10 Best Tips for Building Your Portfolio
1. Do your homework. Learn the specific requirements or exercises that each school to which you are applying may require. Many art schools provide definitive parameters for the work that needs to be submitted. The guidelines vary between courses and schools.
2. Create art from life. One of the biggest skills that many schools look for is observational drawing or painting from still life, figure models, or landscape. This is the case whether you are applying for fine arts, design, or animation. Reviewers can tell if drawings are created from photographs. They want to see that you can translate 3D concepts into a 2D space while keeping the correct proportions and perspective.
3. Include personal work. Complete your portfolio with work that speaks to your personal experiences or draws from your background. Consider including experimental work or pieces that showcase your personal interest in a particular subject or medium.
4. Explore ideas and originality. Don’t play it too safe. While it’s important to demonstrate good technical skills (anatomy, color, lighting, etc), it is equally important to make sure that your portfolio stands out with work that reflects thoughts and concepts. There are thousands of aspiring artists applying to art school each year, so make sure your best work includes out-of-the-box thinking.
5. Keep a sketchbook. You’ll want to show your process work – how you developed your ideas and how your work has matured. Some art schools will require that you submit your sketchbook along with your portfolio to give further insight.
6. Photograph your work in its best light. Use outdoor or natural light to photograph your portfolio pieces. When shooting 3-D artwork, use a 3-point light system: one overhead light, and two spotlights set at 45º angles to the piece.
7. Digitize all artwork. For most schools you’ll need to upload your portfolio or send digital attachments rather than hard copies. Work should be saved with sufficient pixels so the reviewer can enlarge without pixilation. Use RGB color mode, and save in JPG or PDF formats. Always archive a high-resolution image for your records, and create an image inventory of your work that includes title (if any), medium, date, and size.
8. Be very selective. A portfolio submitted for admission should consist of 10-20 digital images of your best and most recent work. Be sure that each piece showcases your talent, conveys your ambition, and represents your finest capabilities. It is better to have 10 really strong pieces than 15 or 20 that aren’t your absolute best. Organize the portfolio to create a flow for your audience considering the program to which you are applying.
9. Practice discussing your work. For your art school interview, preparation is important, so arrange for a mock interview with a teacher or another authority figure. Select a couple of pieces, and get comfortable talking about your work and what it means to you. Think about when and why you created the work, what the work is about, and the media you used. Share what you like about the pieces and why.
10. Have your work reviewed by professionals. It can help tremendously to get the opinions of college admission representatives before applying to schools. You can do this by attending a National Portfolio Day event where many art schools will have admissions officers there to review your work and provide feedback. Representatives offer guidance in the presentation of your portfolio, and offer information about programs of study, admission requirements, scholarships, and financial aid. If your portfolio is further along, it may even be an opportunity to have it approved for admission at the event!
1. You must choose a cover photo and title it with your name. Add your grade as a subtitle.
2. You must take two photos of each of your projects.
3. Under the photo, you must write the techniques and materials you used to create your piece, any struggles you had to overcome, your favorite part of your piece, and the date.
Setting Up Your Photo
-Make sure your camera is set to auto focus with an ISO of 200.
Take your photo in bright, indirect natural lighting. If it is a 3D piece, use three light sources; one overhead light and two spotlights at a 45 degree angle.
Pay attention to the way you're positioning your artwork.
Avoid shadows and messy framing, by making sure that the piece is level against the wall or table.
Whenever possible, you should fill the frame with your work, trying not to show any background.
When you artwork is non-rectangular or 3D keep the background simple without distractions.
Frame the piece against a natural color- white is the perfect background. Colorful backgrounds can alter the color of your piece by reflecting onto it.
Make sure there are no shadows concealing parts of the piece.
Avoid direct sunlight; aside from the fact that it's probably not good for your artwork, direct sunlight can create what are known as 'hot spots' on reflective surfaces.
If your work needs to be on a slant to stand up against the wall- tilt your camera to match the angle.
Be sure to clean your lens. Having a speck of dust on the glass can mess with your camera's automatic focus.
Use a tripod if you can get one.
The best way to ensure consistency throughout your portfolio is to take the photographs of each piece in the same photo-shoot. It may be tempting to snap your pics the minute each piece is complete, but when you aren’t taking each photo under the same conditions, you’ll find a noticeable inconsistency throughout.
Take lots of shots – and choose the best!