About PhotoPolitic?

About PhotoPolitic?

PhotoPolitic

PhotoPolitic is a photographic news and services company based in Los Angeles. We like to think of ourselves as a partner to creative professionals who create and/or utilize professional photography. We’re a partner that is truly global in reach as we have alliances with important industry contacts in nearly every major market — all of whom are working together to further the careers of photographers, stylists, and the industry as a whole.

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There’s no shortage of portfolio reviews to attend these days. At-Edge, FotoWorks, APA, ASMP, Lucie Foundation, Photolucida, and Palm Springs Photo Festival are a handful of great options to consider on the West Coast. For those of you elsewhere, many of these organizations have regional chapters or hold events in major cities around the US. They’re a great way to meet a lot of folks in the industry who are normally difficult to reach for in-person meetings.

The framework for each of these events is typically similar — each photographer spends the day meeting with a group of hand-picked reviewers including art producers, photo editors, creative directors, art directors, gallery owners, etc. for about 15-20 minutes at a time. Think of it as speed-dating, only your chances of meeting the love of your life are less likely.

If you’ve never attended a review or even if you are a seasoned pro, here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to make a great lasting impression and make the most of your day.

Do’s

  • Do perfect your elevator pitch. You have 15 minutes to sell yourself.
  • Do think of good questions in advance and determine your goals ahead of time.
  • Do tell us what you want to get out of the meeting. Do you want me to critique your book? Or are you just looking to network? Are you looking for advice on how to transition from the editorial to commercial world? Help us help you.
  • Do think of the review as a way to build a relationship. I’ve known some photographers for years even though I haven’t hired them. However, you can bet that when the right project comes along, they’ll be the first one’s I contact.
  • Do give us some breathing room. If you tell us the story behind every single image, we probably won’t get through the whole book. And sometimes it can be a little overwhelming.
  • Do a little research on each person you’ll be meeting with. Where do they work, what do they work on? If you’re a landscape photographer, you probably won’t find it beneficial to meet with an art producer who works on a beauty account.
  • Do make sure your book is final. This one seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many books I’ve seen thrown together at the last minute.
  • Do bring plenty of leave-behinds. After meeting with a dozen photographers in one day, it’s the best way for us to remember you.
  • Do follow up and say thank you. A short email or written note is sufficient.

Don’ts

  • Don’t just sit there. But then again, don’t do all the talking. Remember, it’s like speed-dating! Strike a balance and give reviewers the opportunity to ask you some questions.
  • Don’t forget to show us your personal work. Most reviewers will agree that we love to see a photographer’s personal work. It shows us more of who you are and tells us you’re passionate about exploring new ideas or techniques.
  • Don’t expect us to hire you on the spot. Yes, there’s always the off-chance that a project you’re perfect for just fell in my lap. But consider it a bonus and not an expectation. I will, however, keep you on my radar if I find your work suitable.
  • Don’t show us your website. You need an iPad or printed portfolio. Reviewers don’t want scroll through your website. If you’re using an iPad, make sure it’s fully charged!
  • Don’t stalk me after the review. If I just reviewed your work, I’m not going to schedule another meeting with you at our office anytime soon unless I have a specific project in mind.
  • Don’t forget to have fun. You love taking pictures and telling stories through your imagery. Sharing your passion with us should be exciting and fun!

Hopefully these tips will get you geared up and excited for your first or next review.

Have you attended a portfolio event as a photographer or reviewer? What has your experience been like?

Image Credit: Heather Elder Represents

  1. Usually these posts are a bore. But Mara hits you right between the eyes with blunt and practical advice.

    If I may add one thing, drawing on my experience and review of hundreds of portfolios, know your audience.

    If you are pitching a client or anyone that can move your career forward speak to their needs.

    I’m not suggesting you alter your look or be all things to all people.
    That’s career suicide.

    Instead, do your homework, know what they need and address them. And for God’s sake let them know you appreciate what they have accomplished. Then, and only if it’s true, present a case that your work is exactly what they are looking for.

    And mean it.

    Break legs,
    Vinny

    • Mara Serdans says:

      Thanks for your comments, Vinny! Great points about knowing your audience. It applies on so many levels. And if the photographer doesn’t know his/her audience going into a review or meeting, at least ask a lot of questions and then maybe follow up with a tailored selection of images if your style is appropriate. Glad you enjoyed the article!

  2. While I’ve never had the pleasure of attending a Portfolio Review event before (due to geographic location), I can say these tips apply to ANY creative meeting you might have. Preparation is vital & research beforehand so you’re not sitting there blindly wondering if what you’re presenting is even the correct genre.

