At its most basic, a portfolio is a collection of work.
However, a successful portfolio neatly diplays a well-organized, carefully chosen sampling of a body of work that clearly expresses an artists abilities and potential for growth. Beyond the work included, many portfolios also contain an artist's statement, resume and bio of the artist.
Professionals and students at all levels use portfolios for a varied number of reasons. For most jobs in the creative industries, potential employers request a portfolio to display an applicants previous work. Many working professionals utilize web portfolios to ensure their visibilty to anyone seeking their freelance services. Students often create portfolios to secure jobs and internships. Many graduate and undergraduate programs also require application portfolios to be included in the application package.
Creative portfolios take many forms, including, but not limited to, print books, demo reels, resume tapes, web portfolios, PDFs, press kits, mini-books and demo CDs. As more and more artists take advantage of the world wide web, many prefer to have an online portfolio as well as a hard portfolio to increase their visibility and mazimize their chances of reaching an audience.
A creative portfolio is always a work in progress and should be updated regulary.