I Reviewed Portfolios at Photo Plus and Here are Seven Things I Said Over and Over.

The week that Photo Plus is in NYC is a crazy week. During that time there are so many people in town trying to get appointments with agencies that I have historically avoided visiting.  Well, this year, I decided to embrace the crazy and rather than compete for a share of voice, I opted to be part of the culture instead.  I attended At Edge Face to Face, co-hosted a Community Table event with Brite Productions and The Workbook, had a fantastic lunch with some industry friends to brainstorm solutions for some hot industry issues we are all dealing with, dropped in on Fotoworks, visited an art producer friend, hired a contributing editor for my blog (announcement coming soon!) attended the Workbook’s Creative Carnival,and reviewed portfolios at Photo Plus.  It was an incredible and productive week to say the least.

With all that I had going in, I look back on the time reviewing portfolios as the most uniquely rewarding experience of the week.   I was impressed by the level of work presented and was honored that those photographers I met were avid readers of this blog and were grateful for the voice it gives to the industry.  I hadn’t expected to hear that and appreciated even more the impact that it makes.

I was also struck by no matter what type of photography is shot, the challenges faced by photographers are very similar.  So much so, I found myself offering the same advice over and over.  I realize that the advice I give is not rocket science or something that another rep couldn’t offer.  But, the reason these photographers seek out the advice is that they do not always have access to people who can help get them to that next step or validate their place in the market.  So, as I reviewed, I took notes to share on the blog when I returned home.

Here is what I shared during my reviews – in no particular order.

•  There are many different types of lifestyle photography. Know where you fit on the spectrum.

Many photographers define themselves as lifestyle photographers.  When I look at their work, I always agree with their assessment.  They capture people in real life,  every day situations.  But, that lifestyle spectrum is wide.  Therefore it is very important to define yourself on that spectrum.  Are you polished and styled?  Do you prefer slice of life with real people talent?  Do you skew more towards an editorial style?  The more you can define your style, the more easily remembered you will be.

•  The most successful commercial photographers are not only talented but relevant to the market as well.

I define a relevant commercial image as one that a client can look at and imagine their own brand or product in your image.   When you look at your images can you clearly see a certain brand relating to the work?  Would a certain product fit perfectly in the shot?  For example, if I were a creative director or art buyer looking for a photographer for a Beats Headphones campaign and I saw your work, could I easily imagine your talent wearing the product?  Are they in a situation where you would see someone wearing the product?  Of course the product doesn’t have to literally be in the shot (although it helps!) it just has to be easy for them to imagine it there.  Set the stage so that they can.

•  Vary your locations

If you live in NY, shoot locations other than NY.  If you live in SF shoot locations other than SF.  If you live in the Midwest, shoot locations other than the Midwest. You get the idea.  Photographing in the same place all the time could communicate to an art producer/creative that you are not comfortable shooting elsewhere. Varying your locations expands your aesthetic, allows for more creativity, showcases different talent and shares with the viewer that you have resources in many different places.

•  Tearsheet Tearshet Tearsheet

I know I am dating myself by saying that but the idea is the same as it was when people actually looked through magazines and tore out ads they liked.  Know the creative that is being created.  Figure out which clients inspire you.  Find out which agencies and creatives work on those accounts.  Do not just say you want to shoot lifestyle photography.  Know which clients match your style of photography.

•  When concepting tests, consider shooting scenarios rather than one single shot.

More and more clients are requesting a ‘library of images” rather than one single shot for a project.  We are being asked to direct scenes from which to capture multiple images for use in a library.   Therefore, the projects we are asked to bid often read like scripts rather than shot lists.     For example, the direction is no longer;  photograph two people riding bikes in a park.  Rather it is to photograph two senior people riding bikes in a  park illustrating that the medication they are taking makes them able to do so.    The direction is no longer; photograph a portrait of a farm stand owner.  Instead it is to photograph a man  using technology to accept credit card payments for his new farm stand business.     Keeping in mind the scenario rather than the shot allows for more value to be placed on your estimate.  Illustrating that you can capture these libraries in your portfolio will help the agencies sell you to their client.

• Uncover moments in you photography.

Every lifestyle project that comes across our desk asks the photographer to uncover a moment as part of their creative.  Whether it be two people enjoying a walk on a beach,  a mother and child reading in bed before going to sleep or some friends enjoying an afternoon at a cafe, the brief always asks for the photographer to discover that moment.  Remember this and include work like this in your book.

•  Find your voice on social media.

Like it or not, social media is a large way in which people communicate.  Between Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to name a few, photographers are sharing their work with a broader group of people.  Social media provides an inexpensive, accessible platform to share new work, personal work and even older work.  I hear all the time that clients are demanding more and more content from their agencies.  Well, photographers have more content than most to share.  And, social media provides a great visual space to do so.  Find your voice and participate!







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