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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hustle & Flow - Self-Marketing Secrets

The art of getting a job and staying on a buyer's speed dial is as much about your photographic talent as it is about your self-promotional talent

That Sure Is A Nice-Sized...

The basic rule when selecting a size for a promo is to make it fit into a file folder. If you're lucky, that's where yours will end up. During the course of one of my interviews, the art buyer held up a beautifully designed promo poster. The photography was gorgeous, but there was no room for it anywhere. She said she'd probably keep it around a while longer, but ultimately it would go away because she couldn't store it, show it or hang it easily.


Among the art directors and art buyers I interviewed, all of them liked e-mail promos “just fine.” Hmm, just fine. I pressed the issue further. If you're shooting for an agency, you're more than likely shooting some sort of print campaign. Art buyers and art directors like to see how your work translates to printed media. Also, when art buyers are searching through their promo files for a photographer, it's actually easier and far more efficient to go through stacks of printed promos than it is to open up e-mail after e-mail looking at images on screen. Tangibility and printed appearance are important to these people, so help them “get you.” Don't abandon e-mail promos; just don't use them exclusively.

According to my group of interviewees, e-mail promos are fantastic when someone is intrigued by your work and they have the time to check your Website. But all the art directors have said that when their e-mail folders are getting full, those e-mail promos are the first to go. Lastly, if an art buyer is a fan of your work and he or she leaves an agency, that computer is left behind. They'll take their promo files with them, however.

Remember Me?

This is for the young shooters assisting photographers out there. If you're on a set and you find yourself interacting with the art director and they hand you a business card, don't hesitate—send them something. Send them a printed anything with a note saying how you met. Art directors love meeting up-and-coming talent. And don't worry that you're stepping on your boss' toes. If you're assisting someone, you probably won't be competition for them anytime soon.

But if a small, low-budget, low-maintenance job comes across the art director's desk, there's a strong possibility you'll get the job. This is especially true if the art director had a good experience with your boss. Trust me. The sooner you can get into learning how to deal with agencies, the better.

Leave A Message After The Tone

The next big topic is phone calls. How often do art buyers or art directors return phone messages of photographers following up their promos by phone? “Almost never.” How do you feel about ambitious and tenacious photographers leaving lots of messages trying to get your attention? “Annoying.” All my interviewees were in complete, almost verbatim consensus on this. There's a message here.

Calling and checking in won't produce a job for you. If a job comes in that you're right for and the creative team has a promo on file, you'll get called. All agreed that e-mail follow-ups are great and manageable. The only exception to this is if you happen to get an art director on the phone and they have very little going on; you might get a meeting, at which point you'll receive some feedback about your book, and that's always a good thing. But if you're leaving messages and no one is calling you back, don't even remotely take it personally. These people are insanely busy. Sometimes it's difficult, because as photographers looking for work, we have lots of free time to dwell on the fact that the phone isn't ringing.


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