Every year in December and early January, we review with our photographers all that was accomplished in that year. We also spend a lot of time defining, creatively and financially, what a successful 2015 will look like. The reports we write are very time intensive and cover every aspect of their marketing. We find it very helpful to be able to review, all in one place, not only what the photographer accomplished that year but what we as a rep group accomplished as well. We compare it to the previous year’s goals and look carefully at the factors that we think affected the year.
Historically, we also reflected on what trends we witnessed in the industry. Just as in the case with previous years, the issues and trends that rose to the top were not new. Once again, creating more new work, photographer focused marketing, retaining long term clients, evolution of art buyers to art producers, social media and the increasing role of other agency players in our estimating process were very important. So, since these issues were not new and are part of our everyday conversations, we chose not to address them in the traditional way in our summary and conversation.
Instead, we chose to make an important connection between two very important things happening in our industry right now and use that connection in 2015 to define every image we take, conversation we have and estimate we present.
1) Library shoots are the norm. We rarely get that call for that one single shot anymore. Clients are requesting a library of images with each shoot and with that comes trying to make the most of a shoot day and schedule as many images/scenarios as possible. Even though agencies and studios together try and bring the conversation back to shooting less scenarios per day in order to allow more time to capture those hero images, more often than not, clients place their value on quantity and price.
That is not to say a library shoot is not creative or can’t yield hero images. Quite the contrary. Within our group and I am sure many others, shoots have been produced where that is the case. But those instances are the minority.
And in those more creative instances, we often started with a longer shot list than we ended up. Credit goes to the studios, agencies and account people who were able to sell the client on the value of less content but stronger imagery. And, of course to the client for recognizing the importance of that value.
2) Photographers that participate fully in their own marketing are rewarded for their efforts. There is no more looking for your voice or figuring out how you can best participate in the marketing and sales conversation. Photographers must have a voice and must participate.
Photographers that are committed to their marketing plans, engage in their own networking, have a strong voice on social media, utilize blogs and other websites to promote themselves and are engaged in the estimating process fully are the ones who are the busiest. Those photographers that are less engaged, (often times for very good and valid reasons, such as shooting!) are less busy. It is that simple. There are of course the exceptions, but as well, they are few and far between.
So, how are these two important trends connected?
When clients valued that one single shot, they looked for imagery that illustrated that a certain photographer could create that hero image for them. They had a lot riding on the shoot and they needed an experienced professional; someone who they knew could get the shot, every time. That means they valued CRAFT and EXPERIENCE.
To determine this, all they had to do was look at the portfolio, see what awards the photographer had won, ask a friend or two for a reference or even pull from personal experiences because they had shot together previously. More often than not, it was about the photography, not the photographer. The photographer’s work , more often than not, would stand on its own.
Today, because of the digital camera, high end printers and websites, the cost of entry is lower than ever into our industry. That means competition is fierce.
So now, the idea of great work is a given. Since creatives have so many talented photographers to choose from, photographers aren’t even being considered if they aren’t amazing or 100% right for the project. The primary conversation no longer has to be about how relevant the imagery in the portfolio (site) is or how confident the photographer is with the task at hand. The assumption is that if you are even on the table being considered, your work is amazing and you can handle the shoot.
Therefore, the first conversation has changed. Now, instead of scrutinizing your work, it is about how much can you shoot? What is your vision for the photography? Do you have similar libraries to show the client? There will be a lot of moving parts, how will you produce this project? Are you willing to negotiate? And, will they enjoy being on the production with the photographer?
To determine this, art producers and creatives need to get to know the photographer and be able to clearly understand their vision for the production. Ask yourself, if all things are equal on the talent front, what will be the tie breakers? Photographers who have met the creatives or art producers have a leg up. So do the ones that have bid on projects with them before. Those photographers that have the time to create a top notch treatment will also set themselves apart from their otherwise equally talented counterparts. And, those that can talk through their vision clearly and confidently on the creative call certainly rise above all others.
In general, we have gone from the first conversation being about the photography to it being about the photographer.
What this means is that we are in a time where it is imperative for photographers to participate in their own marketing. Opportunities exist to get to know the participants long before the project becomes a reality. There are portfolio reviews to attend, blog posts to write, websites to update, websites to join, new work to share on social media, emailers to send out, mailers to create, interviews to give, networking to do, award shows to enter, emails to send; meetings to attend, trips to take, new work to shoot, the list is endless.
It used to be that those photographers in our group that shared the most amount of new work each year would have been the busiest that year. Now, unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Now, it is the photographers that share the most amount of new work AND go on trips, attend portfolio review events, share on social media, create high profile personal projects and look for opportunities to connect with other people in the industry that are the busiest in our group.
The bottom line is that relying solely on your imagery to speak for you has become dangerous. Adding your voice to that imagery is equally as dangerous, but for everyone else, not you.
Having made this connection and discussed it with our photographers, we asked them to answer the following questions. Their answers will define everything we do in 2015.
How will we bring that first conversation back to photography, craft and experience?
How will we all, together, manage all that is expected of your studio?
And, how will you manage your participation?