No new parent wants to be told their baby isn’t quite as beautiful as they believe but sometimes they need to know before they spend a lot of time and effort entering them into “beautiful baby” competitions.

A portfolio is like that ‘baby’. It’s about getting real feedback for things that you’ve nurtured. A portfolio review is about sitting down with a number of photographic experts, showing each expert separately 20 to 50 of your images and getting their feedback. Each session takes about twenty minutes. It’s a challenging process; you show images you believe are good to experts and risk being rejected. So why expose yourself? 

Well, because it teaches you about your craft and helps you learn and develop, no matter how sensitive and defensive you might feel about your work.

Jonny Lewis summed up the purpose of a portfolio review as follows, “If you write a poem in English you don’t want five lines of Japanese in it”. For Jonny, a portfolio review is about developing your photographic style, often you may have one but it takes an experienced reviewer to cull elements foreign to your style leaving a personal language behind.

For Moshe Rozensveig, the question to ask is, “Do you know why you do photography and if you do, are you getting to where you want to be?” Your goal could be to gain more work, find an outlet to show your work or network within the photographic community. Whatever your goal, if you feel you aren’t getting to where you want to be, a portfolio review is essential.

For Sally Brownbill, without a portfolio you may be stuck in the slow lane: “The industry we’re involved in is very much people-based and having a portfolio gives you the opportunity to cross that line and start meeting people…. it is really lovely – from the perspective of the art director, designer and photographer – to have an opportunity to actually meet with someone.”

So how can Jonny, Moshe and Sally all be right? The answer, at least for Head On’s 21 May Portfolio Review Day, is because the 10+ photographic experts have a variety of perspectives. National Geographic photographer Chris Rainier is a seasoned pro photographer who has spent a lifetime honing his style. Sally Brownbill, photographer, lecturer and creative consultant, is ideal for photographers wanting to understand how to pitch their work to the commercial world. For over 20 years, the activist, lecturer and photographer Jonny Lewis has gently assisted photographers develop their styles. Moshe Rozensveig, creator of HeadOn and much more, is a gateway into the photographic community.

With such a smorgasbord of experts, 21 May is a great event that might be what you need to restore your appetite for photography, continue to steer you on the course you’re already on, or let you think about approaching your photography in a different way. Whatever the comments on your “baby” are, however, you will be enriched.

What to bring? 

Twenty to Fifty images – if printed, any size from A5 to A3 – in electronic, 20 to 50 images on an iPad is ideal. Do not bring a website (or links to one) as internet connections may let you down.

An idea of what you want help with – think in advance what is impeding your photography and select reviewers who may be able to help you.


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Head On Photo Awards 2024

Entries to the Head On Photo Awards 2024 open in May/June.

Image detail: Gary Ramage