This past week I attended the ASMP NY Chapter sponsored portfolio review. I have been to the last four of these events, and have picked up a few things along the way. I thought it would be helpful to share five points of advice:
1. Bring your best, show the least.
The biggest mistake I have made in the past was to bring far too many portfolios with me. It’s overwhelming to the reviewers who are seeing as many as 15 photographers in the evening to see too much from just one person. iPad’s have compounded this issue, where you can easily have all your work loaded on the tablet. Although I have all my work loaded on it, I don’t even give the reviewer the chance to see it all. You can always say, “I have a portfolio of this or that kind of work…” and ask to email it to them. This not only wets their appetite, but also opens to door for future correspondence.
This review I decided to bring my printed portfolio of my Sport & Fitness work, which over the course of meetings and reviews this year I’ve found to receive the best response from the majority. Along with this, I brought my iPad with my Portrait work, and a copy of my personal project, a new book called Local Heroes: Portraits of American Volunteer Firefighters.
I began each review with the printed Sport & Fitness portfolio and always mentioned my other work is primarily portrait work, which includes everything from celebrity to business. This I have on the iPad ready to go if they want to see that, and I mention that I finished a personal project and the book just came out. Each reviewer wanted to see the book, and that brings up the next point.
2. Personal Work
You must have some personal work with you. It’s a very difficult position to be in as a reviewee with 10 min to impress someone. It’s basically speed dating for new clients. Truth be told, most of the time you have been judged in the first minute and/or first few images you show. I found myself in the past trying to show reviewers how I should fit their list of photographers because LOOK I have all this commercial work that I do. Reality is a slap in the face, and the hit comes that thousands of photographers can do what you do. The real point of the meeting is that the reviewer wants to know who YOU are. It’s selfish, they want to know for themselves, you know why? Simple, THEY want to know if they can stand being next to you on a shoot for a day, a week or a month. Showing personal work, and talking about yourself is more important to all the commercial work you do. They can easily see if you have the talent to do the commercial work, so your time is best spent showing them who YOU are.
3. Go in with a plan, but be flexible
Before the review you will get a list of the reviewers. From there, make your hit list, who fits (as best as you can tell) the kind of work you do and more importantly, make sure what you are planning to show fits their magazine, ad agency, etc. I see many photographers clammer to get on certain lines to meet the reviewer because it’s a big title or ad agency, and they in no way fit the kind of work that reviewer does. We are all in it to try to get more clients and more work- so plan your time out well, just going to the see the NY Times because you like the NY Times, does not mean it’s a good use of your time.
I put my hit list in a notebook and when I arrive at the location I make notes of where each of the reviewers I want to meet are sitting, and I prioritize where I will go once the reviews start. No plan and you will waste time, but you have to be flexible, and maximize your time. The popular reviewers will have a line, because it’s inevitable that the 10 minutes/review will not coincide, you can end up standing on line and waiting for up to an hour. This is a big mistake. I don’t get on any line more than 2 people, and if I am last on line, and see an open spot for one of the reviewers who is lower on my list, I’ll take the open chair. You are there to meet those top priorities, however, you are also there to show your work to potential clients, standing on line the bulk of the evening, you will fail at that task.
4. Presentation, as always, is EVERYTHING
That’s the golden rule. iPad’s have taken over of course, for their size, ease of use and memory to hold all you like. However, I may be old school, but I believe it’s important to show a print book. The majority of my work ends up in print, so showing how I take the image from start to print I believe is important. Everything looks good on an iPad, the backlight is a wonderful thing, and I do hear the horror stories from many art directors and photo editors who made the mistake of relying on judging a photographer only from an iPad or website. It’s also a part of my personality, to show them that I am hands-on, I produce, I light, I retouch and I print. I like to show them that.
I am amazed that I still see photographers who show a stack of prints. It says volumes about those photographers, nothing positive in my mind. You could be a great photographer, but if you present your work like a slob, then you are a just a great slob of a photographer. At the very least, mount them, put them in a nice box, something- but don’t pull them out of a plastic bag and expect to be viewed in a positive light.
5. Thank you
During each meeting, I make a note of what image(s) the reviewer reacts to most, and that will be the image I email to the reviewer as a epromo card post meeting. As well, in the email thanking the reviewer, I mentioned something specific we speak about, and I include links to my website, as well as both my portfolios which I have on issue.com as you can see from the portfolio links above. Failing to contact the reviewers after the meeting seems like a no-brainer, but I know for a fact many photographers do not do this.
Hope this helps some of you out there, please feel free to email any questions!