Design Director, Cathi Salem of McLean Design, Loves Mailers, Sunset Magazine and Technology. Read Why Here.

While I have never met Cathi Salem, I have known her for years.  We love when we hear from her.  Her requests are always for wonderful projects with beautiful imagery.  She works with Leigh Beisch often, and for that we are grateful.  Thank you Cathi for all of your support over the years and for of course, contributing to our blog.  Your insights are very valuable.

Here is what Cathi had to share with us about searching for photography, attending industry events, standing out from the competition and what clients and agencies value most from a photographer?  I especially like what she say about how valuable it is to be able to “…take art direction gracefully and be flexible…”

How do you search for photography nowadays? 

In packaging, our photography needs can be fairly specific so we do have our “go to” photographers based on client needs. We also keep our eyes open for fresh perspectives, whether from rep websites, mailers, or email blasts that have piqued our interest. Because so many of our projects are food photography based (and I’m a magazine junkie), I love to reference food/lifestyle magazines (especially Sunset) to see who is shooting and styling.

Which industry events for photography do you attend and why?

Industry events haven’t been a priority for us, but possibly in the future as photography becomes more prevalent in our field.

What are photographers doing lately to stand out from their competitors?

I have to say, it’s tough to sort through the amount of emails we get from photographers, especially because our needs are pretty specific and many don’t fit the bill. What we do love are mailers that showcase applicable work – we tend to keep them around not only as reference to the photographer, but also for the lighting or the styling. Photographers that know how to use light to make food look sexy always stand out.

What does your client value most from a photographer?  Does that differ from what you or your agency values?  And, has that changed over the years?

Generally, our values are similar, but in differing proportions.  Clients are always looking for the most bang for their buck, the right shot at the right price. While its important to them, we just want the perfect shot.

We love to work with photographers who can bring their style perspective to the table within our often restrictive and specific packaging framework. Clients can sometimes miss the importance of this puzzle piece, but it’s probably the most important to us.

The ability to take art direction gracefully and be flexible is hugely valuable to both of us. Clients need to feel heard and involved, and we usually need to get very detailed and specific about compositions. The photographer’s ability to let this happen and be flexible while still creating the “magic” makes the shoot.

Oddly enough, proximity can be important. To be able to attend a shoot locally is less disruptive to schedules (ours and theirs) and keeps clients more involved in the process. Luckily, San Francisco is home to amazing photographers and stylists.

Technology also plays a role for us both. Because our layouts are so spatially specific, being able to instantly see shots in the actual layout is a godsend. Its standard now in most studios, but it makes a huge difference. We can adjust on the fly without having to manage it later in post-production– saving time and money.

These values haven’t changed much over the years. Value, artistic expression and collaboration will always be at the top of the list.

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