Introducing Community Table: a Conversation with LA Art Buyers. Part I: The Appetizer

The Community Table

Welcome to Community Table – the first in a series of blog posts sharing conversations held directly with our community leaders about top of mind industry issues.  Community Table was formed from the collective efforts of Matt Nycz and Kate Chase of Brite Productions and Heather Elder and Lauranne Lospalluto of Heather Elder Represents with the idea that there is nothing more powerful in our industry than education.

So, of course it is no surprise that Community Table was inspired by LeBook Connections, which was founded with the vision of bringing together the worlds top reps with buyers and creative’s from the worlds leading agencies and clients for a day of sharing and connecting.  It was in this context of discussing the inspirational nature of all of us coming together in LA that the idea was launched for Community Table – the timing perfect to foster an in-depth conversation about top-of-mind industry issues and to then share the results-of with our larger community via a shared blog post.

Thus invitations were sent, RSVPs rolled in, questions were drafted, a beautiful spot for lunch was reserved and a tremendously inspiring conversation ensued with topics ranging from what art buyers are looking for at Connections, who from the agencies actually attends the event, the rise of and value of pay-to-play events, one of the most effective ways for photographers to get work. The often debated email vs. direct mail discussion made an appearance as did insights into where creative’s look for inspiration and work, thoughts on photographers shooting video and over dessert, a one-word summary from each of us to describe the current state of our industry.

All agreed it that there aren’t enough opportunities to get everyone together and we can’t wait for the next one. But for now are very happy to summarize what we learned with our larger community.

And, with that, we welcome you to our table.


Each Conversation Starter was directed to one person with a general discussion ensuing. We decided this was the best way to present the discussion, to share the experience as close as possible to how it actually happened to bring you all to the table with us.

The first questions were directed to Cara Nieto from DeutschLA about how she defines a successful event, what she enjoyed the most and what was most effective for introducing her to new talent and reacquainting her with familiar talent?

CONVERSATION STARTER #1: Le Book’s Effectiveness

Cara Nieto, DeutschLA

How would you define a successful Le Book event?  Do you think the event met these criteria?  What elements of Connections did you enjoy the most?  What were the most effective in introducing you to new talent and reacquainting you with familiar talent? 

Here is how Cara got the conversation started:

“I consider LeBook successful if I discover new talent or someone new to a roster. I may have discovered someone new to a certain roster, but no one that I hadn’t seen before.  I don’t get to talk with every person, so it may not be that there wasn’t any new talent there at all, but it’s obviously difficult to find that with everything one has to look at.

For the booths I did make it to, I asked to be shown one or two things I hadn’t seen before since this what I’m looking for—if someone is new to the roster or has something really new and exciting. It would be helpful if, at each booth, new talent to either their roster or the industry were highlighted.

I did like the big agency books with five or six images from each photographer, especially the big agencies. It’s daunting to ask to dig one out from the bottom of the pile.”

“I loved it. The chaos. Seeing all the portfolios stacked up all over the place,” added Jigisha Bouevrat of TBWA\Chiat\Day. “I think if you spread it out, you lose that energy, that charisma that is in there.  And because of that I found five I’m excited to hopefully work with. And we do a lot of research and have people come in. And these were five who were not on my radar at all.”

“I go straight to the music stand, assuming that it must be the best of the bunch right now,” added Lisa Matthews from Team One. “It’s easier to flip through and read—it really works. So maybe that’s the idea. You switch it out every 45 minutes. When I see a stack of books in the corner, I say ‘give me three.’ The big monitors with five images from each photographer also draw you in. You can get a good idea very quickly of the artists at each rep.”

“We are also most interested in personal work,” adds Cara Nieto. “Reps could encourage their photographers to have a personal project or test for their reps to share at the event that they’re excited about and that is catered to us.

But quite honestly, what I enjoyed as much as looking at the work was seeing the reps I don’t usually see, from San Francisco and New York, and catching up with them.”

Jigisha echoed the same sentiment. “I loved that I can network not only with the agents, but that the photographers showed up at the end and that I got to see all the art producers and the other people that are part of my community that I never get to see and bond with. We tend to be and feel isolated in LA and it’s great for us to get to spend time together.

I also love that it’s on the West Coast in LA because I think we need something that elevates us and makes us part of this industry. I love that and I don’t ever want this to go away. I call it our industry day, but it should turn into an industry week.”

