How to Survive a Portfolio Review

I’ve had several clients reach out to me this month for advice on preparing for portfolio reviews. Here are a few tips:

1. Set an intention for how you want to feel during and after your review rather than setting a specific expectation or tangible outcome. I.E.I am going to make a great connection with this reviewer and will receive some valuable feedback that will help me with my business.” Rather than: ”This person is going to love my work and hire me for a job next week.”

2. Only show your best work. Make sure your book or tablet is clean and your pages are not dented or scratched. I like to see about 25-40 images in a portfolio. If you have multiple genres of work, separate them unless you can create a solid flow in your style or by color. It’s great to bring commercial work as well as a separate portfolio of personal work if you have some.

3. Ask a lot of questions. Come prepared with questions for your reviewer based on their experience/industry. Here are some good general questions:

Based on my portfolio, what would you recommend I do more or less of?” 

“What brands/magazines/clients come to mind when you are looking at my work?” 

“What is the most important thing about working with a photographer/illustrator/stylist that you consider when hiring?

And I always like to ask where people prefer to find new talent, you might discover a new place to get listed or create a profile. Avoid general questions like, “What do you think about my work?” 

When I’m visiting ad agencies I like to ask people what their favorite project has been to work on or who their favorite client is.

4. Listen more than talking about yourself. Don’t launch in to a sales pitch, but also, don’t be a deer in the headlights. Again, ask lots of questions. Ask about their background/experience, be present, really listen with intention. 

5. Be aware of your energy. I like to meditate before reviews or any kind of networking event. If your energy is a hot mess, you’re not likely to get a call back. Relax, imagine your reviewer is an old friend who only wants the best for you. (Read more about Networking for Introverts.)


I know it’s natural to be nervous going in to portfolio reviews, but try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Some people will love your work, some people won’t, opinions are mostly arbitrary and personal. Celebrate the positive feedback and have gratitude for the negative feedback, it may shed some valuable light on your path. 

Don’t forget to nurture those relationships after you leave. Sent thank you notes and keep in touch. It might take a few months or even a few years for a review to pay off. The ”rule of seven” is now the rule of 21.


Got a review coming up? Need help editing your portfolio or brainstorming some clever questions? Shoot me an email or get on my calendar for a free 15 minute call.


Hey, I’m rooting for you!


P.S.  I’m heading to Palm Springs next month to be a reviewer for the Palm Springs Photo Festival. Are you going? Let me know!


                                                                                            V.


Interested in hiring a business coach? Need someone to map out and hold you accountable for your goals this year? Shoot me an email or click here to schedule a free 15-minute call. Let’s chat and find out if we’re a good fit.

Never miss a blog, sign up for my newsletter here.


Get inspired, keep up with my pro-tips, and meet some of my favorite clients and artists: follow me on Instagram @amyvcooper.


Spring News

Happy Spring! 

I have lots of news and events to share with you as we head in to the second quarter.

- If you haven’t yet, check out my Photoshoot Checklist blog and let me know what you think. Did I forget anything? Email me or send me a DM on Instagram.

- What do you want me to write about next? Got any burning questions? Is there an editor/art buyer/creative director who you would like for me to interview? I’m always excited to hear your requests for new blog posts. Let me know!

- I’m heading to Los Angeles at the end of the month. My agency is hosting a Women in Photography networking happy hour on April 30th. More info and RSVP here. Space is limited.

- I will also be at the Anja Niemi photography opening at Galerie XII on May 4th in LA, all are welcome! You don’t want to miss this gorgeous work.

- I am super excited to be reviewing portfolios at the Palm Springs Photo Festival this year. The festival runs May 5-10th, and I’ll be reviewing on the 6, 7, and 8th. Please let me know if you are attending! If you have any questions about how to prepare for a portfolio review, feel free to email me or we can jump on a free 15 minute call.

- I’m going to be hosting an event in Austin this summer with a few other editors so make sure you are signed up for my newsletter so you can be the first to know about it and RSVP before the event is made public.

- My 2019 Photography Marketing Calendar and Strategy Guide is still available. It’s not to late to join us. If you join now, you still get all of the first quarter notes. This is the perfect time to jump in because May is when we really get going on big marketing plans that will evolve throughout the rest of the year and get you positioned for commercial work that tends to be awarded at the end of summer and throughout the fall. It’s only $20.19 and you can repurpose the calendar to follow year after year.


See you on the west side!


Hey, P.S. I’m rooting for you!

                                                                                            V.


Interested in hiring a business coach? Need someone to map out and hold you accountable for your goals this year? Shoot me an email or click here to schedule a free 15 minute call. Let’s chat and find out if we’re a good fit.

