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Regardless of “niche,” the one thing every working photographer needs is a portfolio. Not just any thrown-together collection of images will cut it, either. A strong, concise, and impressive showcase of your talent is crucial to developing your business. If your website is your storefront, then your portfolio is your biggest and most effective sales tool. It emphasizes who you are, it shows off what you’re capable of, and it tells new customers exactly what you can do for them. Without a portfolio, you’ll be dead in the water. After all, talk is cheap in the creative industries; people want to see what you can do, not just hear about it.
The classic photography portfolio consisted of a book or album containing selected prints, usually in 8 x 10 or 11 x 14" format. Some pro photographers still go the tangible route today, arguing that nothing can compare to the lasting impression of a physical print. One thing for certain is that the advent of digital media has made putting a portfolio together infinitely simpler, faster, and less expensive than it used to be. iPads are now the norm when it comes to showing off work to potential photography clients, whether they be a huge commercial lead or an expectant mother at a baby shower. Books cost hundreds to put together, depending on quality, and the expenses don’t stop there—they need to be updated every year or so. The beauty of using your iPad is that for a few bucks (or no cost at all), you can swipe together one or several showcase galleries to take with you just about anywhere.
Putting together a successful portfolio is a bit of an art form unto itself. Its contents have to be carefully vetted and laid out in a way that speaks to and holds the attention of your target audience. Pick only the images that you know are winners; they're your proudest pieces of work, and you're confident potential clients would be impressed. Anything that makes you pause, deliberate, or have second thoughts isn't good enough—ditch it and move on. It's not always easy to scrutinize the photos you work so hard creating, but remember to be critical and realistic. Think like a client, and keep their needs in the forefront of your mind. Don’t show senior portraits to a bride inquiring about wedding photography. If you're struggling to pick out images for yourself, find someone with good taste (and honest opinions) who can help you cull through the duds.
Stay true to your personality, and make your gallery every bit as much a biographical glimpse into who you are as an artist as it is a showcase of your skills. When you're looking at your options, try to switch things up a bit from a visual standpoint. Include different angles, points of view, compositions, colors. Strive to tell a story, and pay careful attention to your sequencing to be sure it makes sense and flows. You want to present yourself as versatile and creative, not as a one-trick pony. Just remember to be consistent in subject matter. Again, stick to a theme! Putting a stark, linear architectural shot next to a sweet photo of a newborn baby will do nothing but confuse people and score you no business.
In addition to only selecting your absolute best, you also need to keep things short and sweet. Not too short, mind you; less than 10 photos in your portfolio can make you seem amateurish, under-qualified, or somewhat desperate. More than 20, on the other hand, and even your most spectacular work will start losing novelty and impact for your audience. This type of restraint can be a definite challenge using an iPad, since it makes it so easy (and free!) to upload endless images. Try to aim for 12-15 “pages,” with a little wiggle room in either direction. Give your client a perfect sampling of who you are and what you do, and then you can get on to talking numbers.
One of the worst mistakes you can make creating a portfolio is starting and/or ending on a weak note. The first image a potential client sees sets the tone for the whole meeting. It is their first impression of you, and that can easily sway how the rest of your time together will go. Have you ever been introduced to someone who instantly rubbed you the wrong way over an inconsequential first impression? That's not a mistake you want to make with a new customer. The last image you present is also critical. This is the one that will stick. It's the image a client will remember most vividly when they walk away and recount their meeting with you. This shot needs to be equally as strong and awe-inspiring as the first.
Now that you know how to build the perfect portfolio (in any medium), it's time to put that advice to use with your iPad. If you're not sure where to begin, you'll find multiple viable options by searching the App Store, both free and paid. To get you started, here are a few great choices. These portfolio apps may not fit everyone's needs, so feel free to do a little research or read reviews before downloading.
Portfolio for iPad
Portfolio for iPad is, as its straightforward name implies, a dedicated premium-priced portfolio app. As one of the more expensive options available, it boasts a comprehensive management system for professional creatives to showcase their artwork. Portfolio for iPad includes support for not only images, but videos and PDFs, as well. This gives credence to its versatility. Users can create sub-galleries, customized branded title screens (think presentation), and even add music to slideshows. When handing off the iPad to a client, users can implement a “lock” mode that prevents them from opening any back-end management tools, whether accidentally or on purpose. Files can be uploaded a number of ways, including your iPad's camera roll, Dropbox, Box, their Mac desktop uploader, or a list of URLs. Photos are then stored internally, so no Internet connection is needed when working within the app or showing off a portfolio. You can even utilize external display integration through AirPlay or with an HDMI adapter.
Another paid option is FolioBook, which is fairly popular among working creatives of all sorts, including models, designers, architects, and a favorite of Scott Kelby himself. This app shares many features of the above-mentioned Portfolio for iPad, perhaps slightly more simplified. Its interface is nice and clean, with a modernized feel that can be further customized to fit your branding and style. Use title pages, create multiple sub-galleries, or add music to your slideshows. FolioBook can pull images from your camera roll, or sync with galleries on Dropbox or PhotoShelter sites. It also offers support for video, backup (use it on multiple iPads), and a similar client “lock” read-only mode. It's worth noting that many of these apps use gestures to navigate that aren't entirely intuitive at first, so read the quick demo before you dive in.
If you're just looking for something quick, simple, and attractive, there are free options too, starting with Kredo Portfolio. Kredo is part portfolio, part social network. If you don't already have an account, you'll just need to sign up with your e-mail through the app's interface. From there, you're able to create multiple galleries pretty easily to show off your work. Upload images directly from your iPad's camera roll, or sync from Dropbox, iTunes, or Format.com. Use these portfolio galleries purely for face-to-face client interaction (even without an Internet connection), or share them on social media. Either way, this kind of basic simplicity is ideal for those not interested in bells and whistles.
Behance Creative Portfolio
Behance, Adobe's online platform for sharing and discovering creative talent, also offers a free iPad portfolio app. If you already have a profile on Behance, you simply sign in and download whichever of your existing online portfolios you would like to have at your fingertips. If you don't have an account, you can sign up for one in a second's time through the app's introductory login screen. Once signed in, you can also integrate images from your camera roll or Adobe Creative Cloud. Like Kredo, Behance Creative Portfolio is basic, modern, and clean. Also like Kredo, you have the handy option of sharing your in-app portfolios through social media or email. Images can be viewed without an Internet connection.
Squarespace has grown in leaps and bounds in the creative industry over the past several years. If you're one of the many photographers (or other visual artists) hosting a website through Squarespace, you can download their free portfolio app for iPad. This incredibly simplistic platform syncs the image galleries from your website, organized in the same format in which you have them set up online (ie; Weddings, Landscapes, Family Portraits, and so on). Once synced, these galleries can also be accessed without an Internet connection. It's clean, attractive, and to the point. As mentioned above, this app's interface relies almost entirely on gestures, so make sure you pay attention to the introductory demo.