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This article feature ideas on how to create a successful artist portfolio and how to present your portfolio to galleries or to anyone. The information is useful to anyone in working in fine art or commercial art. It will help all photographers, painters and other artists that might one day have to create artist portfolio or present their artworks to a gallery.

To become successful in today's art market, an artist must have a vision, they must master the technical skills required in your art medium, and the artist needs to understand of the business of art.

When presenting a portfolio, not only the artists work is being judged, the artist is also being judged. Is this artist or photographer serious? Will he or she succeed in the art world? Are they worthy of being represented?

Your artist portfolio should impress viewers with your vision and with how well you have mastered the technical aspects of photography. To go along with your portfolio, you should provide good artist support materials.

This site was designed to help you to understand the importance of good artist support materials and help you to understand the business side of art.

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Remember, no matter what you've heard or read, your work doesn't stand alone. Whenever a gallery owner, museum curator, or art consultant reviews your portfolio, the memory of your photographs will be only part of what you leave behind. Just as packaging plays an increasingly important role in product marketing, you are as integral to your presentation as your images.

A successful portfolio presentation is absolutely necessary if you expect to become represented gallery or make a lot of sales.


Your photographs must be presented in a professional manner. Choose only finished prints for your portfolio. Never show work prints or unspotted prints. Always show your best work. Plan your portfolio carefully. A good portfolio should have continuity and provide viewers with a clear idea as to what your vision is. It should be organized by subjects or different photographic styles. Horizontal and vertical images, as well as different size prints should be organized and grouped separately. Black and white images and color images should also be grouped separately for easier viewing.

Your work should be presented in an appropriate portfolio case or shipping case. If you are presenting your work to a gallery, it is best to use a case specifically designed for fine art photography. Cases are usually available from good local photography or art supply stores. You can also purchase them through mail order companies.

Your photographs should be completely finished prints that are ready for sale. They should be overmatted, signed, dated, titled, numbered, and stamped with your print identification stamp. Before making your portfolio presentation, remove any tissue or plastic bags that protect the prints. Make sure that your overmats are clean and free of any finger prints.

Your window overmats should be well cut, with clean straight lines, and look as good as possible. If you are having problems cutting them, try a professional frame shop. Shop around for the best prices, and if money is a problem, consider trading art for matting.


Your portfolio must be well-edited, and you may not be the best judge of your own work. Since it is often difficult to be objective about your own photographs, you might have someone you respect view and critique your portfolio prior to showing it to a gallery. This will ensure that the work you show is your strongest work.

Limit the number of photographs you are showing to no more than twenty prints. You might even consider as few as ten prints. The main objective of your first visit is just to introduce your work to the gallery. Make the experience of looking at your work as pleasant and positive as possible so that you can come back another day. It could take several portfolio presentations before the gallery gets to know you and decides to represent you.

Present only one thematically unified or otherwise cohesive body of work. If you have more than one body of work to show, show your strongest work first and trust that your success will allow you to present your work again.


Start off on a positive note, make a complimentary comment about the gallery or the artworks on display. Thank the reviewer for taking the time to look at your work. Briefly introduce yourself and your photographic history. Keep it short, because your work is more important at this stage.

Assume that the person looking at your work is a professional. Don't insist on white gloves or make a fuss about the handling of your work. If you are overly concerned, handle the work for the reviewer. Always keep in mind that you want to make it as easy as possible for the reviewer, so that you will be welcomed back again.

Don't interfere with normal business that might be going on during the portfolio review. Never interrupt a sales effort or impede a possible sale. Before you begin your presentation, let the reviewer know that you understand the importance of normal business, and that you will not mind an interruption if something comes up.

Listen carefully and don't hesitate to take notes if necessary. Try to identify the reviewers favorite photographs. You might want to show them again on another visit.

Keep your questions to a minimum. Try to eliminate negative responses from the reviewer, and always avoid questions that can be answered with a "no." Don't ask for representation, and don't ask for an exhibition, because you can assume that the person looking at your work knows what you want. The reviewer will discuss representation or exhibitions if they are available to you. Your main purpose in showing your portfolio is to have the gallery become familiar with your work.

