Portfolio Reviews: The Basics

Last May I participated in my first official photography portfolio review. I prepared my work, arrived at the event, and waited nervously for my first session. By the end of the weekend I had met with six very different reviewers, had a notebook full of (sometimes conflicting) feedback, and was excited to move forward with my work. It was a valuable experience that I would recommend to just about anyone.

A portfolio review is an event that gives you the opportunity to sit down with a professional from your field and discuss your work one-on-one. During the session, the reviewer can provide feedback on the work you show; be it a completed series, selected personal portfolio, or work in progress. One generally schedules sessions with a few different reviewers to benefit from a variety of viewpoints.

Reviewers are professionals in the field: photo editors, curators, art directors, agency reps, educators, and art dealers. You will generally have the opportunity to select who you would like to meet with.

It’s a really valuable experience to be able to sit face-to-face with industry leaders and talk to them about your work. I would especially suggest that recent graduates and emerging photographers take advantage of these opportunities; they can help you focus your work and define your market. (That being said, I’ve also bumped into my former professors on their way to be reviewed. It’s a valuable experience for everyone.)

Depending on who you meet with, and what kind of feedback you’re looking for, a reviewer can offer direction for a work in progress, reference other work you should be looking at, provide marketing or exhibition advice, or suggest contacts that you should be approaching. (It’s also important to be able to talk clearly and intelligently about your own work, so the practice is a bonus)

Cost to participate varies depending on the event. CONTACT’s portfolio reviews in Toronto cost $200 for 3 reviews, and $350 for 6 reviews.  Application processes will also vary depending on event, but you will likely need to provide a CV, bio, and a few images of your work (they do not necessarily have to be the images that you will be bringing to the reviews).

I’m planning to go into more detail in a later post about how to make the most of your reviews, but in the meantime….

The CONTACT Photography Festival’s reviews will be held at the Gladstone Hotel on Saturday, May 1st and Sunday, May 2nd. Registration is now open, you can click HERE for more information. I highly recommend it.

Image Source: Contact Blog

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