Format for an architectural portfolio : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Greetings group,

I would like to assemble a portfolio of my architectural photography that I can use to start marketing my local architects, engineers, and other building professionals. I am having a bit of a quandry about the 'format' of the portfolio, and thought I might elicit some input from the group.

I am not currently a professional photographer, but my skills are sufficient for the local architectural market, and eventually, I would like to make this a substantial portion of my income. Most of the projects that I have photographed I was involved in as an engineering consultant, so I have a decent number of projects to use for a portfolio right now.

I am thinking about what the protfolio should be, and I have come up with several requirements:

1. It must be flexible. I would like to put together a large portfolio of images, and then pull the ones I consider appropriate for the particular potential client. This means that the images should be on individual boards and not bound into a book of any type. So, there is a 'master' set of images, and I pull the images that are suitable for a landscape architect before I go to show them what I can offer them, for example.

2. It needs to be able to withstand handling without showing wear or fingerprints, etc. For this reason, I am having the images printed on matte surface paper.

3. The images must be large enough to show the benefits of the 4x5 negatives. I have selected 8x10 as the appropriate image size.

4. It must be somewhat portable and easily viewed. For this reason, the 8x10 image size is as large as it reasonably can be.

So, I am thinking about mounting the 8x10 images on an 11x14 board, and using a black overmat window over top. This will allow me to replace the overmat if it gets dirty, and also gives the viewer a place to hold the image without placing their fingers on the image itself.

Then, I thought I would get some of the nice Light Impression presentation portfolio boxes to use for the actual portfolio case.

I figure that the portfolio should have at most about 20 or so images in it, to keep the time required to view it to a couple of minutes. Clearly, these would be the twenty best images I have made right now, and as I add more images, then I can be more selective about what I show the potential client.

Now, what I would like to know is if I am going in the wrong direction with the protfolio? Does the overall package and 'image' of the portfolio correspond with architectural photography services? I have seen a couple over the years, but not enough to know if I am barking up the wrong tree with this.

Any thoughts on the overall presentation style and specific details would be greatly appreciated. I especially want to hear if this type of portfolio is useful for you as a photographer and for the potential client.

If my portfolio design deviates substantially from the general industry standard prectice, can anyone tell me what they think the standard prectice is? I feel that deviating is acceptable, if there is a good enough reason, but otherwise, the potential client may note the deviation as an 'oddity', which is the last impression I would like to give to a potential client.

Thanks very much for any comments,


-- Michael Mutmansky (, April 18, 2002


I'll contribute how I have my architectural portfolio configured, which, while it is different from what you envision, has ben extremely well received.

My portfolio is in the form of an 11x14" format Ice Nine portfolio book from Lost Luggage ( All the images inside are printed approximately 5x8" on 11x14 glossy inkjet paper with an Epson 1280 printer and put in acetate sheet protectors. I currently have 18 images in my book, plus pages that include a "title page," copyright and contact information, and an 11x14 version of my resume. The whole thing goes into a sanded aluminum attache case made by Pina Zangaro (available at

The nice thing about the Lost Luggage portfolio books is that you can make just about any kind of statement you want. Paired with the aluminum case and carefully selected type faces, mine has a decidedly industrial appearance, which is what I was going for. I've also seen individual portfolios in Ice Nine books that had completely different looks. The books are post-bound, so while not the quickest process in the world, pages are easily changed, added, removed, etc, so customizing your book to show to a specific client is easily accomplished. The books are not cheap, but are not outrageously costly and the time and money I have put into my portfolio have already proven to be worthy investments. I have also been extremely happy with the support and professional service of Lost Luggage.

This is just how I have things set up, but I have been very pleased with how well my book comes across when showing people from all different backgrounds and preferences. Presentation really is everything, it seems. I'm not connected in any way to Lost Luggage, I'm just a very pleased customer. Good luck.

-- David Munson (, April 18, 2002.

a high-quality leather-bound portfolio "book" is what you need. do NOT print anything on matte-surface paper. do NOT ever use black overmats for anything professional. make certain your work is flawless, and presented in the most professional manner possible. light impressions has a nice selection of presentation materials, and if you spend some time talking to them, they can be very helpful in choosing what you need and how to put it together. good luck.

