Wednesday is Ask an Art Buyer day. Send your questions to email@example.com with the subject line Ask an Art Buyer. I’ll answer as many as I can every Wednesday.
Today’s question comes from Ally Godfrey, a rep with a nice little stable of shooters. Here’s something simple (yet complex):
More and more I am noticing that art buyers/art producers at agencies are with holding their email addresses from AdBase and other source sites such as Agency Access and Workbook. I understand that they get A LOT of emailers….but isn’t that part of their job to know who is out there and be aware of what is going on in the market? Direct mail can be cost prohibitive, especially to a new photographer and source books don’t tell the whole story. It seems to me counter intuitive not to be willing to receive emailers. What are your thoughts?
Before I weigh in on this, I’m going to ask you go immediately to the Stockland Martel blog, and read Kristina Feliciano’s reports from a recent gathering of reps in NYC. There are many, many good nuggets in this post, including a discussion of exactly this issue: email vs. printed promos. C’mon, I’ll wait while you read it…
While emailers sounded like a good idea several years ago, they are now little better then spam. Most of the work I get is not appropriate to any need I might possibly have, and lots of it just isn’t good at all. Plus, if the image isn’t displaying in my email window and fast, I’m on to the next one. On the other hand, when I receive a printed promo, at the very least, I look at the image(s). I also notice your attention to detail in your paper and design choice. Most often, email promos feel templated and generic, hence the agency opt-outs.
But there are exceptions. Let’s have a look at a few email blasts I appreciate. I mention Jonathan Saunders every time we talk about this because his emails are as well conceived as can be. Go here and here to see some examples and read up on Jonathan’s approach.
Wonderful Machine sends me emails that look a bit like this (but bigger, this one had four photographers featured). Click to see it size-as.
I like how this is laid out: lots of images and a little bit of text to give me a hint of the photog’s personality, done in a semi-clever way. It looks nice.
My only issue with promos from these guys? As I looked through my archive to find an example, I notice that I’m getting these, on average, every week for the last month. Through the spring and the summer it was much less- one per month or so. Why the ramp-up? This might be too much of a good thing. Turns out this was a glitch in the system. All good.
Glasshouse Images is also getting it right. This is an excerpt from their monthly (that seems reasonable) missive:
I like that they are giving me some content to ponder. It makes them seem smart and committed to photography and the community at large. In all of these cases, the emails project a really solid, professional image of their shooters. The images are quality too- as per my angry rant last week, the importance of this goes without saying.
But to get back to the crux of your question- how do you get noticed? Three strategies:
1. Send the portfolio. You’re right, it’s their job to see who’s out there and portfolios are rarely declined (a meeting might be but a book drop shouldn’t be). Given your point about the difficulty of getting emails through to some agencies, going back to the book (as an important introduction to your work) might be most appropriate.
2. Email blasts. But good ones, with a nice design, and some copy for context. Definitely strong images, and make sure I can see them as soon as I open the email.
3. Print promos. Targeted, lovingly printed ones are fantastic and shouldn’t have to break the bank. Look back at our recent discussion on the leave-behind portfolio idea for more ideas on this
I will freely admit, it can be tricky for a young photographer to negotiate this Catch-22 scenario. Hope this advice helps.