Ask an Art Buyer: Choosing Promo Images, Chatty Emails and the Pitfalls of a Lack of Experience

by Heather on July 21, 2010

Another video with answers to three! questions:

HMAb: Ask an Art Buyer: Lack of Experience and Other Questions from Heather Morton on Vimeo.

Here is a sample of Jonathan’s Saunders e-newsletter. Read more of what I think about this here and here.

And here are this week’s questions for your reference:

And from Terence Patrick:

Heather, thanks for your thoughts on having an image on the backside of the promo card. Should the image on the back be related to front-side image (in terms of a series) or should it show range (different project)?

Mark Gilmore

I know that you’ve touched on this subject on your blog before, but I have a sort of different situation. I’m currently a photography student who will be graduating soon. Rather than looking for a job, I’d like to be able to start working for myself. I have a website, a brand, a business plan, and am in the process of putting a book and self-promo pieces together. I’m just afraid I won’t be taken seriously by art buyers due to my relative lack of experience. I’ve spent about four years doing a little assisting and retouching for other photographers on top of having an in-house gig while going to school, and I feel that my work is close to being up to par. I just don’t know any ABs, I’ve never sent out a book or been hired for freelance commercial or editorial work, and have no real experience dealing with agencies or hiring crew, talent, etc…

I’ve considered going back to assisting, but in the few inquiries I’ve made to photographers in my area, the consensus has been that they’ve either stopped hiring freelance assistants due to the economy, or they already have regular freelancers who aren’t really going anywhere. I feel like this is my time to break into the industry, and I know that everybody has to start somewhere, so here’s my question: as an art buyer, would you be likely to take a chance on an unknown photographer with relatively little experience given that their work was good enough, or should I try to get more experience working with other photogs before trying to get work for myself? Is there anything else that you think I might be overlooking?

Any help is greatly appreciated, and I really dig the blog!

Nathaniel Chadwick

First off, I wanted to say thank you for writing your blog. I am an avid reader and the information that you pass along through your blogs is incredibly helpful, and inspiring at times. I know that your time is precious so I will try to keep this as short as possible. My name is Nathaniel Chadwick, I am 24 and pursuing my career as a commercial photographer fresh out of college (I didn’t major in photography, nor have I taken any photography classes, I am self taught). I know I have a long way to go with my work, but I am at the point where I would like to start sending out e-mails and mailers to AB’s and AP’s. I have been doing a lot of research on what to send as mailers, something creative that grabs your attention with the .027 seconds I have of your attention, but what I don’t know is…what should it say? I suppose this is more geared toward the emails I will send out because the mailer will just have my name and website slapped on it, but are the emails supposed to be more personal? e.g. “Hi my name is Nathaniel Chadwick, I am 24 and very interested in working with you blah blah blah…” or should the emails be just as basic as the mailers with just an image that clicks through to my website and my name on it? Sorry this question is very basic, but I know there are a lot of rules to the game of getting noticed, and I want to abide by them all to give myself the best chance possible. Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew July 27, 2010 at 11:57 am

Thanks for another great video. I thought one of the main advantages of postcards was that they didn’t need to go in an envelope, and you didn’t have to rely on the recipient to open something in order to see your marketing message. With images on both sides of a card, I guess you would have to use an envelope. Or is it ever okay to send them with an image on one side and a stamp and mailing label on the other? At least this way you know the recipient has seen your image and the mailer didn’t go into the trash or a pile on their desk unopened and unseen.

I saw the clear envelopes in your other video. Is this the way you recommend sending a postcard?

Thanks again.

Adam July 28, 2010 at 2:55 pm

This comment is for Mark. Have you shown your work to any professionals in your area? I have shown my book to a few in the Chicago and St. Louis areas, just to critique the work. I wasn’t there to try to get a job, but only to get feedback. Some of what I heard rubbed me the wrong way and made me feel insecure about my work, but it helped me be more honest with my self.

I think your website is clean and really nice to look through, but some of the people shots are really nice, but others scream, “student work.” The first few pictures in the landscape section are nice, and the rest I would not categorize as landscapes. Not that they are bad photos, but it is confusing to see a still life in a landscape gallery.

I mean all of this in a constructive way, and I hope some part of this helps.

Mark Gilmore July 29, 2010 at 6:09 pm

I didn’t even realize my question made it up here until recently. Thank you, Heather, your insight is very helpful! :)

For Adam: Thank you for your feedback! I have shown my work to a few professionals. Many that I’ve hit up for assisting gigs have asked to see my website and I typically get some good critiques from that. I probably should show it more, like you said. As far as the landscape category goes, my thinking was to use landscape as less of a literal term to be able to incorporate any images that are missing a human element. I didn’t want to create separate galleries for the few images that would fit into other categories (I hate visiting a photographer’s site and seeing only one or two images in a category). I chose the word “landscape” because I didn’t want to use the words “places” or “things” and felt that landscape was the next best option.

I do agree with you on the people shots. Some of it is old work from my 2nd year in school and I think I got a little caught up with quantity over quality in that category, but I am in the process of revamping that work. I’ve just focused more on the landscapes over the last few years. Thanks again, I always appreciate getting as much feedback as I can!

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