All members of the design fraternity, photographer’s designers and illustrators must have a good portfolio. It’s essential when you want to attract new clients or change jobs. A review of your portfolio can be a very traumatic part of your career. Sometimes it’s tough to accept criticism with reference to your work. Thus it is important to comprehend how to accept a review and also give an excellent one.

Why Review is Essential

The portfolio appraisal is a good tool which reflects on your work. The body of work in your portfolio showcases all that you have accomplished; evaluation of your portfolio will help you develop as a designer. Reviews generally provide you with an impartial assessment of your work. The reviews are in fact keys to creative growth. If the stuff you are doing is the same as it was five years back, this will show in your portfolio. Therefore, the objective is to learn and develop creatively.

Case 1 – What You Must Not Do

When I was new to designing, I experienced a terrible portfolio review. My reviewer said that my work was only average. She stated that my techniques were outdated, my typography groupings were not in harmony and my color choices were flat. This was all true, but the real problem lay in the fact that she did not provide solutions to improve or even give reasons why she disapproved of my work. Besides this, she didn’t even suggest resources to improve or point out one thing that she liked in my portfolio. So I didn’t learn from that encounter and quit the meeting on a discouraging note. I even contemplated leaving design for the review had made me feel that I had failed in my career choice.

Case 2 — What Works?

Later on my career portfolio reviews were a great help in my becoming a better reviewer also. My finest review was simple and short. The reviewer studied 15 clips of mine and gave an overview of my work. She said that it was organized, clean and simple to understand — but that it lacked creativity. This may seem a bit harsh, but it was the truth. My reviewer said that technically my work was very good, but it lacked the creative factor. She then told me how to resolve the problem and provided me with a pile of resources that would help me. It was then that I became a real designer. It was, in short, the finest portfolio review.

A reviewer must therefore, emphasize on the good and the reasons why it works; speak about the bad but offer improvement suggestions. Make the whole review an informal thing, like a conversation.

Tips for Web Designer

  • Assemble your portfolio to make it resemble a design project. Ensure that it’s organized and well-designed. As you are a designer, you must be ready to display your work. Normally 10-15 examples are fine.
  • To make a good initial impression, assemble your portfolio with an intention. Put your best pieces in the front and the back of your portfolio; the least favorite go in the middle.
  • Present your portfolio in the same manner you would have presented it to a client/future employer. Have a digital and a print version.
  • Don’t be argumentive. Accept openly the communication even if you don’t agree with it.
  • When being reviewed, take down notes that you’ll remember later. Leave your contact details with the reviewer.
  • Get reviewed frequently and review junior designers’ portfolios too. It will keep you involved in society and updated on trends and eventually will make you a better designer.

Terrific Portfolio Review Tips

Your portfolio is ready and you are ready for review. Make note of these tips, they’ll assist you greatly at your review time.

Ensure Images are Worthy


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Reviews can be costly. So you must ensure that the images you will present at the review are worthwhile. If it is taking time to perfect your skill, be patient and don’t compromise on time. It may take months or even a year to get ready.

The objective is to make certain that your work showcases your best images/pictures. A reviewer sees thousands a year, so yours must stand out; at least, they must be a worthy contender.

Select Your Reviewer

You can get your portfolio reviews at many outlets. Especially at photography festivals, apart from advertising agencies, museums, galleries, book publishers, art directors, magazine picture editors, photo agencies and so on. There are online options too. You have to do some research to get the best person who suits you. Don’t select rashly. Do some homework and you’ll be able to find the best reviewer.

Choose Your Images Well

Portfolio Selection

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Some designers/photographers have their own niche; some may click everything — from landscapes to pets and weddings! The images you ultimately select for the review will depend on your work as well as the person or company that is going to do the review. If the reviewer is a picture editor at a travel magazine, get familiar with the magazine and their website to learn what images appeal to them. In short, the images you choose to show must be the kind that your reviewer knows and will appreciate.

Research Your Reviewer

Do research of your reviewers to know in which format they would prefer your prints to be. Maybe you will then get to know exactly what they would be expecting. If you are not certain take a print book and a digital format of your works. Prints do look better than pictures on a screen, but an iPod would be a great backup idea. It’s always best to be well-prepared.

Go Well-Prepared

Reviewers get peeved when photographers don’t come for the review well-prepared. They will need to know some things like what your objectives are, for example. Don’t think that you will have to only sit and listen. Be ready to ask some questions that will help the reviewer to know in what direction you wish to go.

In this way, the review will be a great experience for both of you. You may ask questions like this: “Do you feel my work is genre or quality specific enough?” Be ready with your questions before the review. Reviewers also get bugged when photographers argue or disagree with them. Be open to listening and you’ll greatly benefit from that.

Tips for Reviewers

  1. Be truthful. A reviewer must address both the good and not-so-good or bad in a portfolio in a frank manner.
  2. Stress on the things that work and those that require upgrading. Explain why a method is not working well and suggest improvements.
  3. Don’t get into an argument. The designer must get an honest review of his/her work. Don’t argue about theory or techniques.
  4. Understand the portfolio’s level that you are reviewing — Is it a student, mid-level designer or a well-experienced person? Base your comments accordingly.
  5. Provide solutions. If a portfolio does not use proper colors to provide the person with a reading list, training information or online community.

Portfolio Review Myths

Many myths are going around about portfolio reviews. Here I’ll debunk some of them.

Reviewers are not Hiring New Photographers

Your goal of a portfolio review is usually not to get hired; but editors and photo buyers frequently use these reviews to discover up-and-coming talent. They may hire you right away, or if you have impressed them, they may keep you in mind for an upcoming project.

Reviewers Get Annoyed With Promotions

Promotional materials, when introduced strategically at the review, are normally appropriate. If you make it clear that your true purpose of coming for the review is to get an opinion about your work, then it’s quite fine to leave something behind so that the reviewer remembers you.

Electronic Portfolios are Necessary

Don’t be surprised to learn that the majority of photo buyers prefer printed stuff still. An expert says that she is convinced that iPad is not the finest way to display still photography. Attractive printed portfolios give the photographer more legitimacy. The reviewer will feel that he/she has put in a lot of effort and time and will take a serious interest in their work.

Reviews are an Opportunity to Show your Finest Project

The best thing to do is to show a wide range of your work. But it’s essential to have your work tailored to your reviewers. You generally know who is going to review your work, so choose your portfolio images accordingly.

“I don’t require a Portfolio Review”

You just can’t be an unbiased reviewer of your own work. There’s nothing more to say about this. Apart from an unbiased opinion, portfolio reviews are professional reactions to your work.

“It’s the Reviewer’s Responsibility to give Feedback; so I don’t need to Speak”

A portfolio is a two-sided process so, be prepared to speak with your reviewer. In this way you will get precious feedback. It also shows that you have an interest in your reviewer and gives you an opportunity to get professional replies to your queries. So don’t lose this opportunity!

Summing up

Portfolio reviews thus are ideal ways to get great, professional opinion about your work and your photography business from persons who are potential clients as well as potential employers. So act in a professional manner and leave behind a lasting, positive impression. I would like to read your opinions about portfolio reviews, so please share them in the comment column.

Written by Alan Smith: Alan Smith is an avid tech blogger with vast experience in various IT domains, currently associated with SPINX Inc., a Los Angeles based Website Design and web development company. Follow Alan on Google+ and Twitter.