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Anatomy of an Eyeist.com Photo Portfolio Review

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Photographers looking for assignments often send their portfolios to ad agencies, studios, and potential clients, and wait anxiously for the photo editor to decide who will get the “gig.” A good portfolio can speed a career towards success and a mediocre portfolio doesn’t do anyone any good.

At PhotoPlus Expo in New York City in December of last year I was, in my usual fashion, scurrying to the next meeting when I passed a long line of photography hopefuls waiting for a chance to have their portfolios evaluated by a professional editor. I remember asking myself whether I would ever want to do that. After all, unless I am working for a client, my portfolio is based on my eye, my camera, and I’ll shoot what I want, right?

As I navigated the crowd, it occurred to me that I was avoiding the real question: Did I have the courage to have my work evaluated by another professional? After all, I am published, I work at my craft and make a decent living doing it. But, then the inner voice begins asking, “Yes, but are you ‘the best you can be’ at what you do?” “Could you get better with some guidance?”

So, although I left New York without an evaluation, I found myself mulling over the impending possibility. A few months later, I learned of an online portfolio review site developed by four immensely talented individuals: Allegra Wilde (Co-Founder and COO of Eyeist, and former Director of Talent and Agent Branding with the Workbook), Doug Dawirs (Lead Developer and guru of all things code), and Micah Diamond and Jesse Diamond (two veteran and well-respected professional photographers).

I interviewed Allegra and Doug about the technology behind their dream for a story I was writing and was incredibly impressed. The article was well received and I filed it away in my electronic file cabinet labeled, “Published.” If you are curious, you can see it here: Eyeist Publishes the First Cloud-Based Portfolio Review Site.

As the weeks clicked by, the courage to schedule a review of my own work had not revealed itself, but there was another idea brewing. In walks Norman Schwartz, a photo buddy from our Light Chasers Meetup Group, who is a retired lawyer with an amazing eye for photography. He says he just does it for fun, but I believe he can be a superstar if he can get some encouragement. Allegra agrees to review his portfolio. Norman uploads a bunch of pictures and schedules his review. The following is what he (and vicariously, I) learned:

“She was candid. When it deserved to be brutal, she was brutal, “ Norman said of his time with Allegra. “And in all instances, she was right. She really opened up my eyes to a new way of looking through my lens.”

An example is the image below:

Photo by Norman Schwartz, Image #13, Man on railroad tracks

Photo by Norman Schwartz, Image #13, Man on railroad tracks

Allegra looked at it and said. “It is a great scene, but what is it? A guy walking on railroad tracks It would be much better if he was doing something interesting. As it is now, it has no punch, no zest. It is just a guy walking.”

And there were other landscape images that she felt were pretty but very ordinary. But then, she pointed out a couple of shots and elaborated. Take #25 below. She has seen many from other photographers that look similar, but add the details in #24 and you have a lot going on. Much more interesting, she explained.

Photo by Norman Schwartz, Image #25

Photo by Norman Schwartz, Image #25

Photo by Norman Schwartz, #24

Photo by Norman Schwartz, #24

One of her favorites is #21 below (which is also one of mine – maybe my eye is not so bad after all, I say to myself!). She likes it because you can get the whole story just by looking at the picture. “That is the purpose of a photograph,” Allegra explains. That big bully (wearing the t-shirt to prove it) staring at the meek and mild person at the bar now moves us into documentary story-telling.

Photo by Norman Schwarts, Image #21, at the bar

Photo by Norman Schwarts, Image #21, at the bar

Another image Allegra liked, #26 shown below, was notable because there is also a story to be told in the striking single image of a young man walking down the street, his mind totally oblivious, engrossed in his cell phone as he passes by a supermodel on a billboard. He doesn’t even notice her. My question to Norman when I originally saw the photograph was, “I love that shot. Isn’t that a commentary on the world we live in today?”

Photo by Norman Schwartz, Image #27, the cell phone

Photo by Norman Schwartz, Image #27, the cell phone

Then Norman and Allegra talked about a book he wants to publish for his family and she helped him with the layout (another advantage of Eyeist should a photographer choose to partake in that aspect of a review). Norman wanted to pair #6 and #7 but Allegra had another idea, encouraging him to think out of the box and put #6 with #22. Magic happened.

Photo by Norman Schwartz, #6

Photo by Norman Schwartz, #6

Photo by Norman Schwartz, #7

Photo by Norman Schwartz, #7

Photo by Norman Schwartz, #22 landscape

Photo by Norman Schwartz, #22 landscape

Norman’s big takeaway from his experience with Eyeist was a newfound confidence in his artistic right to experiment with his pictures. He has stopped focusing on the ordinary and I have noticed a new sense of risk-taking in his efforts. He also had had another professional that we both admire reinforce his innate talent, and that is a very valuable thing.

I asked him if he would recommend a review to his other photographer friends and his response was, “Yes, to each and every one of them. It is one of the most interesting learning experiences in photography I have ever had. In 20 minutes, I learned more than [in] hours of classroom instruction.”

Eyeist.com says, “Every picture tells a story. Eyeist helps you tell a better one.” Reviews can be booked easily and quickly and you can choose from a number of highly recognizable photo experts from such outlets as the Haggerty Museum of Art, the Annenberg Space for Photography, TBWA/Chiat/Day, VII Photo Agency, Esquire – and Allegra Wilde, Eyeist Founder, among others.

The reviewers have their own section, Reviewer’s Choice, where a small group of photographers are chosen as creatives to be watched. What better way to have your work seen by the top buyers in the business?

And that is Norman’s story. Now I have to get up the courage to book my own review. Soon – very soon. Find out more at Eyeist.com, the first cloud-based portfolio review site for photographers.

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About Cirina Catania

Cirina Catania is a writer, director, journalist and former marketing executive at a Fortune 100 company with a long history of success in both the major studio and independent film environment. She is one of the co-founders and former director of the Sundance Film Festival. She has written, directed and/or shot numerous television shows and her credits include National Geographic’s “Nat Geo’s Most Amazing Photos” as writer/field producer, the ground-breaking 12-part series for Discovery Channel, “Southern Steel;” a made-for-TV movie/pilot entitled, “John Douglas-Mindhunter;” 13 episodes of Lifetime’s “ Merge,” starring Lisa Rinna; 16 episodes of “Worst Case Scenario,” for Columbia Television, 6 episodes of “Untold Stories from the ER,” for TLC; and 2 episodes of “Animal Kidding,” for Animal Planet. Ms. Catania also produces the popular weekly one-hour tech podcast, Digital Production BuZZ, which is streamed live each Thursday evening from 6 to 7 pm PdT or can be downloaded on iTunes. She writes for Technorati here: http://www.technorati.com/people/cirina