Eyeist Looks To Disrupt The Traditional Portfolio Review

- - The Future

Eyeist is the first Web-based photography review service founded by Allegra Wilde, a Consultant to the Photography Industry; Micah and Jesse Diamond, both veteran professional photographers; that launched in October. I’m involved with the company as an advisor (full disclosure) and if you visit the site you will see me quoted and featured in a video they made, but really all I ever did was say “that’s awesome,” they came up with the idea and built it.

I don’t gain anything from sending people there except I hope to correct what I think has become a horrible trend in photography: photo contests. Not all are bad, but I’ve judged a few recently and several things are quite alarming. The amount of people entering is staggering and a significant chunk of entries are mediocre to not-good-at-all compared to the “ringers” who enter and clean house. Which means people are spending lots of money on photography contests and getting nothing out of it. No feedback, just throwing the money into someone’s pocket. And, really what I believe most people are seeking is feedback in some way. The longshot of winning a photo contest offers the possibility that you will be told an image you took is great or worthy of consideration in some way. This seems like an incredible waste of money. If it’s feedback you seek then a portfolio review is your best bet and Eyeist is a fairly inexpensive and very slick piece of software for doing this. Like any disruptive company it’s the software that makes things more efficient and lowers the cost for everyone involved. You and the reviewer don’t have to travel. The review is recorded for reference and the software makes it easy to sequence and talk about the images. Your allotted time is spent reviewing the work not pulling portfolios out and chatting with your reviewer.

While Eyeist is certainly a portfolio review service, I don’t think it will disrupt the traditional portfolio review. I hope it disrupts photo contests, the vast majority of which don’t do much except offer the winners a nice marketing vehicle to reach out to prospects with. It can also serve as a way for people to test the portfolio review waters to see if they are ready for the investment of time and money on a traditional review. I know many people are disgusted with the commercialization of the portfolio review space, but there are still altruistic events that offer exposure and support to photographers where the reviewers and event organizers are equally invested in the process. Like many industries effected by the internet, Eyeist uses software to disrupt and make the review process more efficient and inexpensive. That’s a great development for everyone.

There Are 43 Comments On This Article.

  1. eyeist sounds like a great alternative to the typical portfolio review model and i wish them all the success in the world. but, as an aside and for the sake of conversation, isn’t there something that’s just… sad and desperate …. about having to pay someone for feedback on your work? i mean, does this exist in other arts? do painters go to reviews? do dancers? or is it just testimony to the fact that maybe there are too many of us in the world and that a thinning of the herd wouldn’t be such a bad thing?

  2. I completely agree that the archetypal photo contest is worthless for the vast majority of entrants. Paying money for a not-even-slim chance at validation is a sign that your conception of your own work is pretty feeble, it seems to me. And I agree with Joe that it seems like a side-effect of the number of photographers participating in the community.

  3. I don’t understand this need to pay for any sort of portfolio review. It’s a free process and it’s easy.

    1. Send your book to perspective clients
    2. They like your work / you get hired
    3. They don’t like your work / You don’t get hired

    Why are people complicating things?

    And yes… Contests are a complete waste of time for the photographers who enter them however, the people who put them on make boat loads of cash!!

    • Donnor Party

      I dig your sentiment but i see great work passed over everyday. In reality the best photographer does not necessarily win the bid. The reason people get commercial work has as much, or more, to do with your experience in managing a production and your people skills. Many times a predictible and reliable shooter with a boring book and a ton of experience managing shoots and delivering on time and close to budget wins out over the next Cartier Bresson. So not getting a gig isn’t necessarily a reflection of your work.

  4. I have to agree with everything Victor wrote.

    Getting hired is the best – Confirmation.

    “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

    We live in a World of low self esteem. “Love me, please.”

    I’d rather receive a pay check than a Pat On The Back and a Good Job Dude.

    Photo Contests are for Photo Clubs and amateur photographers. NOT professionals. WE COMPETE EVERYDAY.

  5. Used Eyeist a few weeks ago. Found it to be very helpful especially for the price. I don’t think there is anything “sad” or “pathetic” about trying to better understand a diverse market of prospective clients. In the end its just another opinion to consider. You can take what you want form it.

