I remember back in the day when we went to in-person meetings with creatives there seemed to be a few standards options one was the https://printfile.com/product-category/boxes-cases/solander-museum-cases/ with prints matted and very precious. (An alternative was mounted transparencies often 4×5) that is when every art director has a light-box and a loupe or a Brewer – Cantelmo book – often 9×12 either vertical or horizontal with plastic pages (weird size to print to – I think it was because many magazines were 8.5 x 11 and people showed tear-sheets. The big-time ad shooters had laminated prints in a box.
I was always the outlier – I had a cassette case of empty cassettes with small prints that I thought would make cool album covers. I had a 6×9 book (also a weird size) that I printed small black and white or showed Polaprints of slides. And then I always had a small work 5×7 box of personal prints I’d carry in the back pocket of my portfolio bag.
Later I had a tearsheet book to show that I had been published. But I always liked small prints. I remember a photo editor from a magazine invited me to her cubicle office – otherwise I always had meetings in conference rooms, but this time she invited me back and this is just when people started having Mac’s on their desk with monitors and I realized that she had very little room to look at work. In fact, she said to me, I love your small presentations because I can enjoy looking at the photographs and not struggling with these oversized portfolios.
Another time at a New York magazine I remember they had a portfolio drop-off day, I think it was D/O Wednesday P/Up Thursday – no in-person meeting Since I had more time than money I would dress up as a bike messenger with a bag and pick up my book. Anyway, the Editorial Assistant or intern shows me to the P/Up room about 6×6 feet square is stacked wait level with black Brewer-Cantelmo boxes, print shipping cases, and other bags of portfolios hundreds of black books and boxes and there on the very top was my little 6×9 book inside a small cloth bag with red trim.
I happened to notice all of the other books had these nice little 4×6 note cards thanking them for dropping off their books but mine was empty, including the homemade promo card and letterpress business card. I felt let down I didn’t even get noticed. But I heard later when they gave me an assignment that my work stood out because everyone in the meeting gravitated to the little book on the table.
Anyway, I mention all of this because a good friend a little bit after this experience decided to go brazenly big. He had a patent leather white shiny 16×20 book made – very rock star – he printed all of the photographs on 16×20 paper and he had to haul it on a roller cart. BUT! because of the size and the white color that contrasted with all of the blacks in a room he got noticed and when he went to meetings they always had the conference room because of the size.
These days in person meetings are rare but precious, I guess the lesson is to go big or stay home although I am not sure that big prints are the only ways to go big. I think anything that sets you apart and shows off your work best is the way to go. A lot of people can print big these days. So in some ways, the new big is small – but for portraiture – especially when so much is on the smartphone or on a tablet/laptop seeing an in-person beautiful print 16×20 is a statement.
About Prints and Boxes
There are a few decisions to make:
Size matters. If you want to make an impact then 16×20 will do it. I personally like the standard sizes of 5×7,8×10,11×14 and 16×20 paper sizes.
Do you plan to print full frame edge to edge bleed or frame the images with a border?
I always like is a white border and I like consistency in image direction. Because I often make prints square, vertical and Horizontal. I pick an aspect ratio and then print everything to it. For instance Landscape and then print verticals in the middle or commit to Portrait and print my horizontals in the middle. There is also an argument to print to the aspect ratio and turn the prints. It’s just a decision to make. My most recent portfolio was square paper and everything printed in the middle.
This does lead to am obvious question about printers and which maximum size you will need up to 13×19 which is less expensive than something that prints 16×20 size. I guess this is what they invented that format awkward 13×19 format.
I do like a simple portfolio box:
Archival Methods and Print File sell from their website, and also some online retailers.
This box is super durable and professional-looking without being fancy—stock and trade of museums and gallerists. https://www.archivalmethods.com/product/museum-cases
These are nice for a few prints https://www.archivalmethods.com/product/digital-print-folio
I use these in my studio https://www.archivalmethods.com/product/custom-build
or here pre-made kits https://www.archivalmethods.com/product/portfolio-board-combo
something more upscale