Monday, May 25, 2015

How Many Images Should Be in Your Portfolio?

How many images should your portfolio have? I've been doing photography commercially as well as freelance for well over a decade and in that time this still seems to be something upstarts seems to struggle with. Every circumstance is different but there is a sweet spot; that perfect number that seems to be just right.That sweet port number is 15.

You can comb the Internet after reading this but what you'll find on nearly every blog, industry periodical or site are articles stating the maximum amount you should have and the minimum you should have. In short, if you can't say it visually in 15 images you'll want to call in a creative booking agent to show you how it's done.

What's the harm in having more? The harm is that you appear unfocused. You don't seem to know where you want to go or where you want to be. Additionally decision makers that hire from portfolios don't have time to look at your art nude pics no matter how good they are if you're trying to get booked as a hand model or get a gig as a product photographer.

In any creative industry where portfolios rule, one bad apple does spoil everything. As someone that still works as a commercial photographer and as a freelancer, I can tell you I lose interests beyond 15 images no matter how interesting that port is. It's a numbers game but with a higher number pushing me towards boredom. With editors or creative hiring managers having to comb thru dozens of submissions, or booking agents or directors needing you to get to the point they want your very very best images.

You think all your images are good. I can understand why you think so. Maybe they are but no one needs to see everything at once. Choose your absolute unquestionable best of the best and save the rest for your follow up. Everyone hiring or casting from a portfolio only remembers about 3, maybe 5 of your absolute top images at best. Furthermore, you have to be even more discriminating about your work than your potential target because you don't have another chance to make a first impression with them.

The first mistake is people tend to forget is that your portfolio is your resume. You have to tailor that resume to the clients that you want to attract. If you're a model and you want to do more catalog work then you show your top 15 catalog-ish images. You don't clog it up with irreverent data that detract from your skills. Therefore, NEVER EVER use any less than ideal image as a placeholder for your port online or otherwise. If you don't have 15 but only 8 high end images then show the 8. I often hear people say, "well I'm having some pro shots taken and will replace these when I get them." Or "my new camera is coming but I used my cell phone camera for now to get my photo port started." Bad move! Your creative reputation has already been tainted should that starter-port become public or get seen by anyone if it's anything less than ideal for your "weight-class" for lack of a better word. Why anyone would do that is beyond my ability to comprehend.

A portfolio says everything about you. It should say this is what I've done but more so this is the direction I want to go and this is how I'm beneficial to you. See my level of skill and how adaptable I am? I've done so many different things but my port is a perfect example of the type of artists you're looking for for your organization or project.

A resume does exactly that but with a port it must be done so in less than half of the time it takes to go thru a written resume. Just like a resume you tweak it for the job you want and for the collaborations you seek and it need not be 15 pages long no more than a good portfolio needs to be more then 15 images deep. In this business less is nearly always more. Of course there will be an exception or two where 20 might be best or even 10. But you have to understand the nature of the industry you're in and the processes of selection in place for visual fields. It's brutal and its immediate. My day tasks requires split second decisions from what can be dozens or hundreds of images. Only the absolute best stand out and when I get any group that goes beyond 15 my mind immediately goes blank after those first few pages.

Any good artist also will know that you can never have a single resume or port. You'll have maybe three or more all with slightly different things in them based on the work you want to get at that time. If you want to photograph products then your port should demonstrate photo compositions and lighting style skills needed for that industry and the evidence supports that number should be averaging around 15 images. If you can't show it 15 images then you may want to ask yourself if you're being redundant and whether or not you truly have your absolute incontestable best out front.  

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Modeling and Age Discrimination

About three weeks ago I worked with a model I’d never worked with before. She is gorgeous in every way. Polite, intelligent, beautiful skin, gorgeous full and shiny hair and an amazing fit body. As long as a person is of legal age I don’t really care how old they are. If they suit the look I’m going for then I really could care less beyond getting the job done. But I was stunned by what she told me. She mentioned that in her experience many people were turned off by her age. She perfectly recalled an occasion, when a photographer she had just finished shooting with asked her age. When she told him he visibly expressed shock and immediately became dismissive and treated her horribly. I personally just don’t understand the obsessiveness with age. Clearly this model was perfect before the photographer knew her age. I was appalled and very disappointed in this photographer’s behavior. It makes the entire industry seem so very very superficial.  All we really want or really need is a competent and talented subject to meet the criteria of the task. 

I might have known that something was off when she asked the average age of the models I typically work with early in the photo shoot. She was unnaturally interested. When I mentioned all ages she was visibly but pleasantly surprised. I clearly remember saying, “I don’t have an age limit. I only have qualifications. If a person suits those qualifiers then I don’t care. If she is slightly older then all the better since statistics tend to suggests that more mature models are more reliable.” Then she told me her story. I couldn’t get over how someone calling themselves a professional could behave in such a manner. In her estimation, anyone over 30 years of age was at a horrible disadvantage. Clearly she had been shaken and somewhat discouraged by her experiences and given her talent and her looks I was simply baffled why anyone so beautiful might have developed such a distrust and negative attitude about the industry at large.

It didn’t take me long to realize she was not alone. I did a bit of research and spoke to a few colleagues and other models. While there are certainly more mature models working, many have experienced some form of push back when they revealed their age. It wasn’t because they didn’t look the look, walk the proverbial walk or that they didn’t meet all the criteria of the task - NO! It was only because of their age; a simple number that often disqualified them from further consideration.

When did we become so shallow a society to care how old or how young a person is if they perfectly suit the task at hand? In fact, I have argued that on occasion it might be more attractive to seek out a slightly more mature model because of their attention to detail, their work ethic and dedication. Paid or unpaid, collaboration or commissioned, I have never had a model over 30 years of age not show up. From a marketing perspective, any smart person would know that models in their 40s, 50s and 60s is a rapidly growing and sought after group due to the amount of products and services seeking that demographic. More specifically, the amount of quality images needed to promote products to that group is rapidly expanding. It is quite simply, a smart move to work with this rapidly expanding market. If anything, this photographer should be bowing and pleading for the pleasure. But even that is not really the argument here. The lack of common business sense is argument enough for the imbecile that has a problem with age. But what truly perturbs is the fact that this age-nazi expressed no problem whatsoever until he or she actually learned the model’s age. It’s baseless and ignorant to age discriminate for any reason short of not being able to perform the task and that can be true of any person at any age. 

This photographer, whomever they are is simply a fool. It was a tactless thing to do, a blatant lack of professionalism and it shames me to know that someone as kind and as beautiful as this model has to endure such ridicule for being who she is. 

Lucky for me I did photograph her and quite frankly I loved every second of it. She was perfectly qualified, punctual, experienced, respectful, communicable and gorgeous. What else could I possibly want? All things being equal she was perfect and I don’t care how old she is beyond being of legal age.