As I mentioned in Part I of this series, besides shooting new imagery, the single most important thing a commercial photographer can do to increase his/her business is to get out in person to promote their own work. Even though the imagery can speak for itself, art producers and creatives are saying that meeting one on one is very important. That is why I am encouraging all of the photographers in our group to attend networking events such as At Edge’s Face to Face, Fotoworks and Debra Weiss’ portfolio review events.
Over this past year, I have seen the list of reviewers becoming more relevant and the list of photographers attending longer. This tells me that the events are becoming more popular for both ad agency and photo buyer reviewers as well as photographers.
Despite their growing popularity, I still am asked by established photographers all of the time what the value would be for them? Some even ask if it would make them “seem desperate” if they attended. Even some art buyers have wondered aloud to me why some photographers would attend given their status in the industry already. “They could just come by and see me anytime” is a standard response.
All of this made me realize that there are some misconceptions about the events and seeing how incredibly valuable they are for everyone attending -reviewers and photographers alike – it would be helpful to try and shed some light on what people are actually experiencing.
Sasha Carillo is a Creative Planner and Art Producer at Davis Elen advertising in Los Angeles. She attended the Fotoworks event this spring and was open to being interviewed for our blog to help shed some light on the power of these events. She had so many great insights to share that we divided her interview into two parts. The second of two parts is below. To access Part I, link here.
You are given only 15-20 minutes with each photographer. Is that enough time?
It really depends on what the photographers are looking for from me. Also, I find myself talking to some photographers WAY more than I do to others. It might just be the personality of the photographers. Some people need a little push. I’m pretty outgoing but sometimes I say, “tell me about yourself” and I get “I’m from Alaska.” Oh cool, what part? “Anchorage.” It’s like pulling teeth. With other people, right off the bat we’re chatting about our kids and other common interests and that sparks a great conversation about what I do, what they do, how we can work together and move forward.
It also depends on how much work they bring to the table. If someone comes with a book or an iPad with 20 portfolios that they want me to look at, then I need more time. Other people may bring a book with just 10 pages in it and I spend the rest of the time looking for something to talk about. Ultimately, it depends on what the photographers bring so I suggest they come with as much as they can.
Do you like to see still photos on iPads too or do you prefer to have the tactile experience of flipping through a physical book?
I absolutely love portfolio books. The smell of the paper is SO nostalgic for me. I just love how everyone organizes them and puts their work together. When you first get started, it’s your “bible.” It’s the most important thing for your career.
When a rep presents to me, iPads are a great tool to show a lot of images in a short amount of time. It works especially well if they have multiple photographers and/or video to share. When a photographer presents to me, the iPad still works for those same reasons, but I really do prefer the portfolio. I want to flip those pages.
What advice do you have for photographers who may want to attend Fotoworks in the future (besides bring a lot of work, bring a physical book, bring video if you have it) anything else that you’d add to that?
The most important thing is to know who you’re presenting to at the event. Do your research. As reviewers, we really appreciate when a person knows our accounts, what work we have created, etc. It helps make the meeting with me more relevant. They can highlight how they believe their work can benefit our agency/clients/brands. Prepare like you would for a job interview: get background information, know who you are speaking with, be knowledgeable when you show up…and bring your “A game.”
What advice would you give to established photographers who are “on the fence” about attending FotoWorks? Sometimes we hear from more established photographers things like, “it feels like I’d be selling out.” What advice do you have for them?
If they are not comfortable attending these shows, they should be making appointments to meet with art buyers face-to-face. I have yet to see more than a couple dozen really well established photographers call me or have their rep call me to schedule a face-to-face meeting. It is really the newer photographers or not yet established photographers who meet with me all the time and honestly, they are the ones getting work.
My whole philosophy on hiring people is: I need to meet you. I need to know what type of person you are (even if it is just for 5 minutes). I may already know what you shoot and your work, but as soon as I meet you/we make a connection, you get added to my consideration list. Some photographers I’ve met share recent projects with me and others just check in with me every once in awhile. Either way, I know that person is going to follow through on a lot of things and that is important to me when I hire a photographer.
I should point out that there are quite a few photographers who reach out to me on a regular basis and they are the next people who I am going to hire because I know that they have taken the time to get to know me (we meet up a few times a year and keep in contact over email, etc). Those are the people who get the jobs. Remember, your name can only get you so far. Your rep can only get you so far. It is makes a difference to put forth that extra effort.
So you really advocate photographers getting on the plane, making the drive, etc to have that face-to-face meeting with you (without their rep).
Yes, 100%! There are a lot of people that I know through their rep. And, then there are a lot of photographers that I know and don’t know their rep. Having a strong relationship with the reps is of course important, but I like it when a photographer calls and says “I’m going to be in LA, I have 15 meetings and I will take any time that I can get with you.” I’ll schedule them because I know that every photographer has to make the LA trip, the NY trip, the SF trip, and the Miami trip. And if I can squeeze somebody in for 15 minutes to look at their book and chit-chat with them, I say “yeah, I’ll do it whenever I can.”
Do you see a clear benefit for established photographers to go to FotoWorks in addition to doing one-on-one meetings at ad agencies?
I do. At this last FotoWorks there were a majority of San Francisco and some San Diego photographers (and I realizes that’s because all of the LA photographers have already met us!) In addition to art buyers reviewing there also were art directors from smaller agencies or places that don’t have art buyers. So yes, I think it is really important to get out there because if you or your rep only contact people who are on lists from Adbase or Agency Access then you may not reaching the most relevant people for you or even enough of the right people.
Would you sign up to do FotoWorks again? Other shows like it?
Yes, of course, I love doing them.
And would you recommend to others that they do these shows as well, i.e. other art buyers, art directors, etc?
I would definitely recommend it to the people who are decision makers when it comes to hiring photographers (i.e. art buyer, Creative Director, Chief Creative Officer, etc). I think it’s brilliant, it’s great, and everyone should do them. Maybe not every single one, but as many as you can. It’s good for your company. It’s good for you. It’s good!