I recently attended a portfolio review as a reviewer for the Society of Photographic Education. Held in Santa Fe, the weather was very crisp, but the sun was shining.
I reviewed eight students, from various regional citadels of higher learning. While reviewing their work I noticed one very striking similarity bewteen all of them: they didn’t have business cards, and they had no clue about leaving something behind. I really don’t want to know what these schools aren’t teaching them.
They were all very involved in their work, and they all knew how to talk about it. I did notice, however, that there was definite room for imporvement in many areas, some of which I will outline below.
• Prior to your scheduled portfolio review, take the time to make sure you have everything you need, especially a “leave behind,” which is a card that has one or two of your images, plus ALL your contact information. I say this because once your session is over and you are out of the room, and the reviewer is in his/her hotel room, they most likely won’t be able to recall most of the work reviewed. If there is something they can use a reference point, all the better for you.
• Make sure your presentation is organized and ready to go. This means that you WILL be bringing ONLY your best work. If you are bringing several bodies of work, make sure they are separated, with your strongest project up first.
• It is not a good idea to bring more than about 25 individual pieces of work to a 20-minute review. By the time you are inroduced to each other, you will, most likely, only have 10-15 minutes in which to impress your reviewer. Not much time if you have to shuffle through a too-high stack of unrelated images.
• Be sure to bring something on which to take some notes. Whether it is a note pad, or a voice recorder, doesn’t really matter. You want to be sure that you can take some of the suggestions from the reviewer home with you. Remember, isn’t that why you chose to attend this portfolio review?
• You will also want to ask the reviewer if they have any suggestions or ideas that may serve to assist you in your photographic pursuits.
• If your reviewer asks you to keep in contact, be sure you do. Too many times I remembered the work of someone I reviewed and wanted to use it, but had no way to get in touch with them, because they left my table without leaving any contact information.
It is very difficult for me to believe that photography/art schools teach students very little, if anything, of what they will actually need to get ahead in their chosen fields. I once went to a seminar on business management, and when it was over, the presenter remined us that if we didn’t have a business card, we weren’t in business.
Students, that is something you need to be aware of. Make sure you are always carrying business cards on your person. You really never know when you could bump into someone who can make a difference in your creative career.