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Guest blogger Manuela Marin Salcedo is a research and development team member and content developer at Momenta Workshops. Her expertise is in visual communications and social media. In addition to her work for Momenta, Manuela is working on long-term, independent multimedia projects. Her work has been featured at LookBetween 2014, Fototazo and Light Work. She was also chosen to participate in the 2014 New York Times Portfolio Review.
As creatives we tend to work in a vacuum. So how do we combat this? With community, collaboration, and connections. How do we get that in today’s modern world? By participating in portfolio reviews!
Portfolio review opportunities seem to be everywhere nowadays. You can get your work reviewed at places like The New York Times Annual Portfolio Review, FOTOfusion, Photoville, NPPA’s Northern Short Course, WPPI, PhotoPlus, and even at workshops such as ours, like The Project Series: Working with Nonprofits. Showing your work to others can be daunting. However it will hone your presentation skills, refine your vision, advance your craft, put your work in front of new people, and spark personal growth.
In an effort to help you better prepare for your next portfolio review, the team at Momenta has compiled a list of portfolio review tips to keep in mind.
Before going into the review, you should have conducted some background research on your reviewer’s personal and photographic journey. Having an idea of their experience and body of work will help demonstrate your appreciation for their time and consideration for discussing your work with them. It will also help you ask better questions.
Imagine this scenario: your computer freezes, and you are unable to access the image folder on your desktop. As you try to log into your website instead, you realize the hotel WiFi is not working. Quickly you pull out your iPad, and, as if things couldn’t get any worse, you realize you did not bring the right charger and your battery is at 10%. This example is a pretty terrible and unlucky sequence of events – yet it is also completely probable. Technology has been known to let us down, so don’t tempt the tech gods to strike down on your review. Bring a print backup if possible and be prepared for anything!
Think of your portfolio as a symphony and each image as a note. Now think about this: if you play the same note throughout the symphony, you are likely to lose the attention of your audience. The same goes for your body of work. If each image is a note, you should attempt to hit different ones. That said, if your portfolio is a symphony, remember that the notes should work together to create a cohesive whole.
Personal work, or work that has not been commissioned, is just that: personal. While commissioned work demonstrates your level of responsibility and ability to do client work, your personal projects may better demonstrate your vision and style.
As you are presenting your portfolio, it can be helpful to include simple title slides to signify the end of one project from the beginning of another. This can also aid the flow of your presentation and help avoid confusion. Furthermore, if you have a short amount of time, title slides can cut back on lengthy explanations on your part.
At the beginning of the review, the reviewer may ask you to talk a bit about your journey and your work. In doing so, remember to take note of your tone. There is no need to be overly confident or to become defensive when being asked why you chose to shoot in a particular way. Being open to outside opinion and commentary about your work will inevitably help you grow as an image-maker.
As a follow up to the previous tip, remember your good table manners. One of the predominant reasons to sign up for a portfolio review is to get another professional’s take on your work. As such, your role is to listen actively, not to talk over the reviewer.
Most reviewers will not mind if you take notes while they comment on your work. In fact, they will probably encourage it. Taking notes will help you remember what the reviewer said about certain images as well as give you a general feel for their take on your body of work. It is also a physical demonstration of your engagement and helps to show how much you value and appreciate the reviewer’s time and opinion. You may even consider recording the session as a voice memo on your smartphone.
This tip goes back to the notion of being prepared. By meeting the reviewer to show your work, you have already created an impression and, if you are lucky, established a connection. The next step will be to keep in touch. Having business cards or leave-behinds on hand will aid in this process and help make you memorable. At Momenta, we recommend our students look here for promotional ideas and inspiration.
No, this does not mean a “thank you” email. Taking the time to hand write a personal note to your reviewer shows how much you appreciate their effort to help your career grow. If your handwriting is terrible, you can always ask a friend or colleague to write it for you. No matter what, a little piece of mail is the perfect follow-up; it will keep you on the reviewer’s radar and put yourself above the rest with a classy gesture.
Momenta Workshops offers one-day, five-day, and two-week documentary, photo, and multimedia training workshops, including the popular Project Series: Working with Nonprofits held in collaboration with Leica Camera. By teaching storytellers to expand their technical and business skills, Momenta explores how to use the camera as a force of change. To learn more about Momenta Workshops, please visit www.momentaworkshops.com