If you have arranged for a thirty-minute appointment, time your presentation so that you will be ready to walk out the door in thirty minutes or less. Stretching your appointment, unless the reviewer requests it, will do you more harm than good.

If you have slides of additional work, have them ready and be prepared to show them if (and only if) the person reviewing asks to see more of your work. Slides are frequently used by galleries and art consultants to show clients images. Slides should always be of prints, not duplicates of slides. Mastering the art of making good quality slides will be a benefit to your career. If you are having difficulties making good slides, let a professional lab or someone who knows how to make them do it for you.


Before contacting a gallery, find out what type of art they show. Look at the work of the artists they represent and make sure that your photographs will fit into the gallery's profile and positioning.

Inquire about the gallery's current reviewing procedures and comply with the review methods requested. The best way to do this is to ask the gallery. Methods of review vary. You might have to leave your portfolio overnight, or you might have to leave it for a week. Some galleries will review only artist slides. Others may ask for a recommendation from a gallery artist or a collector. It is important to follow the gallery's review procedure, especially on your first review. Request a special review only as a last resort, only if you are absolutely unable to comply with the standard review process.

Find out the name and position of the person reviewing artists' portfolios and write down his or her name with correct spelling. This is important for future visits and correspondence with the gallery. If you expect the reviewers to remember who you are, have the same courtesy and remember them.


Call or write several weeks ahead of time requesting an opportunity to show your work. If writing, be sure to include a self-addressed envelope with a reply card. Always address your request to the person reviewing work. If you are not sure who that is, call the gallery and find out. Form letters are frequently sent to galleries and typically are not well-received.

Avoid short-notice appointments ("I'm in town for only one day! Can you look at my work?"). Never "cold call" that is drop in without an appointment and ask for a review on the spot.

On the day of your portfolio presentation, call to confirm your appointment and ask, "Is this still a good time for you to look at my work or would another time be better?" As in all aspects of business, your timing will be crucial.

Be on time for your appointment. If you are unable to make your appointment, phone as far in advance as possible and try to reschedule. Be sensitive to the gallery's priorities. Don't try to get your work reviewed at a time when a new exhibition is being installed, or when the gallery has an opening or other scheduled event.

Timing is one very important for a successful portfolio review.


Be friendly, positive, polite, and courteous. Avoid being rude or inconsiderate. Keep in mind that you are asking a decision maker to help you. Through your words and actions, indicate that you place great value on that person's time and opinions. Are you making his or her job easier or more difficult? Have you visited the space before? Do you know anything about current programs, new directions, or the history of the exhibition space? You should learn as much as possible about the gallery before your review. Show them that you know and care about what they are doing. Remember that when asking a gallery to work with you, you are asking it to care about you, to invest time and money in you. You are also asking it to become your business partner.


Create a marketing card for your manual or computerized files. A marketing card is a record of who you have contacted and what you contacted them about. Include the following information: name of reviewer, name and address of the gallery, telephone number, date of review, type of work presented, impressions, comments, what material you left behind, results of the review, and type of follow-up you have planned.

Be sure to send a thank you card to the person who looked at your portfolio. Send a postcard of one of your images, so that it will remind the reviewer of what work you presented. Follow-up in four to six months, or whenever you have a new portfolio of images to show.

You can create and send real postcards from AmazingMail, click on the link try one. The quality is excellent and you can upload your own images to create a postcard.


Developing a relationship with a gallery is like developing any other valuable relationship; the chances are that it won't happen overnight. But if you are not patient, professional and polite, chances are it won't happen at all.

A gallery owner or anyone else to whom you are showing your portfolio has many things to do beyond discovering new artists. Be aware and sensitive to the difference between your priorities and the priorities of whomever is seeing your photographs.

To become a successful professional artist takes more than good artwork. To succeed, you must understand the business of art, create a good portfolio, and master your portfolio presentation. You can and will become a successful visual artist if you have good timing, some luck, and the desire to become successful.

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Updated - August 23, 2016                                                         Back to Top