Lately I’ve noticed more studios placing self promoting displays in their client reception areas. This is a fun, simple way of exposing visiting clients to your studio’s changing portfolio of projects.

These portfolio theaters can be cheaper and easier to create than you might have guessed. Examples range from using a new Apple TV, to repurposing an old design station with an Acrobat slide show. Pull it off with flare and you have a great environment for visiting clients and vendors to discover and appreciate the breadth of your studio’s portfolio.

Portfolio #1: Apple TV + HD Television.

In eight weeks, photographer Chase Jarvis moves into his swanky new studio near Seattle’s Gas Works Park. Among other clever details, visitors will soon enjoy a remarkable portfolio theater running off an Apple TV. A perfect fit for his all-Mac shop.

The Apple TV screensaver is perfect for showing off your diverse photography portfolio. For the moment, the Apple TV is a new product and using it’s built-in features are pretty cool. Once that 3D-spin effect becomes passé, you’ll want to swap out the default screensaver with something else (keep your eye on sites like

In addition to your portfolio images, you can play video of course. Chase has been producing a fun collection of behind-the-scenes videos showing the inside of what he terms “The Black Box” of commercial photography. You can bet high resolution versions of these videos will be gracing the Apple TV theater in his new space. Check out his videos: RAW: Ninjas, or FRAMES: Hasselblad Masters.

Cost: $299 for the Apple TV, and as much or as little as you wish to spend on a new HD TV.

Portfolio #2: Apple Cinema Displays + Mac Screensaver


If your creative studio has standardized on Apple computers, mounting an Apple Cinema Display on the wall in your reception area is a great way to frame your digital portfolio.

Pravda Studios in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood has created an impressive unit featuring four Apple Cinema displays to show off their diverse portfolio of video, photography and design. All four displays are driven by a PowerMac G5 with two dual-screen video cards mounted below on the same unit.

The easiest way to show off your studio’s work is to point Apple’s built-in Mac screensaver to a folder of your portfolio images. Sit back and watch as your creations slowly pan and dissolve across the screen. The effect is even better when you use multiple monitors, as each display fades in alternating rotation.

If you don’t have the time or budget to build a fancy display case, you can purchase an optional wall mounting kit for just this purpose.

Cost: A 23-inch Apple Cinema Display goes for $899, and you can run it off one of your retired studio Macs.

Portfolio #3: Video Projectors + Video Dailies.

An ad agency I work with in Seattle’s Pioneer Square created a remarkable portfolio theatre. Their uncommonly large reception area sports tall white walls. By installing two home-theatre projectors in the ceiling, they created huge side-by-side movie screens. They play a variety of customized DVD’s without sound. The DVD’s contain a mix of video dailies from recent commercial shoots, as well as a variety of clips from other odd sources (one day was an old black-and-white science fiction retrospective).

I find the dailies from their recent commercials the most fascinating. It exposes visitors to a slice of their portfolio, while giving interested parties a glimpse into the craft that goes into a video shoot. The raw footage has an unedited quality that is fascinating to watch. The use of two theatre images going simultaneously gives a contrast in content that reminds me a bit of what I’ve seen in dance clubs or at my favorite sushi bar.

Cost: Probably $3000 to $6000. Projectors are coming down in price. The result looks like they spent much more.

PredictaTV.pngPortfolio #4: Predicta TV + Video iPod

I work with a design studio in Bellevue whose branding plays off classic science fiction paraphernalia of the 1950’s. What if they bought a modern Predicta television and hooked it up to a video iPod (using this iPod AV Cable). They could download a simple rotating portfolio of recent work using Apple’s iPhoto software.

Visiting clients would be drawn to the Predicta TV, while a portfolio of the studio’s latest work slowly faded in and out on the screen.

Cost: $3500 for the Predicta TV. $299 for the iPod.

Portfolio #5: An old iMac + Adobe Acrobat.

Let’s finish this series off with a cheap example — this comes from an innovative graphic design studio in downtown Seattle. For years, they had an empty reception station near the front door, with an old iMac sitting unused on the desk. One day it occurred to them to turn that iMac around towards incoming clients.

They designed an attractive Acrobat PDF file with photos of recent projects and quotes from clients. Then they took advantage of Acrobat’s little known slideshow mode to automatically fade between the pages of their PDF. We’ve written up a new tip showing this technique: Build an Acrobat PDF Slideshow. Voilà. An easy, attractive self-running portfolio kiosk for incoming clients.

Cost: $0 because they already had an old iMac gathering dust.

Source: This tip is inspired by a new studio build-out for photographer Chase Jarvis that should be complete in 8 weeks. Most of this tip is updated from an article I wrote back in 2004, from a short-lived series called “101 Ways to Market Your Creative Studio.”