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« The Productive Artist: Be Strategic | Main | Art Marketing: Artists Need a Hard Copy Professional Portfolio »

Technology: How to Get Great Images to Use in Your Portfolio (and other places)  

When creating your portfolio it is critical that your images look fabulous. But all too often we see portfolios (printed, digital, and online) where the images look just terrible!  They're either waaayyy too small, dull, poorly formatted, cropped badly, or any of a host of errors that make the artist look unprofessional and their art look far less wonderful than it really is.

Granted, it's likely that no image is going to do your work justice. Art just seems to look better in person. Still, do your best to offer up great images professionally presented:

1. If you don't have the skills to do it yourself (meaning you can take professional-quality photos and resize/edit them in something like Photoshop), get professional help. Seriously, this is one area where you don't want to scrimp. Images of your work may be the ONLY way most people get to see your work before buying.  I once asked an artist for some good photos of her work for her website. She took them with her cell phone, at an angle, through highly-reflective glass, with bad lighting. That's NOT what I mean by a "good photo." Hire a professional photographer to do it right (or have your work professionally scanned). If you start with a poor image, there isn't a thing you can do to make it look as good as it should and galleries, juries and buyers won't take you (or your art) seriously.

In "Creating Your Professional Portfolio" Aletta de Wal offers a very helpful tip about this: "Keep a visual record and documentation for every piece of art you have created. You will need good photography for other marketing activities, such as postcards, invitations, catalogs, and brochures, to illustrate magazine articles about your work and to use in magazine advertising. When you have good photographs of your artwork, you will be amazed at the multiple opportunities available to use them."

2. Make sure the image is digital and big enough for what you're using it for. Here is one place where size does matter, as does resolution. Images for print have very different requirements than images for digital or web use. If you don't know what I'm talking about, read about it here at iStockphoto.  Even easier: Ask for my help. The first 15 minutes are free, then the hourly rates are very reasonable and a VERY good investment in your future.

3. If you have slides or film, have them professionally scanned to create digital images (unless the gallery or juried competition asks for slides, then send slides of course. Copies, my dear, never the originals.) There are local photo shops that can do this for you, online companies, or if you're like me a do and lot of scanning, invest in a scanner. I use a Canon CanoScan 8800F because it scans slides, negatives and work up to 8 1/2 x 14. Professional scanning companies can handle larger work. There are a variety of image formats for your original high-resolution files. You'll also need "jpg" or "gif" images for lower resolution/smaller images for web and digital use.

4. Keep your images in a safe place, preferably fireproof. I had a client who kept all his images of his work on his computer, natch. Then his computer crashed and they were lost, all of them, a lifetime of work, gone forever. So, if you have slides or film, keep them in a fireproof safe and never (ever) release them except for duplication. I also back up my digital files and images to an external hard drive (I have two) and those hard drives get rotated into a fireproof safe.

Whew! That should get you started and well on your way. Again, if you need help with this feel free to contact me by email: or by phone at (310) 480-6738.

All my best to you and yours,

Robin Sagara
Web Marketing Mentor

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