Photography Portfolio Website Products

Updated Winter 2018

I’ve maintained versions of this list since 2011.

A LOT can change in a short amount of time in the world of photography portfolio websites, which made the list hard to keep current. But recently, I was inspired (angered) to freshen things up. A few days ago, I received an email from Squarespace (which I used to build this site) announcing that they were partnering with Unsplash to deliver free stock photos to Squarespace’s customers.

This really rubbed me the wrong way. Squarespace has been a preferred platform for photographers since its beginning, and now Squarespace is encouraging their clients to seek out free photography. It’s a slap in the face to the professional photo community.

So with that in mind, I wanted to dust off this list and offer some suggestions for alternatives. I’ve personally built websites for photographers using Format (my current favorite), PhotoFolio (formerly APhotoFolio), and Photoshelter and think they’re all great. Here are others that friends and colleagues have recommended:

  • 22Slides - Free 14-day trial and a flat $10/mo afterwards.

  • Adobe Portfolio - Adobe has joined the portfolio game with this add on to the Creative Cloud.

  • Cargo Collective - Offers users free-standing websites and a wide variety of customizable templates. $99 per year or $13 per month.

  • Flosites- Slick portfolio websites and cool extras like Instagram story templates

  • format- One of my favorites. I’ve built quite a few sites using their platform and they look great. Easy to use interface. Basic plan for $6 per month, pro plan for $12 per month.

  • Graph Paper Press - Wordpress themes for photographers. Great comparison pricing chart at Pricing starts at $0 and goes up to $149 a year.

  • Indexhibit- Honestly, I don’t really get how you use Indexhibit, but I know a lot of photographers like it so I’m including the link!

  • Koken - Content management and portfolio templates

  • LiveBooks - This used to be a really popular platform, and everywhere you turned, you would see one of their templates in action. They were bought by Wedding Wire a few years ago, and seem to be trying to re-boot the business.

  • Pixpa - Portfolio, storefront, blog, all integrated seamlessly.

  • PhotoFolio - Formerly known as APhotoFolio. Company was founded by Rob Haggart of the popular APhotoEditor blog. Nice templates. Very popular so without some customization, many sites look very similar.

  • Photoshelter - Portfolio templates and advanced photo archive tools. Buyer portal allows creatives to find photographers by specialty, location, etc. Company is great about offering free advice to the photo community through downloaded white papers on topics like SEO and blogging.

  • SmugMug - When I asked on Facebook for recommendations from photographers for sites they love, SmugMug came up multiple times. People commented that they like the templates, and the easy-to-use ecommerce and print fulfillment features.

  • Viewbook - Gallery basic plan starts at $4.99 per month, $9.99 for a standard portfolio, and $19.99 per month for the pro plan. Portfolio app available for viewing on ipad.

  • Visura - Visua offers a website portfolio platform as well as a searchable network of photographers for buyers to explore.

  • Wix - I used to make fun of Wix websites. They were so dated looking, even when they first came out. But they’ve done a lot of work to modernize their templates and it shows. Lots of integration options for ecommerce.

  • Zenfolio - Robust ecommerce soultions. Free 14 day trial. Basic plan starting at $25 per year. Premium for $100 per year.







Resource: Photo Contests and Grants Calendar

(updated December 2017)

photo contest and grants

Did you know that an editor can help you home in on the right images for contests and grants?

An objective, outside opinion and fresh look at work can help you craft a contest or grant entry that connects with the judges.

I've created contest edits for numerous photographers who went on to win World Press Photo, POYi, Communication Arts, and PDN Photo Annual awards.

Contests... Some are great. Some feel like they only exist to rob photographers of their precious income. Before you enter, carefully consider if it's worth your money. Stick with contests that have, in the past, recognized photographers whose work you admire.

Remember, the primary (commercial) benefit of entering a contest is getting your work in front of industry bigwigs who otherwise might not have seen it. You don't even have to win to enjoy that benefit, although, winning is preferred.

Here's a general timetable of contest deadlines throughout the year. Things change so make sure you go straight to the source for definitive info on deadlines, entry fees and eligibility.

Know of others? Connect on facebook or twitter and let me know.


Andrei Stenin International Photo Contest
American Illustration-American Photography
Alexia Foundation
Aperture Portfolio Prize (entries accepted December through early February)
Art Directors Club Photo Contest
Days Japan
Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards
Hillman Prize for Photojournalism
Inge Morath Prize - Recognizing outstanding female photographer under age 30
National Geographic Storytelling Grant
New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA)
NPPA Best of Photojournalism
Pictures of the Year International (POYi)
PDN Photo Annual
Pulitzer Prizes
Santa Fe Prize for Photography
Sony World Photography Awards
The Syngenta Photography Award
World Press Photo Contest


Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Documentary Prize (entries accepted February through May)
Foam Magazine Talent Call
FotoEvidence Book Award
CENTER awards (The Choice Awards, Project Competition, & Project Launch)


Big Picture Natural World Photography Competition
Leica Oskar Barnack Award
Communication Arts Magazine
The Renaissance Photography Prize (entries accepted March through July)
Spider Awards B&W Photo


ASMP/NY Annual Photo Contest
Imagely Fund
OSI Moving Walls
Px3 Photography Competition


Burn Magazine Emerging Photographer Grant
Canon Female Photojournalist Award
Gene Smith Grant (entries accepted January through May)
Getty Images Grants
Howard Chapnick Grant
ICRC Humanitarian Visa d'Or
POYi Emerging Vision Grant


CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography
Visa pour l'image - Visa d'Or award Pierre and Alexandra Boulat Association Grant
CARE International Award for Humanitarian Reportage
The Bayeux-Calvados Award for war correspondents
CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography


Ian Parry scholarship
Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize
New Orleans Photo Alliance, Clarence John Laughlin Award


Critical Mass by Photolucida
Moran Contemporary Photo Award - Portrait and documentary prizes (up to $150,000) for Australian photographers


BJP International Photography Award
FotoVisura Grant


International Color Awards
The Documentary Project Fund
Hasselblad Masters Awards


Aftermath Project
American Photography
Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar Contest
Magenta Flash Forward


FotoEvidence Book Award
The Julia Margaret Cameron Award for female photographers


Portfolio Reviews By Month

Portfolio Review at Texas Photo Roundup. Photo by Nick Cabrera, used with permission.