The second set of questions were addressed to Melanie Tongas of RPA.  And in keeping with the conversation-starter spirit, it quickly turned into an animated group discussion that ranged from getting art directors to Connections and to portfolio shows, how digital and motion are impacting art director’s availability for looking at photography, and why a fashion and celebrity-driven event like Connections is relevant to a wider audience of art buyers.

CONVERSATION STARTER #2:  Le Book’s Attendance

Melanie Tongas, RPA

How much does your agency encourage attendance to an event like Le Book?  Do they encourage the entire creative department to attend?  Did any of your creative’s attend the event?  If not, why do you think that is? 

Here is how Melanie got the conversation started:

Since LeBook came to LA last year, I along with Ginnie Assenza, who I co-manage the department with, encouraged our department to attend the event, as we believe it’s important to connect with the photography and advertising community, and keep abreast of the latest trends in the industry. Most of us attended last year’s event and loved it, and because of that found a way to fit it into our incredibly busy schedules this year.

Being that we’re a predominantly automotive agency, we intentionally narrowed our focus for so many years to know the automotive reps and photographers because that’s who we were hiring and it was the best use of our time.  But with a handful of growing non-auto accounts where we’re finding ourselves commissioning more fashion and celebrity photographers, the LeBook event was a perfect venue for us to meet new reps and see new talent, as much as it was to visit with those we’ve worked with over the years.

As art producers it’s our job not only to source out the right talent for any particular project, but to keep expanding our talent library with new talent. That’s part of what this event is all about. It’s about seeing who’s out there so if we have an automotive project that requires some fashion, we’ll know who’s out there.”

Freelance art producer, Jill Hundenski said that their responsibilities have expanded as well. “We have to stay on top of who is shooting print and motion. Art Directors come to us to ask who is doing both.

“I feel like LeBook should also really be targeting the digital and print producers because we are crossing media. Maybe broadcast too, but definitely digital and print,” suggested by Jigisha and echoed by Lisa Matthews, “Integrated production is the new buzzword. Le Book should grow it into an option.”

“Just having a couple events is not enough to draw the art directors. They need to have more to attract them,” suggested Melanie. “Successful ideas could be held throughout the week.”

“They could also attract higher attendance if it were more centrally located on the Westside,” added Cara Nieto. “They might be catering to fashion and celebrity businesses, but the agencies are on the Westside and Hollywood is the mecca in traffic.”

“So it would be nice for them to partner with someone to expand the event more,” suggested Heather. “This being their second year in LA, I’m sure they are trying to figure it out and are still learning what people are craving and need here. I think it’s recognizing the power of this week and building on it.”

“One thing to add. The events/presentations at LeBook (branded content, etc.) have nothing to do with photography,” observed Jigisha. “It’s about a different way of advertising and marketing and working with clients and so much more strategy than the creative development. If they want to get art directors there, they need to rethink the presentations. And also not do them during the day. I didn’t get to look at books until 5:30.

On another note, I would spend my money to go to NY to see the European agents at NY Connections.”

The final question of this first installment of Community Table was on the rise of Pay-to-Play events. Directed to Jigisha Bouverat of TBWA\Chiat\Day an interesting discussion developed .  Some see the value outweighing any shortcomings and others felt it was somewhat unfair to photographers to pay to see them when they could simply make an appointment. All were agreed though, that those getting to know the photographer,  is paramount and this is one opportunity for doing that and these events are very beneficial to emerging photographers.


Jigisha Bouverat, TBWA\Chiat\Day

There is a rise in the “pay to play” events where photographers pay a fee or pay into a program that allows them direct access to creatives and or art producers.  The organizers sometimes offer compensation to the reviewers in an effort to elevate the seriousness of the event and show a respect for the reviewer’s time.  What is it about these types of events that are most successful and what do you feel could be improved upon?  Do you see this as a positive trend and if not, why?

Here is how Jigisha got everyone thinking:

“In the past few years I’ve thought about this a lot because I’ve needed to strategize as my role as an art producer in an ad agency and as a department head. With regards to the pay-to-play events, I’ve thought about what is a conflict of interest and what is acceptable.

At first, I would get an offer to come look at and critique portfolios that came with a stipend. I knew the people putting the shows together were also charging the photographers to have their books reviewed, but I would do them. However, in the last couple of years, the books that came to me were photographers who didn’t need my critique, who were already quite successful and could call me and get a showing

Acknowledging that the pay-to-play events present a valuable opportunity to emerging photographers, Jigisha continued, “Then alternatively, there have been other reviews I’ve done for beginner and emerging books where I could be constructive and helpful. In this case, my time was worth it for them, if the photographer uses it as a critique to make their book better.”