    • nothing sad about ‘trying to better understand a diverse market of prospective clients’… the sad part is that the state of the industry has devolved to the point where one needs to pay for this understanding… at a time when incomes have never been lower.

  6. I totally agree about photography contests. The few I have entered felt like a lottery. You pay your money and you hope to win but soon you feel like you just wasted $35 that you could have spent on something better. Also the proliferation of contests suggests to me that many are cash cows for the entity that puts them on.

    I recently did a portfolio review in New York. I found it very helpful and a much better use of my budget. Having face to face interaction with Art Buyers and Photo Editors gave a real world account of my work. Multiple reviews also gave me a better overview of my work allowing me to filter out overly positive or negative comments. I think that Eyeist is worth a try but I wouldn’t give too much weight to one review.

  7. To answer Joe — the portfolio review model works because it allows one to get in front of people who otherwise might not be terribly accessible, and because it’s convenient. It’s nice to kill many birds with one stone, so to speak—if you are a busy working photographer trying to pay your bills, it might be less cost-effective to spend a week (or a few days at least) running around town to meet with all of the people you could meet in one Saturday of portfolio reviews. Especially if you are traveling to a large expensive city (like NYC) and have to pay for days of hotel, food, etc., going to a portfolio review might be the more economical choice if you want to meet with many people.

    And yes, this model does exist in other professions — I know, for example, that many actors pay for “workshops” in order to meet and make connections with top casting directors, etc.

    • Actually someone brought up in a previous post here, it is illegal in film:

      http://www.backstage.com/news/casting-workshop-crackdown/

      “At issue is whether casting workshops qualify as paid—and thus illegal—auditions under the new law. According to Lambert, a casting workshop, properly run, is legal and qualifies as a “training service.” Instructors must post a bond with the state and follow rules for contracts, fundraising, and recordkeeping. But based on his conversations with actors who have contacted his office, Lambert believes that some casting professionals involved in workshops have misrepresented themselves and taken advantage of their clients.

      “Actors feel that they can’t be seen by casting directors and associates unless they pay to go to the workshops,” Lambert said. “The advertisements they see all portray that to a large extent. One actor, for instance, reported that they were told by the casting person there that they looked at the clients from the workshops first for acting jobs. They’re complaining that it’s a pay-to-play system and they can’t be seen unless they pay. Most actors don’t have money, and this would be tolerated in no other profession.”

    • The model definitely exists for “aspiring” screenwriters. Contents, on-line critiques, and pitch-fests (which are just like a portfolio review). Such things for screenwriters were maybe even the first to use these types of things, since access to producers and decision makers has always been hard, and in LA at least, everyone has a screenplay or at least an idea to pitch.

  8. I agree with Stephanie, and want to add that all the commentators seem to be talking about editorial and commercial photographers. Portfolio reviews can be great to give fine art photographers critique that they may not be able to get elsewhere. And just sending your work out and assuming that will tell you whether you are good or bad is short-sighted. You can’t assume that the person even saw your work that way. Maybe they were out of the office that day for example.
    Many photographers send their work out, hear nothing and stop there. Reviews are a way to keep moving forward.
    Making face-to-face contact if you can is better in every way. For photo editors and gallerists and art buyers and curators to meet the photographer and talk about the work leaves a lasting impression that matters.

  9. Let me guess, you book a “basic” review and you’re going to get feedback along the lines of: “Wow, you really have some great images here. You certainly have what it takes to be a great photographer, but your presentation is all wrong. If you had a great Web site and got the editing and sequencing of your images right your career would really take off…..”

    Tell me I’m wrong (please), but this sounds like a re-tooled version of the old resume writing scam: whatever you submit will have great potential — if you only invest a little more money into getting it perfect. Then the sky is the limit. Of course there are endless service options available (for an added fee of course) to help you achieve that perfection.

    I agree photo contests are a waste of time. This just feels like a massive up-sell scam. I don’t have a better solution to offer, but it seems to me if you have to pay someone to look at your work, it probably isn’t ready for prime time. Is this just selling hope?

    • “Wow! Superb image! Great composition. You should quit your day job and become a professional photographer!”… is precisely the kind of feedback most photogs already get from sites like Facebook, 500px, Flickr, Instagram, etc. Mindless praise for images that aren’t really that good doesn’t do a thing to help a photographer grow.

