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portfolio questions

 hello fellow lightstalkers,
Although I’m relatively new to lightstalkers, I just want to first and foremost say that I love having this forum to listen and participate in conversations about photojournalism which I so deeply love. I’m a really new photographer and my first big real exposure to photojournalism was this past month in Gaza during the pullout.(which was really a wonderful experience), Even though I feel like I could really get started now, I’ve decided to go for my undergrad at Mcgill in Montreal. (good choice?) anyways, I’m trying to put together a portfolio and so far have come up with 36 pics (but lightstalkers only lets me post 30). (I’m putting it together for myself and the CPOY contest and other stuff) I’m not sure if this is the right forum for this but I would greatly appreciate if you could look at my stuff, give suggestions.. etc.
I envy all of you out there, while i’m stuck here reading Plato.
Keep up all your inspiring works

by [a former member] at 2005-09-28 21:51:57 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Montreal , Canada | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Hi Kitra,

Nice meeting you in Gaza last month…And terrific work…Especially for someone so new to the field! I think you can tighten this up slightly…You have some very strong images that have all the elements – good light, composition, expression. You aren’t afraid to get close to the subject, too, which is good. I would take a few of the less strong ones out. A portfolio of 20 very strong images is much better then a portfolio of 30 (or 36) with 20 strong ones and 10 mediocre ones. Also, not sure how they view the images as far as order goes, but put your strongest image or 2 at the top and try to make a visual sense out of the order of the portfolio. For example – One of my favorites is the old woman pushing the soldier with the gun – simple and strong composition and you caught the moment…next, I would put the soldier on the ground, screaming…First pic soldier is strong…then he is on the ground, weak…etc.

BTW, there are several “Emerging Photographer” contests out there…You should definately apply for those!!

Oh…to be stuck reading Plato!! I envy you…You will probably learn a lot from that, actually, which will eventually appy in your work! Good luck.

David Blumenfeld

by David Blumenfeld | 28 Sep 2005 22:09 | Jerusalem, Israel | | Report spam→
hi kitra. very nice work, really.
congratulations from prague.
and,good  luck!

by Snezana Nikolic | 29 Sep 2005 03:09 | Prague, Czech Republic | | Report spam→
hey kitra, 

very nice portfolio, and i agree with david: edit, edit edit. only show your very best (self-editing may be the hardest thing in life!). also, i think its important to show work that highlights your personal POV and style. i wouldn’t include images simply because they are similar to other photogarpher’s images that are getting published, or because you think that’s what editors want to see. do you want to be a jack of all trades or create something unique? if you stick to your thing, the portfolio will look stronger. i also think standalone images work better in a portfolio than images that were part of a story but depend too heavily on caption information. the image should really shout out! also, you have some good spot news and some good feature pix, depends on if you want to show that you can do both, or just focus on one or the other….

in any case, i went to McGill (‘97) and studied american history. you’d be surprised how few working photographers actually studied photography. enjoy the learnin’. 


by [former member] | 29 Sep 2005 04:09 (ed. Sep 29 2005) | Hanoi, Vietnam | | Report spam→
I second David’s advice of tightening up… As well as the learning part… One thing you do need to be wary of is your emotions getting into the way of your considerable talent as a photographer. You need to be extremely critical of who you listen to, as it’s easier to spoil someone with crappy advice (including suggesting emotions not getting in the way of photography) than helping them to build something significant. There’s a LOT of mythology in photography, even more so in photojournalism, and steering clear of all the smoke and mirrors will require all the education you can get – and not likely to be the type you’ll get in a photography school.

by [former member] | 29 Sep 2005 05:09 (ed. Sep 29 2005) | Lausanne, Switzerland | | Report spam→
Kitra, like the others said, you have some really impressive works for someone who is starting out in PJ.  I completely agree that you should take the 36 photos down to around 20-30 strong photos.  For me, it was definately very painful parting with some photos while including others.  One good thing is the longer you look at your own photos, the faster you grow bored of them and start to see which ones don’t belong.  Anyways, good luck with your selections.  I am on the same boat as you right now, trying to put together my stuff to submit.  We should correspond.

by Mark Gong | 29 Sep 2005 08:09 | Washington D.C., United States | | Report spam→
Kitra. Some strong images but you also have some in there that dilute the overall impact somewhat.

