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Portfolio Reviews: A Critical Investment in Your Future


Portfolio reviews are one-on-one sessions with a photographer and reviewer during which the photographer's images are critiqued individually and as a group of images, usually fifteen to twenty, as a cohesive collection, or body of work. Reviews can provide a dispassionate and objective critique of your work offering insight that is very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain from your personal observation.

Investing in the quality of your work

Portfolio reviews are one of the most cost-effective ways to measure and direct your growth as a fine art or commercial photographer. Experienced reviewers provide insight to defining compelling images and stylizing cohesive presentations.

Photographers invest money in equipment, workshops, books and travel to photo opportunities. They also invest large amounts of their most valuable asset, time. The monetary investment in a portfolio review is minimal compared to the cost of preparing and presenting work that is less than your best or does not provide the desired statement. Put in perspective, what is your return on your investment in equipment and time if your images are missing the mark – and you don't know it, know why, or know what corrections to make?

Ongoing learning experience

Portfolio reviews should be a part of your continuing learning experience. I recommend that even established photographers have their portfolios reviewed once a year. Most reviewers will recommend that photographers seek out new reviewers for their work each time, unless there is special circumstance for using the same reviewer, such as comparing with a previous review or a project for which the reviewer is providing ongoing guidance.

Prior to any portfolio review, I talk to the photographer to learn about their experience and ambitions. I want to gain a sense for plans to promote their work, their understanding of how their portfolio can be used to achieve their goals, and to explore their perception of how portfolios can be packaged and presented. I then incorporate this information in our discussion of the portfolio(s).

An annual event

In summary, I recommend photographers having their work reviewed as part of their learning and growth process, no matter how established they may be. Whether it is online, as discussed here, or at one of the many group review opportunities, such as Photolucida or Review Santa Fe, or during PhotoFest, reviews are one of the best investments you can make in your work.