Scott’s Tips: An Introduction

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been asked to help review the portfolios of several sports and music photographers. That experience plus the regular ongoing review of photos submitted for the newspapers I edit, I’ve decided to dedicate a few blog posts to the subject of portfolio reviews, with the following in mind:

— Providing some information for those interested in getting their work published
— Providing some examples (including my own work) of the most common errors

The idea is to help other photographers improve their portfolios, improve their knowledge and expertise, and improve their ability to have work either published or purchased.

To begin, I see music and sports photography as being very similar.

For one, the conditions aren’t always great — and quite often, the conditions are absolute shit. Poor lighting, people moving — usually in directions you can’t easily anticipate. People getting in the way (folks on the sidelines, coaches, referees, other photographers, and the occasional mic stand).

In any case, I approach sports and music photography in much the same way. As photographers, each of us has a certain style. That style directs how we approach each shoot as well as how we handle post-production editing: choice of angles, photo selection, cropping, toning, and photo processing.

My style is straightforward. I’m trying to capture a moment. That moment should tell a story, and whenever possible, convey the emotion of the moment. It should make you FEEL as though you were there — or as though you wish you had been. My photo selection methodology is based on that philosophy, and my editing and processing are designed to highlight that moment and/or an emotion from either a spectator, athlete, or musician that allows the image to tell a story.

My portfolio reviews involve a few basic rules at the outset:

  1. Honor and respect other photography styles. Some photographers use a lot of layered motion in their final edits. Others are focused on HDR images (in stills, landscapes, etc.). I don’t particularly like either of these styles, but I understand them and can tell when they’ve been executed with technical proficiency and artistry.
  2. Evaluate each image on its own merits, then ask why it was chosen to be included in the portfolio, and how that image impacts the overall portfolio. Part of this is to determine a photographer’s basic understanding and mastery of the key elements of photography, which I break down into two categories: a) technical proficiency, and b) artistry — or creative vision. Most photography teachers focus on four basic elements of photography – composition, light, color and perspective. I tend to think most of these break down into both technical and artistic points of execution. First — what was the VISION and INTENT for creating and editing in an image, and secondly — was that vision EXECUTED with technical proficiency.
  3. When critiquing, offer alternatives and/or solutions, not just criticism.
  4. Realize all of this is one person’s opinion, and the person being reviewed can take or leave the critique.

With all of that said, let’s move on to Part 1 of the series: Let’s Keep It Sharp, Folks