As a follow up to my post entitled Pay For Meetings?, where I looked at the NYC FotoWorks portfolio reviews taking place at the same time as the trade show, I asked a few photographers who attended to give us their feedback:
Thanks for the post a few weeks ago on the NYCFotoWorks portfolio review. I would not have heard about it otherwise. I’m really glad I went and even though I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted, the feedback from those I did see was tremendous. An assignment offer was given on the spot and lots of great contacts were made. For an event of its size, it was very well run. Totally worth every dime I spent!
I didn’t pull the trigger to do the reviews until 2 weeks before, when I realized that a possible assignment was not going to happen the same week. I was still able to get a deal on airfare from the west coast and I have a cousin and a place to stay in the city. I felt the timing was right to get feedback as well as get my work out there after recent awards and a year in which my book has changed almost completely as I focused on where I want to be next. I compared both the juried NYCFotoworks and the PDN/Palm Springs reviews at PhotoPlus Expo and decided to do a set of of 14 editors/5 ABs on Thurs/Friday at Sandbox studios with NYCFotoworks and then the Saturday with 5 more at the event at Photo Plus Expo. $990 + $250.
I made my selections and have to say I was pretty happy with who I was able to see at both events. I prefer how NYCFotoworks handled the registration and selection process although I wish I knew the final schedule sooner. There were some cancellations and rescheduling and I was able to secure an agency AB when a magazine PE could not make it which was better for me. But one reschedule caught me as I did not make note of the change and was out on a break, missing my time slot. During the events I also met with a rep and an agency AB who wanted to see my book in the hallway outside of the schedule. And an artist adviser was on site at Sandbox for free 20 minute consults (smart for her as a great way to market herself). I did not go in expecting to find work – having launched a direction this year I wanted expert advice and critical feedback on my work, my edit, my style, my strengths and weaknesses. I was really surprised that some of the most helpful sessions came unexpectedly, from those reviewers who were near the bottom of my preference list. And that some of those on the top of my list did not provide a critical level I expected. But all in all it was well worth it – it did result in a magazine request for an image to run and one AB said I made her day after she saw an image and realized I was the one she could pitch for a client meeting the next week for a 2011 project.
Fifteen or less minutes (as changeovers were every fifteen minutes) at Sandbox was too short. On Friday evening I had 5 sessions that were back-to-back. What I appreciated were the reviewers who would ask why I was there and what I wanted and then would flip through the book very quickly, close it, open it again and go more slowly, sometimes making a third pass even slower. The sessions at Photo Plus Expo (on Saturday) were 20 minutes and seemed to be less hurried – both in that the extra 25% helps as well so a little overage was OK and everyone was cleared from the room before the next review session. That is in contrast to NYC Fotoworks where I was more than once in the awkward position of standing at my next reviewer’s table while the photographer from the last session was still wrapping up.
This is the first time I have done these “speed dating” sessions. I will usually block a week to visit a city and get appointments (LA, SF, NY). The last time I was in NY I had ten agency AB and editorial PE meetings in five days – and that took a good part of two weeks of preparation: calls, emails and more emails, and a lot of dead time “on call” and leaving voicemails during the visit week.
As a result of all of this I have had face time with an incredible number of editors, reps and agencies that have seen my work now and I can follow up with a level of familiarity that would not have been there otherwise. Some images are now axed from the book, the sequence edited and my direction affirmed while a future personal project has been inspired from one of the reviewer’s prompts.
I had some apprehension about the review events value to me before I went. It’s not inexpensive and since I don’t live in NY it was a big commitment for me to make the trip. But, I felt like if I made the decision to go, I should do everything I could to make the most of it. I ended up purchasing a pretty significant package of reviews and I balanced my reviewer requests fairly evenly between editors, art buyers, and agents.
The list of attending reviewers was pretty impressive. I signed up early and I ended up being scheduled with most of the people I really wanted to see. When the two day event began, there were also opportunities for me and all other photographers to meet with both photography consultant Colleen Vreeland and a representative from Corbis without incurring any additional costs. I signed up for both additional sessions.
I did my homework before the event. I read everything I could find about the people I was meeting with. I made lists of the art buyers’ most relevant clients. I checked everyone’s resumes on LinkedIn to find out where they’d been before they arrived at the jobs they hold now. I looked at recent copies of the editors’ respective publications. And I looked at the work of all of the photographers who are represented by the agents. I think I was as prepared as I could have been and I think it made me more confident going into the reviews.
Each scheduled meeting was 15 minutes long and the organizers of the event did a pretty good job of making sure the transitions occurred on time. Things got a little backed up throughout the first day (mostly because a couple of the reviewers arrived late) but it didn’t result in anyone being denied meetings. There were one or two reviewers who neglected to show up at all but in those instances, I believe the organizers did everything they could to reschedule photographers with other reviewers. All in all I’d say the event was well run.
I hadn’t attended a review event like this before and I was concerned that reviewers might be so overwhelmed with the number of people they were seeing that they might become disengaged after a few reviews. But, my schedule on both days was pretty spread out and the people I met with seemed genuinely invested in the process throughout the day. I received a lot of positive feedback about my work as well as some valuable suggestions regarding the editing of my portfolio. The agent meetings were helpful to me, not because I expected anyone to sign me to their roster, but because I was able to discuss some specific questions I had about tightening up bids and writing treatments for commercial jobs. I think the 15 minute review times were appropriate since they’re about on par with what I think most photographers can expect in meetings they set up on their own outside of events like these.
I met with a lot of people in the two day period. I doubt I could have arranged to see half the number of people on my own and if I had it would have taken days or weeks of repeated phone calls and emails to make happen. I also would have had to spend more time in New York (I love NY but, of course, it costs a fortune to be there) and I’d have had to do a lot of running around to see everyone. My time is worth more to me than the money I would have saved by trying to set up so many meetings on my own and, again, I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to arrange meetings at all with some of the people I saw at the event. I made some great contacts and I enjoyed the process.
Update: Jasmine DeFoore gives us portfolio review do’s and dont’s from the PDN/Palm Springs Review (here).