Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Create a Digital Photo Portfolio: Part 2

A few months ago now, I submitted the first in a series of posts explaining one way to create a digital photography portfolio using Adobe InDesign and Adobe Acrobat. After much procrastination, I am finally posting the second installment of the series, which will touch on digital photography portfolio design, & layout tips. The next installment will deal with exporting and optimizing your pdf.

Originally, I had planned to go into a detailed discussion of how to create a layout from start to finish in InDesign. However, this has been covered so many times elsewhere that I have decided to skip that step and give you pointers that will hopefully be of use to you during the design process.

By the way, if you have any specific questions on this topic, please do not hesitate to ask and I'll do my best to help!

One of the biggest mistakes that I see folks make when preparing any kind of digital presentation is the addition of too much clutter in their layouts. I would recommend only adding a very small logo / your name, perhaps a short description in an 8-10pt font and, if needed, a very unobtrusive graphic element such as a bottom bar to each image page (at most). Remember, this presentation is about your photography and anything else that you add could potentially detract from your work! Be sure to make your photos the absolute focus of each page, regardless of what choice you make. I know this sounds simple but, believe me, people often have a hard time just letting the images breathe, so-to-speak, without cramming in unnecessary verbiage, buttons, etc. It is usually a good idea to have some type of resume’ and publishing sheet in the back of the presentation. However, if the reviewer isn’t impressed by your work, no resume’ will be good enough to seal-the-deal so start there first.

Another important factor to keep in mind is your choice of the colors that will be used in your layout. I would highly recommend sticking with neutral colors such as white, gray and black to frame your images. The same goes for your choices of font colors. Creativity is often confused with wackiness but believe me, in most cases, these two concepts vary greatly.

Finally, carefully select any fonts that will be used in your layout. Stick with traditional, easy to read fonts. I'm not saying that you need to use Times New Roman or Helvetica but stay away from the Comic Sans of the world. ‘Fun’ doesn't always equate with professional, sorry!

When you export a pdf from InDesign, files will often be automatically compressed depending on the export setting that you choose (I recommend Screen-Res unless it will be printed). If you know that you will be exporting a file primarily for monitor viewing only, there a couple of things that you can do to increase your odds of a nice looking image preview:

1.) Set your image to sRGB color mode in Photoshop or your favorite image editing software. You can often get away with exporting any image to a pdf, regardless of its color mode and have it look just fine, but why take the risk? If you set up the color modes of your images properly from the get-go you won't wonder how they will hold up when your potential client sees them. Although nothing is perfect in a digital environment, every little thing that you can control helps. I've written a detailed post on this topic here. You can choose to ignore the exporting and file size (dpi settings) on the linked post if you like as it was primarily written for exporting images for web.

2.) Scale your images to the size that they will be used in the layout. I must admit that I'm sometimes very lazy when it comes to this, but often, if you have a large number of pages in your pdf, this will help to dramatically reduce your file size. Having said this, try to keep your page count down as mentioned in part 1 of the series. Although, exporting a screen-res pdf will automatically reduce your images to 72dpi (the web and screen res standard), your images will typically be larger than if you would have just taken the time to scale down their physical dimensions. For example, if you know that your image is 5" x 7", why not go ahead and save a scaled down version of the file in question to 5" x 7"? Sure, you could always shrink it down in InDesign but sometimes this just adds extra, unneeded baggage to the image and your pdf.

I'll be posting part three in the near future which will go into ways to make your portfolio interactive. This has proven to be a popular thread and I don't want to keep you all waiting so long for the next installment.

Please ask questions if you have any!


Per a recent comment on this post, I have added three links on how to begin using InDesign below. Hope they help!

Link One | Link Two | Link Three


Mauro said...

Hi Clay, really thanks for this post, I really need it because I have to create a simple but impressive portfolio-pdf with my photo.

Just an answer. You skip the step about create a layout in InDesign because already explained elsewhere in the web but for who like me that I don´t know yet how does InDesign works, where we can find simple instructions to make a basic, "simple" layout for a portfolio?

Thank you in advance ;-) byeee


clay bolt said...


Thanks for asking. If you go back into the original post (at the end), I've added three links to get you started. Hope this helps. Clay