Portfolio Review at Texas Photo Roundup. Photo by Nick Cabrera, used with permission.

Updated October 2017

Thinking about attending a portfolio review event? Here is a list of review opportunities in the United States, organized by month.

When choosing which reviews to attend, keep in mind that some are geared more toward fine art photography and others are more commercial and editorial. Research the reviewers who will be in attendance to see if they are a good fit for the kind of work you do. Looking for tips on how to prepare for a review? Check out my Portfolio Review Do's and Don'ts




FotoFest Houston: International Biennial of Photography and Photo-related Art with portfolio reviews.

MOPLA Portfolio Reviews: A juried, annual portfolio review. Fresh Look pairs photographers with top photography experts in their respective fields for an in-depth conversation that provides professional feedback and critique in a casual, relaxed environment.

Photo Alliance held at the San Francisco Art Institute, produced in cooperation with Lens Culture

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session. Photo by George Long (used with permission)

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session. Photo by George Long (used with permission)


Photolucida Portfolio Review: Photographers at the mid-career level register for one-on-one meetings with the reviewers of their choice. Each review session lasts for 20 minutes and we limit the number of participants to assure that everyone receives 4 or 5 reviews per day for four days. It's a great way to network. Numerous photographers have walked away with opportunities to exhibit, publish and sell their work after attending the Portfolio Reviews.

Palm Springs Festival Portfolio Review: As part of Palm Springs Photo Festival, Over 1,000 Portfolio Reviews with industry professionals will be offered during the week. Prices start at $250 for 5 reviews.


NYC Fotoworks: Bi-annual portfolio review where photographers can have 1-on-1 meetings w/ industry professionals.

PhotoPlus Expo: Designed exclusively for emerging and professional photographers, this is a great opportunity to meet and present your work for critique and receive the advice of the industry's top professionals. Takes place at the Javits during Photo Plus Expo. 

Filter Festival Portfolio Reviews: Participants sign up for twenty-minute face-to-face reviews and receive candid advice about their work, as well as information on getting their photographs exhibited and published.

Atlanta Celebrates Photography Portfolio Reviews: the ACP Portfolio Review and Walk offers artists the opportunity to meet with highly respected curators, dealers, editors, and agency representatives from across the United States and beyond. The Portfolio Walk (following the review sessions) gives participating photographers the opportunity to present their work to the general public at an evening reception, open to all. On hold for 2017 with new format to come in 2018.

American Society of Media Photographers: Annual portfolio review in New York for commercial photographers that is free for members.

CENTER's Review Santa Fe: The three-day, annual event offers participants a minimum of nine portfolio reviews, inclusion in the Review Santa Fe 100 online resource, a reception at the New Mexico Museum of Art, and a reception at Photo-eye Books and Prints.


Medium Festival of Photography, Eye to Eye portfolio reviews: Eye to Eye portfolio reviews offer an opportunity for photographers to receive exposure and feedback about their work from influential gallery directors, curators, and industry professionals. Takes place in San Diego.


PhotoNOLA Portfolio Reviews: Annual event that coincides with PhotoNola. Offers twenty-minute face-to-face meetings with gallery owners, editors, publishers and museum curators from throughout the U.S.

Year-round opportunities

Portfolio Reviews at The Center for Photography at Woodstock: As a benefit of membership, CPW staff are available for in- person portfolio reviews. Intended to provide constructive feedback, portfolio reviews are a great way to receive professional advice and guidance. They also feature portfolio reviews by Skype!

American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and American Photographic Artists (APA) members might have local portfolio review offerings depending on your chapter. Furthermore, both ASMP and APA often provide discounts for members that attend portfolio reviews.

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session. Photo by George Long (used with permission)

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session. Photo by George Long (used with permission)

Are there great portfolio review events that I am missing? Contact me and I'll add them.

Portfolio Review Dos and Don'ts

Photos by George Long, used with permission.

Photos by George Long, used with permission.

(Originally published in 2014) I just returned from 4 days of photo-related festivities in NYC. The mothership of the week is the PhotoPlus Expo at the Javits convention center, with other events happening around the same time to capitalize on having so many photographers in town at once. Every night there are parties and book signing and openings.

Aside from all seeing old friends and meeting new creatives and photographers, I spent most of my time during the day doing portfolio reviews at the PDN/Palm Springs Portfolio Review. This was probably my 15th organized review event and I thought it'd be helpful to give some guidance on how to get the most out of one.

I also reached out on twitter and facebook for creatives' pet peeves. Below are some of the most popular answers.


Be honest with yourself about if you are really ready to show the work. Maybe you need another year of shooting before you start showing your book to art buyers, art directors and photo editors. You only get one chance at a first impression, don't rush it if it's not the right time. Ask people who you trust for their honest opinion.

Research your reviewers and make sure that your work is relevant to what they do. You have 15-20 minutes, often with some pretty influential and powerful creatives in the industry, don't waste it. Would you roll up to a job interview without knowing anything about the company?

Have a purpose for each review and communicate that purpose to the reviewer when you sit down. Example: "I've been following your magazine for years and feel my work would fit in. Do you think I'm ready to shoot for you, and if not, what needs improvement?"  Or, "I would love get feedback on the book and recommendations for colleagues in the industry who may respond to my style of work." Or, "This is a new personal project that I'm working on, would love to know if you think it's ready to show to galleries."

Come armed with 1 or 2 specific questions that are pertinent to your reviewer's area of expertise.

Do bring the actual portfolio that you intend to show to clients. Some of the reviewers are potential clients (duh!), and they're not going to give you a pass because you intend, later on, to make a better book. So don't bring a crappy book that you bought at Staples and then say that you are going to change it later. The whole point of the portfolio review is to get feedback and how can someone give you good feedback if what they are looking at isn't what you actually intend to show?