Based on an evaluation of how much each side gets out of it, Jigisha now only participates when she feels it is not a conflict of interest. “I made the decision not to participate in events where the caliber of photographer is good enough to come in to my agency and be seen. But I will participate in the ones where I can use my experience to help them and they can maybe do a little more work and see me at my agency the next time and not have to pay.”

Several art buyers however highlighted the value of actually meeting with photographers, “Personality is huge,” added Jill Hundenski. “If the creative call goes downhill, I take them off the list. And on that same note, if you have 15 minutes with a photographer, you can really delve into what they love working on and get a better understanding of who they are, more so than looking at their book or hearing from their rep.”

“I find the pay-to-play events successful because I have the chance to meet with new photographers and I love one-on-ones with photographers,” confirmed art buyer Andrea Mariash of David & Goliath. “I’ll go into a portfolio show and everyone is standing around the photographer trying to figure out what they have coming up that they could use them on. It absolutely makes a difference.”

And echoing what we often hear from art buyers, Patti O’Halloran of The Designory summed it up with “Yes, it’s always good to meet the photographers because you may end up spending a week with them.”


Be sure to tune in next week to sample the Main Course of our meeting where we will be addressing Marketing over the Years and the ever present Emailer Controversy.

If you have anything to add to the conversation, please do email Heather Elder Represents or Brite Productions, we are excited to keep the conversation going.

Thank you again to all of our participants, Heather Elder Represents, Brite Productions and Alison McCreery of POP Blog for making all of this sharing possible.

Let it snow. Please! What you need to know to produce photos shoots in the snow courtesy of producer Steven Currie

© Andy

I have known Steven Currie for years and I can say with confidence that he is a top notch producer.  Nothing flusters him, not even the weather – or lack there of.  He is resourceful, creative and one of the best problem solvers out there.  So, when he sent me the post he wanted to submit for the blog, I was not surprised that he chose to write about producing in the snow during one of the warmest winters in history.

Here is what Steven has to say.

“Talking about production on snow related projects seems ironic during one of the warmest winters in United States history.  But our clients have needs and it’s our job to fulfill them. I have learned over the years that there are four key aspects to working on or in snow.  While they seem obvious, they are crucial to the success of the shoot.


Working in snow takes 25-50% more time than working on dry land. Let me repeat, working in snow takes 25-50% more time than working on dry land.  Whether it’s transportation, lighting, catering, communication, safety or simply walking from point A to point B, it just takes more time. Managing a client’s expectations regarding this is imperative.


Park the SUV, you are going to have to find another way around.  Whether it’s a snow cat, snow mobile, helicopter, dog sled, skis,  or in the case of shooting Simon Dumont for Oakley (Blake Jorgenson Photographer) hiking 1,000 feet straight up to the top of Highlands Bowl at 12,000 feet for that top of the world look.  (It’s amazing how many agency and clients pass on the opportunity to observe this kind of shot.)  If you can utilize a snow cat, it’s the most efficient.  You can move 12 people and equipment comfortably and utilize it as your motor home once you reach your location.  But keep in mind cats go about 10 miles an hour, so when you need to get to that location that’s “only” 20 miles away, realize it’s going to take …. more time.  Snowmobiles are much quicker, but moving 1 passenger at a time is not efficient.   They are better utilized for short hauls to move things around the location, not for transporting crew long distances.   But If money’s no object go with the Helicopter, it’s just cooler.


Whether it’s  avalanche danger, moving machines,  or the extreme conditions, it’s safest to have someone solely concentrating on everyone’s safety, and not  distracted by another role.  Wherever your location, more than likely you will be assigned someone for your safety in extreme conditions.  Most resorts will assign you a patroller,  a heli  or cat operation who will have someone solely watch for the safety of the crew.   If they don’t, ask for one.

As far as safety goes, be sure to remember that in order to find snow you are more than likely at a high altitude and it’s going to be cold.  It is important to realize that altitude equals dehydration.   So, if you can only carry one thing with you, make it water.  Most clients and agencys seem to come from sea level (where it’s safe and warm) so when they come to the snow and altitude,  their bodies need time to adjust. Altitude sickness is simply dehydration.  So have plenty of water on hand and constantly remind people to drink it.  More than any type of production,  I have “lost” more crew/agency to altitude sickness.  Trust me, it is not pretty.


