As I posted a couple of weeks ago, I recently updated my website galleries and design. Scott Willson, Managing Director of Sandbox Studio, and former new Media Director at The North Face, took a look and said this: "Great website. Did you update it? I remember you had a good one, but this seems more structured and cohesive." That's exactly the response I was hoping for from a leader in my chosen adventure industry. So how did I get there?

It's always a big undertaking for me to overhaul my website as it seems to be something that collects small amounts of odds and ends over time; here an image, there an image, until there's no cohesion or flow. Sitting down to revamp things, I did a lot of research and then spent a lot of time looking at other websites and images. Only then did I establish a direction and start putting things together. However, this post isn't about the process I went through in forming my new galleries (snooze), but rather a total dump of the resources I found helpful when evaluating my own work. Most of these are videos, so I hope it helps.


Portfolio critiques, reviews, and changes I found to be most helpful. Wonderful Machine posts videos of this process by their Photo Editors to their YouTube Channel. I watched them all, but this one was from a photographer in the outdoor industry.

As far as portfolio reviewers go, I would put Allegra Wilde near the top of the list. This is a long watch, but a great resource for understanding what art buyers and editors are looking for and what your images are saying.

Zack Arias recently posted his process for creating his new portfolio and I found a lot of what he said to be helpful. Head over there and have a read.


A couple of things I discovered along the way:

  1. If you're stressed out about limiting content within your galleries, remember you can always create blog posts and use social media for sharing the images that nearly made the cut.
  2. Don't try to be all things to all people. Find your niche, and your style, and serve them both. If an image doesn't fit well within a gallery, push it aside. Make sure people know exactly what they're going to get if they hire you.
  3. Use a blog. This will help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and allow you to share more work without feeling like you're cramming it into the corners of your website.
  4. If you need it, get some outside help. Hiring an editor can be pricey (as much as a new camera). I used Eyeist (see Allegra Wilde video above) and for $150 had my website reviewed by a professional editor. I selected Amy Silverman the Photo Editor for Outside Magazine because she's in the industry I'm interested in. Before she started she asked me lots of questions about my goals and direction and then recorded my review. This was an added benefit. Hearing an editors voice walk through her process helped me a lot in trying to understand her thoughts and perspective.
  5. Lastly, take time out between review sessions. Don't expect to sit down and hammer all of this out in one sitting. You won't be happy with the results and you'll likely be making emotional choices instead of artistic ones.

Hope that helped. If you have any other thoughts I'd love to hear from you.


This post will be a little out of the ordinary. I will be attending a Summit Adventure Photography Workshop starting on Saturday and I wanted to get down a few thoughts on improving as a photographer.

How do you continually improve at your craft? Do you seek out industry professionals to learn from? Do you read industry articles and blog posts to stay informed of the latest trends? Do you get out and practice regularly? These are all questions I have at one time or another asked myself. Below is a list of the things that I try and do on a regular basis to stay inspired and seek out improvement.


This is perhaps one of the easiest things to do on a regular basis as information is always readily available. If you've read any of my reviews in the past, I am always scouring the internet for videos, PDF's, ebooks and the like. Between getting inspired, actually making pictures, sharing pictures that I've made, selecting images for portfolios, and editing images on a computer, I have a constant list of topics that I can be improving upon. I think David DuChemin is one of the most regular creators of content surrounding improving as a creative. I regularly read his blog and have several ebooks from his company Craft & Vision. Another great online resource that I utilize is CreativeLive. Co-founded by Chase Jarvis, they regularly air new content for free that is later available for purchase. I own several classes from CreativeLive and have been extremely satisfied with the quality of content.


In the past year I started seeking out critiques from several industry professionals whose work I know and admire. I first select two of my own images that I feel fit into their genre of photography, and then ask them to quickly review the images and answer five basic questions. This is something that I've tried to do on a monthly basis, and all told I have received responses from all but one photographer. Critique is something I benefit from and have greatly missed being outside of a photography classroom.


This next item could easily fit inside either of the two categories, but I felt deserved a section all to itself. At the beginning of this year I paid for an Eyeist review of my website. This gave me an audio recording from Amy Silverman, the Photo Editor for Outside Magazine, reviewing my website on an image by image basis with an overall look at my work. After answering a questionnaire and a couple of emails from Amy, I found my work wasn't communicating what I thought it was. These moments are great for improvement as I was forced to take a step back, evaluate my work, and decide what I wanted to accomplish.


