What critical info– besides great and relevant imagery– is a portfolio reviewer actually looking for during your review?
Since most reviewers are “speed readers” (consider how many thousands of books they’ve looked at over the course of their career), they can tell in micro-seconds if your work applies to their current account needs.
But they’re also looking for other non-photographic cues that tell them who to hire and who to pass on. Call it your basic vibe check. They’re looking for the same internal “click” that you get when you know you’ve nailed the shot. It’s a gut instinct that comes together in the present moment and leverages all of your experience and expertise.
Buyers also have to make choices based on their experience and their gut intuition.
It’s a rational and irrational decision. That’s one of their skills.
During a review, you may experience the unhelpful thought that the future of your career is on the line. If you can’t let that thought pass by without ruminating on it, you may end up feeling nervous or insecure. You may feel uncomfortable if they look at your work in silence. You may start to talk too much or try to show more images hoping that something will appeal to them. The buyer will likely pick up on your self-doubt.
If you’re in front of an experienced reviewer, they may feel compassionately towards you, but it doesn’t usually create the trust they need to assign you a big job. It’s important to understand that “wherever you go, there you are.” You need to be able to demonstrate an ability to manage your mind and emotions when they act up.
Learning to observe your fear-based thoughts and let them go without reacting to them is a high-level business skill that can be learned. (Refer to my other posts for tips on how to do that.)
A photographer who is punctual, prepared, relaxed, a good listener, truly interested in the other person, allows the reviewer to go through the book at their own pace, pays close attention to non-verbal clues and offers comments only when appropriate, is able to roll with any schedule snafus without getting upset, etc., is demonstrating the very personality traits that a buyer wants in a photographer on a high-dollar, high-stress shoot when it’s their career that’s on the line.
The photographer who is fully present – who can drop any feelings of worry and insecurity as they arise – creates a powerfully magnetic and memorable presence. This is the critical first step in building a real relationship with any buyer and one that will usually create a career advantage down the road.
A good handshake and eye-contact on top of great composition and lighting, creates ripe conditions for a powerful career “click!”