Do you want to get serious about your photography? Fancy yourself a professional? Let's talk about putting together a portfolio. If you want to show your work, if you want to get more business, if you are looking to start a business, If you are looking for representation or trying to get shown in a gallery, nothing will have more impact than your portfolio.
Here are a few things to take into consideration when putting together your book:
Your portfolio should consist of between 15 and 30 images. Less than 15 doesn't show enough depth and experience, and more than 30 becomes cumbersome and tedious to look through.
Especially for novices and upstarts, the portfolio is often their weakest link. This is usually due to the fact that they are drawing from too little work. Be your own harshest critic. Look at the images you are considering closely. Try to find reasons to keep them out of your book. If you can't find a flaw, put them in. "This is good enough" is NOT good enough. Only your absolute very best images go into your book. I cannot stress this enough. You have never met a more critical person than a photo editor, so no matter how tough you think you are being on your work, it isn't tough enough.
Don't make excuses for your work. If it's not right, it's not right. Leave it out. If you specialize in wildlife photography, and you have an image that is great in every way except that the subjects eyes are obscured or out of focus, do not include it. If the viewer notices and says something like "too bad about the eyes", what do you do then? Make excuses? That isn't going to fly.
Make sure that your work speaks for itself and doesn't require an explanation. It's quite possible that you won't be there when your book is viewed.
Your portfolio needs to have a consistent theme. Don't mix landscapes with portraits. Don't mix still life with architecture. Don't mix color with black and white. Specialize at least in your books. If you want to promote different styles of photography, have different books. Make sure all of your images are the same proportions. Do your cropping with your camera so you aren't cropping after the fact and changing the proportions of your image. If you have to crop after you have already taken the shot, keep the proportions consistent. Don't have a book of 13 x 19's and then have an 8x10 and a 12 x 12. One book, one size.
The images should flow from one to the next; much like music on an album will flow from one song to the next. There should be a beginning, middle, and an end. Start strong and finish strong.
Personally, I have some nice leather looking books with high quality plastic inlays, but these can sometimes be problematic if the lighting isn't right. A glare from the plastic can be a real momentum killer. There are many different display modes; figure out what will be the right one for you. Don't be afraid to be imaginative or creative. For the time being at least, electronic methods still don't make the grade. Decision makers still want hard copies so that they are easy to pass around and really see what they are looking at. 72 DPI electronically displayed images don't hold a candle to an actually printed image.
Make sure that you name is displayed on your portfolio. You want to make sure that the viewer knows whose work it is and that you get it back. Follow up with a thank you note after your appointment.