    Be genuine too. People work with people. No matter who it is, wants to have a good work experience with YOU. What you produce often is secondary.

    Nice article!

    • Mara Serdans says:

      Thanks, Seagram! Being genuine makes such a difference. It’s important to establish that positive connection b/c it can lead to a lasting relationship – especially when you could potentially be spending days or weeks together on a project.

  3. What a great article. Thank you Mara! I represent a photographer that attends a lot of these shows and he starts each meeting telling the reviewer that there are three images he would like them to remember him by at the end of the meeting. He then makes sure to emphasize these images and gives them leave behinds of them as well. It seems to work well for him!

    • Mara Serdans says:

      Heather! I love that idea. Such a smart way to etch it into our memories. It’s a manageable amount and it’s great that your photographer reinforces it with the leave-behinds.

  4. Very useful piece Mara,

    I would add that it can also be good to create some element of surprise, or the unexpected, either in an image, or in the format of the presentation. It will allow you to stand out.

    • Mara Serdans says:

      Thanks, Doug! I agree. We see so much work during reviews and on a daily basis that it pays to go the extra mile to stand out (as long as it makes sense).

  5. I do these portfolio review events often, and if every photographer stuck to Mara’s points here they would really use the full opportunity of these reviews. I am most surprised how photographers don’t use these opportunities to their fullest. Even on this blog, why isn’t this mobbed with responses? We have the opportunity to hear Mara’s POV, get her help on a situation we all want more guidance with, and use this since it is so hard to get in and contact people like her. It puzzles me in general. As I said, I often do these reviews like I did this passed weekend, I speak to classes, etc., and even though I offer to answer emailed questions I barely hear from them. Mara just listed out the golden ticket! She has a view on this we all need to hear. I’m going to start a Listen To Mara campaign! How lucky we are to have places like this.

    • Mara Serdans says:

      Hi Andrea,

      Thanks for your kind words and for motivating the community to contribute their thoughts! Let’s keep the conversation going…

  6. Hi, nice article. I’m an art director so over the years I’ve seen a lot of portfolios and photographers not with a camera in front of them.

    These are all very good Do’s and Don’ts. The pros that always stood out the most for me have been the ones that kept their work simple and easy to look at and understand. I mean just show me work that has impact and it doesn’t have to be an avalanche of it either.

    The other most important element of the interviews that I thought were successful from my standpoint was talking to someone who would look me in the eye and have a comfortable personality and show me he was technically proficient as well as really had a passion for his work. If I felt those elements, it was successful as a meeting.

    This is a great site and I plan on visiting it more often.

  7. I agree with all the points you made, Mara. I would add that if you’re showing your work on an iPad, be sure to clean the screen between meetings. So many people forget that! Since one of the points of a review is to get the reviewer excited about you and your work, if you follow these points you’ll do well.

    • Mara Serdans says:

      Great point, Stella! Tough to view images on an iPad that is covered with fingerprints and smudges.

  8. I am a seasoned photographer and I just started really utilizing these portfolio reviews. This year I attended Chicago Creative Review, NYC FotoWorks, Lucie’s Fresh Look. APA-LA Portfolio Review, and I just returned from PPE in NYC where I participated int the PSPF reviews. Obviously I’m hooked! What a fantastic way to reach out and network! There is a no more efficient way to gain access to and connect with the important people in the advertising world. Mara, your do’s and don’ts are spot on. I would add that photographers should remember to keep their expectations realistic. While it is possible that an art buyer will turn around and have you bid a job or that an artist rep will find your work compelling enough to sign you, the real advantage of these reviews is that they are a starting point onto these paths. Here is the opportunity to find out what these decision makers need and develop the relationship so you are able to present that to them at a later point. Finding some common ground so you can personally engage is very important. Also, I encourage my reviewers to be very critical. I want them to be comfortable giving me the advice I need!

  9. For the first time, this year I attended Chicago Creative Review, NYC FotoWorks, Lucie’s Fresh Look. APA-LA Portfolio Review, and I just returned from PPE in NYC where I participated int the PSPF reviews. Obviously I’m hooked! What a fantastic way to reach out and network! There is a no more efficient way to gain access to and connect with the important people in the advertising world. Mara, your do’s and don’ts are spot on. I would emphasize that photographers should remember to keep their expectations realistic. While it is possible that an art buyer will turn around and have you bid a job or that an artist rep will find your work compelling enough to sign you, the real advantage of these reviews is that they are a starting point onto these paths. Here is the opportunity to find out what these decision makers need and develop the relationship so you are able to present that to them at a later point. Finding some common ground so you can stay personally engaged is very important. Also, I encourage my reviewers to be very critical. I want them to be comfortable giving me the advice I need!

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