      Constructive critique of your images from people who know what they’re talking about isn’t going to make your bad photographs good (*thankfully*), but having a second set of eyes give you unbiased, honest insight on images that you’re too close to to get on your own, is incredibly valuable.

      • You’re absolutely right. Shameless praise is easily attainable, but generally worthless. But where do you draw the line between good coaching and selling false hope? The list of reviewers here looks good (i.e., people with the right background to offer informed commentary); but the business model suggests (at least to me) that cultivating a repeat clientele is going to be a key to success. Hence my concern about up-selling. I was taken aback by the number of people in this thread who have indicated they have engaged in multiple portfolio review sessions. Clearly there is a market for this type of service and clearly there are individuals willing to pay for it. I just wonder how many people are going to be strung along believing they are “almost there” if they only do a few more consulting sessions. I suppose I should just assume what goes on among consenting adults is none of my business, but the thought of people getting ripped off disturbs me.

  10. Everyone is a photographer now. And everyone thinks that their own photos are great, and will spend money to get their ‘great’ photos in front of people who could provide validation. So it’s a huge untapped market – there is so much money to be made.

    But the one thing I wonder, if a photo editor or art buyer was getting paid directly to look art work, isn’t this unethical? Or possibly at odds with their parent corporation’s ethics? It makes other photographers feel like they too are under pressure to pay in order to be seen, to have a shot at a job or a gallery show. Or, it makes other art buyers feel like they should be entitled to make some of that money, which might affect their internal decision-making process?

    There’s no easy answer. Certainly the software is a fantastic idea, and seems to be very well-executed, but I wonder how the HR of a large corporation would see this kind of involvement of their employees.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pay_to_play#In_the_visual_arts

    • someone who works at a national magazine told me they were encouraged to find additional work by their editor because they were not getting a raise anytime soon.

      • oh thats beautiful I can find additional work printing beautiful prints for photographers going in to portfolio reviews to see photo editors moonlighting as reviewers so they can earn extra money and magically, the end of capitalism is solved….

  11. You can make it happen

    This is one of my favorite blogs. Friendly conversation, education, news, industry experts etc. I would love to hear, for example, PDN, IPA or Nat Geo respond to this. We all know someone who runs a contest reads this blog. Whatever works for you, friends gathering around a table looking at your work over beers, sending in your portfolio, face to face, portfolio review with eyeist or a sampling of some or all of it. It seems I remember hearing a story about a guy who started a conversation in the subway, with a stranger, sharing his work and it jump start his career. The stranger was a photo editor. I cant remember who that was, maybe it is because of the beers with friends I had last night…

  12. Eyeist is an affordable opportunity to get some honest feedback on your work when you are unable to meet the reviewer in person or at a multiple portfolio review situation. If you go to any portfolio reviews, you pay for that opportunity – this is no different except that you are not face-to-face with the reviewer. I am one of the reviewers and I do not blow smoke up someone’s you-know-what in order to have them buy more – I give feedback that will hopefully make sense for the photographer – NO MATTER WHAT THEY SHOOT or where they are in the world and in their career. You are paying for the reviewers’ years of experience and knowledge – and that is worth something. This is a “service” and as with all “services” there is a fee involved. It’s not complicated, it’s simple, affordable and a great idea!

    • maybe they should consider doing it for the exposure, you know, get your name out….:)KIDDING:)…only photographers are that dumb.

      I agree with you 100%.

    • Like several others, I’ve benefited by attending portfolio reviewers in New Orleans and NYC. But, the trips were damn expensive for me. These meetings led to one editorial gig, and I was in a group show that was cool. And, I got some good advice.

      But, nearly half of the reviewers that I followed up with (via e-mail) did not take time to reply. I was just another one of the dozens they consulted.

      We have all seen “pretty good” work out there which makes the cut, and sometimes we wonder: “what the hell?” Then, we come to our senses and realize, “Oh yeah, it’s because Joe Schmo personally knew Editor at XYZ Mag. Or, it’s because they are chummy with the Curator known as Matilde Mashed Motatoes. Or, maybe they kissed up to a few hooked-up workshop leaders, and they made a few more connections. Like most jobs, it depends on your skills, but a huge part of these opportunities are based on who you know.

