends that way, and the good ones wind up in a portfolio that I carry around on-site.

    So, PRINTS. Do it. Period.

  • MMielech

    That’s nice, and, I agree that print portfolios are cool, but, on that table, I’m just guessing, is possibly $6,000 or more of prints and portfolio books. Not cheap. Sure, you say, you can print them yourselves, but ink, paper and expertise in using a high end printer is not cheap, either. Probably more than sending it out, in the end.

    And, after going through his site, I’m still trying to figure out if he did the retouching on all of his pics, because, after all, he’s a compositor, not really a photographer. If he did not do the retouching, well, who did? that person should get a lot of credit, too.

    Both the printing and retouching take a lot of time, if you want to get it right. Where does he find the time, if he is the sole producer?

  • arachnophilia

    > Sure, you say, you can print them yourselves, but ink, paper and expertise in using a high end printer is not cheap, either

    jokes on you, i run an industrial print lab.

  • MMielech

    So, you’re using up your boss’s materials?

  • David Liang

    Why is he disqualified from being a photographer because he also does compositing? The pre-visualization and technical know how at the capture stage is exactly that of a photographers. I would classify him as both. Or at the very least not a traditional photographer but still a photographer.

  • arachnophilia

    i get them at wholesale, not retail.

  • anthony

    Printed portfolios will always have a place. Some remind me of a beautiful fine art books. I find my own work has more impact when viewed as a print

  • Kevin Lillard

    I got a job though a print portfolio. I have a collection of 8×11 prints from an ordinary inkjet printer that are in an old-fashioned three-ring binder, held in office store sheet protectors. I showed the binder to a person who needed a photographer. That person liked the images and the stories behind them and I was hired.

  • John Photon

    Note to Petapixel: The print book hasn’t gone anywhere for commercial or fine art work. This is not news. Yes, the work’s online and some of it does get shown with an iPad, but every advertising and fine art photographer that I’ve been around still shows their work with good ol’ fashioned prints. Erik Almas does great work yet there’s a certain fanboyism here in reporting that, because he’s doing a print book, it’s somehow newsworthy.

  • Brian Carey

    Anyone know what brand of portfolio case he uses?

  • Ray S

    I still update both a print and online portfolio. Both have advantages. Some of the things I include in my print version which I don’t online are intro pages to a project which showcase earlier sketches and prototypes. It’s usually just a page. The nice thing about print portfolio is that it showcases my graphic design and layout ability. It is a printed book.

    My online portfolio is immediate and it’s able to showcase things in separate categories easily. It showcases my skills in web design. My concern though has always been that because it is easily accessible, it is easy for anyone to steal or copy the work (which is why I never put in prototype work.) I have interviewed at a few places that did not hire me and yet later I would see similar work that resembled some of my projects coming from their studio. It happened twice and I do not think it was a coincidence.

  • Ryan

    I’m fairly sure he does his own retouching, but it’s not all done at once; it’s a process during each shoot if you watch any of the BTS videos close enough to catch a glimpse of his monitor. He usually has a production team help with the grunt work of setting up lights etc. If you run through all of the articles on him you’d be damned to say he’s not a photographer, he just prefers to work with composites. If you want to be picky about it, that makes him an image maker; aren’t we all?

    Most of his time is saved by getting angles, direction of light, color of light, different textures etc. done correctly in camera. He brings a tape measure to every shoot so the distance to the camera is consistent. He also blends the texture of the ground beneath the model to a new scene whenever possible rather cutting them out completely and superimposing them. Yes, the process probably takes a while, but maybe not as long as you’re thinking. You could also put together a print portfolio for cheaper than that I suspect. If you’re really smart you’ll order prints as you take the shots and just build from there.

  • Donald Giannatti

    They never went away to begin with.

    The plethora of internet ‘gurus’ who were only recently vested with the ‘pro’ monker didn’t have them. The digital wannabees didn’t have them.

    Working advertising and editorial pros did.

    What is happening is that the ‘fad’ of being a photographer is washing away, leaving the base of pros standing.

    Hard copy books have been a staple of the working professional in Advertising and Editorial all through the ‘digital revolution’.

    There are many good reasons to have a book, but most of those are lost on the casual photographer… no problem with that at all.

  • Donald Giannatti

    “…he’s a compositor, not really a photographer.”

    Oh lord… this stuff still continues?

  • Dani Riot

    I will never lose my print portfolio. Photographs always look better in print.

  • William R. Hood

    Thank you!
    You are willing to do all our printing for us gratis?

  • William R. Hood

    Digital imaging is probably not photography, anymore than cinema is photography. They both use light and cameras, both came out of photography, and both are now their own animals.

    A tape measure may not be any help unless all his primary subjects/props require 1:1 sizing.

    An image maker could create whatever they wish to present. In Almas’s case he has 6 binders, @ aprox $300.+ for the binders plus inserts. Two shipping cases @ $200.(?) each. Say 50 prints per binder = 600 prints, probably 3 sets of each (at least) as prints get worn and dog eared. That’s 1800 prints, but to get the final output right on each print it could take a number of test prints for each finished print (2-6 tests?). Let’s say it’s just 2 tests for each finished print, that’s another 600 prints. 2400 prints @ (lets say) $4. print = $9600. + the other expenses ($2400.) = $12,000.00. This also doesn’t include all the time required to test prep and CC individual files for print. It also does not include the time for layout, order, art direction for each book. Before the industry went downhill most advert photographers had 10 sets of books – all with shipping cases, constantly en-route to ADs.

    That “grunt work” you mention, that is what skilled first, second, and third assistants do – and it does take skill and experience. I’d imagine he is capable of doing some of his own retouching, but may only do it himself on personal work, when time allows. An ad campaign is probably retouched by others (in house or out). Software today makes composites much easier than the days of hand selecting pixel by pixel.

  • Kevin Boldenow

    There is nothing like a photographic print. Such a penchant of detail.

  • Ryan

    I didn’t claim his finished piece was a photograph, but he is a photographer, there’s no question. He’s also an image maker, there’s no question there either. Arguing that his finished piece isn’t a photograph straight out of the camera is irrelevant, it’s a statement of fact.

    Yes, assistants have experience and are usually photographers in their own right, but it’s still side work so to speak. They are moving things, operating lights, giving feedback etc, but they aren’t the masterminds behind the image; they’re a support team. I guess that makes them knights and bishops instead of pawns, but that’s nitpicking.

    I wasn’t denying the portfolio was expensive, that’s obvious; but it doesn’t mean you can’t buy prints over time. I’m pretty sure all of us can afford to print a photograph + tests after every job. If you can’t, then you’re not charging enough.

    How many photographers have the same amount of high end clients as Erik Almas? Your portfolio will be equivalent to your value. Why make it sound impossible? The jobs pay for the printing.