Never miss a blog, sign up for my newsletter here.


Get inspired, keep up with my pro-tips, and meet some of my favorite clients and artists: follow me on Instagram @amyvcooper.


Photoshoot Checklist

This month I have been working with my client, Simone, who commissioned me to be her guide for a 12-month reboot of her website and marketing strategy. One of her goals is to produce a new body of work based on her love for shooting mature women in seriously glorious character and fashion.

That’s all I can tell you for now. I can’t wait to share her finished work with you later this year!

As I was working with Simone this week on to-do lists, I realized that I have such a wonderful range of consulting clients, not only in style but experience as well.

Some of you have produced scores of large-scale advertising shoots, and some of you have never collaborated with a team before. So, I thought it would be of great value to share some production tips and checklists from the pros! This is an interactive blog and I’d love to hear your feedback (see below).

Photoshoot To-Do’s:

Concept. Write down all of the details of your shoot. How many days will it be? What kinds of talent do you need? Where will you shoot it? Do you need talent/location scouts? How many final shots do you hope to get per day? Will you need to hire stylists, set builders, etc.?

Build a creative deck and inspiration/Pinterest boards. Don’t keep all the information in your head.

Start working on your budget. Break the concept down in to numbers. Determine if anything needs to be reined in or if there is room to add more.

Create a production schedule. If you are working with a team, a concise but flexible schedule is a must, but don’t create the schedule in a bubble. Reach out to your key team members to find out how much time they need to do their preparation work. If you have the budget for one, hiring a producer from the beginning will take a lot of weight off of your shoulders. 

Depending on the size of your shoot, I recommend planning it about 8 weeks before, but no less than 4 weeks in advance of your shoot day. Consider how much time will be needed to build sets, scout locations, scout talent, fit talent for wardrobe, reserve locations, order props and equipment, acquire permits, etc. Having a generous schedule and getting feedback on it will go a long way in setting a great tone for your shoot.

Revise your budget as needed.

Book your team. Producer, hair, makeup, clothing stylist, set stylist, set builders, assistants, drivers, security, catering, talent, animal wranglers… I recommend putting holds on your crew at least four weeks in advance. It can be next to impossible to book a great crew with only two week’s notice.

Meet with your team. Planning your shoot via email can be highly inefficient and leaves a lot of room for misunderstandings. Getting your key team players on individual and conference calls at different stages of planning can help you anticipate a lot of needs and help you feel more prepared and supported.

Reserve locations, equipment, catering, etc. The sooner the better, but at least four weeks out if possible.

Create a shoot day schedule. This is more than call time and wrap time. You’ll need to figure out how much time hair, makeup, and wardrobe will need with each talent (be sure to ask them!). This will inform you of when your first shot will happen. How much time will you need for each look/shot? How much time will be needed to change looks, change lighting, change location? Should you stagger your talent? How much time does your set builder need to unload and prep? What time will you break for lunch? A carefully planned day will help you avoid stress and overage fees with talent, location, etc. A schedule is especially crucial if you are expecting to shoot with natural light at specific times of the day. 

P.S. What is your inclement weather plan? Check the weather a few days out and anticipate if you will need tents, umbrellas, heaters, sunscreen…

Set post-production expectations. Make sure to discuss final deliverables with your client. Expectations or another schedule should be set to define when a first edit will be delivered, how much time the client should take to choose final images, how much time retouching will take, how many rounds of retouching will be allowed, how and when the final deliverables will be sent. It’s also gracious to communicate this timeline with your crew if any of them are expecting final images for their portfolios (hair, makeup, stylists, etc.) or if you are hiring external retouchers.

Pay your crew. If you are working on a larger commercial shoot, most clients will pay an advance before your shoot to cover all crew and expenses. If they do not, make sure to communicate with your client on payment expectations and relay that information to your crew so that they know when it’s coming.


Being an organized and inclusive communicator and photo shoot planner will make you especially memorable to your clients and crews who will no doubt return to work with and recommend you again and again.


Did I miss anything? Let me know! This blog is a work in progress and I would love to hear your feedback and learn more about how you produce your photoshoots. Sign up for my newsletter to receive the final checklist when it’s done!


Hey, P.S. I’m rooting for you!

                                                                                            V.


Interested in hiring a business coach? Need someone to map out and hold you accountable for your goals this year? Shoot me an email or click here to schedule a free 15 minute call. Let’s chat and find out if we’re a good fit.

Never miss a blog, sign up for my newsletter here.


Get inspired, keep up with my pro-tips, and meet some of my favorite clients and artists: follow me on Instagram @amyvcooper.

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