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session at the International House Hotel conference facility
New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session at the International House Hotel conference facility

Make sure your prints look great. This is especially important when seeing galleries.

Leave behind a well-printed leave behind. Invest in a graphic designer to help you create something that looks professional. Just because you know Photoshop doesn't mean you are a designer. If you are seeing a dream client, kick it up a notch and leave something more unique than a postcard. However, don't go overboard. See below.

Keep notes. By the end of a long day, all the reviews can start to blend together. Make a separate page for each reviewer and mark down which images they pointed out liking, where they paused a bit longer, what questions they had about your work and specific feedback they gave you. You may also want to record audio of each meeting, if the reviewer is cool with that.


Don't assume conditions will be perfect for showing an iPad. After having looked at about 20 people's work this weekend, I am now convinced that the iPad is not necessarily the best way to show still photography.  The glare in some rooms makes it very hard to see the photos, especially if your images tend to be dark or with black borders. I often found myself looking at my own reflection instead of the photos. Also, unless the iPad presentation is really slick, it feels like not enough care was put into the portfolio. I mean, let's admit it, how hard is it to create a folder of images for someone to flip through? When I see a beautifully printed portfolio, it lends the photographer some legitimacy, makes them at least appear to have invested a lot of time and effort into their work, all which helps me take them more seriously.

Don't force your leave behind on the reviewer. Some people flew in for the event and may not want to tote a bunch of promos and books back. Or they may feel it's wasteful and rather not have the extra 'stuff' in their lives. Or they just may not have liked your work enough to want to take a promo. Ask if they'd like a card, but don't push it. Also don't just offer a huge and bulky leave behind. If you want to make something big, it's also nice to offer something small like a postcard.

Don't make excuses. Popular examples include: "I didn't bring my strongest work." "I didn't have time to put together much, but this should give you an idea." or "I just found out about this event."

Don't argue with constructive criticism The people looking at your work know what they are talking about. They may all have different opinions, but that is valid considering that people come from different backgrounds and that visual art is very subjective. You may not agree with someone, and that is ok, but don't tell them that they are wrong.

Photographers, what about the typical speed-dating format would you change? Do you get enough out of the reviews to justify the expense (if it was a paid review?)

Reviewers, what are your pet peeves? Can you share any review success stories where you ended up working with someone after a review?

Want to get ready for a portfolio review? Contact me to learn how we can fine tune your portfolio, create a great promo and get the most out of the time and money you're investing.

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session at the International House Hotel conference facility
New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session at the International House Hotel conference facility

Great Promo Ideas

Looking for some self-promo inspiration?

Check out my pinterest board of great photography promo ideas. From large-format newspaper promos to simple postcards, this board features examples of great design and image choices.

Have something you'd like to add? Contact me!

Other great resources include:


Want to make a cool promo that will grab clients' attention? 

Insight on participating in contests from Tsuyoshi Ito of ONWARD Photo.


ONWARD Photo Competition 2014 is now accepting submissions. Tsuyoshi Ito, Founder and Director of the ONWARD gives six tips below on participating in photo contests. Six Tips for Finding the Best Competitions for You Now that you know how to effectively enter a photography competition, where will you test your skills? If you've begun your search, you've probably discovered that the sheer number of contests available makes it almost impossible to decide which ones to enter. The goal of this article is to help you, the photographer, cut past all of the industry buzz words and marketing efforts to identify exactly which competition is going to be the best fit for you.

I have a good deal of experience with these competitions - I host an international one annually (ONWARD Photo Competition, for a small shameless plug). And in order to help increase the information I share in this article, I consulted several pro and semi-pro photographers who have also been challenged by this issue. Given our unique experience of both hosting and participating in photography contests, we’re hoping our combined perspectives will be the missing pieces to help you “crack the code.”

So without further ado...

Tip #1: Work Toward Your Goal While this is the most basic of our six tips, it might also be considered the most important. When you come across a competition, start by taking a look at the juror(s) and finding out what "prizes" the competition offers. Do they align with your personal goals?

Having your image chosen by a famous photographer and juror may provide the nod of approval you desire, while being selected by a curator or other industry professional can result in the right contacts.

If you're solely "in it to win it," cash money and/or gifts may be enough. However, should you want to jump-start or advance your career in photography, you will want to confirm that the reward includes some kind of exposure. If so, your objective may be placement in a museum or collection versus a gallery exhibition.

Want both the prize and the ongoing recognition? Find a well-rounded contest that acknowledges various goals and offers all of the above. There truly is no right or wrong decision here. We simply recommend you choose a competition that fulfills or aligns with your personal goals as a photographer.

Tip #2: Know Their Vision


After you take note of your own objectives in entering a competition, you should take a deeper look at the hosts to learn what their goals are. Do they provide detailed information about how the contest works, as well as what's expected of you? Or do they just request your credit card information and ask you to submit your image(s)?

If you encounter the latter, the organization is most likely in the business to make a profit—the fees they collect will go toward prizes, and whatever’s left over will go into their pockets.

You may be okay with this if your goal is to win a prize. However, if you want more out of the competition, move on and align yourself with an organization whose vision is compatible with yours. This may mean you're looking for an organization that positions itself as a year-round resource with offerings that are important to you. Again, there is no right or wrong decision here; we just want you to be sure that your time and money are being invested into the right organization for you. Tip #3: Be Aware of "Free"


There are hundreds of competitions that will let you participate at no cost - but are they really free? The old adage, "nothing in life is free," applies to more of these zero dollar contests than you may think. Scan the fine print of these so-called “free” events, and you may find that they plan to own the rights to your image and may even sub-license them to third-party companies for their use, too! As you consider entering this contest, you'll also want to evaluate whether winning that free camera bag you'll use for a few years is worth losing the rights to your image forever.


On the other hand, the entry fee that you balk at paying will, in many cases, pay off in the end. Those charging an entry fee typically invest that into their competitions, to finance reputable jurors, various promotions (e.g., marketing your selected images) and celebratory events (exhibitions!) — all while allowing you to maintain ownership of your work. So before you skip over a contest because they charge an entry fee, look into where that money goes, and remember how you can benefit from what is typically a small investment in the grand scheme of things.

