Ask an Art Buyer: List Providers and Photogs as ABs

by Heather on March 31, 2009

Wednesday is Ask an Art Buyer day. Send your questions to with the subject line Ask an Art Buyer. I’ll answer as many as I can every Wednesday.

I’m not sure anyone has actually asked me what I make of the mailing lists that are marketed to photographers but, as promised yesterday, here’s what Jonathan Saunders has to say about it:

I really should break down and buy a list but the most obvious supplier is very expensive and then each mailing is absurdly priced, so the list that was $800 (by the time you do 1 mailer a month for a year), costs thousands. They allow their list to be used with other mailing companies but the other mailing companies (that are practically priced),  don’t technically allow you to use purchased lists, so there’s some Catch 22′s in the processes.

I almost bought a list with this major list provider which also happens to be the most popular, but honestly their sales approach feels like buying a used car, they tried to bully me into buying things I did not ask for, as well as not being super clear about their emailer prices. It was such incredible turn off, I decided not to buy on principle alone. They also refused to take their branding off the footer of the email- another deal breaker.  I am really picky about branding on services I pay for, especially if it is not cheaper if I leave a company’s logo there. If I use a Canon for example, should every image I share say Canon on it? It’s a real turnoff for me. Same for template websites, emailers, etc etc. Smart people can tell who built your site or did your mailer, no reason to give out free advertising.

I also read some comments and discussed mailers with friends and the ratio of price to results doesn’t quite sound right to me yet, so I am holding out awhile longer till I believe I am doing the right thing.

Timothy Archibald writes about feedback he has received in response to one of his email promos. It’s interesting- read it here. The Creative Director in his story reports getting up to 30 email blasts a day from artists. True dat and believe me, it’s hard to have faith that this next one is going to be good, it’s not going to be like all the rest, it will be worth clicking and saving. I’m ashamed to say, I put these emails aside and don’t always go back to look through my archive. I think that’s why I called attention to Jonathan’s yesterday- not only did I like the shots it contained, it was well articulated and planned. And, the images were in the body of the email- I saw them immediately and, thankfully, I liked them.

I won’t suggest that I know the companies to which Jonathan is referring above (all of the mailers I seem to receive are tagged with the company’s logo at the bottom) but I do know that Adbase is involved in some interesting initiatives including the PLUS system and hosting their own series of podcasts. This seems to be a smart way of adding service offerings to your client base, cool incentives for membership, no?

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OK, this next question has sat in my inbox for almost a month, just waiting for me to get back to the blog. Brad Haynes writes:

I’ve been an assistant/digital tech for about 6 years and have been trying to specialize as an architectural photographer, shooting whatever comes my way and still assisting during the transition. I’ve been getting very discouraged lately and am questioning continuing down the dreamy road of being a photographer.

The agency scene is picking up here in CO and I’ve been wondering about crossing over into an agency role. My question for you is how do agency people perceive someone with my background applying for an assistant AB or production role? In other words, since I’m not really an established photographer with a reputation, is it better to apply as an experienced assistant and just leave the Freelance Photographer heading off my resume? Should I freeze/take down my site when I apply?

Generally, I think your photography experience will be quite valuable in your role as an Art Buyer. How much you play down your (unsuccessful? if that’s what you are implying) freelance photography career is debatable but my inclination is that you should be upfront about it. Having real photography experience means that you can bring that perspective to the job. Retouching, digital specs and workflow are an increasingly within our areas of responsbility- you will be able to bring intimate knowledge of these areas to your AB role. As a former, aspiring photographer (“former” rather than “failed”), we can assume that you have a good eye, are able to make sound asthetic judgements and have a knowledge of other shooters, locally and further afield.  On set, given your experience, I would presume that you know how the production should and can run and will be able to help manage that on behalf of the agency.

In terms of freezing or taking down your site, I think your concern would be more apt if you were a terrible photographer. Good news: you’re not. Better news: architectural photography is what I consider an extremely small niche in a much larger identifier of commercial photography. Ad agencies rarely have the need for this kind of work so I doubt that your future employers would be too familiar with your work or that of your competitors. After having a quick glance at your site however, I might suggest culling it down a bit and leaving only your best work. But be sure to leave this one(s):


And this one, it’s like an extra pointy ROM:


Good luck Brad, let us know where you end up.

And for the rest of you who have questions in my inbox- I will try to get to them all in the next few weeks. Keep ‘em coming.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

ANDREAS April 2, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Hmm…that’s not the ROM though.

Myles April 3, 2009 at 9:50 am

It is the Denver Art Museum also done by Libeskind. Completed in 06.

Andy Mars November 22, 2009 at 12:04 pm

What is the best way for a fine art photographer to market themselves for sales? Thanks for your help.

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