A print book is still a necessity even in our standard digital age, if you ask many photographers and creative professionals. While it may not get viewed as much as your website, people still like to take a look at your work in print, especially if thats the ultimate output for what they want.

So it should come as no surprise that the internet is absolutely awash with portfolio advice. Or rather, portfolio opinion, as I noted when I embarked on a fairly long journey to make my own print books. I found dozens of articles on how to arrange a portfolio, hundreds of websites offering their idea of what a portfolio even is, but for the most part, people simply talking about their own portfolio without imparting any useful knowledge whatsoever.

That was until a friend of mine, Doug, a wildly successful photographer who really gets social media and networking, came out with a post on the down and dirty how that most people left out. His blog post So you Want to Make a Professional Looking Print Photography Portfolio actually had useful resources and some straightforward, easy to understand advice on actually assembling a book.

Doug offered up some links citing the resources he mentions, or uses himself in constructing his own book, including custom portfolio printer, Pushdot out in Portland. I talked with them a few times about getting a custom book printed by them, and they sent me some samples to check on the type of materials they suggest. So now here's the kicker: While I didn't end up using Pushdot, it was only because of the cost. The samples they sent were amazing, they were helpful, friendly, and when I'm pulling in the jobs I want, I will absolutely go to them.

I found that for significantly less, I was fully capable of assembling my own book at nearly the same quality. I have some resources that may not be readily available to everyone, but this doesn't mean it's out of reach for the average person. So here's one of the classes I think should have been absolutely mandatory when I was in school: How to print, score, punch and assemble a (variation of) complete portfolio.

First is the actual book. Determining size is the first step, I wanted a larger book, 11x17", but the cost of paper and carrying something that size made me go smaller. 8.5x11" may not be glamorous, but with full bleed pages, it looks great. I also went with landscape view because I felt my verticals could be more easily adapted to a horizontal book than vice versa.

My two books are made out of two different kinds of Pina Zangaro portfolios. The books are about $50 each, and I mixed and matched the frosted front cover with the snow white back. I went with the frosted front so that I could simply print out a new front page in the book and have it show through as my label, instead of locking myself into one type of cover that would have to be completely replaced if I change branding (again).


I chose the same paper that Pushdot sent me as a sample, Moab Entrada Bright 190. It's a matte paper that holds extremely fine detail unlike some other mattes I've used, doesn't get fingerprints all over it the second you touch it like some glossys, and most importantly, is double sided.

For printing, I happened to have a complete series of Epson printers available to me. I chose the R3000 for its front loading and 2 types of black ink, both glossy and matte without switching. There was a bit of trial and error in getting my uncalibrated laptop to output correctly, and then some more in getting the two features I really wanted in a print book- full bleeds and two page spreads. Pushdot had sent me a template that gave me an idea of how to set up a two page spread, but I still had to ruin a couple pages before I figured out how much to overlap each side of the picture, or make a no-border gutter.


Once the printer stopped printing 1/16" short of the top (changed my settings to 103% zoom) and I figured out the overlap (1/2" on the left, 1" on the right) I was churning out pages like a pro. Then I had to figure out how to get them into the book. The Pina books use a two post binding that seemingly isn't a standard whole punch setting. I considered getting a hand punch and doing each page individually, but I wanted consistency, and that meant a real hole punch. Or as real as staples can get, which meant I was still going to have to gaffer tape a part of the hole punch into position. And then punch each page upside down.

With the pages punched, they fit nicely into the book, but they still had to be scored so you could actually flip through it like a book. I saw from No Plastic Sleeves a video of a photographer making handmade books, much in the same method, using a plastic card of some sort to gently score the prints to allow them to bend. My first try, using a wacom pen tip, is not recommended since it rips the ink-saturated print. The curved wire of a binder clip gently run down the print using the hinge of the book as a guide is much better, but I'm still looking for a replacement.

So while this is only a fast and loose explanation on how to assemble a portfolio, it sure was a lot of info that I would have loved to have seen before I ruined a bunch of paper and bought a bunch of plastic sleeves (like the blog says, NO plastic sleeves), hinges, and other stuff that I ended up not using.

Follow Me on Twitter|Be a fan on Facebook|Tumblr