Sunday, 11 November 2012

Preparing for a portfolio review

So you are thinking about doing a portfolio review & you want to know where to start. No brainer: the portfolio!

Now if you are doing a review in person you may have an iPad or a laptop to present on, this is fine. However, I always recommend people to bring a couple of prints as well, especially if you are seeing someone from a gallery as they are used to handling prints & understand that the quality of the object itself is just as important as what image resides on it. 

You may or may not do your own printing, but there is a vast difference between an inkjet & a C-type. And please, people don't call them GicleƩ we all know what they are...& what it translates to? (Far too naughty to publish here)

If you do decide to go with a box think about what type. Here there is a handy cutaway section so you can lift each print out, but I would say mount your prints with these or they will get dinged very quickly with repeated handling. This also limits how many prints go in there, depending on the thickness of the mounts. 

I prefer the ones that you can slide the prints from left to right. (See top picture).

I would also recommend a white border around your images (thin is fine) so that there is a visible barrier between the edge of the image & the edge of the box or table it is being viewed on. This not only helps the picture to 'pop' but also stops the eye from going beyond the image, staying focused on the picture & not wandering to the surface below. Again, keep their eyes on you work!

Be organised, there is nothing worse than wasting half of your time fiddling about, it looks unprofessional too.

Handling: Sooo important. If you treat your prints with respect so will the reviewer, bring gloves for them to use. This way your prints stay clean & they spend longer looking at each one too! 

Or you could go with one like this that has inserts, make sure they are good quality though as it can alter the appearance of the print if they are cheap. Without is always preferred with fine art prints. 

How many?
For a 20 minute session: 20-30, that's a print every minute or so.
No more than 40 for a 1-hour session, or the reviewer will forget the first one by the time they get to the end & you want them to remember your work.

Have a clear idea of questions you want to ask, have a list if you need a prompt.

Go for the selection that will appeal to them. If you bring commercial work, make sure they know in advance or if it is stated at the beginning of the review. This helps the reviewer to think on your wavelength & offer the appropriate advice. 

I have spoken to many photographer's who think they have produced art, but in fact have a very commercial eye, so be clear.


I cannot emphasise enough the need to listen to your reviewer. You are there to gain insights & help, not the other way around. By being polite & courteous you are more likely to be offered help or even contacts. Being defensive can be misinterpreted as being obnoxious. A good reviewer wants to help you, nit hinder your progress in the industry - they may be working with you one day. It's in the reviewers best interests to offer good advice & keep their reputation intact. 

Be honest

Pretending to have more experience than you have doesn't help in the long run, you will be found out! 

What else do I bring?
Something to write notes on. You will only forget tips, advice, names & suggestions later. Some photographer's record them as well, to listen back to later in a less pressured environment. 

Have a business card to give to them afterwards. 

Follow up...

Even if you don't get a response right away, send an email afterwards to keep contact. If it has an image on it that helps too, as they may be seeing a lot of people that day & they will remember an image easier than a name.

Skype reviews:

As before the number of images should be the same & sending it in advance & on the day is a good idea. this means that the reviewer has time for a quick peek beforehand when they have a spare minute, then when the time comes it is in their inbox again on the day, so no need to search!

I prefer a pdf format as downloading huge files onto a computer is time-consuming & uses up a lot of space on their computer. Also, this ensures the whereabouts of your images & lessens the risk of copying if it is sent elsewhere, perhaps to an editor as a result of the review!

So I hope this helps folks. I look forward to hearing your comments.

If you would like to book a session please email 

It's an easy process & you can do it in person or online via Skype if you are not in the UK, I have over a thousand happy clients who have done sessions with me, with many coming back for more sessions as their projects & careers develop. On a few occasions, I have even met artists whom I now represent! 

To see the full list of services including 1-hour portfolio review sessions: HERE For mentoring sessions: HERE
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  1. Laura this is brilliant advice. Many thanks for posting.

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