-- jnorman (, April 18, 2002.

For some strange reason I sit here and say to myself that If I wanted to hire a photographer for architectural work I would want him to bring me a cd disk that I could throw in my computer to look at.

-- Kevin Kolosky (, April 18, 2002.

kevin - the architects i've worked with have, to a person, been extraordinarily astute to the intricacies of high-quality photography. since the resolution of display screens is around 72dpi, they are not adequate for this purpose.

-- jnorman (, April 18, 2002.

Use CD's. Quicker, cheaper, and certainly presents your work in a size large enough evaluate. They can always ask for larger prints if they need them.

You could probably put together a website for the price of a nice portfolio, and ask yourself which really gives you more exposure. CD's run about a buck each ... great promotional value.

I wouldn't worry too much about "industry standards" ... the main thing is to get your work in front of as many prospective clients as possible in an effective manner.

Finally, ask your prospects which format they would prefer to see a presentation in .... I'll wager the word " CD " comes up a lot.

-- Michael Mahoney (, April 18, 2002.

I have no experience in this field whatsoever but after reading the above comments, I can't help but think why not do both?

Show them your portfolio and then leave a CD behind along with some promotional literature ... it doesn't cost much, can't hurt and may well help.

Just a thought...

-- Jeffrey Goggin (, April 18, 2002.

To respond to the initial group of comments:

I am curous why in absolute terms the prints should be on glossy paper. I think you want to present your best image, and a print with visible fingerprints is definately not your best image.

I also am curious why in absolute terms the overmat should not be black. I feel that many images tend to look better with a black background. Again, it you want to present your best image, then I think that black is a valid option.

Now, if those are only opinions, and not absolutes, then I am willing to accept them for that. However, if there is a compelling reasion that these positions are closer to absolutes, I'll need someone to explain to me why they are so.

For CD's, I will eventually do that, but I do not think that a CD is a very good way to present a large format photographer due to the relatively low quality of the display. I will put together a website, and that could easily be put on a CD so that a person could look it over in their spare time.

My intent is to show a prespective client my work. I don't wnat to do this through a computer, I want to hand them a portfolio of my prints to flip through. Architects tend to be very tactile, and while most that I know have accepted and readily use the computer in the work, they still generally prefer to pull out the binder of material samples when it comes time for the nitty-gritty. For this reason, I think I want my initial contact with them to be in hard format.

Plus, my experience in the industry means that I can talk to their level in a discussion of architecture and photography. This benefit won't come across to them from a website or CD.

Finally, their computer and display could really be poorly calibrated, and the images could look terrible. I don't want that to be their first impression of my work.

So, while I do consider a CD and/or website to be an excellent piece of support material, I don't think it should be the primary portfolio for initial client contact.

Any more comments are much appreciated...


-- Michael Mutmansky (, April 18, 2002.

I am an architect who hires photographers and a large format architectural photographer ( I hire when I can't find the time to do the work myself). Most of the photographers I have talked to show their work the same way I do, 8x10 format in a black leather multi- ring binder. You want to show the work in the form that most architects will purchase it (color prints), and you need to be able to put things in and take things out easily. I do think it would be nice to see the prints mounted,overmatted and boxed, but it will suffer from handling and you will want to show your work to a lot of people and keep it up to date. The really important thing is the quality of the photos, you will be judged on that. The architects will see past any fancy packaging if the work is not good. As for the CD idea, it might be nice as a leave behind, but you want to be able to sit face to face and explain your work to the potential client- you can't do that with a CD. When I get CD's from potential employees, I always cringe a bit because it is more work for me to look at than printed material and it is so impersonal. One other method of portfolio presentation that I have been impressed with is showing 4x5 transparencies sleeved and black matted. You need a small light box to do this. If you shoot mostly transparencies, this may be the most vibrant way to show the results, and it can be kept up to date very easily.

-- David Rose (, April 19, 2002.

Thanks for the responses, everyone. I have much to think about, and I appreciate the time you have spent giving me you thoughts.


-- Michael Mutmansky (, April 22, 2002.

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