I sent a tweet out the other day asking, “What do people think about portfolio reviews that cost £250?”
I couldn’t fit it all within Twitter’s 140 character limit, but I was specifically referring to an event where photographers could have their books reviewed in 20 minute meetings with three different photography agents.
Such an event is certainly worthwhile for those hosting it — 20 minutes per review x 10 experts x 8 hours = £60,000 in revenue for the day. But is it worth it to those who pay to attend?
“Agents You Just Never Can Get Hold Of”
A few Twitter friends responded that paid portfolio reviews are worthwhile and help a lot of people. Others — including a couple of experienced reviewers — informed me that these events are hit and miss, largely due to the process, which can cause fatigue and rapid photo-blindness among reviewers.
Most respondents were as shocked about the price, and cynical about the value, of such reviews as I was.
To be clear, I believe that having your work honestly reviewed by someone whose opinion you trust is valuable and worthwhile. For example, the two reviewers who responded to my tweet would be among my prime targets for insightful critical input.
But pricey events like this one pitch themselves differently — offering you a chance to meet “agents you just never can get hold of.”
And what is the value of meeting people like this, exactly?
These people are not going to publish your book. You’re not paying to meet Dewi Lewis, Chris Boot or Michael Mack.
They are not going to publish your work in their magazine. You’re not meeting Jon Levy, Phil Bicker or Kathy Ryan.
Nor are they going to commission you. You are paying to meet prospective business partners — collaborators.
So is paying for their attention the best way to begin such a relationship?
Looking for Talent — or a Quick Buck?
Let’s look at this from the reviewers’ point of view. They are advertised as people that “you just never can get hold of.” Well, why is that?
Presumably, it’s because they’re not taking on new talent.
Even assuming they are very busy people, if they are taking on talent, then finding that talent should be a priority for them. It is, after all, their primary source of income (other than appearance fees), right?
So are they really going to select this new talent from the pool of people willing to pay them simply to look at their portfolios?
I doubt it.
Photographers, think about this for a moment. Would you pay three different real estate agents to come to your house and decide whether they want to sell it? Would you pay three different lawyers to see if one of them is willing to take on your case?
So why would you pay such a high fee to meet a few agents?
I would argue that you shouldn’t.
Let me know what you think of it — I’m considering pricing it at £249.
Meanwhile, if you do meet the agent of your dreams at one of these events, I hope they will at least refund your £250 out of their first commission slice.