The other month Melissa Lyttle of APhotoADay (APAD) issued a challenge to members of the list to post their first/original portfolio. I would have done this sooner but I was separated from my archives for some time there so I’m just now getting around to playing the game.
This portfolio was the first formal portfolio I ever put together and it was for the 2007 Southern Short Course that was held in Chattanooga that year. The way the journalism school works at UGA is that you can’t even apply for admission until you’ve completed 45 credit hours, and thus won’t begin journalism classes until the next semester. So this was from the second semester of my junior year, part way through my second photojournalism class.
At the time I was way too cocky. My stuff was all over the place and I felt like that changed after the pj program’s spring workshop where something finally clicked. I was riding high on the feedback I got from the workshop when I went to the seminar and then proceeded to get reamed during my portfolio critiques. They were all over the place and I didn’t know what to make of ’em. There was no consensus of what was good or bad (I actually tried taking notes) and I left more confused than anything else.
If I got anything out of those critiques, besides the beer I had to drink afterwords to calm my nerves, it was that the industry is incredibly subjective. Take what people say and sit on it. Don’t react right away, let it sit for a bit then come back when you are more level-headed and see if there were any valid points. There may or may not be any, but build on that. Just because people don’t like what you have doesn’t mean they won’t ever like what you have. You just have to keep working at it.
I made a lot of mistakes with this portfolio, there were grammatical errors and editorializing in my captions, I included a photo of nothing, put in too many detail shots and there was an overall lack of variety in my compositions. But, it was my first portfolio. Feeling like crap afterwords really pushed me to get better, so that the next year I wouldn’t feel embarrassed after showing my portfolio off. It happened anyway, but it just made me want to come back yet again.
People always ask me what they need to do to become a good photographer and my answer is always, “shoot a lot.” That’s really all you can do and it’s how you go from what you see below to the minor improvement of what you will see now if you look at my portfolios.