Many of you will be fortunate enough to attend one of the upcoming Portfolio Review events I mentioned in my last post, “Portfolio Review Season BEGINS!”. I encourage all of you to consider participation, and consider that both an OPPORTUNITY as well as an INVESTMENT.

The following is a short handout that I have shared with those attending portfolio review events. By posting it here, many of you considering attending will gain perspective on how to prepare, and hopefully will taking the step to apply/attend!

in order to make the most of this opportunity to share your work with others!


SET GOALS: consider in advance what results you are seeking from this investment.
Are you simply seeking advice/guidance/information, be it on clarity of content, print quality or editing/sequencing, or, are you hoping for a discussion on marketing the completed work? Are you seeking representation for the work? Do you wish to place an exhibition of a completed body of work with a gallery or institution? Are you hoping to secure a publishing contract? Be clear about what you want, research the professional biographies of the reviewers and concentrate on making the most of your time with them towards your desired end results. Be sure to clearly communicate these goals with each Reviewer at the start of your session(s).

TIGHTLY EDIT your work to present to Reviewers, remembering the specific amount of time you will have together. I suggest you bring 20 images to your review session. This is just my suggestion….I find with more than 20, we don’t have time to talk about marketing the work – we’d spend the entire time looking, and little time talking. There is no “set” number of prints to bring, and the decision will be different for everyone, according to where your body of work is. If the “A” edit of a body of work is larger than 20, you may wish to bring an expanded group to the event, should the opportunity arise to meet and show work to Reviewers or to other photographers outside of the event’s review structure. If you have two on-going bodies of work, bring small selections of both and when appropriate, based on your research on the professionals reviewing work, show both work to selected or to all Reviewers accordingly.

PRACTICE your presentation – keep it short and simple! Don’t make the mistake of talking the entire time… Be mindful of the time limit with each reviewer; you will want ensure time within the session to receive feedback!

When presenting your work at the event:

PRESENTATION IS IMPORTANT: print images the same size/paper. Protect the work but not to such an extent that it takes too much time to wrap/unwrap each print.

EASE IN HANDLING will maximize your time to talk with the reviewer, so select a box/book/portfolio that will allow you to show the photographs relatively fast. The size of tables you will presenting on are likely to be standard folding tables, so don’t assume you will be able to bring 20 oversized prints and actually be able to present a large group in 20 minutes. If you have any questions about a special area that may be available to share larger work with Reviewers, call the organizers to inquire well in advance. Consider bringing several samples of larger prints rolled in a tube, with a more complete group in a smaller size. Accept the fact that your work may show some “road wear” by the end of the event; you are there to show work to as many Reviewers and peers as possible.

TAKE NOTES during your session, whether you bring a tape recorder (always ask permission to record for personal use) or make a binder with a page dedicated to each Reviewer at the event, with their bio and your notes for that specific Reviewer. Some photographers print out a sheet with thumbnails of all the images they intend to share, to note which images each Reviewer responded most strongly to. It is difficult to presenting work AND to take notes at the same time, so come up with a system that will work best for you. Whatever note taking or recording format works for you – do it! You want to take home as clear a memory of each discussion as possible.

– Design/produce a simple promotional piece that will serve to remind the reviewers of your work as well as providing your contact information. Reproduction of several images from your body of work is suggested (they will see many photographers during review events– it never hurts to remind them visually of your work). Make sure it is small enough for them to file in a traditional (8-1/2 x 11) file folder, if you have any hopes of a Reviewer retaining it and contacting you in the future.

I suggest that you never assume that a Reviewer would like to retain more than simply a card – ask first if they would appreciate additional materials you can provide on site. Don’t burden a Reviewer with a bulky packet to take home from the event – offer to mail it to them at their office after the event (at your expense). Do not assume that you will get anything returned to you unless you include a SASE. If a Reviewer encourages you to stay in touch and keep them apprised of your work, ask what format they prefer your communication to be in – paper or email? Image sent via CD-Rom or examples of images in print? When you have the chance to learn their preferences, always ask, and make note of this for your records.

Consider this experience the chance to begin relationships with professionals who respond positively to your work.

I hope your investment in attending a portfolio review event will move your career forward towards your goals.

© 2007 Mary Virginia Swanson. An expanded version of this article is feature in my book “The Business of Photography: Principles and Practices” “available on my website at:

NOTE: I will be giving a seminar called “Presenting Your Work to the Fine Art Community” on April 28th (1-5 p.m.) at the Griffin Museum in the Boston area, during which I will go into greater detail about maximizing your investment in attending portfolio review events – before, during, and after participation. Registration for my workshop is open now.


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  1. […] for Portfolio Review Participants: Click here to view portfolio review advice and tips as printed on this blog […]

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