How To Survive A Portfolio Review

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Over the last four years, I have been shooting non-stop in order to learn the technicalities of my craft, to train my eye and my creativity, to create work for clients or for my personal projects, and to update my portfolio. All along, without even realizing it, everything that I was doing was bringing me to this past weekend when, for the first time in my photography career, I showed my portfolio to some of the major publications in the UK during PhotoMeet. It was intimidating, it felt like an emotional rollercoaster, but it was one of the most rewarding things that I have done since becoming a photographer.

Having your work reviewed is no easy feat. It doesn't matter if you are showing it to family, friends, peers or potential clients. You feel vulnerable, exposed, judged, and your self-confidence and the confidence in your own work is put to the test.

Imagine what it felt like when I attended PhotoMeet and walked into a room full of reviewers knowing that, for the following two days, eight of them would get to give me their feedback. It was like speed-dating for photographers. I felt like I was having eight job interviews one after the other with almost no time to breath and decompress. But I survived, and I owe it to how well I prepared for that weekend, not only mentally, but also by seeking advice and doing a lot of research.

Here is a list of the things that I did to prepare for my portfolio reviews:

Before the reviews

  • I made sure my portfolios were ready to be shown. You should always show the very best of your work, even if that means that you are only able to show 10 images. Everyone I asked and everywhere I researched suggested in between 25 to 30 images but, if you don't have that many, only show the very best of what you have. Also, most of the times we are our worst critics, and we tend to select images that we are attached to rather than the very best ones. If you can afford it, hire a photography consultant to do the selection for you. If you can't, ask peers, friends or even relatives to help you select them.

  • I prepared different portfolios tailored for different types of publications. If you are a food and travel photographer but you also shoot fitness, you don't want to show your fitness work to a travel industry publication. You should have two separate portfolios for this. In my case, I prepared three: one for fashion, one for portraiture and one for my personal projects, which fall more on the documentary side.

  • I updated my website, my social media and my print portfolio. Once you have the selection of the very best of your images, update all your communication channels. You want to show a coherent image of your brand.

  • I updated my promo material. After updating my portfolio and my communication channels, I printed new promos using the new images that I was going to show the reviewers. After each review, you want to leave something behind so they can remember you and hopefully visit your website and/or social media when they are back in the office.

  • I researched each and every one of the reviewers that I was going to see. Find out what their role is, what they look like so that you don't confuse them with someone else, what sort of photography they like (usually looking at the latest issues of their publication is enough) and what was published in their latest issue (good conversation starter and shows that you did your research).

  • I prepared a set of questions to ask them. Reviews are short, and in events like this one, they tend to last 20 minutes maximum. So you have to use this time wisely. Let them do the talk and ask you questions, but also have a clear goal of what you want to get out of the review so that they can give you good advice. In my case, I wanted to know if my portfolio was ready to be commissioned for editorial work (both in fashion and in portraiture) and what type of photography were their respective publications looking for.

During the reviews

  • I arrived on time. This seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised.

  • I was courteous and friendly. Always be polite, hopefully not only with them but with everyone you meet.

  • I respected the time allocated for my review. Time flies and twenty minutes can feel like ten seconds. When your time is up, leave. It's disrespectful to them to take more time than they have given you, but also to the person coming after you because you are stealing minutes from their allocated time.

  • I established what I wanted from the review from the beginning. The reviewer needs to know what is it that you want to get out of the review so that they can give you productive feedback. Have a clear goal and a clear vision of where you want to be as a photographer.

  • I let them do the talking. Let the photos speak for themselves and wait for the reviewer to ask you questions before you speak. Reviewers love photography, you should let them enjoy that.

  • I was openminded when I heard the feedback. You may or may not like the feedback that you are getting, but you should keep an open mind and accept the feedback gratefully. They are the experts on their publications and the type of photography that they are looking for, and you are there to grow as a photographer and to learn what you have to do to be hired by them. Some of the feedback might be contradictory, but that is only because everyone looks for something different and what works for one publication doesn't work for another. Don't react negatively if you don't like what you hear. If you want to make it as a photographer, you have to grow a thicker skin and be ready to take negative feedback and rejection. It's part of being a creative.

  • I took notes. Write down everything that they tell you. Even if it sounds silly or redundant. When you get home, leave the notebook aside for a day or two and then go back to it and read it calmly. Take the advice that you consider objective and that you think it's helpful. In the end, you decide what to do with the information that you are given.

  • I was thankful when the review finished. When your time is up, thank them for their time and for all the feedback. And don't forget to leave a promo or a business card behind.

After the reviews

  • I sent every reviewer a thank you note. Use the communication channel that they have told you works best for them.

  • I put into practice everything that they advised me to do. This is the least you can do to make the experience worthwhile.

Will I do it again? Absolutely! The feedback that I got was priceless, even though next time I will make sure to choose less and more targeted reviewers. Overall, it was an intense experience and one of the hardest things that I've done. But, like they say, comfort is the enemy of progress, and if I want to achieve the goals that I have set for myself I must strive to live outside of my comfort zone.

