Surviving a Portfolio Review

Portfolio Review

If you’ve never attended a portfolio review, it can seem daunting. It’s tough to show your work to an editor, let alone a room full of them. Asking for feedback isn’t easy, but the insights you get can be invaluable. So grab our list of  portfolio reviews, find one near you and get your work together! Survive your first review with these handy tips.

Get ready to go:

Sign up early.  Some portfolio reviews have limited space. You have to get in the door for feedback! And if you missed the deadline, try for a spot on the waitlist.

Check out the reviewers online beforehand, if available, so you can head straight for the people most relevant to you on the big day. Make a list of the people you want to see  and learn something about them before you go.

Consider what you want from the experience: just feedback? More work? A book deal?  A museum exhibition? To sell prints? Having a specific goal will help you know who to meet with.

Prepare your “elevator pitch”: a concise (2-3 sentence) pitch of what you’re about and what you’re shooting. Some things to mention are your current or next project is, your career goals.

Plan some specific questions about how to improve your portfolio. Something like, “What am I missing?”  or “ I’m looking for jobs in ___, how should I market myself for that?”  Keep in mind you only have a short amount of time with each reviewer, so practicing your speech isn’t a bad idea.

Streamline your marketing. Make sure your site is up-to-date and you have recent business cards with your information printed clearly and professionally. Your personal marketing should brand you as the kind of photographer you want to be.

Read the guidelines for submission; some reviews want digital work and some want prints.  Keep it simple and clean. An easy-to-use slideshow for digital, and prints of a standard size and quality are your best bets. Pick a way to showcase that is lightweight, easy to travel with and easy for someone to flip through. Flashy isn’t ideal if it hinders the review process.

At the review:

Network with other participants. This is a chance to get to know people in your field.

Consider recording your feedback sessions, with permission. A small digital recorder could come in handy later for recalling advice, especially if you’re meeting with many reviewers in one day.


Following up after a review is professional and courteous. You can write a quick thank you email and address specific advice.

Act fast afterward: take your new advice and do something with it. Re-edit and shoot more!


For more information on attending portfolio reviews, check out the sites of Jasmine DeFoore and Mary Virginia Swanson.

Photo Credit: Jacqueline McAdams

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