Now that we’re all home-bound because of the corona crisis, it’s an especially good time to work on updating and optimizing your online presence. We’ve put together these tips to help make your portfolio stand out.
As a creative, your digital portfolio is essentially your business card. It’s the interface between you and the world, through which connections are made and new opportunities are discovered. So it makes a lot of sense that it should look great, be clear and easy to understand, and include all of the most important details about you and your practice.
No pressure, right? Just be comprehensive, yet concise; straightforward, yet original; consistent, but not boring… Here’s our guide to help you out with this balancing act.
1. Choose strong work examples
Prioritize quality over quantity
It’s not constructive to bombard people with images just for the sake of including everything you’ve ever done. Be selective about choosing works that you feel are exemplary of your practice. Highlight your areas of focus and the cohesiveness of your practice, while showcasing your range.
Whether you’re an artist applying to a residency program or a designer seeking new clients, your portfolio shouldn’t simply be an archive of past work. It should signal towards new directions and goals. Think about the work that you want to do next.
Check for specific requirements
If you’re putting together a portfolio to apply to a specific opportunity, make sure to meet their requirements with regard to minimum and/or maximum number of images, format etc. While it can certainly be helpful to include more images in order to illustrate the diversity and range of your practice more fully, don’t feel like you need to include the maximum amount of works or images if it doesn’t add value to your portfolio.
Ultimately, your portfolio should make an impression. Focus on what you consider to be your best works, while showing your level of experience, technical skills, conceptual strength, and range.
2. Use high-quality images
And once you’ve made your selection of works to include in your portfolio, make sure they look good! Very good.
Accuracy is key
Why show your best work if the images don’t do it justice? When photographing your artwork, make your images look professional. They should be well lit, clear, and accurate portrayals of your work. If you’re working with color, make sure your images are corrected to reflect the actual colors of the work. Keep your cropping clean and avoid drastic shadows and distracting background elements.
Though your portfolio may either be online or in the form of a PDF to be sent via email — meaning image files can’t be too large — they also shouldn’t be so small and low res that they’re pixelated and blurred. Again, specific programs and opportunities that you apply to might have their own specific requirements with regard to file type and image size. So be aware and follow the guidelines.
You want your artwork to shine — but not literally because of lens flare, reflections or camera flashes (unless that’s part of the work, of course).
3. Organize your images
Now that you’ve selected and prepared high-quality images, it’s time for a little curation. Because it’s not only the work itself and images of it that are important, but also its presentation. And good presentation is a key ingredient to making your portfolio stand out.
Keep things tidy
Your portfolio should be clean and easy to navigate. Whether building your own website or making a PDF portfolio, avoid using distracting graphics, backgrounds and fonts. The focus should be on the artwork, and important information should be accessible, easily readable and understandable.
Exercise your curatorial skills
Images can build on and complement each other and have some kind of visual or narrative flow. Think about what it is that you want to highlight or convey about your practice and the further development of your career.
4. Don’t overlook the details
Make it easy for curators, clients, collectors, gallerists, or jurors — whoever may be reviewing your portfolio — by including proper image captions and/or work descriptions.
In addition to the basics — e.g., title, date, medium, dimensions — if you feel that it is necessary to elaborate a bit on certain aspects (and there’s space available to do so) then keep it concise.
Again, keep formatting, and fonts, clear and consistent, and make sure information is complete throughout.
5. Write an effective artist statement
Of course, there are different ways to approach an artist statement.
If you’re creating a profile on ArtConnect, for example, how you use the ‘about you’ section depends on what you want to say about yourself and how. Maybe you just want to present yourself in a succinct one-liner, or provide a more detailed artist statement, a bio, or a CV as an alternative. It’s up to you!
But if a more in-depth statement is required, be sure to include information that is presented clearly and covers the major points:
Who are you?
Briefly introduce yourself.
What do you do?
The basics, i.e., medium and themes that you work with.
How do you do it?
Include this information if it is unique and/or important for understanding your work and process.
Maybe you work from specific influences, inspirations, or concepts. If it’s really necessary and embedded in your practice, then write that, too!
Be sure to keep it concise, clear and accurate. This means, avoiding cliches and generic statements, as well as overblown extremes — i.e., artspeak (also known as International Art English). There’s no need for long, complicated sentences. Your statement should be impactful and get the important information across in a way that is easy to understand.
The more specific and to the point your statement is, the more convincing and engaging it will be, and the greater the interest in your work will be as a result.
6. Keep your CV up to date and organized
If a CV is included in your portfolio, make sure it’s up to date, clear and organized. But don’t get hung up on including everything you’ve ever done.
Again, think quality over quantity
Only include information and experience that is relevant to your career. You want your main accomplishments to be highlighted — not lost in a sea of scattered information and unnecessary details.
Include education information if relevant
If you’ve attended university and studied in a field pertinent to your current career, then include the school name, year of graduation and degree received. Don’t feel like you have to force in something that doesn’t really fit. Only include education information if it is directly related to your practice.
Think about how to organize and present your work or exhibition history
For exhibitions, or work history, make sure the most recent items are at the top of the list. If you have a long exhibition history, split them up into solo and group shows. And whether you have a long list of (relevant) exhibitions or not, it might be a good idea to use the heading ‘selected exhibitions’. This can be helpful in eliminating less relevant exhibitions (if you have exhibited a lot, especially), as well as strengthening your exhibition history (if you have not participated in so many). Once again, only include the information that is pertinent to your career pursuits.
And if there’s more info to add…
You might also want to include sections for publications and texts (whether written by you or about your work), as well as awards, residencies, lectures, workshops, skills and teaching. Add what you feel is important and relevant to the further development of your career. But keep in mind that sometimes less is more.
7. Ask for feedback
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Once you’ve compiled your portfolio, ask someone you know and trust, such as a colleague or mentor, to look over it. Whether that means getting a second opinion on your work selection or having someone proofread your artist statement.
When it comes to how you think about and approach your own work, it’s easy to get stuck in one way of doing things. Another set of eyes can help you catch details you might have missed and bring a fresh perspective to how you present your work — and how you can make your portfolio really stand out.
Aside from building your own website or putting together a PDF document, creating an online portfolio on sites like ArtConnect can help you to present yourself and your work in a professional way, while giving it more visibility. When you create a profile on ArtConnect, you even have the possibility of being featured in our magazine and social media platforms.
Whichever way you create a portfolio, there’s always ongoing maintenance involved. To make your portfolio not only stand out, but also stay relevant: keep it up to date, reflect current directions and areas of focus in your practice, and make sure it’s relevant to the opportunities you’re interested in pursuing.