      Here’s a question for anyone who charges for consultation: is it out of the question for a photographer to seek out your services, to get advice and to obtain tangible introductions and connections to editors, curators, etc.? While I realize that you would never make introductions if you believed someone’s work was not very good, I would like to think that you might be quite happy to introduce your client to Editor Jones, if your client produced work that you believed in.

      • If and when appropriate, it’s not out of the question for a consultant to make an introduction to an art buyer or a photo editor if they think they are relevant and ready. There are no guarantees, but I have certainly referred a few of my clients as part of my services.

  13. I am a fine art photographer who has had good success from portfolio reviews. Many of the galleries I’m connected with have been from meetings at portfolio reviews. I recently used the Eyeist and would highly recommend it. The reviewer I worked with has stayed in contact, emailing me and continuing to support my work — helping me to find venues for a very specific series.
    Portfolio reviews may not be for everyone, but if you are looking to get your work out there beyond your city, state, country — it’s been invaluable to me and the Eyeist is a focused, one on one way to connect and share your work with someone you might not otherwise have access to.

      • Thanks, Jamey. I’m in Los Angeles and I started local. I did review LA, which I thought was great. The Palm Springs photo festival and recently The Medium festival. I’m a full time mom so so far i’ve only done California based reviews. The Eyeist has a few great gallery/museum based reviewers and that’s a really easy process.

  14. Sheldon Reich

    I can’t wait to use Eyeist services as one of the tools to help me stage my second act.
    I am a semi-pro transitioning from my full-time employed life in technology to my future “retired” life as a travel photographer. (I say semi-pro because I have sold both prints and assignments but I currently do not actively market my services due to time constraints.)
    In the past I have attended portfolio reviews at PDN and though they were helpful, I felt that the reviewers I met with were burnt out from staring at books all day with barely a break.
    I think this will be more effective than the “cattle call” approach of those reviews.
    If nothing else, I hope the reviewer will help me reject some of my work — I find it is difficult to self edit.

  15. I believe that a majority of photographers that participate in traditional reviews do so because they are willing to spend the money in order to get a face to face meeting with a reviewer that could, if they wanted to, hire the photographer for a project. These venues are a way for a single photographer to meet with a dozen working art buyers, photo editors, editors etc. etc. in a single day. With eyeist you’re only getting a review with one reviewer over video chat which is less than ideal format for making a personal connection with the reviewer, which we all know is very important because the personality and people skills of a photographer is a major deciding factor for many buyers when hiring. That eyeist review is valuable and worth the price, but I think a majority of participants in traditional reviews are actually paying to shake hands and make a real face to face introduction with those reviewers and are less concerned with the actual review itself.

  16. Taken directly from Eyeist “From creating family albums to creating an image catalog or commercial portfolio this comprehensive service is the final phase before finishing and publishing your project.” Seems a bit odd to me that the family album is mentioned first and mentioned at all.
    At a recent portfolio review the reviewer told me to stop standing in line and find a way to get out of the line altogether. This seems like a long line to me.

  17. Another quick word about photo contests. PDN receives over 100,000 entries per major contest. At $35 per entry this comes to over 3.5 MILLION DOLLARS! To top it off… They don’t even have to pay for the prizes given out. Major manufacturing companies donate those.

    Follow the money. We the photographers are nothing but a bunch of suckers and PDN and other “Contest Creators” are laughing all the way to the bank.

        • At 8K x $35 = $280,000 Late entries are $45 each. Entry deadlines extended numerous times — so lets say $300,000. $100 Adorama gift certificate for a few selected entries – priceless. :)

          Next contest: A rose is a rose is a rose. Let’s see your rose photos. An elite team of photography experts and florists will be judging. Grand Prize winner will receive a deluxe holiday flower basket from 1-800-FLOWERS. Deadline for entries is Dec 31, 2012, extended to 1/10/2013, extended to 1/31/2013, extended to 2/14/2013 — late entries $45. You may enter as many times as you wish. 3 judges just added — one associate PE with 2 months experience, and 2 summer interns.

  18. As someone way out on the far reaches of civilization, this service is a far more affordable option than to travel to a major centre for these large review events. It levels the playing feild for those of us pursing our craft in smaller markets

  19. I believe finding the people, institutions you respect in the field and submit your work. Photo Contest are another vehicle for advertising. We all need something to blog about etc…to keep in the minds of the buyers.

