By Jim Colton

In Part One, I offered 10 tips for creating a compelling portfolio with some basic Do’s and Don’ts. But that was only one opinion….mine. For a different perspective, I asked some of the brightest minds in the business to share their thoughts on what they look for when reviewing portfolios.

MaryAnne GolonOne of the best photo editors in the business, MaryAnne Golon is the Washington Post Director of Photography and Assistant Managing Editor and former Director of Photography at TIME Magazine.

“You need to care deeply about every image in your portfolio.  If you don't care about your pictures, why would anyone else? You should be freshening the images with newer (and presumably) better ones on a regular basis.   I have seen thousands of portfolios in my career.  The ones I remember most had these things in common:  a simple presentation, a strong visual voice and very powerful images.  If you are wondering whether or not a picture is good enough to be in your portfolio, it probably isn't. “ 



Mary Virginia SwansonMary Virginia Swanson is an author, educator, consultant and marketing expert. “Swanee” is my hero! Not only for her willingness to share her incredible knowledge with photographers of all levels, but also for the unparalleled passion she brings to our craft.

“Focus on your strengths! So often photographers try to show (prove?) that they are skilled at portraiture, still life, landscape, action, lifestyle, food...and we can't find their vision or their passion through the diversity and disconnected image overload.  Share your curiosity with us, rather than your broad capabilities. 

When fresh out of grad school I coordinated the workshops at The Friends of Photography in Carmel.  In the winter months (off season) Ansel Adams and I would review the hundreds of applications from photographers wanting to attend his workshops. They would so often send a mix within their required 20 image submission...trying to show how broadly talented they were. 

I fondly remember Ansel Adams saying things like, "If only they would show us how they photograph ONE TREE, to show us their curiosity, how they push themselves creatively. Hence the origin of my portfolio perspective…and Ansel was SO RIGHT!”

Pancho BernasconiPancho Bernasconi is Senior Director of Photography for Getty Images’ news, sports and multimedia divisions. His industry journey has included stints at the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times as well as AFP and Corbis. In addition to many traditional photography awards, his work has won Emmy nominations, a Webby and a shared Pulitzer.

“A portfolio to me isn’t just “one thing.”  It is a method of communicating across a shared visual language, so I come back to a simple, but critical, factor in creating and editing your portfolio, know your audience!  Who are you going to be showing the work to?  What has this publication, outlet, editor worked on recently?  What is the tenor of their photographic output?  How can you expect an editor to consider you if you haven’t properly considered them and what their photographic ethos is?

I also want a portfolio that has a strong point of view. I want the photographer to stand for something photographically and not be afraid of expressing that in the portfolio.  I would rather see fewer images that get to the heart of a story, idea, concept rather than a wider edit that lacks focus or clarity of vision.”


Staci MacKenzie by Christopher WahlStaci MacKenzie is a creative professional with over 15 years of experience commissioning artists in the commercial sector. She works with music, publishing, advertising, entertainment and corporate clients to tell their story through pictures. She is always looking for talented photographers for upcoming projects:

“A winning portfolio is an honest reflection of the photographer. It represents a personal perspective on the world that is purely unique to the photographer. Trust your gut.”





Doug HillDoug Hill owns his own advertising company, Doug Hill Creative, which was established in 2007. They focus on idea generation and design solutions that get noticed and increases market share for their clients. His work is seen print, video and the music world.

“It's pretty simple, really. Tell me a story that captures my attention. Use emotion, color, composition, subject matter or anything that takes me by surprise.”