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How to Get the Most Out of Portfolio Reviews

Mara Serdans by Mara Serdans on Sept. 7, 2015

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 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’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?

More About Mara Serdans

Mara SerdansHi there! I'm an artist, art/content producer and creative consultant based in Los Angeles with more than 15 years of experience working in advertising and publishing. My love for beautiful imagery and art runs deep thanks to having grown up in Rochester, NY - the hometown of Eastman Kodak. From a young age, I was always interested in cameras and rifling through my parent's stacks of National Geographic Magazine.

Since then, I've taken that passion and produced content for a wide range of clients including YouTube, Subaru, Honda, Intel, Volkswagen, Infiniti/Nissan, Mazda, Dr Pepper, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Anthem, Uber, PlayStation, HTC and Angel Soft. Prior to my career in advertising, I worked in the photo department at Essence Magazine in NYC where I produced shoots for the center of the book, music/culture, fashion, beauty, and food/living sections of the Magazine. Before I transitioned into photo editing, I began my professional career in public relations and wrote press releases, developed PR plans and secured attention from top-tier media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and NY Times for various renowned high-tech companies.

More About Mara Serdans