Because of the particular places that snow falls, permissions are usually more complex than our friendly summer counterparts.  Most US ski resorts sit on Forest Service land, so it’s not enough to just clear things with the resort.  More than likely you’ll need a Forest Service Permit.  And since it’s the Department of Transport’s job to keep the roads clear and you are trying to showcase a cars capability on snow, you are more than likely going to have to use private property.    If you see a road with snow on it, more than likely it’s not public.    Local scouts will know where the snow is and who to speak with to get access.  In rare cases you’ll find snow on public roads and it will save money if you can find them.


And finally, if you can’t find the snow, make it!  There are many options for creating a snowy effect in your image.  They are usually very costly and it takes more …. Time!   (You’re getting the idea.)  The most effective way to make it look cold is a snow flake filled sky, but who can schedule a shoot day around a forecast for snow?  There are several products that will make it snow on a clear day.   I find the most effective to be a bio degradable starch product that can be blown with fans.   It falls to the ground slowly, making it look like Christmas in Norway.

Over my 10 years of living in the mountains, I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of working in and on the snow.    Some of my most memorable projects have been working in the white stuff.   So for a few more months, until we get our feet back on the ground and back to the “easy productions”,  don’t be intimidated by the thought of shooting on snow.   Just put a little more time in you plan.”

Thank you Steven for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.  If you would like contact him directly or see what else he has worked on, please link to his site:

Solving Mysteries with freelance art buyer Andrea Flaherty

© Kevin Twomey -

Andrea Flaherty  gives freelance a good name.  Not only is she a freelance art buyer, but a freelance producer and project manager as well.   She has partnered with  clients such as Venebles Bell & Partners, MRM Worldwide and Pottery Barn to name a few.  And, her client list is long having worked on some creative favorites such as Audi of America, HBO and Microsoft.  Knowing her experience, we were honored that she contributed to our Solving Mysteries series.  Thank you Andrea

How do you search for photography nowadays?  I keep a fairly extensive ‘library’ of bookmarked websites that’s organized by city and specialty. I typically search there first and then review photographers on photography agent’s websites.  I also post on an art producer’s online forum if I am having difficulty sourcing a really specific style. It’s a great resource.

Where do you find inspiration?  I enjoy reading Communication Arts  and seeing the types of photography ads that are being produced around the globe.  And, starting this year, I will be attending student shows at Academy of Art College and CCA as well.  It’s a good way to find up and coming talent.

Which outside events do you find most useful for finding photographers?  When I worked as a full-time employee at ad agencies, I would attend the portfolio shows.  As a freelancer I attend – APA shows or any type of portfolio show or social event that brings together art buyers and photographers together.

 What are you reading online?  APA Forums,, Ads of the World,, various photography representative blogs including Heather Elder Represents (wink wink).

What are photographers doing lately to stand out from their competitors?   I always think it’s good when a photographer accompanies his/her rep to agency portfolio shows.  The art directors and other creatives viewing the portfolios really enjoy speaking with the artists about their work. It’s a good way for the photographer to make a connection with the people at the agency that play a big part in selecting photographers.

Currently I work freelance, so I am not doing portfolio shows or on the receiving end of photographer’s and agent’s marketing efforts.  I was at an APA event where a local photographer did a presentation on himself and his work.  I believe he started booking the presentation at ad agencies in lieu of a portfolio show.  It’s a different way to showcase his work and the agencies to get to know him better.

What do you wish photographers would try harder not to do anymore?  Or, maybe do less often?  That’s a tough question. I think photographers should shoot and showcase what they know and love. I fully support the creative evolution of photographer. I think it’s great that a landscape photographer may want to explore shooting portraiture. But I think some photographers try to show too wide a range of ‘specialties’ in their books in an attempt to cover their bases and obtain more work.  In my experience each ad campaign calls for a unique look and feel and specialty be it lifestyle, still life, portraiture etc.  As a producer I need to know that the photographer I hire lives and breathes his specialty, because they will be collaborating with the art director on set.  Photographers are hired for their expertise and the agencies rely on this heavily.  The more diversified a book, the less I trust that the photographer is an expert in all types of imagery that they are showing.

