Advice: The Portfolio Review
Okay, this past weekend I reviewed portfolios for a few hours at an event in Los Angeles. I hadn’t done this in over a year. Overall, the experience was better than expected, although I didn’t think about the event until I was walking in the door. I was on vacation the week prior, so my mind was elsewhere.
Several things happened, and I overheard several more. Wanted to share these things with you just in case you were planning on showing work at some point in the future.
Advice begins here:
1. Edit your work. You HAVE to understand how important this is. This is, in some ways, as important as the work itself.
2. Limit what you show. Do NOT show 100 images. Show 10-15 and they better be good.
3. KNOW why you are there. Be prepared for being asked why you are showing work, why you want to be a photographer.
4. Bring a notepad. Good reviewers are going to give you homework.
5. Think twice about showing work on laptops and iPads. This work is simply NOT considered in the same way as prints.
6. Don’t dread printing, embrace it. Printing is your final chance to put your mark on your work.
7. DO NOT SHOW YOUR WORK ON AN iPHONE. Yes, people were doing this. I heard other reviewers say “Are you kidding me?” when a phone was brought out.
8. If you copied someone, admit it. Don’t act like you created something original then act like you don’t know who you copied it from.
9. Ask questions. Do NOT talk the entire time. The reviewer will be wondering “Why are you here if you have all the answers?”
10. You can be serious but have a sense of humor at the same time. This is much appreciated.
11. You better have some references. If I ask who inspires you and you can’t name a SINGLE person it tells me you are self absorbed.
12. Bring “regulation” size portfolios. Bigger is not better.
13. Thank the reviewer.
14. Send a follow up email.
15. Leave a card or promo piece.
16. Justify what you are showing. Be able to defend your work while not being defensive.
17. Not everyone is going to like you or your work. This is TOTALLY OKAY.
18. Enjoy the moment. This is what it’s all about.
19. “I don’t know,” is not an answer that will win you a lot of respect or confidence.
20. Have a second body of work in reserve.
21. SHOW THE WORK THAT IS UNIQUE TO YOU NOT THE WORK YOU THINK THE REVIEWER WANTS TO SEE.
22. If you show work to ten different people you are going to get ten different stories. If you have good instincts, trust those and move on.
Okay, start there. Have fun with this process. Make great work. Be positive and progressive and things will be just fine. And finally, you don’t need to be a photographer to be a photographer. This industry isn’t as fun as it used to be. The key is making YOUR work. It will be the only thing you are left with so make it count.