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Create Your Best Portfolio for Graduate School

Create Your Best Portfolio for Graduate School

Amy Wilson

Putting together a portfolio for graduate school can be a daunting task. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind to help guide you through the process. You can also apply these guidelines to your portfolio after you graduate and are applying for grants, residencies, and gallery shows.

Step one: Get quality images that reflect your work well.

You’ll need around 20 examples of your work. Different schools have different requirements, but more and more are asking for digital images saved on CD or DVD. However the school wants to receive your images, make sure that the work is photographed to give a simple and straightforward presentation. You don’t want anything in the shot but your art and maybe a nearby wall (or floor); make sure the photo is clear of any furniture or other distractions. Also, be very careful about the color in your slide: Is it accurate to your rawork of art? When in doubt, hire a professional photographer to shoot your work – the money you spend will be well worth it for quality images (after all, you’ve worked hard for your art – don’t let a bad photograph ruin all the time you’ve put in!).

Choosing works

Not all the images have to be of different works. Check the specific instructions given to you by the school, but most schools simply request a blanket number of slides from applicants. Depending on your media, it may be appropriate to include details (this is especially true for sculpture and installation artists). You don’t want to go overboard, sending more details than individual works. But try recruiting a new set of eyes, perhaps a friend who hasn’t seen all of the work you’ll be submitting. See what their reaction is to the images – Are they asking questions that could be easily answered by a detail shot? If so, you should consider including some close-up images that might make things clearer.

Project the images

Take those images for a test drive. Most schools view portfolios by projecting the work onto a large screen, which means that the image you have either on your laptop or in a slide is going to be blown up many times its original size. Be on the safe side and borrow someone’s equipment so that you can see what your images look like at this size. They’re going to be the portfolio committee’s first impression of you, so you should know: Does the color get washed out at that scale? Do the details disappear?

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