  20. I belive that all commentators here have valid arguments for & against portfolio reviews. These are my brief thought & comments frommy won experince- I hav estopped paying for portfolio reviews but a considering again paying for Arles or one of the new ones like paris photos etc

    1) The main concern for me is price & worthyness of course- many portfolio reviews are very expensive & of course 10 min with each reviewer goes quick and after a few minuetes you soon realise what the reviewer can offer you- (if youre looking for a job offer or exhibition 90% you’ll be dissaponted

    2) The problem I have now is the pay to submit to festival & exhibitions? Huh surely this process should be free if youre good enough or youre project fits then the curator should take you> youre already competing with established photographers already chosen by curators early on & perhaps the few photographers found on other portfolio reviews/ this i don’t get but as portfolipo reviews are too expensive for me I do it.
    I do have one approach though that if I am submitted to a festival either to help out or shpow multimedia I usae this oppertunity to show my work to peers & curators etc at festivals for free : )
    & If I am not accepted for a an exhibition or festival I won’t go to the event & if i do get accepted & some expenese’s I use this oppertunity tp also make a
    project.

    3) I think another extortinate price is for workshops running into the thousands this is purely a money spinner? no – Magnum workshops can be a lower price with subdasies for studnets or ceartain marginlised soccieties/ethnic groups but others surely accept students who can pay – & not the talent and oppertunity requirements. Not unlike some photography schools but at least they last 1 year for MA & 3 for BA & you get a paper at the end (even if its less valid in this graduate saturated world)
    I think if you knowwhere you are in photogarphy youd be better assitinga photographer or working for a charity as a volunteer abroad-living abroad and work on perfecting youre work.

    4) I see that some comments are from commercial photographers who get work by putting on shoots have studios on sending out portfolios. Coming from a documentary & art photography background this won’t work for me, I have had reviews from the photographers gallery to magazine editors & basiclly even if a great photographer says youre work is greay show it to _ & _ unless they a) think youre work can sell magazine or bring customers into the gallery they won’t use you b) youre alrewady slightly famous or have won an award then you also have limted chance!

    So this is where competitions come in -(& perhaps portfolio reviewers) is validity-prof acceptance, remembarance, perseverance 9its not about making money otherwsie you never choose this tytpe of photography- mayeb youll get lucky but for mid career photographers of my niche its about getting ‘work seen’ what the point of its sitting ina portfolio case, websites don’t aleays work as there are too mnay now & people just don’t have the attention span or patience.
    Perhaps if you get more work at festivals,books published magazine work publsihed you can approach the few remaining agencies, get accpeted be able to continue youre projects-work and the slight chance you’ll get some commissions, book published, charity collaborations & artistic ventures the oppertunity to make youre talents worthwhile and inspirational,fufillmeent.
    I am sure for poets, actors,filmmakers,writers,muscians & artists its the same? of course there are the hacks and the ‘when will I be famous x -factor generation but thats a different conversation. Once you get to a ceartian point and realise great commercial success, money & fame won’t come easy then its not about ambition anymore its about not wasting youre vision & talents & if people keep telling you youre work is good & don[t give up-its hard not tooo even though youre bank balance & wife are telling you without words do do this at the end of every month ; ) (if you give up youll never know)

    Simon Norfolk told me he struggled withdebt for many years always in the red then it all came together. Of course it getting harder now with the decline of physical books and importnats tories and photography being published but you have to adapt and find new ways to get youre work seen & funded- two jobs will help- if you have other skills that still give you time to photograph ; )

    The main concern I have with the competition, grant & festival submission is that youre competing for the same things with not only the new generation of photographers & artists (the young & the fresh- that young editors & curators love) but also the the well renowned photograhers already in the place we want to be- what does that say/ tat can’t be right surely they should get funding & exposure from their editors & agencies- & they have worl press awards. So we are all struggling.