As I mentioned in the beginning, I'm headed for Jackson Hole at the end of the week to a workshop with the Summit Series. I'm excited for a full week of shooting, critique, networking with photographers, editors and other professionals. I know I'll improve and come away with some great work. Having never attended a workshop of this caliber, I will of course be leaving my thoughts here on my blog in the future.


The last item I wanted to share would be this...blogging. I haven't had any feedback on posts, and I don't really know if anyone is listening on a regular basis, but that's not the point. The exercise of thinking through my processes, finding inspirational items to share, and ultimately shaping my thoughts into words, helps me to improve. It also helps that my website gains SEO (Search engine Optimization) value.

Hopefully this helped someone else in some way, if not, it definitely helped me.


This is Steph, my helpmeet and wife.

This is Steph, my helpmeet and wife.

Last week I talked about the concept of “Return and Report” and I mentioned a helpmeet. You might be asking yourself, “What’s a helpmeet?” And that’s a valid question. The term is Biblical and it referenced Eve in regards to Adam. The reason I mention it here is because of the nod to creation and because it’s more than a business partner or professor, it’s someone with a vested interest in you and your work.


Here’s some additional insight into what I would look for in finding a helpmeet. Trait one: when it comes to your artwork a helpmeet should be easily pleased but hard to satisfy. This offers an important balance. The easily pleased part will spur you on and give you a needed confidence boost to continue your pursuit, while the never satisfied person will push you in a direction of questioning and asking more of yourself.


Trait two: a helpmeet should encourage you to share. Too often I’m reluctant to share what I’ve created or second-guess if it’s really any good. My helpmeet always encourages me to put my artwork out there. What are we afraid of? Rejection? In all honesty, how often have you seen someone online openly reject artwork? Accepted or rejected, every interaction I’ve had with art directors, potential clients, and mentors has been a positive one.


Trait three: a helpmeet should push you to learn throughout the entire process. As an artist it’s easy to feel like you will never arrive. Isn’t that the point? If you arrive, you stop learning and stop creating anything of meaning and go back to the beginning to create a new path to pursue. Keep learning and you’ll be fine. 



Another great insight into creation comes from a universal principle of improvement that I like to call Return and Report. When you return from a trip or complete a project, you report on your execution. In a nutshell, it's accountability. If I may be so bold as to say that NOTHING will push you forward as a creator like being accountable to an outside source. Find a helpmeet in your creative work and make yourself accountable.


Entrepreneurs and CEO's put together mastermind groups and boards of directors. If you're a creator, you need to find a helpmeet. The term helpmeet is a nod to my wife, but married, unmarried, or whatever, find someone that has a vested interest in your success and make yourself accountable to them. This person shouldn't put up with bulls*#t excuses (we all have them) yet offer suggestions for growth and improvement. For me, I need someone outside of the creativity game that won't sympathize with my fears and excuses. I need someone that won't tell me how to create, but rather how to execute and deliver.

Involve this person as you plan and prepare. Involve them as you execute on your plan. And finally, involve them as you survey your final deliverable. Review the project from start to finish and find where you failed and where you succeeded. Identify what things to change and find what's next for you


In photography school we had critiques for every assignment. You had an assignment, a deadline, a deliverable, and a final review of your work. Sound like a familiar workflow? I can't overstate how helpful this was for me in pushing my own boundaries and taking risks. In fact, it was so helpful that each week I contact 1-2 photographers/editors/creatives that I respect and whose work I admire, and I solicit a critique of 2 of my images. I don't always get a response, but when I do, I read, re-read, and read again what they say. They took time out of their busy day to look at my work and offer their suggestions. It's a look at success from a perspective outside your own. From the right source, that's worth its weight in gold!

If I want praise for my work I go to my mom (thanks mom). If I want criticism and hard suggestions for improvement from someone that sees the work as it is, not as an extension of me, I go to an outside source.


Bottom line, have a plan and execute on that plan while taking creative liberties and risks. From there, review what you did and how you did it and then make the next plan.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.