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Portfolio Review: What Agency Clients Are Looking For Part 1


We asked questions. We got answers.


The American Advertising Federation and Ad2 held a portfolio review night with representatives from agencies like LPK, Landor, Creative Circle, and Northlich. I introduced as many people as possible to the the Tether Sourcebook and the Tether Directory on behalf of all the great talent in the #TetherCincy fam , and gleaned a few key learnings about what agency clients are looking for.


Top industries:


It's not much of a surprise given the nature of Cincinnati's Fortune 500 companies, but the top industries for regional work are:

  • Ecommerce - images for websites, social media, online ads, etc.
  • Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) - mass-market products 
  • Food - packaging and regional brands
  • Healthcare - hospital systems and biohealth

Often-requested types of work


I asked the creative agencies what type of work their clients needed, and what they were looking for in terms of style.

Environmental lifestyle portraits

There are a lot of healthcare facilities in the area, and they want to show what they do in a patient-friendly way. The look is warm, friendly, professional, and natural.

Product photography, on- and off-figure 

Think accessories and beauty products, and consider the different styles needed for ecommerce (silhouette shots from multiple angles, hero images, details) and lifestyle photos for consumer-facing ads and digital (more natural lighting, in a styled setting or in use).

Retouching and composition art

Do you specialize in retouching? Can you take a photo of a woman wearing a red dress in the city, and place her in a farm setting wearing the dress in green? Clients looking to cut production costs need that.

Food on dark, moody backgrounds is still trending. Photographer:  Gina Weathersby , Food Stylist:  Jeff Martin , Food: Steven Graham,  MUNCH!

Food on dark, moody backgrounds is still trending. Photographer: Gina Weathersby, Food Stylist: Jeff Martin, Food: Steven Graham, MUNCH!


Food on dark, moody backgrounds

The shift to darker, organic-looking, intentionally “messy” food photos is still going strong. Don’t be afraid to sprinkle some flour/nuts/whatever around and spill a little lemon juice/sauce/whatever on the cutting board.

Modern styling

Hair, makeup, and wardrobe can be more natural and modern for clients in consumer-focused industries. Brands trying to appeal to a younger audience may be willing to experiment with a focused pop of color or hint of a bold print.


Nowadays, brands want to be seen as authentic. They want to be your relatable, slightly imperfect friends—which at least partially explains the trends noted above. If you can interpret this authenticity in your work, you’ll have the advantage.


So now what?

Sourcebook design Instagram.JPG

Think about your portfolio and whether any of this type of work is represented. Do you need to meet new collaborators? Do you need to do some testing?

Speaking of your portfolio, Part 2 of this post will focus on what clients are looking for when they’re reviewing your portfolio and what you can do to make clients hire YOU instead of someone else. Some of the feedback was surprising, so be sure to get on the list for future tips! You can now read Part 2 here.

Was this helpful? Do you have questions or any input to share? Leave a comment!


Want to know about future opportunities like the Portfolio Review? Here’s what to do: