The Print Portfolio – a thing of the past?

I was recently sorting out my old darkroom, preparing it for an overdue repainting and a restructuring, when I came across my old 12×16 inch print portfolio. Leafing through it, after leaving it inactive for quite some years, I started reflecting on another change which the Digital revolution has brought upon us. Today, very few photographers, (and models or actors), still use print portfolios. Most clients require only digital files, both to review or to see samples of photographic work and they are also more often than not to require digital files as a final product.  How times change – yet, I think, that in this matter, it is for the better.

 

The printed portfolio

The printed portfolio

 

Producing Digital portfolios costs so little as one does not need really to print photographs anymore. Previously, it was very costly to update portfolios but now, through using digital media, it is actually cost free. This has not been good news for photographic laboratories, but now, one can update work in step with one’s progress and improvement. The portfolios of anyone who uses them are today much more up to the minute and thus reflect the portfolio owner’s current levels and standards. It is also a faster process to diffuse and advertise one’s work. Most viewers of portfolios are not interested in print quality at all, but in the actual content. Seeing this content on screen instead of in print does not adversely affect them. Today’s photographers need to consider their output based on different media than previously. There are so many more options.

Still, one argument does persist – and I daresay will continue to persist – and that is that many people do still enjoy and relate with images more in depth if they are printed. This could stem from the fact that when viewing physical images or a book, one tends to concentrate more on the process than when viewing imagery on a screen. Our impatience usually makes us fly through imagery on screens. Photography book sales have not really decreased and the relatively recent option of printing custom books in any amount of copies, even one copy, keeps increasing. In fact, I believe this latter option perhaps is not exploited enough by photographers and other users of portfolios. A custom book can keep promoting one’s work indefinitely, particularly if placed in the right place. Leaving a book inside a drawer does not serve its purpose, but making sure it is visible and easily picked up by visitors to your studio, office or home, diffuses and promotes your work with little effort. Naturally, it is also important to have your name proudly displayed on the front cover of any book containing your work. This constantly evolving paradigm should also make photographers think more about online ways of promoting their work. With high quality video available in most DSLR cameras, one has the tools to produce little clips or tutorials so that these can be put up on online media and again show your work all over the globe. Producing custom books is relatively cheap and getting cheaper, whilst diffusing one’s work on online media is usually free.

It is also rather puzzling that Maltese photographers, in my opinion, are not really exploiting this media as much as they should. One does not see too many PDF portfolios produced by local photographers. I wonder why this is so when, again, this is so cheap and easy. PDF portfolios, if produced in the right manner and in a reasonable size that is easily manageable by email, can again boost the work and promote many photographers. Although on this island we seem to pride ourselves with being very up to date with modern technology, I have a feeling that most photographers seem to resist or not realize the full potential of this evolving technology and the many ways that they can utilize it.

Or are we too busy to explore new methods and ways of moving forward or are we just too lazy or engrossed in our day to day chores to open up our eyes to all these benefits? I hope this makes most of you reflect and take action before the whole world passes us by!

© Kevin Casha

PHOTOGRAPHY TUITION – a new jungle?

Way back in 1992, when I originally started doing my courses in photography, I never realised how these same courses would evolve into what today I consider as my main job and passion. Although some courses and tuition were already being done by the only, at that time, organized photography group on the island, it was really unheard of for a person to teach photography in Malta as a freelancer!

How dare someone teach the profession and enable others to become better photographers! How dare someone deprive already working photographers of their livelihood by helping the ‘competition?’ What audacity for someone to facilitate the path of other ‘wannabe’ photographers towards building a business or a career in photography?? As if anyone who is in any profession has any God given right to stop anyone else from taking the same route that he or she, as a beginner, had first undertaken! Do you know of anyone who was born a photographer right away in his cot! Had all these short sighted detractors forgotten their humble beginnings?

Photography_Courses_Malta_Fast_Track

Photography_Courses_Malta_Fast_Track

Yes, all these accusations were leveled at me when I took the plunge and started teaching. Today, most of my critics are belatedly trying to do what I did years ago: yes – teach. I have always advocated that learning is important and I have eternally been in favour of a free market. Anyone who is capable and passionate enough has all my full support. Yet, currently, I cannot but cringe at the way that matters are shaping up. It really seems that everyone now is trying to teach photography and, although there are various persons capable of doing this in the right manner, there are a host of others who are just jumping in without any skills or background. Recent years have thrown up a spate of complaints from persons who are in some way being ‘duped’ into paying for photography tuition and then finding out that they are really learning very little or, worse still, getting the wrong information or guidance. There are even cases where courses where just terminated midway through their schedule without the students being refunded! Yes, unfortunately it is becoming a jungle and there is little one can do but attempt to educate the students BEFORE they go out and book courses blindly.

Photography_Courses_Malta_Fast_Track

Photography_Courses_Malta_Fast_Track

The answer boils down to common sense and, first and foremost, one needs to realize that a skilled photographer does not always make a good tutor. A good tutor needs to be organized, needs to know how to deliver and share his knowledge, and needs to keep abreast and on top of his game. Taking good pictures and being a professional in one’s work is necessary but a good teacher needs many other skills. With social groups and online marketing, it has become quite easy for anyone to create a course and diffuse it around the internet and attract students. Again, there is nothing wrong with that, it is a free country, but be aware, particularly of those who have no visible track record of teaching. A student can really pass through a nightmare experience. If you needed a doctor, would you go to anyone who advertises on social media? Would you blindly ask for a service from any company which pays for an advert in yellow pages or would you ask for referrals and recommendations? Do an exercise and look up photographers on Malta’s yellow pages – some of the claims that some advertisers publicize make you laugh (or cry, for that matter!) This is not just in photography, but in all other professions or service industries – it’s a sign of our times.
So how does one go about selecting the right course or the right tutor? In Malta it is rather easy. Just ask for recommendations, ask someone who has already been to the tutor that you are considering. There is no better advert than recommendation and word of mouth, particularly on a small island like ours, where everyone knows everyone else. Go for courses which are well structured and clearly map out what you are going to be taught and how it is going to be done. Look for professionalism in every detail.

So the next time that you are seriously thinking of going into learning photography, do yourself a favour, and research your tutor well. It will avoid you unsavoury experiences and a waste of time and money.

© Kevin Casha