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“Don’t show me any CRAP!”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to POYi for any of the picture story categories. I would have liked to see multimedia. I did, however, have the opportunity to watch Magazine Editing Portfolio judging. Since I spend a great deal of time talking portfolio design with students I’ve realize that portfolio construction is the last great mystery, so this seemed a great chance to consume first hand professional opinions.

Robert Seale recently wrote an article for SportsShooter that couched portfolio tips in humorous antics about his past. First, the definition: A portfolio is a sales tool. Second: The tips, which I won’t rehash here. I would, however like to highlight a few comments to strengthen my conversation about POYi portfolio judging.

  • If it needs an explanation, cut it.
  • If it needs an apology, cut it.
  • If it’s not the best (of that category) you’ve ever shot, cut it.

I believe these golden nuggets of advice can and should be applied to any creative portfolio.

POYi judge Meg Theno of the Chicago Tribune agrees. In an award-winning portfolio Theno looks for a tight, concise edit of technical elements, composition and content. “It’s all about content and how well that content is presented because that’s what will determine what will speak to people.” Most importantly, “the pictures need to mean something individually, and they need to speak to each other as well; they need to have their own voice.”

She also mentioned that she looked specifically for a wide range of imagery and edits, which surprised me because the panel kept several portfolios I felt suffered from redundant imagery syndrome, meaning same shots, same distance, same composition.

Ultimately, the panel didn’t speak much about why they made the decisions they made or how they came to their final selection, which was a little disappointing. Had the attendance been higher, I assume the discussion would have increased as well. I noticed early unanimous decisions to eliminate heavy studio, illustrative portfolios, which was a little surprising to me. This being a magazine category, I felt conceptual pieces were more appropriate, but the judges clearly felt that the award-winning POYi editing portfolios were those that focused on photojournalism. Theno explained that the portfolios needed to fit “in the context of photojournalism.” She explained that, while several of the science portfolios were aesthetically appealing, they were more about graphic design than storytelling.

What do you think this is, a photojournalism contest?

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