Monday, 5 November 2012

Portfolio reviewing....a good idea? Part 1:Why should I do them?

Outside the V&A Museum of Childhood ©Laura Noble

As a seasoned reviewer I am always wondering why more photographer's, experienced, graduates & the like don't do more of them? 

Often the following reasons/excuses are given:
  1. I don't need one, been a photographer for years, I'm brilliant already!
  2. I don't need anyone else to criticise my work I'm a good enough critic.
  3. Everyone tells me I'm brilliant, well my friends & family do.
  4. I learnt all I need to know at university/college
  5. I know what I'm doing
  6. You will only tell me to look at some other photographer's & I don't do that
  7. My work is set at a good price & I know my editions are the right sizes
  8. My current project/s is/are unfinished
  9. My personal work is completely original, no need to show anyone else
  10. It is too expensive

A happy review, thanks for the email afterwards Raf!
©Laura Noble

Sound familiar?

Well they are all points which have varied validity depending on the individual. So I would like to address the above points & invite you my dear readers to comment on the post if you feel inclined. If you have been reviewed by yours truly, please don't be shy & comment too!

  1. I'm sure brilliance is a subjective term & fear of criticism should be faced. Only someone with a huge ego would say this & give away their insecurities. It is up to others to profess brilliance...
  2. You should always be your own worst critic, but if you have dedicated your life to create it is always healthy to open yourself up to criticism. This does 2 things, helps you grow & also to push yourself to create better work. You might learn something that had never occurred to you about yourself & your work in the process.
  3. See point 1. Others should stretch beyond those who are biased in your favour. A fresh pair of eyes, with expertise could offer you very good advice & critique in a way that could make you aware of your strengths & weaknesses comparatively. It is hard to keep track of what others are doing in the industry & if I had a £ for every photographer who was doing a project that had already been done I would have at least £100!
  4. University offers a lot of theoretical & academic comment, but very little in terms of the photography market & commercial advice. Money matters are often met with distaste in discussions. Reviewers live in the real world with real experience to share. Editioning is the main topic of many a review. I think this is so important & so little information is given on this topic in academic institutions. 
  5. Not always, there is always room for improvement for everyone, myself included.
  6. Looking at other photographers/artists work is your duty as a creative person. There is nothing more embarrrasing than meeting a curator or gallerist & not understanding who or what they are referencing when discussing your work or anyone else's. This shows your lack of education &/or arrogance. No one is above learning from others, knowledge is power.
  7. How many sizes? How large is the edition? This can be a vital consideration for collectors. If you want to sell your work you could be missing the boat due to editions that are too large & not considered 'limited' by serious collectors. Prices are relative, are you famous, exhibited, published? 
  8. Perfect time for a review, as I have mentioned in the past it is a reviewers job to keep abreast of the market/art scene etc... You may learn more than you'd bargained for & often given inspiration. Fresh objective eyes often see things that you do not as you are so close to your work. A good reviewer is constructive not destructive! It is important to encourage, not discourage, you are the future after all. Bad advice procures bad results & no one benefits from that.
  9. Nothing is completely original, but understanding where ideas come from helps you to avoid embarassing situations (see 6.) & you may have your eyes opened to a new idea or approach as a result.
  10. Good advice is never too expensive. You can save an enormous amount of time & money by taking advice from someone with the expertise to help you. It is in their own interests after all as you may be working with/for them one day.   

Giving advice, this review led to another session with this talented chap 
©Laura Noble

So what do a portfolio reviews (PR) consist of?

Well that depends. There are two types, the first is like speed dating a 20 minute one-on-one session with lots of different people. Many big photo events/fairs/festivals organise PR. They usually happen throughout the event or over a set amount of days in a suitable location, near the exhibitions/festival/fair...

Many you pay for a number of sessions, with a minimum number of reviews specified by the organisers. Short biographies on each reviewer is sometimes published with the promotion of the PR on a website or via email. This helps you to decide who are the most suitable/helpful people to book a review with. Often slots fill up very quickly as reviewers are often very busy individuals who do not normally have time to look at every photographer's email/portfolio that lands in their inbox. You may have already approached them & not received a response.

This is a good way to see a wide range of people in one go. Costs vary dramatically. You show you portfolio, they make suggestions, comments, give advice & sometimes arrange to take the discussion further or even offer you work, then you swop business cards & go to the next person. Think 20 minutes, no more than 30 pictures you won't have time to discuss more. If you bring lots of projects you have to rush through them. Take the one you think is going to appeal to the people you are seeing, or can give you the best advice on how to proceed. 

The other is a one-on-one consult, which is a service I have offered for years. There is a set fee for a full hour so that your work can be discussed more fully. This also gives time for talking about career progression, editioning, best practice, marketing, presentation, pricing, possible projects, other people to contact etc. as well as talking about your work.

For those who are not based in London or where the reviews are taking place I also do Skype reviews whereby a portfolio pdf  is sent via email, so that I can have it on hand for the review. (Details are arranged in advance such as times, preferred topics of discussion) All reviews are payable in advance & non-refundable, as cancellations can prevent another photographer from booking the slot. You may wish to discuss one thing in particular or ask for more info on what information it is advised to bring or have at hand. 

Having more time to speak also means that you get to know each other better & can give a fuller sense of yourself & your work. It is a less pressured time frame so you can elaborate more on your ethos, projects & what you want to achieve.  

For more info or to book a review with me please contact:
Please include a contact telephone number & a link to your website if you have one. I will be in Paris next week & have a few sessions free. If you are too, do contact me asap! 

Next time I will talk about how to give a good review & what to expect. 

Dear readers I'm looking forward to hearing your comment & experiences.

Till next time... 

To see the full list of services including 1-hour portfolio review sessions: HERE For mentoring sessions: HERE
For collecting, career advice & bespoke consultation sessions: HERE

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  1. Laura's portfolio review was an inspiring hour and a half. Not only did she introduce new ideas and offer numerous points about each piece, she also had plenty of advice as to how approach galleries and get your work in a format that gives it the best possible chance to succeed. Using her advice and within three weeks of the review my work was accepted as a feature in an international photography magazine - many thanks Laura!

    1. Thanks so much Michael, so glad to hear it is all going so well!
      Laura x