What does your client value most from a photographer?  Does that differ from what you value?  And, has that changed over the years?   In my experience clients value competence from a photographer.  They want to know that their money is being well spent.  Even though a client agrees with the agency that a photographer is well suited to shoot a particular ad or campaign, they always worry about the details.  And most of the worry comes from inexperience. “Will he/she be able to get all of our shots each day?  Will he/she be able to elicit the expressions we need?”  An early client pre-pro meeting typically sets their mind at ease.

As a producer, I also feel that the photographer’s competence is extremely important.  Equally important to me are the photographer’s personality and professionalism. Let’s face it, some clients are difficult. I need to know that the photographer I hire is going to be patient, friendly, and professional during the shoot.  I can’t run the risk of hiring someone with a huge ego or that hates working with people that may snap at the client.

In my experience these needs have not changed over the years.

To learn more about Andrea Flaherty, please link here.

From the desk of Sady Callaghan: Tips for Producing in the Wild, Wild West

I have worked with Sady Callaghan for years on a variety of productions and she has never let down any of our photographers or our clients.  She is unflappable, professional and a fun person to have on set.   I love that when someone throws us a curve ball, Sady is always the voice of reason and has the perfect solution.

So it was no wonder when Mother Nature sent a dust storm her way she steered the production in a way that got the shot AND came in under budget.  Only Sady.

When I asked her to share her story, here is what she had to say about it.

“When Andy Anderson called me to produce The Richard Group’s new campaign for RAM trucks, I was thrilled.  The idea of shooting in the Wild West was really exciting to me; especially because of the locations.

Of course, there was a quick turn around – isn’t everything nowadays?   We needed to find 6 very complicated locations in very remote areas.  So, knowing that the back bone of a good photo shoot is good scouting,  we hired the best.  We called Joe Wolek and Steven Currie, shared the vision with them and told them to “just find it.”  To do so, they drove thousands of miles through Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.  They of course found amazing locations.

Well, as we all know, an amazing location doesn’t guarantee great weather.  The closer we got to shooting the more worried we became about the elements.  Parts of Colorado were still covered in snow and a lot of other areas were still in spring mode: no trees and no greenery.  Challenging but doable.

What we were not prepared for was the DUST. I have called a few weather days in my time for the usual suspects; storms, rain, fog and snow, but that was the first time that we had to call a weather day for 80 mph winds.

The first day of our shoot there were 60 mph hour winds.   Andy wanted to power through and  simply said,  “We can do it.”  We bought shovels, protective coverings for the equipment and outfitted everyone in goggles and hankerchiefs to cover their faces.  The crew braved the elements and after digging a couple of people out of the sand and waiting patiently for breaks in the storm. We got our shot.  It was great day for a shower.

We were not as lucky on the second day.  The wind was so ferocious and the sand so painful that we could barely leave the hotel.  It was just too dangerous to shoot so we called a weather day.

Even though it was a no brainer to postpone the day, we were sensitive to the fact that weather days are expensive and the client was worried.  So, Andy and I devised a new plan.  We rearranged the entire schedule; including talent and locations, so that we could still finish on time.   It was no small feat, but it was worth it.  In doing so we were able to get all the shots AND still come in under budget. 

Needless to say, everyone was happy and went home with some great stories from the desert.

So, if you are considering shooting in the Wild West anytime soon, consider these inside tips.

1. Stalk your location owners.  Be creative and resourceful.  Many people do not expect a scout to call them and will have no idea what you are talking about.  In one instance, we hired someone to stake out a house night and day to get permission to shoot.  In another, I called seven different levels of management to get approvals for a fertilizer plant. They were puzzled as to why we wanted to shoot there!

2. Call the Navajo Film Commission every three hours.  There is no sense of urgency in the desert.

3. Bring lots of cash.  You don’t know who you are going to have to pay.  Our scout warned us that different Navajo families owned different parts of the land.  I had a couple of families in the motor home every day – and they would only take cash!

4. Hire a great stylist.  Sourcing things in the wild west is very difficult.  We brought along Colleen Hartman and she managed to pull 2000 lbs of railroad ties, antique barrels, sheet rock and large machinery out of her magic bag of tricks.

5. Hire a great local guide.  The Navajo Nation requires productions to have a guide with them at all times.   Sisco was our street scout and our secret weapon.  He told us where to buy beer in a dry state and he dug our assistant out of sand storm.  His brother was our caterer.  We kept it all in the family.

6.  Be prepared for anything.  There are lots of surprises out there.  That’s what make our job so much fun.

7.  Appreciate your crew and your client.  We had a fantastic team on this shoot – and could not have pulled this off it we didn’t all work together as a team.  Everyone from the PA to the client were crucial to making it all happen smoothly.

