Anyone outside the photographic industry may assume that all photographers simply have a line of clients waiting for their time. But we know that beyond the location scouts, production meetings, gear rentals and shoots themselves are hours spent working on self-promotion. In addition to social media, e-newsletters and events is a niche realm entirely unto itself: the physical promotional mailer. Some photographers take the extra effort to develop original packages that stand out amongst the crowd by showing inspiration, innovation and investment. We caught up with several photographers who gave us insight into their most recent creative promotions.
Dan Bannister is an advertising and fashion photographer based in Toronto, Canada. His career began in editorial travel, where he shot for clients such as Rough Guides, Penguin Publishing, Pearson and The New York Times. Over time, his work has evolved to focus exclusively on lifestyle, advertising and fashion for consumer brands and advertising agencies. Known for his mastery of natural lighting, Dan and his crew take great pride in being able to light subjects and scenes in a way that appears natural and effortless.
How do you define your style?
I shoot mostly lifestyle, fashion and portraits for retail brands, consumer goods and advertising agencies. My style is mostly fun, upbeat people enjoying life mixed in with some complex, more moody lighting for fashion. I show two books at most meetings, one for "dark" work, one for "light" work.
What’s the latest unique physical promo material you’ve sent out to potential clients? What inspired the promo concept/design?
I’m in the middle of doing the next version of my book promo titled "The Assistants." It’s basically a sketchbook for designer friends and clients that I do every year. The theme is "The Assistants" because the book contains a bunch of image pairs of light tests with assistants paired with the final finished image that we were actually shooting for the client. It’s an interesting juxtaposition.
An art director friend had suggested a sketchbook as a cool promo idea to me a while back, and I was looking for a theme for the first one when I decided it might be a nice way to say thanks to the crew of people who make it possible for me to get my work done. I approached my friend, designer Dave Deibert, about doing the design for it, and he was able to take it from concept to something that resonated really quickly. The first one was a huge success as a result. When we did the second one the following year, I made the decision to keep the theme the same and make it an annual thing. Now I get calls every year from designers and art directors reminding me to make sure they’re on the list to get one.
How often do you send out promotional material?
I do "The Assistants" sketchbook every year, which is a pretty significant expense, but it’s pretty highly targeted. On top of that, I do regular email blasts, as well as personal emails to clients I know well or to people I know casually whose work I really love or admire. On top of that, my rep, Pam Hamilton, does regular emailers, blogging and portfolio meetings.
Have you found that the time, effort and expense of the promo have paid off?
I can’t say that people have called me up and said, "We saw your sketchbook promo and loved it, so here’s a big-budget campaign we want you to shoot." But it does get a lot of recognition, and because I’m selective about who gets them, it has developed a bit of a cult following, which is really nice. It’s like any advertising in the sense that you can’t really draw a straight line from the promo to a job. "The Assistants" fits my "brand" in the sense that I’m an easy-going person to work with and I like to have a little fun while making sure everyone who contributes gets to share in the success.
What other marketing tools do you utilize?
I’m working on a gallery show right now to showcase a personal project I’ve been working on for a while, which is portraits of blacksmiths. I’m also thinking of doing a book at some point, and I just finished a mini-documentary about one blacksmith that’s in post right now, so we’ll see where that goes. As for social media, Instagram is one thing I really love (@bannisterphoto). I usually try to curate what I show on Instagram, and I’ve built a really great following, so I enjoy interacting with other visually minded people there. It’s fun to post behind-the-scenes shots from shoots along with finished images and the occasional shot of my dog asleep on the couch in the studio.