Russ Abbott's 5 Tips for a Better Portfolio
If you're like me, it's common to neglect your portfolio for way too long. In fact, I've often let the portfolio book that customers flip through reach a critical point of disrepair and neglect. Lately, I've been back on task, pouring through the photos I've collected over the last couple of years and frantically reaching out to clients for photos of healed work that was never documented. During an all day photo editing marathon, I decided to record a video of what I was working on. It's a 30 minute tutorial on using Adobe Photoshop to arrange multiple photos of a sleeve into a montage.
While I was on the subject of the artist's portfolio, I thought I would share some of my experience on how to best document your work in print. Hopefully, this will get you thinking and inspire further research.
Backgrounds- Shoot your portfolio images in front of a consistent background. In my shop we have a piece of black fabric mounted on a retractable window shade. When we need to take a picture of a piece, we roll down the background. If you prefer a simple room divider screen, a plain colored wall, or a favorite spot outdoors can serve too. The important thing here is that your background doesn't distract from the important part of the photo- your tattoo.
Lighting- At our shop, we installed a couple of constant lights with diffusers that we purchased from a photography store. The lights are mounted at a 45 degree angle on either side from where the client stands in front of the background. Since we purchased our lights a few years ago, there have been a lot of advancements with LED panels coming on to the market. You may want to look into those for the ability to adjust the color temperature of the light, and for the smaller footprint in your studio. Another option is to go outside but stand in the shade. The diffused daylight can be wonderful lighting for shooting tattoos.
Camera- I use a Canon Rebel 2Ti, which I've had for a few years now. This type of digital camera is a DSLR, which means you can change out the lens to suit your needs. I replaced the kit lens that came with the camera with a 50mm lens. This is the lens you will want for shooting tattoo photos because it works better in lower light and gives you an image that is roughly the same as looking through the human eye. Most of you will probably use the camera on your phone, which I'm guilty of as well. The phone cameras are getting better and better, but the clarity and quality you will get from a more professional setup is worth the money and effort. After all, this is a business your running. The effort you put into your presentation will affect your success as an artist.
Print- I use a company called Zno for my portfolio book printing. They have a really easy-to-use cloud based book editor. I always get artists asking me about my book at shows because it has super thick, stiff pages, a leather cover, and the pages lay completely flat. This allows me to print across the gutter and have an image spread across two pages. I use this extra wide image area to show full sleeves, like I lay out in the video. Check out their site for all of the different options, including the ones I mentioned. I get the Layflat Book with a Genuine Leather Cover and a cameo window.
Size- I recommend to always try to show the tattoo in the book at the same size it was tattooed. If you have to print it smaller to fit in the book, that's acceptable. But whatever you do, don't print it bigger than you tattooed it. That will just show all the flaws even bigger than they are.
Tattooer specializing in ornamental and illustrative styles.
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