Feedback, feedback, feedback. Sometimes valuable, sometimes not. Constructive criticism, praise, encouragement – all part of the creative process. We hear if from our co-workers, clients, boss. Students hear it all the time in class since “critique” is such an integral part of everyday design and photographic education. So, when if comes to your portfolio, have you had enough? Well, hopefully the answer is no.
As part of the portfolio making process, you need pure, unadulterated feedback. And anyone you know and who knows you simply can’t be that objective. Which is one reason why participating in a portfolio review can be invaluable. Not only because you’ll receive feedback about your portfolio package and its content, but because you’ll get a chance to talk with a number of professionals in your industry – all with different backgrounds and experiences. What you do with all that information is up to you.
Don’t be shy and garner a think skin. You want to really know what works and what doesn’t so you end up with the very best portfolio you can. So, ask what your strongest piece is, your weakest. Ask about the sequence of work in your book, your craftsmanship, your overall brand identity. What should you keep working on? Keep in mind that the people reviewing your portfolio are probably volunteering their time. For one reason or another, they care about taking the time to sit down with you.
Treat the experience like a dialogue and an opportunity to network. You’ll have a chance to sit down with professionals in the field. Depending on the type of review, they may represent a local, regional or national area. Some may be seeking someone who’s got the right work and is the right fit. If not now, maybe later. Bottom line – they know what it’s really like out there. Ask them not only about your portfolio and work, but also about the industry. What’s hot, what’s not? What skills are in demand? Where should you be looking? Given what they are seeing, where do they see you best fitting in? Given where your interests lie, what do they think you need to do to break in?
Also, for the professional artist, certain portfolio reviews represent an opportunity to present your work for exhibition or publication. These typically cost more to attend and are not recommended for students.
Need more convincing? How about this – “Practice makes perfect”. The fact is, the more you present yourself and your work, the more comfortable you’ll be and the better you’ll sound. If you’re new to the field, a student or recent grad, a portfolio review can be a great opportunity to practice your interviewing skills. It’s a valuable way to spend an afternoon.
What do you think? Add your comments.
Where to look for portfolio reviews in your area:
Check out local organizations and industry sponsored events.
Photographic Resource Center, Boston, MA
Photoshop World Conference
Art Directors Club
The Art Institute
Center’s Review, Santa Fe
Center’s Review, L.A.
The Center for Photography at Woodstock
Griffin Museum, MA
AIGA – Check out your local chapter
Been to a portfolio review lately? Share your experiences. Add to the list.