Workshop Review - The Portfolio Review

 Four of the images I submitted to Carolyn Mendelsohn for my portfolio review. Top row from the left:  Storms come from the we  st  and  Air Dancing .  Bottom row from left:  Hayrolls in the morning mis t and  Horse Friends at Sunrise .  All images(c) Rebecca LaChance.

Four of the images I submitted to Carolyn Mendelsohn for my portfolio review. Top row from the left: Storms come from the west and Air Dancing.  Bottom row from left: Hayrolls in the morning mist and Horse Friends at Sunrise.  All images(c) Rebecca LaChance.

There is nothing like throwing your soul on the table for someone to examine. That's a pretty accurate description of how I feel about submitting my art for review. I choose to have "my soul examined" via a portfolio review about once a year.


I want to improve my art, my skills, my compositions, my technical mastery.  I need feedback from eyes other than my own.  I want feedback from experienced artists who can guide my growth.

The review allows me to practice discussing my art and my inspirations.  While I think it's okay to say, "I took this picture because I wanted to," it's not enough information to convince others.  A portfolio implies your art is intentional; you had a purpose for each image you created. The process of building a portfolio defines how each image contributes to that intention.

The words an artist uses to describe the art and the intentions are relevant for any photographic entrepreneur. You must know how to use the words that communicate your work to your intended clientele. People want to hear the phrases that address their personal needs, desires, concerns. The review provides the opportunity to use those same words and phrases.

But this time?  I wanted the review because I was feeling stale and stifled.  I felt as if I was holding myself back; as if there was something more I needed to explore, to master.

The review

Carolyn offered a portfolio review during the Compelling Portraiture Workshop, and I accepted her offer.  She discussed the work I submitted and identified the strengths in each image. I was pleasantly surprised to hear her appraisal of why some images were very strong. The strengths were my compositions and graphic use of color. (I do love a saturated color.) I knew which of my images were weaker and she confirmed my knowledge. Carolyn helped me restructure my portfolio to highlight the identified strong points.

She saw the unifying theme in each of the images. The subject that consistently springs from the depths of my psyche is "Wait for the Stillness."

And then she asked the killer question, "Is this your best work?"  My response?  Six to nine months ago, I would have said: "yes, this is my best work."  But now? I knew it wasn't my best work.  I had not yet done my best work. I wanted guidance to move forward and create those best works.

That's why I traveled thousands of miles across an ocean. I wanted to move forward in my art.

Choose your reviewers wisely

There are times you can choose your reviewer, and there are times you can't. For those times when you can choose, it's imperative you know WHAT you want from the reviewer.

  • Do you need an artist's view of your work?
  • Do you need someone who excels in composition?
  • Do you need someone who can direct your lighting and technical skills?
  • Do you need someone to identify your strengths, your weaknesses, your style?

If you determine the exact guidance you need from your reviewer, she can direct her remarks to your concerns.  You can help her to help you!

Changing my life

 After the review, I felt as if a leviathan had uncoiled from my throat. I don't know if I can explain this feeling in a satisfactory manner. Suddenly, I felt a freedom and a self-granted permission to create expansive images.

I doesn't make logical sense.

All I know is I now offer portraiture services, and I can create them in a manner that is singularly mine.

 Do you need a portfolio review?

The only person who can answer that question is you.  What do you want from your creative efforts? Is mastery necessary to you? Will a portfolio review benefit your art/photography business? Are you trying to get representation from a gallery? (Definitely, you need a portfolio review.)  Are you going to submit images for a professional credential?

Your answer will determine if you need to throw your soul on the table.

Come back next week as I complete the workshop review with the biggest point of evaluation - did the experience change me as a professional photographer?

Expect the best. Anything else is an adventure


I welcome your comments here and over on the Facebook page.

Are you interested in your very own captured essence portrait? Call me at 240-203-7794, and we'll chat!

Did you find this article helpful?  You can get more just like this by clicking here.