Tip #4: Calculate the Costs Sure, the only fee written in the contest instructions is the entry fee, but have you truly understood the fine print? Exactly what else will you be responsible for? It's very important not only that you read the competition details, but also that you truly understand them as well. If you don't, you may miss a hidden message, or, even worse, a hidden cost. For example, if the competition will host a physical exhibit to showcase the selected images, will they provide the frame or expect you to frame the work yourself? Who is responsible for the shipping charges, both to and from the venue? You may notice that they will require you to supply the hardware, but not disclose the related fees in detail. Therefore, you'll need to review the information carefully so that you can determine what it is you're really going to end up spending to participate in the contest.

Tip #5: Be Truly Recognized You can usually count on a competition to post the selected images on their website. However, in today's digital world, seeing your image on a website might not be as exciting to you as seeing your image on a gallery wall, where people can experience your winning print in person. Picture your photo perched atop that bright white wall for hundreds to gaze at in awe. Even better, imagine the chance to mingle with photographic peers and industry professionals, discussing your inspiration for the image, making valuable contacts and getting invaluable advice. These networking opportunities might be otherwise difficult to come by, so you want to keep this in mind when deciding which competitions are worth your time.

Tip #6: Stay Exposed So, you've found a contest that's going to praise your work all over the Internet, but have you looked into just how long you'll be featured? Many competitions will remove all traces of your win shortly after the contest is over, in order to make room for the latest and greatest group of participants. However, it doesn't have to be that way.


There are hosts out there who remain interested in positioning themselves as a partner and trusted source to all of their selected photographers, no matter the year. If this is important to you, it may be a better option to align yourself with a competition that will continue to showcase your photograph(s) long after you've won. In Conclusion… ...With the digital age on the rise, it means that photographs are more easy to share, which has helped lead to more competitions. Wading through the hundreds that are available to you can be a little confusing at first, but knowing what you want to get out of the competition and the - sometimes dirty - little details of the competition should help you feel infinitely more confident in the decision you make. Hopefully some of these tips have helped you get that much closer to finding your right competition - or introduced you to the world of competitions for the first time! Happy contesting!

Guardian Picture Editor on Finding and Hiring Photographers in the US


Caroline Hunter is Deputy Picture Editor of The Guardian's Weekend Magazine which features gorgeous photography. I recently spoke with Caroline about the process of finding and hiring American photographers from her vantage in the U.K. How often are you hiring U.S.-based photographers? We hire U.S. photographers every week. I work on a busy picture desk and we often feature contributors and celebrities who are based in the US. Sometimes it feels as though we commission more photography in that part of the world than anywhere else!

Are you more likely to look for someone who is located in the city you have an assignment in, or to fly someone in who has the perfect style for the story? Does that depend on if it’s a big feature or a smaller front of the book story? Yes, basically if it's a big feature or a cover shoot or a very important subject, we'll almost always use someone that we've used before. If the flights aren't too expensive or the distance too great, we'll often fly someone to a particular location - it's just safer and more reassuring to use someone whose work you know very well. If on the other hand, it's for a smaller feature or a a fairly straightforward shoot/job, we'll always prefer to use a local person. This saves massively on budgets - although the end result can be unpredictable !

Walk us through a typical shoot. You get the story from the editorial team. What comes next? If you don’t have someone in mind, where do you begin your search? What are some of your favorite resources for finding people? How much do you rely on recommendations from colleagues? A typical shoot can work in many different ways. Sometimes we'll have the written copy/feature already. This is the best way to commission as you know exactly what the story is about. Quite often though, I might not know much about the feature as it hasn't been written yet. On other occasions, I might commission a shoot that is part of a much bigger and ongoing feature - which will often change as time goes on. Sometimes it will be a celebrity shoot that will require styling, hair and make-up and location scouting.

I'll discuss the shoot with one of the commissioning editors as well as the Art Director and then will have a think about ideas and photographers. I might do some research on the internet for visual ideas as well as looking at online portfolios. If I don't have someone in mind, I might look at the Wonderful Machine website or recent editorial shoots for other magazines that I like. I'll also have a look through the sites of photographers who have contacted me recently - just to refresh my memory. I like looking at websites like Nowness, which is great for visual ideas. I don't rely too much on recommendations - sometimes it's nicer to discover fresh talent.

How can a US photographer get on the radar of an editor in Europe? Obviously they can’t network with you at parties, and planning trips to show their portfolio can be time and cost prohibitive. With all the noise online, how can they get through to you in a memorable way? I think it's quite hard. The most effective way is a meeting - but I know that this is very tricky and expensive to set up. Photo-festivals are a good way of potentially seeing/contacting many editors/agents in a short space of time - but these too can be expensive. Being located in a city where there isn't much competition and you're a 'big fish' in a small pond is quite a good way to get stand out.

Most of the photographers we use are based in NY and LA - two of the most competitive cities for creatives on the planet ! Having an interesting and consistently high standard of work will ensure your work always stands out - and a well-designed, easy to navigate website is essential. Being well-connected and getting known in certain circles is important too. I often get recommendations from other photographers and editors.

Do you have favorite blogs that you follow to stay up to date on what is happening in the US photo scene? I like looking at the NYT lens blog as well the New Yorker Photo booth, Time magazine and blogs like Flak photo and Lens Culture.

Do you make trips to photo festivals or portfolio review events to meet new photographers? I know in the past a lot of European editors went to Visa pour l’Image and Arles, but it seems like travel budgets aren’t what they used to be.  Yes, I regularly attend photo festivals. I find them really energizing. I like doing portfolio reviews as it gives me a chance to meet and spend time with new and existing photographers.

What are some of the trends that you’re seeing when it comes to the kinds of photographers that are getting assigned? Any trends in promos you receive? I get a lot of monthly newsletters (always emailed) from photographers who have just done a shoot or e-zines where they're telling me what they've been up to in the last few weeks. I think the trend for highly retouched, digitally remastered images will be with us for some time. This seems to have replaced the very natural-looking painterly style imagery that was fashionable around a decade ago.