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Thank You For Coming To Photo Scratch

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Thanks to everyone who came down to Photo Scratch last Monday! I had an amazing time, it was a brilliant opportunity to see familiar faces but also to get to know some really interesting people and, more importantly, to have the chance to appreciate great photography work. On top of that, the feedback that I received from the lovely people who stopped by my corner was invaluable. I am very grateful to Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz and Phil Le Gal for letting me be part of this event and, above all, thankful to everyone who shared their opinion in regards to my project with me. Enjoy the photos of the night!

Photo Scratch is an event designed for photographers working on documentary projects to help them understand how their work is perceived and gain valuable insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye. The ethos of the night is a peer-review approach and it is a chance for photographers at many different stages of their careers to meet, discuss and have open dialogues about their practice in a supportive environment, in order to make meaningful connections, and stronger work.

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Founders Hanna-Katrina and Phil host this night where spectators have the opportunity to preview projects, offer feedback, and engage in conversations about photography. The format of the night involves a group of six to eight photographers previewing a project in an incomplete state. The audience comprised of other photographers and people within the industry are then welcome to discuss the work and leave written feedback for each project. This valuable written feedback is then kept by each photographer for future reference.

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To find out more about Photo Scratch visit photoscratch.org

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I'm Taking Part In Photo Scratch

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On the 14th of May, 2018, I will be taking part in Photo Scratch, an event designed for photographers working on documentary projects to help them understand how their work is perceived and gain valuable insight into how to take their work further with the benefit of other people’s outside eye. The event will take place at Hotel Elephant (Spare Street, London SE17 3EP) in Elephant and Castle. It's free, but you must book your tickets in advance to guarantee entry.

Founders Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz and Phil Le Gal host this night where spectators have the opportunity to preview projects, offer feedback, and engage in conversations about photography. The format of the night involves a group of six to eight photographers previewing a project in an incomplete state. The audience comprised of other photographers and people within the industry are then welcome to discuss the work and leave written feedback for each project. This valuable written feedback is then kept by each photographer for future reference.

The ethos of the night is a peer-review approach and it is a chance for photographers at many different stages of their careers to meet, discuss and have open dialogues about their practice in a supportive environment, in order to make meaningful connections, and stronger work.

I will be presenting all the portraits that I have taken thus far of my personal project on the Catalan conflict "Catalonia: A Work In Progress". I hope to see you there!

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Exhibition at One Canada Square

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From the 16th of April to the 1st of June, the AOP (Association of Photographers) will be celebrating its 50 year anniversary with an exhibition called "AOP50: Images That Defined The Age" at the lobby of One Canada Square (Canary Wharf, London E14 5AB). Alongside these memorable 50 images, a digital exhibition of work by current AOP Accredited Photographers will be shown on a screen, including the image "The Anglomaniac" from my Brexiters project.

AOP50 is a retrospective which includes images by some of the world’s most well-known and respected photographers from the past 50 years. Curated by Zelda Cheatle, the collection of images celebrates 50 years of the AOP with photographs that illustrate the impact, diversity and quality of work by AOP members since 1968. As the AOP's Executive Director, Seamus McGibbon, explains, "many of the images have defined a generation, and helped to shape public opinion and to create change."

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Last night during the opening reception, while I looked around at the fantastic work on display I couldn't help but feel proud of belonging to a group of professionals that sets the bar really high and makes me want to improve myself every day.

Come celebrate this important milestone of the AOP with this free public exhibition, open daily from 7 am to 8 pm.

Photo of me by Andrezj Gruszka.

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Exhibition at Four Corners

Catalonia: A Work In Progress

From the 18th to the 28th of April, my portraiture project on the Catalan conflict "Catalonia: A Work In Progress" will be part of the collective exhibition Salon 18, organized by the London Creative Network (LCN) at Four Corners Gallery (121 Roman Road, London E2 0QN). “Catalonia: A Work In Progress” is a personal project where I explore the spectrum of opinions that people living in Catalonia have in regards to the Independence from Spain.

At first sight, it might seem like there are only two possible positions: in favour of the independence of Catalonia or in favour of the permanency in Spain. But the reality is more complex than that; there is a diverse set of opinions from the people caught in the middle.

Some people definitely want out, while others feel very much part of Spain. But, not everyone who wants to leave wants an Independence per se and would opt for just more autonomy for the region. Meanwhile, not everyone who wants to remain in Spain feels Spanish or agrees with the policies of the Spanish government.

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Catalonia: A Work In Progress

Whatever the outcome of the Catalan conflict is, the government of Catalonia or the government of Spain will have to guarantee that all the people living in Catalonia can live in harmony disregarding their political views.

This is a conflict that has been going on for centuries, but the rest of the world found out about it after the events of October 1st, 2017, when the pro-Independence parties staged a referendum that the Spanish government considered illegal.

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