The SportsShooter 2005 student photographer of the year was chosen recently.

And the best part is, you get to hear the editors — Deanne Fitzmaurice, Kim Komenich, John Lee, Michael Macor, Jim Merithew, and Russell Yip — discuss and critique the portfolios.

“For the most part, a portfolio celebrates your ability to see great light… there are pictures you take to put out a paper and there are pictures that really show how you can recognize and celebrate light.”

They touch on the importance of organizing your portfolio, how to crop, the debate of color and BW images sharing the same portfolio, questions of category shots vs. your best pictures, and various other important and intriguing topics.

A single from Chris Detrick’s winning portfolio

Most profound to me was the discussion these respected professionals had about what your first picture says about you.

We all know that we want to start strong in our portfolios, but for some reason it never occurs to many of us, that your first picture also sends a message about who you are as a shooter in terms of what type of shooter you see yourself as. So it doesn’t help to place an excellent sports photo at the front if you don’t see yourself as a sports photographer.

Looking at my first picture, I can see how the rules of photojournalism: light, composition, emotion, storytelling, and impact influenced me to put it there. Yet it never occurred to me if a feature photo is what I want to use to introduce myself. That picture sends a sub-conscious message, that I am a newspaper photographer than can shoot features. But is that really what I want? I’ve always told people that in an ideal world, I would like to be a documentarian (and I would have the latest and greatest gear– in an ideal world). Yet, now with the words of these editors in my head, I’m wondering if my passion is reflected in my work.

Part of me is hesitant, it’s the Asian in me (we’ve been taught to be modest, thanks mom and dad, now Bob got the promotion!), and I’m not so sure I’m there yet. But I do think I’m close, some people have seen it in “24 on | 24 off” my documentary on a shift of firefighters, and have paid me a few compliments.

That always feels good, to know that your work is resonating with someone. My proudest kudos, came from an editor, whose work I really admired, on the east coast. In fact this editor was the only reason I applied for the internship at the paper, which had political leaning in the complete opposite direction from my own. I didn’t get it, but the editor (who I’ve never met before) liked my documentary project enough to the point where they sent me a pretty lengthy letter thanking me for sharing it and how it was so different and effective compared to the dozens of others she’d seen.

With that much praise, one wonders what held me back, but it’s better not to compare yourself to others. There will always be someone better. It’s better to just keep doing what you’re doing and strive to prefect it. Whoa… I’m getting a little after-school special in here. (BTW is that term too old these days? They haven’t aired since the 70s. I’ve never even scene one except for in school.)

*What what it’s worth I am not a member of ShortsShooter