When I was applying for a photography course last year I had the daunting task of putting together a portfolio of my photographs to show at interviews. I had no idea what I was doing having never done any art based courses (for my creative writing degree we just emailed a few examples of our writing - very straightforward!) and I couldn't really find much help online that wasn't aimed either at professionals putting together a portfolio to show clients, or at art students. So I figured I'd share how I put together my portfolio for anyone who is having a similarly frustrating experience.
Firstly, and most importantly, check any guidelines given by the school/college/university you are applying to. My university (LCC) specified a small portfolio of 15-20 images. This means 15-20 images. Not 5 images. Not 30 images. When I went for my interview there was a girl there with three enormous portfolios (those ones that are like A0!) with her, containing all her photography work from the last three years. Trust me when I say that the people interviewing you will not be impressed, and they may in fact begin to question your reading ability.
Secondly, pick images you like because you may be asked to talk about them. Don't be tempted to pick images that you think the interviewer might like. It's okay to put in some 'classic' shots, but trust your gut and go for images that have interesting angles, show a unique perspective, or bend the rules. These say way more about your work and about you as a person, and the interviewer will be more impressed that you used your initiative.
Thirdly, variety is the spice of life. Unless you are very focused and know exactly what type of photography you want to do then I'd suggest putting in a range of photos showcasing a range of styles and subjects. This is a piece of advice I should have heeded myself as I didn't really have any portraits in my portfolio because, quite frankly, I didn't have any! But try to include examples of architecture, portraits, landscape, still-life, travel. Oh and mix it up with some colour and some black and white.
Finally, when presenting images keep it simple. I know it's tempting to add weird borders and text and graphics and arrows, but try to resist. Get yourself a nice big plain album or book with thick pages and just stick the images in. I used an A4 self-adhesive album (don't go any smaller than A4, you don't want them to have to crack out a magnifying glass) and had my images printed out at Snappy Snaps. The total cost was about £20. I know some people had enormous prints made and mounted individually which came to in excess of £300. If you have that money to spend then I'm not going to stop you! But bear in mind you may never use them again. You could always gift them to relatives for Christmas though.
So, without further ado, here are the photos I submitted for my portfolio. Please note I am a total amateur, I don't claim to be an expert at either photography or creating portfolios!