To learn more about Sady’s production magic, visit her website.

Editorial Insider – Why Garden & Gun really is the soul of the south.

People always ask me how we think of ideas for our blog and is it hard to ask people to contribute.  We are very fortunate to have a network of friends and colleagues that we can draw from and ask for their input.  It is of course easiest with the people we know personally, but those that we do not are just as generous with their time.

Andy Anderson has photographed for Garden & Gun in the past so I have always been a fan of their photography.  He spoke so highly of their photography director, Maggie Kennedy, that I thought she would be a great person to contact and ask to contribute.  Even though we never worked together personally, she was more than willing to share her thoughts.

Even though Garden & Gun is a national magazine, it is often mistaken for a regional one because it is based in the south. This couldn’t be more far from the truth.

She and I agreed that a post about the little things that people may not know about Garden & Gun and her job would be a great way to share with others how special the publication really is.

Here is what she had to say.

I was honored when Heather asked me to contribute to her fabulous blog and thought it could be an opportunity to share not only my passion for photography and the magazine but share a few things about Garden & Gun and my job that you may not know.

•  Garden & Gun is a national publication about Southern lifestyle and culture with an emphasis on photography. We have a nuanced view of the South so it’s not uncommon to find varied topics in one issue such as the best barbecue sandwiches in the South, a profile of Emmylou Harris, a photo essay focused on falconry or a feature on New Orleans artist Noel Rockmore.

 In one weekend in May, Garden & Gun won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence and a James Beard Journalism Award. We are still pinching ourselves.

•  The magazine’s name comes from the old Garden & Gun Club in Charleston, South Carolina. The happening club/disco late 70’s, early 80’s. Our building, built in 1808, was once a girl’s school, Civil War hospital, and the city’s best apothecary, whose inventory was donated to the Smithsonian Institute in 1978. The doors, windows, and floors are all uneven.

•  I love how the country seems to have a genuine interest in the South. Magazines covering food, shelter, outdoor, sport, etc. continue to highlight our region as well as dedicating entire issues to a Southern topic. This wasn’t the case a few years ago and it’s exciting to be part of this trend.

•  The South is such a beautiful place so I consider myself very lucky to work with a publication where photography is a driving component of its’ design and reader interest.   There is care and thoughtfulness put into each issue, each article and each photograph.  I’m proud to have been a part of the team since the first issue in 2007.

•  I love photography. I love my job. I love meeting photographers, sending them on assignments, hearing the war stories. To us in the office, the photographers are the rock stars on tour.

•  I like to work with a combination of up-and-coming Southern shooters and nationally established talent. There are so many talented photographers based in the South. Some have spent years traveling the globe and have made their home here. Others have lived in the South their entire lives and are making a national name for themselves.

•  Our photography strives to be iconic Southern, not kitchy. Soulful images that make our readers want to be there, in the moment. Lots of natural light, lifestyle, rarely conceptual. You’ll find gritty as well as a more polished look which supports our editorial range.

•  We love to run full page photos and print on high quality paper stock. I pay close attention to color proofs and reproduction of the images to ensure the photography is going to look its’ best.

•  I want to put our photographers in a position to succeed by allowing them to express their creativity during assignments. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to work with so much talent. Shooters are hired based on their individual style. They get what the magazine is all about and bring their interpretation visually. If a project is too controlled beyond the basic who/what/when/where, I believe the end product will suffer. I love it when I see Garden & Gun images on their website or in a portfolio.

• I get to assign/edit projects ranging from taxidermy to five-star cuisine and everything in between. Did I mention I love my job?

•  I enjoy continuing to build a strong stable of shooters both nationally and in the South. I always welcome pitches from photographers when ideas fit within our content. We’re also increasing our photo essays online so I’m always on the hunt for creative material.

If you are a photo editor and would like to share with us what it is like to work at your publication, please email us.  We would be happy to feature you.

Looking for a rep? Consider these tips first. You never know, they might just work.

Last year, I wrote a very short blog post for The Workbook about a phone call I received from a photographer.   In light of a flurry of recent calls, I thought it was a good time to resurrect the post and expand on it.

We receive calls and emails from emerging photographers looking for representation all the time.  I am always amazed at how many of them start off the conversation, “ Hi, my name is Joe Smith and I am looking for a rep.  Are you adding talent to your roster?”  If we are not adding talent at the time of the call, I immediately say no.   It is an easy conversation and over quickly.

