A portfolio of your images might mean that you present them in a traditional, physical photography portfolio, as shown in 11-2. There’s almost no substitute for being able to show images in this way, and the resolution you get with a high-quality photographic print always presents a photo very well.
However, how you go about preparing a print portfolio depends on whether you have digital printing equipment, such as a high-quality photo printer, or use a lab to produce your digital images on paper. If you’re printing the image yourself, and if it’s for a portfolio or other high-quality display purpose (just as it is to sell the print to a customer), you’ll want to be sure you use the best-quality paper and ensure your color calibration is accurate. The most difficult thing about printing images yourself is getting the colors absolutely correct — if you have them printed commercially and you’re not happy, you can demand they be reprinted; however, if you print them yourself and you’re not happy with your initial results and must print multiple copies to get them right, you’ve paid for the bad prints as well as the good ones.
I typically use online lab services, as well as some very high quality local printers. Printroom (print-room.com) is a professional online lab that hosts the galleries on my Web sites and also prints the images and fulfills (they manage payments, shipping, and so on) my clients’ orders from those sites. The good thing about this is that I can also use Printroom to print images I want to use for my portfolio or other purposes, and I can buy them at a very good price. They offer specialized types of paper, including a variety of textures (for example, pro-lustre), black-and-white (Ilford), and Kodak Metallic products. For many types of prints, they will print up to a 40 X 60-inch size. I have stocked my portfolio with images they have printed (as shown in 11-3), which gives me the chance to show my customers the quality that they will receive when they order from my online galleries.
You may want to look at Printroom or some of the other online lab services, such as Shutterfly, Snapfish, Pictage, PhotoReflect, PhotoBucket, Flickr, SmugMug, Kodak, and others (see 11-4 and 11-5). Printroom, PhotoReflect, and Pictage are oriented towards professional photographers, allowing them a way to sell online and make money, while the others offer services for consumers and, in some limited cases, for pros also. Alternatively, you can get surprisingly good results by using photo-printing services at major retail centers such as Costco (in person or online), but I hesitate to recommend them or the consumer-oriented Web sites for true portfolio-quality images where you may want to have a highly trained technician give your prints personal attention.
Another portfolio idea that combines online services with printing is to have a flush-mount book produced of your images (see 11-6), which is a book of photos where the images have been printed professionally onto pages and the book has been bound in the form of a coffee-table style hardback book. Most of the Web photo printing services, as well as some dedicated online self-publishing services such as Lulu.com, offer a reasonably priced way for you to have your images printed in a hard- or soft-bound book. While often used as part of a wedding photography package or other higher-end photography offering, they also make great portfolio tools.
Beyond paper, having an online portfolio in the form of your own Web site is necessary if you’re selling photography today, and it’s a nice thing to have if you just want to show your work to the world. If you’re in the latter group, Flickr and PhotoBucket let you do that, and a variety of online services such as Yahoo! do, as well; many of these are simply galleries with your name and contact information. You can also create a minimal Web site with a number of services, such as with Yahoo!’s Geocities (http://geocities.yahoo.com) service; lets you upgrade to higher-level Web sites if you get ambitious.
I also like to use slide shows to present my work. ACDSee Pro includes a slide-show capability that is relatively basic but it works quickly and easily, and you can even put images onto a disk as an .exe file so that you don’t put original photos onto a disk where they can be copied. However, the best program I’ve found for producing truly professional slide shows with a plethora of features and capabilities is Photodex ProShow Producer (www.photodex.com), shown in 11-7. It is the top-of-the-line product in a series of slide-show applications that begin with Photodex ProShow, a basic consumer slide show package; pricing for the software applications ranges from about $30 for the basic version (ProShow Standard) up to $250 for Producer.
Producer lets you develop very advanced slide shows, ranging from a simple set of images synchronized with music all the way to sets of images where multiple images appear on individual slides, complete with integrated motion effects and several ways to render the show onto disk for computer, TV (DVD), and even Macromedia Flash. You can brand and watermark your work, as well as provide timeouts and links for demo disks you may want to use to present and share your work with potential customers. Many photographers are using slide shows today with LCD projectors to present their images in larger-than-life shows complete with music and a home theater type of setting.