Can you share some pet peeves when it comes to photographers courting you? For a photographer, I think that it's important to know the market that you're pitching to. If you're ringing up a photo editor, agent or art buyer - don't expect them to give you a page-by-page description of their product. You should already know which sections you'd like to contribute to and be able to ask questions and comment on recent work that was featured. It's really no point pitching a lifestyle or travel feature to a magazine that only deals with current affairs. It might sound like commonsense but you'd be amazed at how many times this happens.


Caroline Hunter is a magazine photo editor and Deputy Picture Editor of The Guardian's Weekend Magazine. She has over fifteen years experience of commissioning and art-directing portraits, photo-journalism, celebrity shoots, still-life, interiors, beauty and conceptual photography. Previous to the Guardian, she worked for Time Out London, Emap publications and The Saturday Telegraph magazine.

 She has degrees in Fashion Journalism and English Literature from the London College of Fashion and the University of London respectively. She is a regular portfolio reviewer and judge at international photo-festivals. She lives and works in London.

Video interview with KLRU Collective Turning your love of photography into more than a hobby is not an easy task. With the rise in popularity of apps like Instagram, everyone has the ability to be a photographer, but it takes more than just having the right equipment. We’ve got some tips from Austin professionals at the Texas Photo Roundup on how to "develop" your photography. Music: "You Belong Here" by LEAGUES

KLRU Collective filmed photographer Kimberly Finkel Davis and me at the Texas Photo Roundup!

I talk about what it takes to be a working professional, and Kimberly visits AgavePrint and Cloverleaf Studio for help with her beautiful print portfolio.

Q&A with Garden & Gun'sMaggie Brett Kennedy


photos by (clockwise from top left): Joey and Jessica Seawell, Dan Winters, David McClister and Michael Turek

Why do you think Garden & Gun is at the top of so many people’s “dream clients” lists.

That’s amazing. We’re fortunate that photography is a focus of the magazine’s design. A lot of full page images and great paper stock to ensure high quality reproduction. Our readers let us know how much they relate to the photography each issue. We’ve always been a photo friendly publication.

You have hired Peter Frank Edwards for many stories, and one of those recently won a James Beard Award. Can you describe what it is in Frank’s work that keeps you coming back? How do you two work together? Is it a collaborative process?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Peter Frank Edwards since the very first issue of Garden & Gun (Spring 2007). He’s from the South, spent his life in the outdoors, and previously was a fisherman and sous chef. Peter Frank Edwards IS Garden & Gun! He’s covered everything from hole-in-the-wall barbecue joints to traditional foxhunting and continues to get excited by every assignment. He lives the pages of the magazine so really gets what we’re all about.

Peter Frank Edwards G&G Cover
Peter Frank Edwards G&G Cover

It is very much a collaborative process. There is a level of trust after working together for many years. I know he is going to find the creative angle with each assignment and bring back the unexpected. I always look forward to his tales from the road. (Read more about their collaboration in my Q&A with Peter Frank Edwards).

You use such an amazing variety of types of photographers, that it is hard to pigeonhole Garden & Gun as having a particular style. How do you describe the visual aesthetic to people?

I like to work with a mix of national photographers and Southern-based talent in each issue and try to deliver the unexpected whether it’s for the front or back of the magazine or a feature.

It’s a balance between seasoned well-known shooters and up-and-coming photographers. We always strive for images that communicate a sense of place. Images that make you want to be there, in that moment. We like lots of natural light and rarely incorporate conceptual photography.

Walk us through a “typical” day at work.

Garden & Gun has a small staff so each component of photography and the overall process is very hands on. The magazine contains a wide variety of content so each day is filled with assignments ranging from Southern food and chefs, hunting and fishing, architecture and interiors, portraiture, music, you name it.

The magazine covers a wide editorial range and incorporates a high/low mix of content. For example, a profile of actress Anna Camp or a new modern architectural project verses gritty and soulful juke joints or frogging in Louisiana. Every day is exciting and keeps me on my toes. I also like to set aside time each week to respond to inquiries, research photographer’s new work, etc.

How many print and email promotions do you receive in an average week? Have any stood out to you lately, enough to where you actually contacted the photographer?


I receive about 30 promos a week. Bryan Johnson sent me a promo that turned into an online photo essay for G&G. The content was perfect for us:

When being promoted to, do you prefer print or email?

Both are great, so however the photographer is most comfortable showcasing their work. I’m old school and still love print. I continue to hold onto those real standout print promos. Witty design on quality paper with gorgeous photographs always excites me.

Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to the marketing materials photographers send you?

Do not send emails with large file attachments. Be familiar with the magazine’s content and visual style and send an appropriate selection of photos. I prefer a tighter, well-constructed edit rather than a large quantity of work. Websites should be easy to navigate and show me images immediately.

What are some of your favorite ways to discover new photographers?

All types of blogs (photo, galleries, designers, magazines, etc.), chatting with people in the industry, those standout promos I receive, and an occasional portfolio review.

Miller Mobley Spread
Miller Mobley Spread

(Photos by Miller Mobley)

Questions from photographers

1. Is it OK to call Photo Editors to follow up after sending a promo?

Email follow up is great and always easier than phone calls.

2. When I send an email, should it be in a email newsletter format or will a simple note saying what I've been up to suffice?

Either is fine. Be sure your work is easy to view.

3. Do you take a chance on photographers just starting out fresh out of school?


4. What is the best way to get noticed by a photo editor and ultimately hired to shoot a job?

Develop your own style, have confidence in your work, and do your research on each publication you approach. Send quarterly updates about your projects, travels, etc. I just worked with a photographer for the first time I’ve been corresponding with for two years. Everything has to fall into place before that project can become a reality.

5. What are some of the qualities of an ideal photographer to work with?

Passionate about their work, down-to-earth, excited to tackle all kinds of challenges, professional, someone who thinks outside of the box and brings something new and fresh to the table visually.