I always think it is unfortunate that he didn’t say something like, “Hi.  I am Joe.  I am looking for someone I can share my work with.  I thought of you because I like the photographers you represent.  Do you ever review photographer’s work that you don’t represent?”  Indeed my answer would have varied based on how busy I was.  But, at the very least I would have suggested to him to send his website.  Who knows, I may have liked it and started to look out for his name and his work.

If you want to get our attention, we are sorry to say, it is long before the phone call.  Here are a few tips on how to reach out to a rep and get noticed.

First and foremost, before an agent can seriously consider you for their roster, there is one criteria that is a given.  Without it, a commercial photography agency will not be able to partner with you to increase your business. 

The criteria is this:  Your work must be marketable.

This is the most important step to getting through the door.  We are commercial photography agents that show your work to top creative agencies, photo editors and designers.  It is important that your work be creatively relevant. The majority of the time nude photos of your girlfriend are not commercially relevant.  An image that a client can easily recognize their product or brand in is an image that will get our attention.

Now, assuming that your work is commercially relevant, the following tips (in no particular order) will help you to begin a relationship with a rep and ultimately partner with one.

#1)  You need to be your own rep first.

There are 3 reasons that this is important:

The first is so that you understand what is required of a rep.  You need to know how hard it is to get an appointment or to get someone to check out your website.  And, you need to struggle a bit with the awkwardness of sales so that you can appreciate the effort required to build strong relationships.

The second reason is so that you hear first hand what people think about your work.  You need to recognize that if you ask 10 people about your work you will get 12 different answers.  Having these conversations on your own will help you to define what the common thread of your work is, see what isn’t working and ultimately develop a brand identity for your business.

The third reason is that it is no longer ok to think once you have a rep, you can cross marketing off of your to do list. Nowadays we require all of our photographers – no matter how successful they are – to get out there themselves to share what they have been up to lately.  No rep can replace the power of the photographer connection.

#2)  You need to be able to support yourself

We appreciate the photographer that comes to our group already working.  This not only shows that clients trust them but it gives us some breathing room.  It takes a long time to get a new photographer up and running.  We like to set expectations and say that from the date your images are first up on our website, it takes a full year to get your work around the country.  A photographer that already has some clients will be more patient with this process.

It is important to note that this source of work does not need to be commercial projects.  We have represented photographers that have connections in the retail, editorial, stock, retouching and fine art worlds that have kept them going while their commercial careers got started.

#3)  You need to have money to spend.

Any good rep will require you to market your work.  Marketing your work will cost money.  Source books, websites, portfolio renovations, direct mail and emailers all cost money.  If you cannot afford to market yourself on a high end level than it may still be time to market yourself.

#4)  You need to do your homework

Please do not send us a basic email asking us to represent you.  The web makes it very easy now to get to know an agent, see how they market, learn the type of work that appeals to them.  When you contact us, please show us that you did your homework and explain why we should look at your work and why you would be a good fit for us.  We cant expect someone to hire one of our photographers just because I sent them an email blast.  That would be nice but it rarely happens.  We need to do the necessary leg work for them to get to know our photographers first.

#5)  You need to be patient.

It will take time to find a rep that is the right fit for you. Timing is everything so spend your time wisely.  Know that any time invested in getting to know a rep and having a rep get to know you will pay off in dividends later.  Maybe they will represent you, maybe they will refer you to another rep.  Regardless of the outcome, if you are able to connect with a rep my guess is there will be advice, friendship and partnership that will help you all along the way.

It is rare when we make changes in our group but when we do, the first people we consider are the ones we have had a relationship with over the years.

#6)  Be creative

We still have promos from photographers that we thought were well done and stood out amongst the others.  While we are not representing them, we have referred them for a job or two.  When a solicitation stands out to us, we feel compelled to connect.  We try our hardest to respond to those promos that are well thought out, relevant and creative.  If someone spent the time to get to know us and target us specifically, we want to make sure they know they were heard.

#7) Be a good person

This really should be #1 or even up there with the Marketing Relevancy criteria.  And, it really should go without saying.  Be nice, be respectful and be a good person.  And, we hope you would expect the same from us.

