Portfolio Distinction Program*

Feedback from an Assessment

Putting a Portfolio together in order to apply for a Portfolio Distinction is not just a matter of selecting your favorite images, however good they are.  The most successful portfolios were planned and photographed as a unit with a consistent style and this was evident right from the start  i.e from the moment the Overview Image was projected and the Statement of Intent read. 

It was apparent during the assessment session that many applicants did not fully understand the concept of the Overview Image or the Statement of Intent.  A number of articles have been written and should be taken into consideration when preparing your application.  This brief article highlights those problems which were most apparent at this assessment session.

It is important to understand that the Overview Image is the first image that the assessors see and at the same time they listen to your Statement of Intent so it is important that you make a good first impression.  Any of the problems described below can detract from that first impression.


Composition: - Inadequate use of space  (Poor use of available/allowed space)
Once you have created your Overview Image have a look at it as a whole – what do you see?  In the example below what is immediately apparent is that the background colour, even though it is a neutral grey, is far more dominant than the individual images.  

A very simple solution in this overview Image would be to move the rows closer together and to crop both top and bottom, thus making a much better use of space. Remember that one axis must use the full dimension so it can either be 1920 on the horizontal axis or 1080 on the vertical axis.



In this second example not only is there extra space that could be cropped out, as mentioned above, but the individual images are very small and could easily have been made larger thus using the available space more effectively.


Background too bright
The density of your background, or how dark or light it should be, depends on your images and should be selected to make them stand out from the background. This is why a white background could work well for one portfolio and a neutral grey might be considered too bright for another.  Whatever background you choose it should not overpower your images.

Inconsistent Aspect Ratio 
Each individual image in your Overview Image should be the same aspect ratio as it is in your actual portfolio.  In other words you should not change the shape of an image in your overview image to make it fit more pleasingly into the overview image.   

If you want to change the shape then you should also do so with the actual image in your portfolio so that the aspect ratios remain the same.  You should consider this when creating your portfolio and choose a different image if it does not fit effectively in your portfolio.

Inconsistent order
The order of the images in your Overview Image should be the same as in your portfolio. Remember that when you upload your individual images you must check to make sure that they are in the correct order and resort them if necessary.

Images flipped 
You should also not flip i.e. turn your images around, to make them fit the overview image.  You can of course flip them (provided there is no writing on them) but if you do so the orientation must be the same in both the overview image and the portfolio.

Consistency of mats and strokes
While it is recommended that you use effects such as strokes and shadows in your overview image to make the images stand out from the background these should be done on the outside of your images and should not detract.  Furthermore any borders that you do want to use in your portfolio images should be consistent. If you have large mats or strokes on your actual images, be they prints or digital, this should be shown in your overview image.

Lacking Colour and/or Visual Flow
A portfolio is not just a selection of your favorite images, it is a body of work that has cohesion and each image must work together. Colours must flow from one to the next and should not stand out as being out of place.  

The central vertical image at the bottom does not fit very well in the portfolio.  While it might have been taken in the same area no dune is showing and the Colour does not balance - however much you like that particular image you would be better off replacing it.



The same is true of the subject matter within the image - pay attention to which direction the subject is moving and balance these within your overview image.  You should move the images around in your overview image, seeing which positioning is more effective visually.

Statement of Intent
Hand in hand with the Overview Image is the Statement of Intent. While we do allow for 75 words there is no need to use all 75 words.   If you can say what you want to say in fewer words, do so.   What the assessors want is a brief outline of your portfolio. Leave out all the extraneous information.  The assessors only need to know what is relevant to your images.   

Be sure that your title and your statement of intent match each other and that the images in your portfolio match the title and statement of intent.  Your statement of intent sets the expectations of the assesssors.  If you tell the assessors in your title and Statement of Intent that they are going to see a certain subject, be sure that that is exactly what they are going to see.

Applying for and achieving your Portfolio Distinction is something worth working for so do take care with your application.  Make sure borders are consistent, your images are clean and there are no dust spots.