    So conclusion & sorry this became a long rant instead of short feedback- so soooory
    ‘Do it for youreself- listen to youre peers but if yove passed the point of education and review-edit-review but keep youre way now and ‘maybe’ (not eventually) youll be apprecited and seen…..use youre money wisely, does Anders Peterson go to workshops & reviews anymore? no he gives them!………..(just some luck you need as well)

    Good luck
    p.s I do wish I was commercial and could make more money but I am not that type of photographer – well done Mr Poker.com studio photographer ; )

    • I believe that all commentators here have valid arguments for & against portfolio reviews. These are my brief thought & comments from my won experience- I have stopped paying for portfolio reviews but a considering again paying for Arles or one of the new ones like Paris photos etc
      1) The main concern for me is price & worthiness of course- many portfolio reviews are very expensive & of course 10 min with each reviewer goes quick and after a few minutes you soon realise what the reviewer can offer you- (if you’re looking for a job offer or exhibition 90% you’ll be disappointed
      2) The problem I have now is the pay to submit to festival & exhibitions? Huh surely this process should be free if you’re good enough or you’re project fits then the curator should take you> you’re already competing with established photographers already chosen by curators early on & perhaps the few photographers found on other portfolio reviews/ this I don’t get but as portfolio reviews are too expensive for me I do it.
      I do have one approach though that if I am submitted to a festival either to help out or show multimedia I use this opportunity to show my work to peers & curators etc at festivals for free:)
      & If I am not accepted for a an exhibition or festival I won’t go to the event & if I do get accepted & some expenses’ I use this opportunity to also make a
      project.
      3) I think another extortionate price is for workshops running into the thousands this is purely a money-spinner? No – Magnum workshops can be a lower price with discounts for students or certain marginalised societies/ethnic groups but others surely accept students who can pay – & not the talent and opportunity requirements. Not unlike some photography schools but at least they last 1 year for MA & 3 for BA & you get a paper at the end (even if its less valid in this graduate saturated world)
      I think if you know where you are in photography you’d be better assisting photographer or working for a charity as a volunteer abroad-living abroad and work on perfecting you’re work.
      4) I see that some comments are from commercial photographers who get work by putting on shoots have studios on sending out portfolios. Coming from a documentary & art photography background this won’t work for me, I have had reviews from the photographers gallery to magazine editors & basically even if a great photographer says you’re work is great show it to _ & _ unless they a) think you’re work can sell magazine or bring customers into the gallery they won’t use you b) you’re already slightly famous or have won an award then you also have limited chance!
      So this is where competitions come in -(& perhaps portfolio reviewers) is validity-professional acceptance, remembrance, perseverance 9its not about making money otherwise you never choose this type of photography- maybe you’ll get lucky but for mid career photographers of my niche its about getting ‘work seen’ what the point of its sitting in a portfolio case, websites don’t always work as there are too many now & people just don’t have the attention span or patience.
      Perhaps if you get more work at festivals, books published magazine work published you can approach the few remaining agencies, get accepted be able to continue you’re projects-work and the slight chance you’ll get some commissions, book published, charity collaborations & artistic ventures the opportunity to make you’re talents worthwhile and inspirational, fulfilment.
      I am sure for poets, actors, filmmakers, writers, musicians & artists it’s the same? Of course there are the hacks and the ‘when will I be famous x -factor generation but that’s a different conversation. Once you get to a certain point and realise great commercial success, money & fame won’t come easy then its not about ambition anymore its about not wasting you’re vision & talents & if people keep telling you you’re work is good & don’t give up-its hard not too even though you’re bank balance & wife are telling you without words do this at the end of every month;) (If you give up you’ll never know)
      Simon Norfolk told me he struggled with debt for many years always in the red then it all came together. Of course it getting harder now with the decline of physical books and important stories and photography being published but you have to adapt and find new ways to get you’re work seen & funded- two jobs will help- if you have other skills that still give you time to photograph;)
      The main concern I have with the competition, grant & festival submission is that you’re competing for the same things with not only the new generation of photographers & artists (the young & the fresh- that young editors & curators love) but also the well renowned photographers already in the place we want to be- what does that say/ tat can’t be right surely they should get funding & exposure from their editors & agencies- & they have world press awards. So we are all struggling.
      So conclusion & sorry this became a long rant instead of short feedback- so soooory
      ‘Do it for yourself- listen to you’re peers but if you’ve passed the point of education and review-edit-review but keep you’re way now and ‘maybe’ (not eventually) you’ll be appreciated and seen…..use you’re money wisely, does Anders Peterson go to workshops & reviews anymore? No he gives them!………..(just some luck you need as well)
      Good luck

      better spelling