Kill your darlings.
Since you are reading this, you probably know that I survived portfolio reviews! What a crazy morning yesterday was. I staggered around the photo building in high heels and was in a solid panic for a good 30 minutes up to the reviews. The wait time you experience before the first one starts is probably the worst part, but it all gets progressively more comfortable from there. I'm going to talk a little bit about my experience with each one, just because I had 4 vastly different reviews from each professional and I was able to take something different from each one of them.
The first guy I met with was Matt Shumate. He was the one I was determined to see after the list of reviewers was given to us, and the one who's opinion I definitely valued the most. Matt is one of the brightest, most whimsical guys I've ever met. He showed up to reviews wearing bright red pants rolled at the ankles, striped Lacoste sneakers, a yellow shirt with a montage of cats holding microphones, and a blue hoodie with matching blue thick rimmed glasses. He is the existing human example of a fun guy. (I also really want to know where he bought his shirt.)
Matt mainly shoots weddings, and also does some portrait work and families. His work is the most similar to mine, so everything he had to say was really important to me. He flipped through the whole book in silence, closed the book, and looked up at me and said "I think you've done really well." HUGE sigh of relief. He absolutely loved my images where there was more of a fly on the wall perspective; the ones that displayed some real genuine expression and real happiness. He gave me some tips on posing that I'd never thought of, different ways to pose hands, different cropping options, and some really helpful judgement calls on the things in my book that honestly weren't good enough. One of the last things he said to me was about weeding out the mediocre images in your portfolio. His words were "I don't remember who said it, maybe it was Faulkner, but in his writing he said you should kill your darlings. Sometimes you have to kill your characters that aren't the most interesting, and nobody outside of yourself will know that they existed in the first place, so how can it hurt your story? The same goes for your portfolio, it's better to have 10 high quality images than have 10 really great awesome images and 10 others that drag those down." I really appreciated that. I know there are some images in my portfolio that are my own personal favorites that probably could stand to be taken out. And in turn, that doesn't make my portfolio weaker, but rather strengthens it.
Next, I met with Rick Singer. All I have to say about that is wow... what a complete 180 from Matt. Rick is much much more technically critical, and less interested in the emotion and environment of the photo. He made many comments about blown highlights (which were intentional, by the way), bright spots that were distracting in the photos, and how I needed to crop in on almost every image. He had me look at my book upside down to look less at the subject matter and more at what the distractions were, and how to crop and retouch to minimize them. While I understand all of the things he said, I took his advice with a grain of salt. The reason I shoot wider scenes is to give a sense of place and environment, and the images where the highlights are blown, it's because they are backlit and are shot that way to give a sunflare-y feel. If we're all being honest here, Rick Singer is really hard to please and has almost nothing truly nice to say about your work. But nonetheless, still an interesting perspective.
After that, I met with Tony Roslund. Tony is a third generation commercial photographer with an immense amount of technical precision. I was his last review, he seemed a bit in a hurry and so I don't think our review went as well as it could have. But he was very clear on which images worked and which images needed to be taken out; there was no grey area about any of it. He gave me a ton of technical advice about sharpness and lighting and catchlights and all of that, and he really liked my images with movement in them. He said that I should shoot more images like that, which is a great direction for me. He also said that I needed to have less of the same person in my book. Overall, his review was very constructive and I took away a lot of technical aspects from his critique.
Finally, I went to Richard Heinzen. In the fall, I took a Nature and Landscape class from him so we already knew each other pretty well. Since my portfolio is portraiture, he went through it and had nothing but good things to say (probably because it's not his area of expertise.) He loved my compositions and overall gave me high marks!
Overall yesterday went well. I'm ready to kick my portfolio into high gear and shoot based on the suggestions I was given yesterday!
The worst is finally over.