6. Can you share some names of some photographers whose work you are inspired by?

I love to look at classic Southern icons (Jane Rule Burdine, William Christenberry, Sally Mann) as well as current shooters (Marcus Nilsson, Peggy Sirota, Andrea Fazzari, Ditte Isager, Trujillo- Paumier).

7. What is the most interesting shoot, photographically, so far?

The next one...


Maggie bio photo
Maggie bio photo

Maggie Kennedy is the photography director of Garden & Gun magazine. She previously worked as a creative director and producer of commercial photography in San Francisco and New York with an emphasis on food, still life, and interiors.

Q&A with Travel Photographer Peter Frank Edwards

James Beard Award-winning Oyster story by Peter Frank Edwards
James Beard Award-winning Oyster story by Peter Frank Edwards

Tell us about how your relationship began with Garden & Gun. Did they contact you?

Garden & Gun contacted me when they were in the planning stages for the launch of the magazine -- well before the first issue came out.   As I recall, at that time there was no real photo or art department.  They sort of "reorganized" after a couple of issues, made some staff changes. I've enjoyed a great relationship with them.

Can you describe your work process with Director of Photography Maggie Brett Kennedy? Do you collaborate on ideas? is the editing process collaborative?

Yes -- we do collaborate on ideas -- which can be anything from a quick phone call to bouncing sketches back and forth.  We talk less about composition and set-ups and more about texture, color, mood, etc.  She is interested in and respects photographers' points of view and is genuinely interested in the creative processes of each photographer she works with.  I always feel like they are hiring me (or other photographers) to "do what we do"  -- there's a lot of trust in that.  The edit is also collaborative, and she's always interested in what I think tells the story or what I'd like to see published.

What's the most challenging shoot you've done for them and why?

One of the most technically challenging shoots was an assignment covering the oil spill.  They sent me to Louisiana right as the oil was just starting to show up in the marshes.  I had a lot of ground to cover in a very short period of time, and because of the time frame there was no opportunity to get official press credentials.  I'd show up places, and even though we had called ahead and had a contact at an area or location, the National Guard or local police would not let me in.  In addition, it was about 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity, and all the camera gear was fogged up and would literally drip with condensation.  I had one little camera that seemed immune to this problem, probably because it's more plastic and less metal and glass.

What's your all time favorite story?

I worked on a piece about a North Carolina BBQ road trip with writer Sandy Lang -- we got the call on a Tuesday and we were on the road Friday.

BBQ Road Trip by Peter Frank Edwards
BBQ Road Trip by Peter Frank Edwards

It was a very stream of consciousness couple of days -- we met some characters, ate tons of great food -- and it was one of those assignments where you feel like you're getting gold at every click of the shutter.

Why do you think G&G is on everyone's dream client list right now?

Both Maggie and Marshall McKinney (art director) give photographers a lot of creative freedom, and you can see that come through in the stories and the single images. They treat the work well and with respect -- they are champions of great imagery.


A former fish monger and sous chef with a degree in anthropology, Frank was born and raised in coastal South Carolina. During college, he practiced photography at a camera shop and was soon off to Europe – and ultimately to Berlin – where he shot artist portraits and projects before returning to the American South, to live again by the ocean. In his photography, Frank mixes his passions for travel, people and food. When not on location, he splits time between his Charleston home and a cottage in Maine.

Q&A with GSD&M Senior Art Producer Shannon McMillan

Shannon, thank you for taking the time to share your opinions about self-promotion with the photographers and illustrators who read this blog. Can you start by describing a typical day for you at GSD&M?

Every day at GSD&M is different, which is nice because it keeps the work-life scenario interesting. Production is hectic, fun, stressful, an adrenaline rush, and a love/hate relationship. There is definitely never a dull moment!

Shannon McMillan's Office at GSD&M
Shannon McMillan's Office at GSD&M

Each job is a different can of worms but, you learn something new every time. I spend most of my days answering emails, putting together bids, submitting estimates, negotiating with reps or photographers, doing stock searches, chasing down creatives, and looking at Good & Not-So-Good work. However, there are some days that I'm not at my desk due to meetings, which is a challenge,  because you still have to find the time to squeeze in all the administration required for the entire business. Keeping a list of "To-Do's" really helps me keep it all check because otherwise the small details can get missed. The best part of my job is that I do have days when I DO spend all day searching for hot new talent. I have a long list of photographers categorized by Conceptual, Fashion, Lifestyle, Portraits, Landscape, etc., but I'm always on the look-out for additions to the list. My job is challenging, frustrating, detail-oriented, and ultimately rewarding... I love it!

How many unsolicited emails do you get every week from photographers?

I probably get about 50 emails a day.

How do you handle all of those? Do you bookmark any sites because of them?

If an image or two pops up, I do take the time to review. If I like the work I do bookmark the work. If the email has a long drawn out message + a link, I'll either quickly click the link or just delete it. I do like to give everyone an opportunity but some days I'm just way too busy to read and review the work.


How many print promos do you get each week?  How does that compare to a couple of years ago?

It's a joke how much mail I still receive and toss out. Let's just say sometimes the mailroom has to bring me my mail in a box. Compared to a couple of years ago,  I feel it hasn't changed much except that I've noticed promos aren't as elaborate. I'm seeing more posters, larger postcards with multiple images and accordion style promos.

Most of the samples of promos you gave me that you liked feel more special and custom. How do you respond to the more simple postcard promos?

Most of the time the single picture postcards end up in the trash, unless the subject is interesting, unique or funny and it's just a damn good shot. I like to be inspired and intrigued. The postcards with multiple images can give you a better idea on the quality of the work. I also feel sometimes the one picture postcards end up being a 'one hit wonder'. (see examples of single postcards in gallery at bottom of page)

Which format, print or email promos, do you prefer?

I still like both. Some of the promos I see as an art piece. I love when a promo is a well designed cohesive piece (paper, design, 3+ images). Oh, and I LOVE the coffee table books!


