Work Sample Basics

Quality documentation of art work is an important consideration for artists of all disciplines. It can be a big investment in time and resources but the long-term results of high-quality images, recordings or manuscripts will bring many potential benefits:

  • Seeking funding
  • Marketing
  • Establishing a website
  • Securing clients
  • Securing a managers
  • Booking gigs
  • Hiring a crew or getting hired

Generally speaking you should always try to end up with the best high-quality representation of your work in whatever format best suits your particular discipline.  It’s also important to note that in this section, we are not discussing the quality of the work itself, but the digital representation of that work.

Be it digital images, conventional slides, video, audio or manuscripts, the manner in which you present your work will leave a lasting impression on any potential funders, curators,  performing arts venues and publishers. These people will be reviewing your work and making decisions based on what audiovisual work samples you have chosen to send and the professional quality of those materials.

Tips for Making Sure That Your Artwork is Presented Professionally

  • Decide if you feel comfortable documenting your own work or choose to hire a professional.
  • Preview your digital slide, video or audio documentation to make sure you have the best representation of your work possible prior to uploading the images to a grant application, sharing with vendors or posting crowdfunding sites.
  • Be aware of digital image and portal specifications before uploading images to any site.


  • For performing artists who rely on using  documentation of their work performed live and recorded by a third party (dance company, performance

    venue,  promoter, or studio) select samples that clearly represent your work and are not too dark or of poor quality.

  • If you decide to record your own work, research the different types of video cameras or sound recording technology available. Determine if you can compromise on one feature, like multiple functionalities or more compact equipment for a higher image and/or sound quality.
  • Use a tripod to steady the equipment.
  • Be aware of room acoustics. Any echo is difficult to remove in editing. Record in a dry sound environment, hang fabric and/or use a room with soft furnishings.
  • Balance editing a wide variety of shorter clips or audio tracks against using longer ones that allow the viewer to absorb more content.


  • Today, standard practice for photographs is digital images. If you have existing traditional slides of your work you may want to have them converted to a digital format at any local photo lab. Safely store the originals away from dust and light.
  • If you decide to photograph your own work, research the different types of cameras available before making a purchase. Determine if you can compromise on one feature, like multiple functionalities or a more compact camera, for a higher resolution.
  • Use a tripod to steady the camera.
  • Photograph only the work with no background. If you must use a background choose one that is black, white or gray.
  • Use good lighting (sunlight if possible).
  • Avoid skewing.

Written Works

  • Be aware of format specifications for submitting works online to publishers or to grants funders.
  • Format documents according to industry practice (e.g. plays vs. screenplays vs. poetry vs. prose). In general, work is formatted for ease of review:
    • Flush-left with one-inch margins
    • Double-spaced
    • In a standard font such as Arial, Calibri or Helvetica
    • For electronic files use a portable document file (PDF)
    • For print copies use white paper secured by a staple in upper-left corner, a binder clip, or a plain binder
    • Page numbers should be located in lower-right or outside lower corners
    • Use headers and footers thoughtfully for title, section or chapter