#8)  You need to tailor your marketing to reps

We are neither art buyers nor an art directors.  We are neither clients nor photo editors.  We are a agents.  For us it is not about just about the image or even the story behind the image.  For us, it is all about the above points.  If you are going to reach out to us, please take into account all that we will take into account when considering you and your work.  Address all of our questions up front and sell us on why we should consider you.   Recognize that we may have a need in our group and offer a way to fill it.

We recently received a promo from a photographer that included a bullet point note that outlined everything he was doing for his marketing, who his current clients were and which clients he would like to work for some day.  This  letter showed us that he had a handle on how we worked.  His work conflicted with another one of our photographers and we are not currently looking BUT we still reached out and let him know we were impressed.  We now know his name and will keep an eye open for his work.  You just never know.

Have anything to add?  Please do email us.

A week of interviews. Alison McCreery of POP blog keeps the questions coming.

© Kevin Twomey -

Alison McCreery of Photographers on Photography blog reached out to me after my Dear Art Buyer letter in the hopes that I would provide her with an interview about my thoughts on marketing and repping.  I was familiar with her blog and thought her recent interviews were very informative.  I appreciate how she asks questions that get people thinking so I was more than happy to oblige.

Below are the questions that she asked me as well as the link to her blog to read the answers.

And, if you actually read through the whole thing, be sure to keeping reading because her interview with David Jay of the Scar Project is powerful to say the least.


Here are the questions:

1)  You’ve been a rep for 15 years. What is your background and what do you enjoy about being a rep?

2)  How important is it that your photographers market themselves in addition to your efforts?

3)  How often is video included in the brief and are you encouraging all your photographers to build a motion portfolio?

4)  I want to ask you about your blog. It’s the only rep blog that is used to foster conversations and an openness between art buyers and reps. You also feature in-depth discussions by your photographers about the stories behind their personal and commercial projects. It stands alone as a much appreciated resource. What was your inspiration for taking this approach and what feedback have you gotten?

5)  Many of the ways in which you run your agency are about furthering the conversation. How has this impacted the relationships you have with art buyers and the dialogues between your photographers and agencies and clients?

6)  With blogging and an interest in personal work, there is a deeper understanding of the photographer and their creative process. Have art buyer’s expectations changed as a result? And has this had an effect on the way photographers contribute to the creative process? And are photographers producing different work?

7) You represent nine photographers, several with overlapping specialties but all with differing styles. What was the strategy behind building your roster?

8) The Specialty section on your site is an innovative way of presenting your photographers. Are art buyers finding this helpful?

9) You’ve been a rep for 15 years, how have you adapted to the challenges of tighter budgets and evolved how you work with clients and agencies?

10) There are a lot of agencies and many talented photographers based in San Francisco. What percentage of the jobs you bid on are for out of town agencies and for local agencies?

11)  What is a recent project that one of your photographers shot for a Bay Area agency?

From the desk of Connie Conway. Insights from a Producer

©Ann Elliott Cutting


“You have how much to shoot this campaign?”

I catch myself thinking this all too often nowadays.  My name is Connie Conway and I am a producer for Hunter Freeman and other advertising photographers and this is my new reality.  Not a reality that I am fond of but one that I have learned to accept.  (If I didn’t I’d be bagging groceries at the local store and I’m sure the eggs won’t be on top!)

I tell the photographers that I work with that the budgets may be smaller, but smaller budgets just make me think smarter.  So much of this is obvious, but a reminder now and again is always helpful.

Here is what works for me:

-I remind the photographers that estimating is not personal, it is a process.

-I take full advantage of access to the key players at the beginning of the estimating process and am not afraid of asking the hard questions.  I prepare for “the call”.  Sometimes it is the only chance I will get to ask the money saving questions.  I ask the same of the photographers.

-I make suggestions, I brainstorm, I provide options.  I make the photographer and the client part of the decision making process.  I do not want to play art director, I just want to give them what they need so they can!

-I repurpose locations and I have alternate locations in my back pocket that can replace ones with high permit and location fees.

I make my crew aware up front – during the estimating process – about budget limitations. They need to feel like they are part of the decision to make this project come in on budget before they commit.

I pay my talent on set – a trick that often gets me the best talent, even when the budget is tight.

I anticipate challenges and deal with them before they become problems.

I am flexible and nimble and require the same of my crew.

I ask for a lot and freely take no for an answer. It can’t hurt to ask, right?

And, finally, while I know that I am a valuable part of a project, I never take for granted that there are many talented people who want to be working. I remind myself of that every day as I strive to be the smartest producer I can be.