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Photo Consultants Pedro and Jackie Weigh In on the Value of Portfolio Reviews

By Peter Dennen & Jackie Ney


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© PEDRO+JACKIE


Many photographers feel as though they are working from a remote island (and not the type where Tom Cruise is slinging cocktails from behind the cabana). The life of a professional photographer can lead to feelings of isolation, the lack of tangible person to person connectivity, and the yearning for meaningful feedback and direction. Between assignments, the long hours of being a desk jockey and processing many gigabytes of digital images can zap one's creative mojo. Of course this is not all the time, but for most these feelings come in waves. We all need support, connection, purpose and constructive criticism on our creative endeavors. Luckily, photographers have options at their finger tips to harness the advice, connectivity and guidance they desire.

Photographers who have participated in portfolio reviews as part of a photography event or worked with an independent consultant will most likely tell you that the experience has opened up new perspective, ideas, inspiration and connections for future work. I am going to outline a handful of reasons I believe portfolio reviews are well worth the time and investment.

1. Constructive Feedback: Portfolio reviews generally last about 20 minutes at photo events and can be fast and furious. The benefit of these quick-moving reviews that progress from one reviewer to the next  is that you can source a wide variety of feedback from industry pros within a concentrated amount of time. It's a unique situation where you can hammer out one-on-one meetings with people of your choice. In general, you select with whom you want to meet. The range of reviewers is broad and usually involves a cast of characters from ad agencies, magazines, photo consultants, reps and gallery curators. This assortment allows for a nice blend of critique and perspective from different fields of expertise. I advise selecting a mix of those directly in the field that fit your shooting style and specialty, as well as meeting with a few wild cards that create conversation that strays from the ordinary.

2. New Connections + Networking: It can be challenging and time consuming these days to set meetings with those you want to work with. Portfolio reviews provide the opportunity to introduce yourself to those you wish to shoot for. Even if they are not directly at the magazine, gallery or agency you want to work with, they can offer advice that will give you a leg up when approaching others in the field that you hope to secure as a client. You never know where connections will lead. Reviewers might personally open up the door for you with an introduction. Use these unique blocks of time to inspire, impress and evolve.

3. Idea Generator: Portfolio reviews can be a catalyst to spark fresh ideas that force you to step outside the four walls of your creative brain. It's a great venue to show new work and special projects that naturally will lead to new discussion and interpretation. Often new ideas are developed, get noodled around and drive you down an unforeseen road. In my own experience, ideas that have been formed during these short one-on-one reviews have turned into strong long-terms personal projects. Bring ideas and ask for feedback. Think of the process as an incubator for project and portfolio development.

4. Get Inspired: Often hundreds of photographers are plugging into events that include portfolio reviews. Much like the networking conducted with potential clients and industry professionals, new conversations among photographers can also lead to new opportunities. I have seen many positive connections between photographers develop at these events that lead to positive collaborations, new friendships and support systems. This is just another way to rub shoulders and network with people within your profession. Portfolio reviews are often mixed in with bigger events that include workshops, lectures, panels, parties, gallery shows and gatherings. When identifying what portfolio review to attend, here are a few tips.

-Look at where the conference resides and see if you can piggyback some additional client meetings into the trip.

-Look at the list of reviewers and get a sense of who you might want to meet with and the overall caliber of those participating. Also see what else is going on at the event that could be
beneficial to your business. Research who is attending as lead speakers, workshop instructors, panel participants, etc.

-Look at the total event offering and get a sense of how you might benefit. So the next time you are feeling adrift, take a moment and research the handful of portfolio reviews around the country to refresh your spirit, idea factory and motivation.


Pedro + Jackie is the dynamic duo photo consulting team of Peter Dennen and Jackie Ney.  Their mission is to elevate photographers' careers. Together, they bring decades of real and meaningful work experience helping hundreds of photographers take it to the next level. They engage and guide with sound advice, clear direction, strategic initiatives and infusing our creative minds into those we collaborate with.  Their focus is on building top tier portfolios that stand out (both online + print), precision photo editing that brings the best imagery to the forefront, promotion and marketing strategies that lead to new relationships and assignments, creative direction and image production that will bring portfolios and presentations into their prime.  They talk, listen, engage and make good things happen. To learn more about what  Pedro + Jackie  do, plug into www.pedroandjackie.com. For a free half hour meet and greet, drop them an email to set up a time to chat.

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