How do you feel about unconventional or gimmicky promos: boxes of candy, matches, treasure hunt maps, ransom letters, etc.  These seem to be very popular lately because they have the potential to garner a lot of attention on blogs. But do they really make a better impression with you than simpler printed promos?

The gimmicky promos do get my attention but doesn't necessarily convince me to save the work.


If you could change one thing about the way photographers reach out to you, what would it be?

Limit the number of times you send emails per month. I get emails from the same group of reps/photographers every week to every two weeks. I think once a month to every 3 months is sufficient. When emails start to come every week, I just end up deleting and not taking the time.

What are some of your favorite ways to learn about new photographers?

I think what Wonderful Machine is a great idea for agencies and photographers. I also recently sourced AtEdge, FoundFolios, PDN and we sent a group to LeBook.


I know you have participated in portfolio reviews in the past. do you think those are a good investment for photographers? Have you formed any new relationships with photographers because of them?

I really do think the reviews are a good investment. I personally try to be honest and provide constructive criticism. I've kept in touch with several photographers and continue to provide feedback. I want to helpphotographers grow and further their career.


Shannon McMillan_head
Shannon McMillan_head

During her 14 years in Advertising Shannon McMillan has worked as an Art Producer with worldwide clients (BMW, Kohler, Brinker, The US Air Force, Southwest Airlines, AT&T, AARP, Harrah's, and others), talented photographers and production teams, and reviewed hundreds of portfolios, websites and promos. She has been a juror for panels such as: PDN’s PIX, PDN’s Photo Annual, and the Palm Springs Photo Festival. She enjoys the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes creative power and strives to maintain her artistic integrity. Photography is her personal passion and she looks forward to any opportunity to create.

Photo Editor Maggie Soladay's Self-Promo Picks

Maggie Soladay takes photos of her favorite promos. Here's what she had to say about last Monday's batch:

The planets aligned Monday to deliver to me one of the tightest batches of photographer postcard promos in a while. I only received 6 postcards, but all 6 photographers made it onto my new photographer list. What I loved about the cards was the love the photographers showed for people and portraiture.

Every one of the photographers sent me postcards that alluded well to the work I was to see on their sites.  Most exceeded my expectations.  I laughed, entertained co-workers, and hung some of these on my wall (rather than send them right into the recycle bin). This batch of postcards were all beautiful, technically proficient, and showed originality.  I must say they look pretty good all together somehow too!

Maggie Soloday's Favorite Promos from Week of April 19, 2011
Maggie Soloday's Favorite Promos from Week of April 19, 2011

Jayne Wexler from NYC
Sara Rubenstein from Minneapolis, MN
Jeff Singer from San Francisco, CA
Bryan Regan from Raliegh, NC
Jenn Ackerman + Tim Gruber from Minneapolis, MN
Joshua Paul from NYC

Photo editor Maggie Soladay photographs the snail mail postcard promos that arrive each week (unedited) and posts them on Twitter @maggiesoladay.  She thinks photographers benefit by seeing what photo editors see and are hopefully inspired. She is the photography editor at ALM for The American Lawyer Magazine (the RollingStone of the legal world) and Corporate Counsel Magazine.

Self-Promo Likes (and Pet Peeves)... From the People You're Sending Them To (Part 1 of 3)

Just to drive everyone nuts, I've been talking to photo editors and creative directors about what sort of promos they like enough to keep. As you hopefully know, most of the print promos they receive go straight into the recycling bin (and most e-promos aren't opened). What makes a promo stand out enough to get pinned up on the wall of chosen ones? What promos get forwarded to the other creatives? What turns people off?d And why should this drive you nuts? Well, as with anything creative, it's highly subjective. Ask 5 different people, get 5 different answers. That said, there are some common themes throughout. Everyone agrees that overly gimmicky promos can't make up for mediocre images. There's also some consensus that personal project images make the more interesting promos.

Over the next three days I'll be posting creatives' thoughts. Today's installment is magazine photo editors. Tomorrow check back for opinions from the entertainment industry (record labels, TV and book publishers). Wednesday will feature ad agency creatives.

Today's panel:

Rebecca Crumley, Director of Photography, The Knot "I’ll peek at the promos as I walk from my mailbox to my desk. But honestly, 99% of the time, they go straight to the recycling bin. I’d rather see an updated blog to convey the current work. This way, I know a photographer is actively shooting, staying on top of their business, and get a better sense of his or her personality. I also work in a different manner than most photo editors; I’m seeking existing images from which we’ll produce editorial content. So this ties into taking time to send promos to creative professionals of relevance to your work and of applicable needs."

Sacha Lecca, Senior Photo Editor, Rolling Stone

[nggallery id=1]

DSREPS late last year (i think) sent out a large oversized set of images by Deborah Schwartz's amazing roster of talent (see pictures of the promo in action). It certainly made an impression getting such a large set of promos. My favorite in the bunch: Fucking Flies On My Wedding Day by Jason Nocito. |

Cole Barash is a photographer whose work I've been checking out for a few years. The promo card itself is very simple. Simply designed promos stand out to me where logos, slogans, unnecessary graphics on a promo card can distract. I was able to work with Cole this year when he shot surfer Clay Marzo for us, which was great.

Mark Murrmann's day job is photo editor of Mother Jones magazine and he  is also a talented photographer. We sort of got introduced recently and he sent me his card. His live music work is great.

Giant Artists very recently sent out a beautifully printed book showcasing the artists they represent. I'm a big fan of Giant Artists and their roster so this is an obvious keeper.

...speaking of printed books, pamphlets or zines, Phil Jackson, is a documentary photographer out of Philly largely shooting his fellow skaters, every once in a while puts out a small zine.

...also, just this week I got a booklet by Eric Kayne featuring his work on the band Arcade Fire (-ed. note of full disclosure: I produced this promo). I like the pics though some of the design elements take away from some of the shots. (ie the white vertical lines cutting into them.) (-ed. note: fair enough!)