I’m off on assignment shortly till late, but when I return I would like to make a selection of your shots that I think show some originality, or at least a vision that is cohesive. I hope you won’t mind my tinkering like this. I’ll post a link here a little later for others to comment on. There will be conflicting views, of course, but it’s for you to dwell on. Take what you need.

I will only be looking at the images, not captions. A ‘folio should be a purely visual experience in the first instance. I think stand alone images is the way to go initially. Story telling sequences can always be sough after the fact for further reference. However, I think you have achieved a level of intimacy in some of your shots that speaks volumes and shows photojournalistic maturity, despite your limited experience. These images will speak to those editors that prefer stories and sequences. So stick with the stand alone approach. You want to ask some questions in your folio I think. Strong stand alone shots will do that. The fact that those questions are left hanging after a folio review is a good thing. It creates curiosity in the editor/viewer. There’s only one way to adress those questions you pose with your shots and that’s for an editor test you out. Maybe give you and assignment or at least request to see more work. You’ve got to make the editor curious.

I think you have a visual style emerging. You are unlikely to be aware of this entirely but there’s something coming through. This will take time to mature but the signature is there. It’s up to you to figure it out. I’ll say this though, always be aware of the fact the you can make an image at any time that may not appeal to you then and there but that is indictive of a future direction or subject matter. Be very carefull deleting files shooting digital as these shots that you make that are ahead of their time are crucial in the visual development process. How do I articulate this better?

Always make time to go through images you made ages ago. You will likely come across an image that you forgot about but that you now realise was an earlier indicator of a new approach or style or a certain kind of humor. These images that are ahead of their time and that you could so easilly gloss over are so very important to your development. Never forget that. Like Charlie Harbutt said, “if you make a bad photograph in a new and exciting way” you’ve made serious progress and it might take years to realize that single photograph’s importance.

Blaa blaa blaa…
I’ll be back later with my selection, for what it’s worth.

My web site which is under improvement, should you be interested.

by Paul Treacy | 29 Sep 2005 10:09 (ed. Sep 29 2005) | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
Hey Kitra,

good work! Oretty impresive for your " first big real exposure to photojournalism". I’m a relatively  new photographer too and I’m going for my postgrad. Sometimes I am nailed to the desk, but I like to have a background which lies besides photograpy. (When the two things come together isn’t it photojournalism?)

To the ‘folio: Personally, I prefer stories over single pictures. It shows that you can really focus on one subject. If it has been shot within a limited time period, it also shows that you can work under pressure and still get strong photos.Thus I like your approach.
However, a tight and strong edit is always good. But I know it’s hard to edit your own work: I did an internship at Blackstar at the beginning of this year. When I came to the office with a bag full of negs and contact sheet of my first story, the tutor told me to select  photos and scan them. I spent the whole day scanning and in the evening I had about 30 files. Way too much! The next I had to boil it down to 15, 12, 9 and finally to 5. I learned the lesson. You’ll see the difference between the strong ones and the mediocre ones much better.

You can see the result on my website under The Passion of Shiites (still 11 photos).


by Daniel Etter | 29 Sep 2005 13:09 (ed. Sep 29 2005) | Cologne, Germany | | Report spam→
This post has intrigued me as i’m trying to go down the same route as Kitra.
I know everyone here mentions how editing is the most important, but can anyone advise me on what you should be looking for in your pictures?

Do stories work better than singles, or would you say they both need to be included?

would any editors mind giving me an insight on what they look for when looking through the multitude of portfolios they get?


by Daniel Cuthbert | 29 Sep 2005 15:09 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Hi Kitra

I had a look at your selection on the gallery. Are these the first pictures you have taken in this kind of environment(Gaza)? If so there very good. I like # 5  #6 & the image of the Israeli
soldier on the floor crying. A powerful image, it humanizes the man with the gun.
I like the other 2 for the structure in particular #6 the shadow on top of the building. In hectic moments it is not easy  to see the small details & then structure the composition…you have a good eye!

As for a portfolio i depends if this is for showing to potential clients….I would say you maybe need at least another story in there & keep it tight, say 12 in a set to make 24/25.


by [former member] | 30 Sep 2005 04:09 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
strong stuff, welcome!

by grant | 30 Sep 2005 07:09 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→

you have some very nice pictures. Forget any one who says they are good “for a beginner” or whatever. Many of your pictures are stronger, more complex, and more stylish than a lot of seasoned pros. I do agree with the edit part. Tighten up, don’t let a viewer catch their breathe, unless it is with one of those beautifuly quiet pictures.
As for school: girl, if you want to work as a photojournalist, skip the school part, get out there and make pictures. All the school you need at this point is out side the classroom. Says me anyway.
graet job

Eros Hoagland

by [former member] | 30 Sep 2005 08:09 | Oakland, United States | | Report spam→
Salam Shalom Kitra…!

Honestly, wow, wow and wow..! Great work. REALLY.
1/never stop daring
2/believe in all what is said to be harsh and impossible
3/be ready to listen to lots of "maybe’s", "later", "next time", or "sorry", and use it as cement to tighten your determination
4/your sense, your eye, your emotion and sense of composition is a gem, keep it up, non-stop
5/Take the best from my advices and others, but at the end, always obey to your intuition and dreams and gutts
6/we are all, unfortunately, dependent on the false or wrong or subjective senses of others, but strong work like yours already
  unite a very positive testimony from lots of people
7/Show and send your work to all the decent agencies you come across or hear from, who cares, you are proud of your work, and
  it speaks for itself..until good luck and opportunity knocks on your door.
8/As for your portfolio, You know, You sense, You recognize what are the winners and the others, the photos which shall be spread to
  people eyes, and which ones can remain in a secundary portfolio to show face to face, around a coffee, to complete the story.
  No one ever have to oblige you to show 5, 10 or only 20 photographs, just use your sense and quality priority.

Chapeau Kitra, and its an egyptian photographer who’s greeting you and your great work!

by what for? | 30 Sep 2005 08:09 (ed. Sep 30 2005) | PARIS & CONQUES, France | | Report spam→
Hey Kitra, really nice work. Strong emotional images. You’re gonna go far if you keep this up. I agree with the suggestions to tighten up your edit and to think in terms of story lineage. I would even suggest to put a story together of the withdrawl with 12-15. Sometimes cutting your favorite work is like loosing a child but we have to remember that the story, and not our own egos have to come first. I’m new at this too – first year as a full timer but what I believe I’ve found works well for portfolios is a small batch of singles, less than a dozen, that show your best work and the range of your abilities. Follow that one or two well edited stories / and or multimedia pieces (if you know how to do them.) Basically, you’re trying to show who you are as a photographer and what you’re capable of producing. I think that, starting out, being well rounded is key. Finally, make your presentation, whether book or CD, as professional as possible. Show that you care about the details. All the best in your trek. It should be fun. I’ll be watching for you. JLee

by James J. Lee | 30 Sep 2005 08:09 | Hurricane Rita, United States | | Report spam→
Though I do more portrait and fashion, I have done a little journalism this summer.

I think what’s really useful for a journalist instead of going to school is exploring your home base and finding great stories there.

An internship at an agency will take 3 months or less but be more useful than 5 years of school. Oh, and they pay for your lunch.

I did some simple stories with my writer friends on local scene people (art, movie industry, animal adoption) , and it has led to a lot more work in regards to journalism.

It helps build strong connections and also diversifies your portfolio.

Unless you want to travel to hot spots all the time, having "regular people" stories in your portfolio is a great boost to getting work – I know at least one photo editor that turns away photographers because of "suffering fly baby" photos in their book.

by Alex N | 02 Oct 2005 19:10 (ed. Oct 2 2005) | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
Nice work.. simply great. Keep your good work up and dont stop taking calculated risks.. best of luck.

by Altaf Qadri | 03 Oct 2005 05:10 | Kashmir, India | | Report spam→
I’m sorry I didn’t get round to an evaluation for you, for what it might have been worth, but I was laid low with flu or some such hideous affliction and couldn’t breath properly for days. Anyway, if you’d like me to go ahead then I’d be delighted. However, I’m real busy for the next week playing work catch up.
Good luck to you.

by Paul Treacy | 05 Oct 2005 21:10 (ed. Oct 5 2005) | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
even though some folks here are rightfully saying that the world is your classroom, i’d hesitate to encourage someone to drop out of school to pursue photography. whats the rush? a few years of university could be an incredible way to prepare yourself for a life of photojournalism, studying the economics, international relations, languages of the places you are interested in working etc. interested in focusing on the middle east? imagine 3 years to study arabic, farsi etc, middle eastern culture, history, religion etc. i’m not saying this is a substitute for getting out there and experiencing it firsthand (you could spend your summers in israel/lebanon), but after three years of study you’d be better equipped to understand the world around you and convey/interpret that with a camera. keep in mind you’d have plenty of time during school to dedicate to improving as a shooter, go on self-assigned shoots over christmas, spring and summer breaks, work on the school paper etc. plus, university is simply a great opportunity to better yourself as a person. my 2 cents worth!

by [former member] | 06 Oct 2005 00:10 | Hanoi, Vietnam | | Report spam→
This is a worthy topic for all photojournalists.
I think the problem with studying about potential subjects in the way Julian has suggested is that you actually might learn too much. If you go to a country or region
that you think you know about you might actually miss the fundamental aspects of what these conflicts or disputes are about…..peoples emotions. 
When i first went to Israel i was there with my girlfriend for a holiday & i knew hardly nothing about the prevailing problems there. 9 trips later i am still no expert but i think i have come to understand how the people think.
All my reading & study on the subject was done while sitting on the hotel balcony looking over to the Dome of the rock where you feel what your reading has real meaning. I would say that learning Arabic or any other language for a country or region where you might invest a lot of your time is a very good idea….it may even save your life.

Each to his or her own but i would strongly advocate learning while your on the road.


by [former member] | 06 Oct 2005 02:10 | Belfast, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Stay in school. Afterall, it’s not about the course you’re doing, it’s about learning to think. I mean really think. This is what you’ll need most of all as a photojournalist.

by Paul Treacy | 06 Oct 2005 07:10 (ed. Oct 6 2005) | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
Devils advocate says: When I went to university, I never met so many dumb people in my life, including instructors. People were thinking alright, but were they learning to think? I think not, not so much anyway. They were learning to compete, that’s for sure. They were learning how to get into debt, and they were learning how to tell people what they wanted to hear. So, maybe school is good training for real life. You can always go “back to school”, but I agree 100% with Mark in Belfast: One can learn too much. Especially if you study photography. Think about the pictures a child makes when they have they’re excited little hands wraped around a point and shoot. They are totally free, nobody has told them how to think, how to see the world. No one has laid any rules on them. Learn the rules before you brake them? Maybe, but don’t try to learn a second language in your home country if you really want to COMMUNICATE. School is cool for some, but a big weight on the ankle (and wallet) for others. That’s really my point. Drop out if you want, eat more veal, and give war a chance. Blah blah blah


Lucifer’s dorm mate

by [former member] | 06 Oct 2005 09:10 | Oakland, United States | | Report spam→

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David Blumenfeld, Photojournalist David Blumenfeld
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Snezana Nikolic, Photographer Snezana Nikolic
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Mark Gong, Photojournalist Mark Gong
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Altaf Qadri, Photojournalist Altaf Qadri
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