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

One thought on “The Print Portfolio – a thing of the past?

  1. I’m with you Kevin – I also am keen on seeing a printed image. I promised myself a while ago that I’d start collecting (photographic) books again and have also been published in my time. It’s a thing of beauty in its own right to see images in a bound volume.

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