Alex Lake/Stem Agency: I met with a rep from Stem Agency and this card was one of their leave behinds, a photo by Alex Lake of Florence Welsh of Florence and the Machine. It's such a gorgeous image feeling more like a cinematic film still.

Brenda Milis, Director of Photography, Men's Health

[nggallery id=3]

I very much like to get promos in the mail since I check each piece of mail every day. I am much more likely to miss emails: I may open an email and get a call or have someone walk into my office and completely forget about it, having never truly looked at it. That promo mailer, in contrast, is sitting right in front of me on my desk. I feel very strongly that not a lot of money needs to go into making a good, impactful photo promotion. I think it’s important to include more than one (and hopefully several) images in your promo, be that on one card or several pieces/cards. If it’s just one great shot I might not get as strong of a sense of your shooting style, your range, and in fact you may have just gotten lucky shooting one great image!

I am really turned off by overly clever, overly produced promos that I receive (and more about that in my discussion of promo 2, below). Please have the confidence in your images to let them speak for themselves. I don’t need to make a keychain out of your promos, nor a luggage tag for that matter. Also, I really want to be able to recycle your entire promo if and when I get rid of it. I don’t want a lot of plastics and doo dads that are bad for the environment and add to waste. Our industry is wasteful enough as it is.

1. Angie Smith Was not aware of Angie’s work until I got this promo book which is in the form of a notebook. It’s lovely and clearly wasn’t inexpensive to produce. Redux reps her and produced the promo. If Angie had sent me a single card with 3 or 4 images on it, I would have been just as happy.



2. Joseph Escamilla Wow -- I almost never took the time to open this promo. It’s a good example of overdoing it: This came as a package in a clear plastic wrapping. It was hard to make out the images because of the stuff that was attached to the images themselves. The base of package was the anatomical head figure, mostly covered with what looked like key chain tags.

The promo card was part of the package as well. The star of this promo was the stuff included which basically obscured the images which I really quite like. Very intriguing and unique imagery of artifacts which we may be able to use for stories about medically-related topics, etc.

In sum, a very annoying promo that I’m glad I took the time to open and unpack in order to see the photos. I wish that the photographer had just sent me promo cards -- would have been happier and he could have saved a lot of money.

Promo Specs:

The promo was a collaboration between Rachel Ma ( and Joseph, with prior identity and branding having been done by Owen Gee ( Most of the components were straight out of office supply stores, all the printed material was done in small 500 print runs by 5 4x6 4/4 offset postcards.  And 100 8x10 digital prints.  Everything else such as labels and personal notes were all done on his laser printer. Joseph created 100 promos and have mailed about 40.

3. Dorothy Hong Dorothy Hong's promo cards show an intimacy, a freshness, and youthfulness that is lovely and I'm looking for the right assignment for her. She sent me a packet with 3 cards, each one had one image on it.

Promo Specs:

Designer: Dorothy designed them herself with a template she created years ago, just dropping in new photos each time Printer: Print run: 1,000 total (4 different photos, single sided 4x6 postcards, 250 each) Distribution List: Mailed all 4 out in 1 envelope, to 250 people. So every envelope contained 4 separate, different photos. 4. Hollis Bennett This is a simple tri-fold mailer promo with three images on the inside and his name, website, contact info on the back. Gorgeous, medium format pix---could use for travel, documentary. Simultaneously lovely (which makes me happy) and yet appropriate for a men's mag (which makes me happy).

Promo Specs:

5,000+ emails 6 times a year through Agency Access Designed by Hollis and printed by Nashville-based Jive! printers. Print run around 350 tri-fold cards.

Molly Roberts, Director of Photography, Smithsonian


I live with photographer promos surrounding me and keeping me company during my work day. I recently changed my wall and posted an image by Alex Masi. Prompted by his postcard to check out his work, I found out that he had photographed the Buddhas of Bamiyan earlier and was heading back to that area. This led to my assigning Alex for a feature in the December 2010 issue of Smithsonian.

Although I love having some of these postcards and prints around me, I also lament the waste as over 70 % probably end up in the recycling bin. I prefer digital mailers at this point for conservation purposes.

Allyson Torrisi, Director of Photography, Popular Mechanics "I think the simpler the promo the better. I have a prejudice that the more elaborate the promo , the more it is to make up for talent. Great talent will stand out on a single postcard with two images. The goal is to drive me to your website to see your work. It is more important to to have great work. Invest your time and energy into test shots, collaborating with friends. Shoot a personal story, that tells me more about who you are than a vellum envelope."

Contributor Bios

Rebecca Crumley is one of the industry's leading experts in wedding photography and style. In her role as Weddings Photo Director at The Knot, she is responsible for producing hundreds of Real Wedding stories featured each year in The Knot Inc. media properties through managing thousands of wedding photography submissions. Her daily interaction with photography also predicts trend forecasting and industry insight.

Sacha Lecca is a Senior Photo Editor at Rolling Stone, with over 16 years' experience in magazine publishing, including stints at Newsweek and CMP Media.

Brenda Milis began working with photography as an art historian, receiving her B.A. at UC Berkeley and studying photo history on fellowship in the graduate division of Northwestern University. Getting her start in photo editing at Jane magazine, Brenda eventually helped launch, then moved to Santa Fe, NM to work as a photo editor at Outside magazine. She is currently the Director of Photography at Men's Health magazine. Shoots she has produced have won awards and been featured in American Photography, SPD and the PDN photo annual.

Molly Roberts has been working in the newspaper and magazine biz for 30 years. She is  currently Photography Editor at Smithsonian Magazine.

For more inspiration, feedback and contradictory opinions about self promos, check out these resources:

Rob Haggart's archive is a treasure trove of self-promo write ups.

PDN hosts an annual self-promo contest. You can browse the winners galleries by year for lots of inspiration and some ideas for graphic designers and printers to contact (when that info is listed which it isn't always...)

The No Plastic Sleeves blog is all about great promos and portfolios. Tons of inspiration.

Heather Morton used to feature cool videos showing promos she had received on her now-defunct (or is it just temporarily quiet... I hope it's the latter) blog. Here's a fun one showing some pretty huge promos.