What An Art Director Wants To See In Your Photography Portfolio

Oct 1, 2015

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

What An Art Director Wants To See In Your Photography Portfolio

Oct 1, 2015

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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Woman with her morning coffee on the dock at the cottage on a foggy lake.

When you pitch your photography portfolio to potential clients, it is extremely important to show only what they are looking for.

But how do you know what an Art Director actually wants to see?

It is very difficult to self-critique your own work, and even harder to put together a comprehensive portfolio – so when I started going through the process of updating my own portfolio, instead of agonizing over what to include myself, I asked an experienced Art Director for a portfolio review.

Her insight was extremely interesting and helpful – keep reading if you want to know what an Art Director really wants to see!

Corissa Bagan is a Berlin based art director and designer working with a number of fashion, media and lifestyle brands.  She is currently the Senior Designer at Carry-On Publishing with previous experience at ELLE.

I asked Corissa to take a look through my Stocksy Profile and pick out 10 or 20 images that she though best represented a comprehensive style and would be interesting to her as a designer.

Here is how she described what she was looking for:

I find that when I’m looking for photos, the most important factor is authentic emotion. I’m usually looking for something as an opening image for a story, so I need a photo that the reader can connect with in the millisecond that they spend deciding whether or not to read on. The photo has to spark some kind of emotion in the reader.
what an art director wants to see in your portfolio
The other two major factors I look for when picking photos are that it has a clear, committed movement as well as a clean composition. I think it’s important to be able to tell what is happening in a photo from far away. Also, this helps with layout by allowing room for text and directing the reader’s eye through the story. It’s also helpful from a design perspective to have space around the image, rather than a tight crop, to allow flexibility in image placement and size.
what an art director wants to see portfolio review
I really love photos that show depth of field, such as the moose beer! For landscapes, I want to see photos where the human is actually secondary to the landscape. Again, the key there is composition.
what an art director wants to see portfolio review

Stock Photography JP Danko blurMEDIA

And Corissa’s final thoughts on the state of photography – and I would say photographers in general…
 I hope this helps! The world needs better quality shit!
what an art director wants to see portfolio review

 What Do You Think?

Does knowing what an art director is actually looking for help you to better prepare your own portfolio?

What features do you think are important to present in a portfolio?

With the vast numbers of photographers out there and the sheer volume of images captured every day – how is it that the world could possibly need “better quality shit!”?

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JP Danko

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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2 responses to “What An Art Director Wants To See In Your Photography Portfolio”

  1. trevinowarren Avatar
    trevinowarren

    I totally agree with Carissa. We need better quality shit. Emotion in images are definitely in high demand, but most photographers who are obsessed with their equipment and pixel peeping forget that its all about the subject, and clueless at getting emotional responses from images. These kinds of Photographers also forget composition, and just copy others compositional images, rather than knowing how composition can actually be used to create emotion. Regarding space around images, well thats basically for print and editorials, which gives flexibility to the layout designer. Again, We need better quality Shit! Agreed!

  2. Eric Christopher Jackson Avatar
    Eric Christopher Jackson

    My Work has been described as Contemporary Fine Art Photography. I wonder if my Collection could be used by Art Directors. Time to Research.