One of the best ways to invest in your photography practice is by receiving feedback on your work from industry professionals. There are many ways for this to happen, but one of the most common ones is through a portfolio review. Portfolio reviews may initially seem nerve-racking and a little bit intrusive, but it is a fantastic way of finding out how others see your work (especially those who are in the same position as someone who could potentially hire you). It is important to be aware of what you are doing right and how you can improve your image-making.
Preparing for a Portfolio Review:
Despite how scary participating in a portfolio review may seem, it really isn’t all that bad, here are a few ways that you can make the most out of your portfolio review.
First of all, before attending a portfolio review, the first question that you should be asking yourself is ‘why am I doing this?’ What is it that you hope to gain from your 15 minutes to 1-hour session? Is it advice on how you can improve your project? Is to receive guidance on how to develop on a body of work? Or do you simply want honest feedback on your visual storytelling skills? Already note down your intentions for attending a portfolio review and how the reviewer can help you.
Another thing to take note of is the person who is reviewing your work. If you have already been told who the reviewer will be, then do a quick background research on them. See the type of work they have produced, what their role is in the photography industry and consider tailoring the work that you will show and questions you will ask to fit in line with what it is that they do.
Already prepare a body of work that you want to be the focus of the review. The worst thing is for to look like you are unsure of the work you want the reviewer to see. Have your main project ready and an extra small project for them to have a look at if there is any time left at the end.
Professionalism is key! Go in with a level of professionalism and have your images organised in your folder. Remember that time flies quickly, so I don’t suggest you waste some of it by fluttering around looking for what image/ portfolio you want to show. If it is a digital portfolio, already have the folder open on your desktop to avoid awkward silences whilst you pull up your project from your folder.
It is extremely important to keep in mind that not everyone will say positive things about your work! The body of work that you believe is your ‘killer project’ might actually be seen as a drop in the ocean for what you are capable of doing. so, be susceptible to new ideas and criticism. Portfolio reviews are supposed to be constructive, and may even take your way of thinking in regards to your project in a completely different direction.
Have a personal body of work!! This is so important that I even had to add two exclamation marks. Yes, it is important for the reviewer to see your technical skills, but what they are also (if not, even more) interested in, is what you are interested in! A personal project shows what your interests are, it shows a bit about your personality and how you connect to the world around you. Make sure that you include a body of personal work, it will definitely make your session more enlightening and constructive.
Last but not least, have business cards with you! Portfolio reviews are great spaces to start conversations (a much friendlier term than ‘network’) and meet other fellow colleagues and industry professionals. Hand out a few of your business cards and collect some from people, especially from your reviewer.
Actions to take after a portfolio review:
Now that you’ve gotten the review out of the way, how do you keep up the momentum?
Stay in your reviewers mind! Sending a friendly follow up email thanking the reviewer for having a look at your work, is a great way of getting them to remember who you are. Remember, they would have seen a variety of different work by different photographers, so them remembering your name is a nice little win (and could eventually get you places)
Make use of your online portfolio, whether that be Instagram or a website. But, in the case of your Instagram handle, use it as a curated space by showing the developments of your work. Be professional, as many Photo-Editors are looking for new talent and might stumble across your page!
Invest in group crits! Group crits (you and other professional photographers reviewing, offering feedback and sequencing work together) is a great way to receive honest feedback about your work, develop on your project and to be held accountable to your practice.
Make the most out of your portfolio review:
Most of the time, portfolio reviews are not free, the reviewers are basically being paid to provide for you a service so ensure that you are getting your moneys worth! Ask questions, be conversational and take notes. The portfolio reviews that are free, cherish them by respecting and making the most out of the reviewers time as they also try to make the most out of yours.