The power of printed portfolios

We ask photography consultant Sally Brownbill and commercial photography duo, Image Workshop, whether printed portfolios still have a place in the digital era.


In an era dominated by social media and digital everything one might question whether it’s still necessary to print a photography portfolio and if so, what are the benefits. Photography consultant, Sally Brownbill and commercial photography studio, Image Workshop, advise on why printed folios have lasting power.

Image Workshop is the photographic team of myself (Sharon Blance) and my partner Brence Coghill. We’re both photographers but work collaboratively, which is a little unusual but it works well for us. Our work is commercial and editorial photography with a strong focus on people. We shoot some studio work but most of the time we’re on location. One day we might be waist-deep in the ocean shooting an editorial assignment of a Marine scientist, another we could be photographing nurses at work, or in the studio building a cello to promote an experimental music show.

Why do you produce a printed portfolio?

When we moved to Melbourne from New Zealand we needed to get out there and market ourselves to find new clients. We were also ready to step up our game a little. Having a printed folio is part of investing in yourself and showing that you’re serious about your work. Photography is an incredibly competitive market these days and you’ve got to stand out.

Turning up to a client meeting with a slideshow on an iPad just doesn’t communicate the same message as a beautifully printed and bound book. Prints look awesome. You can’t beat the visual impact of large, full-bleed image pages. And the fact that we’ve taken the time, care and attention to make a well-crafted printed folio speaks volumes – it’s the same level of care and attention I’m going to bring to you as my client.

How did you choose which images to include?

The million-dollar question! It can be difficult curating your own work, and as we were also new to Australia we decided to get assistance to build a folio that reflects our style and was relevant to the local market, so we booked a Portfolio Review with Sally Brownbill. Sally was great, giving an honest appraisal of our strengths and weaknesses and helping us ‘let go’ of images that wouldn’t serve us well. She’s doesn’t sugar coat things but she’s empathetic, and the process ended up being liberating.

There were a few sad moments when certain pictures (literally) hit the editing room floor, but in hindsight they were the right ones to cull. A pleasant surprise for us was that Sally included a lot of our personal work in her selection. She helped us move past the idea of a folio being just about ‘these are the jobs we’ve shot’ and to be more of a statement about “this is how we see things”.

The end result was a much more cohesive and interesting selection than we would have put together if left to our own devices. An expert, unbiased eye made the difference. A well curated and beautifully printed folio under our arm also gave us a confidence boost going into client meetings. Click the photo below to view the Image Workshop portfolio.

Why did you choose to print with Momento Pro?

The number one factor was quality. I’m a total research and detail nerd, and print quality is something I’m picky about. I looked into a few options but most left me a bit ‘meh’. I visited Momento Pro at a tradeshow where I could paw over the products in person.  I was impressed by the print quality and extensive choices of cover materials, paper stocks, embossing and other details.

Their software makes it easy for me to upload and order products, and when we were producing the folio, their service reps were really helpful with suggestions about which paper stocks would best suit our images, and organised for some test pages to be printed. We also print some Promo postcards with them every few months. Even the little touches like how well the prints are packaged for posting, shows the level of care that goes into their products.

Sally Brownbill is a trained commercial photographer who has worked in the creative industry for over 20 years in photography, design studios and advertising agencies, and she has also played a large role in photography education. Having attended various events with Sally, we can confirm that she knows the industry inside and out.

How do creative agencies respond to printed portfolios in 2017?

Every day everyone is looking at iPhones, computers or iPad screens all the time. It gets too much. To walk into a meeting and show a beautifully printed folio on great stock is second to none. So many people forget that our industry is about communication. It’s about meeting people. It’s not just all about social media and online folios. A printed portfolio is a fantastic reason to get out and meet people, to connect with and wow them.

What’s your number one tip when selecting images for a portfolio?

I’ve been working with photographers and editing images for their folios for over 15 years now. Every photographer is unique and I treat each one individually. What you must remember is that the only point of difference you have in most circumstances is you! Your personality must shine through in your folio. Potential clients want to see what makes you tick, what you can offer them and what you’re able to bring to the table, so personal work is a must. Campaigns and commercial jobs are based on other people’s ideas. Sure they play an important role in convincing a client you can successfully do a job, but that’s where websites come in to it, you can show that kind of work on there.

Remember … you need to take people on a journey with your printed folio and tell stories. Communicate and make it special.

Is there a ‘best format’ for a printed folio?

There is no right or wrong way to design a printed folio. I rely on the kind of work to guide me on how to reproduce it. It’s all a part of making that body of work, for that particular photographer, individual and to make it stand out.  A combination of full bleed pages, and multiple images on a double page spread, offers visual variety and will take the viewer on a journey that is engaging, with ebbs and flows. You also need to be careful to not make it too short or too long. When I work with a photographer, it becomes apparent quite quickly, how many pages we need to tell their story.

How do you help photographers with their portfolio?

My Sally Brownbill business is all about photography. I offer 2 hour consultations where I give an appraisal of your work and answer any questions you have about the industry, your work, your goals etc. My aim is to inspire and guide you with your career choices. In some cases it’s also about helping photographers fall in love with photography again.

My 4 to 5 hour sessions, are for editing and designing portfolios or websites so the photographer can establish a direction and turn them into their sharpest marketing tool. They leave with a clear layout or design guide, along with plans for possible new shots that I feel will add to the folio’s impact.  Following the meeting I keep in touch and guide them through to print stage.

You also offer other resources and services?

The Brownbill Effect is an online directory and creative network I’ve built over the last 5 years. You can use it to search, find and build a creative team, and I can vouch for every company or individual listed, as I’ve hand picked them. TBE also has a blog to showcase the members’ work and publish Q&As from movers and shakers in the industry, while TBE Jobs provides full time, short and long term contract listings along with career advice and testimonials from people I’ve worked with.



More about photography portfolios:

The Power Of Photography Portfolios panel discussion
Ballarat Foto Biennale

Sat 2 September from 2.00 – 3.30pm

Join our Marketing Manager, Libby Jeffery and Sally Brownbill as they discuss different ways to present your photography in order to build profile and secure new clients, alongside Wendy Mace, Creative Director from DDB Shop.  More details here.

Visit the Momento Pro website to see more portfolios created by our customers.


About the author Momento Photobooks

Co-founder + Marketing Manager of Momento, creators of premium photo books + custom stationery. A 100% Australian owned + made company dedicated to helping amateur, enthusiast + professional photographers preserve their images in style at

All posts by Momento Photobooks →

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: