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Selecting portfolio images: One photographer’s journey

March 29, 2012 | By Afton Almaraz | Community, How-to, News, Photography, Photojournalism

Editor’s note: The Eddie Adams Workshop, an intense, tuition-free gathering of top professionals and carefully selected students, is now accepting applications. Getty Images is honored to support the EAW, and over the years, many of our people have participated as students, mentors and volunteers. The following post is from EAW alumni and Getty Imges Picture Desk Editor Afton Almaraz. You can view his portfolio (as well as his original post) on his blog.  

Nick Ut-Bill Eppridge-Eddie Adams Workshop-Michael Heiman-Getty Images

Photojournalists Nick Ut and Bill Eppridge chat during the 2011 Eddie Adams Workshop. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)


I’ve been asked to write about my process of selecting the images I used in the portfolio I submitted to the Eddie Adams Workshop and post the full set for interested applicants to see. I am always happy to help others in anyway that I can, as so many great mentors, photographers and photo editors alike, have helped me along the way.

Back in 2007, during my second year at Brooks Institute, I applied to the workshop not fully understanding what it was about. Well, thank God I was not accepted, because looking back now I realize how unprepared my portfolio was. It clearly showed a student that had no idea what he wanted to be.

After I received the denial letter, everything changed. I started a personal journey and exploration of why I wanted to become a photojournalist. To make a long story short, after I began my journey, I noticed a change in my work. Not just technically, but I saw a trend within the images – a personal style emerging.

The following year was a growth spurt in the way I looked at photography, the world and people. My vision changed, and I approached assignments and subjects on a more personal level. I started freelancing locally, took an internship and by the time Barnstorm XXI was open for submission, I had a collection of images I was proud of.

So in 2008, during my third year, I applied once again. But this time it was different. I gathered all of the images I took during that year (portraits, features, general news, spot news, photo essays) and approached a few professors and friends for edits. To be honest, that ended up being more confusing than helpful because each one had a different edit. But I realized a similar theme and composition to the images they were choosing. There was a ‘style’ and ‘consistency’ to the body of work. In the end, I chose the images I personally liked the most from the final edits of my professors. I opened with what I thought would be the strongest image, and continued with a set of singles (four) opening the portfolio, and closing with two photo stories that I felt best described my passion.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to ask others for help. Submit work you are proud of, and make sure your portfolio shows your personal vision and style.

Some people submit a portfolio that has a theme, but for me, I submitted a general portfolio showcasing features, general news, portraits and two photo stories. There is no right or wrong portfolio to submit. Be sure however, the images you do submit are collectively the same: Images that have strong content (content is king), style and composition.

Only submit your best work, and if that is only five images, then so be it. Your worst image will be the only image the reviewers will remember, and you don’t want that. If you don’t get in this year, keep applying. It was one of the most significant career changing moments during my education. I walked out of the workshop with life-long friends and new mentors that have continued to help me today. Best of luck to the applicants!

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    The photographer’s portfolio is the hardest piece of editing any photographer will ever have to do. But as you say, asking others for input is the way to get it right.