To build an effective, professional portfolio, consider the following (and learn about constructing a print-on-demand portfolio when you're done):
Your portfolio should reflect your very best projects and the needs and interests of the people you plan to approach for work. Find out what they need to see from you and select work samples that are as close a match as possible. Create new work for your book if you need to. Make it easy for clients to imagine working with you.
The common wisdom “start strong- finish strong” plays to the idea that people best remember the first and last images in any given series. You would be wise to be attentive to that strategy but you should also work carefully to create a flow from picture to picture and project to project, beginning to end. The “flow” should take into account the subject matter of an image but also its visual form (line, shape, color). The sequence may seek to weave the images together in a seamless way or might, if appropriate, emphasize differences for a more active and assertive feel.
Books of any size up to 16X20” are workable. Find out what’s most common in your media. The size book you choose for your portfolio will determine the maximum image size for your pages (right?) but of course you can print from edge to edge (full-bleed) to very small to 2 or more images up on a page to double page spreads. Or, you could print everything to uniform size and placement on the page throughout your portfolio. One key to a professional looking book is that the pages looked planned-out and use consistent margins.
number of projects
This varies according to specific media. A photographer may put 20 pictures in a book as compared to an advertising artist who might put 3 or 4 campaigns in a book or an Illustrator who might use 12 to 15. Clearly, your strongest work belongs in your book and equally clearly any project that you’re not confident in does not belong in your book.
A well-made book is all about planning. Create a page layout for your images that has consistent borders throughout, and orients all the pictures in the same direction (meaning that the viewer will not have to rotate the book to see all the pictures right side up). If you have captions or commentary about the projects, use the same font at the same size, placed on the page in a consistent way. Each page of your book may be uniform in layout or you may want to shift the layout from project to project- if that seems more effective for your collection of work. As with a magazine, consistency can be maintained even though individual pages may look quite different.
The print quality of the individual pages of your book is a measure of your ability and of your professionalism. Do what ever it takes to produce beautiful representations of your work. The condition of the cover, title page and sleeves is also a sure indication of professionalism. Books must be kept in immaculate condition. If you ding up a page or even the cover…replace immediately.
Be sure to show your portfolio-in- progress to well-informed people in your field of study. Make changes, add new work, adjust the sequence, refine the layout, show it off, make changes, add new work, and so on until it represents your individuality, your direction, and your potential to do great work.