Heather Elder Represents Rethinks the Agency Portfolio.

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Last year, we decided that it was a good time to create an AGENCY PORTFOLIO.  We had a fantastic group of photographers and many opportunities to show it off.  We didn’t want it to be a typical group book that had a section for each photographer.  While we like those and they are always very strong, we wanted ours to be a little different so that it would stand out more at events such as Le Book’s Connections.

What we came up with was a portfolio divided by SPECIALTY instead of by PHOTOGRAPHER.  We liked this idea because it allowed us to showcase the type of work our group can offer while allowing the viewer to file our group away by different specialities.  Of course it is always our main goal for a creative to learn who our photographers are and what they shoot individually.  This will never change.  But, by offering an alternate way for them to view the work in our group, we are opening up another opportunity for them to remember the work.

More often than not the Agency Portfolio is shown in conjunction with the individual portfolios so if a viewer is interested in seeing more, they can choose to do so right then and there.  This is particularly helpful in a setting like Le Book Connections because there are so many books to view and it can get overwhelming for some. We have found that our agency book provides a breath of fresh air in a crowded market.

Take a look for yourself and see.  It is no mistake that we chose the song, Breathe by Sia as the background music.  Enjoy!

Click here to see the video of our Agency Portfolio

Click here to see the video of our Agency Portfolio

Birth of a Gummy Bear

When the trend started a few years back where photographers started learning to shoot video, many people wondered how a still life photographer could utilize video and still make it interesting.  Kevin Twomey has shown once again that it is entirely possible to do so by exploring yet another interesting subject, The Birth of a Gummy Bear.  When I asked him about it, here is what he had to say.

“I look at food as a still life challenge, asking myself how I would represent it in a way that stimulates the senses beyond the predictable “mmm, delicious”.   How might I evoke an emotional, rather than salivary, response?

The gummy bear imagery emerged after toying with ideas for a holiday card a couple of years ago, where I explored the after-effects of destroying
candy (mostly by smashing them to bits).  Experimentally melting some pieces, I saw how beautiful they looked as their sugars liquified.  That
led to the microwaving of gummy bears, which then led to my seeking a more precise way of melting: the hair dryer.  As I strategically melted the
gummy bears for my still shots, I noticed how beautifully the thick liquid flowed.  The dynamics were so compelling, I had to film them, not just
melting to their demise, but in a way that celebrates the creation of the beloved candy.”

To see more videos by Kevin Twomey, link to previous blog posts about other videos he created or to his website.

Evolving printed portfolios with our new glasses. Thank you David Martinez and Leigh Beisch for sharing your new designs

When Leigh Beisch and David Martinez first decided to redo their portfolios we had long conversations about how creatives that were interested in their work would be using those tools.  Times had changed and we wanted to make sure if they were investing all of that time and money into new tools that they were relevant.

We reminded them that the last time they had redone their portfolios the trend was to show a wide range of imagery that told the entire photographer’s story.  Even though websites were the go to place to see work, creatives were still calling in books.  The idea was that you had to make sure your book told as wide of a story as the website did just to make sure you were covered.

The result was big books (or multiple books) and lots of images.  It was not uncommon for some of the portfolios in our group to be 50 or so pages each.

Now, creatives rarely call in portfolios and rely solely on the web.  So, when a portfolio is actually requested, the photographer is of course seriously being considered.  That means the portfolio not only needs to be outstanding all on its own but it needs to outshine whoever else is on the table.

What we finally landed on for their portfolios were ones that could communicate to creatives that they understood how they reviewed photography for their clients.

• Instead of a large library of images, we showed a small, select group of relevant work.

•  Instead of a linear flow of imagery we divided the spreads into the same categories as the clients used to describe their own business.  For example, for Leigh Beisch we used categories such as breakfast food, coffee, wine, desserts, ice cream, etc.   For David Martinez, we modeled the categories after what people saw on his site; Wellness, Golden Years, Graceful, Wonder Years and Vision.  We recognized that if clients were calling in their portfolios, they already knew they were capable.  We did not need to prove that to them in the portfolio.  Instead we wanted their viewing experience to be relevant to their project and their client.

  Instead of just including single images on each page, we utilized design elements and text as a way for Leigh and David to share their personalities.   Leigh’s work is soft and beautiful and so is her portfolio.  David’s work is full of movement and beauty.  His imagery is full of life and style and so is his portfolio.

•  So many of Leigh’s clients like to know what projects she has recently photographed.  The tear sheet section help illustrate that best.  As well, since the food industry is so loyal and word of mouth dependant, it is helpful to have a client testimonial section.

•  Since David Martinez has been shooting video for many of his clients now it was important to be able to show that off in the portfolio.  On the last page of his book we now have a video page where clients can watch the actual videos without having to go online.  It has been a huge hit.  If you want to see it for yourself, email us and we will send it right out to you.

As the other photographers in our group begin to change their portfolios, it has been fun to watch what new elements they incorporate.  Stay tuned soon for new portfolios from Andy Anderson and Ron Berg.

A unique approach to portfolio shows that will help both art buyers and reps. Thank you Char Eisner and Leo Burnett.

Our office  has been hosting portfolio shows for quite a long time now.  I often say that between the two of us,  Lauranne and I have visited most every major agency around the country multiple times.  We feel fortunate to represent talented photographers and to have the relationships that allow us access to host these shows.

Having hosted so many shows, we have a very good idea of why shows succeed or fail.  So much of it is unpredictable and dependent on what the agency has going on internally.   Maybe there is a big meeting coming up, or everyone is gearing up for a pitch.  Maybe there have been too many shows scheduled and the creatives are burned out or maybe they just don’t have the time.  Regardless, even if the turnout is low, we know what a challenge it can be for art buyers and are always appreciative of the opportunity.  Besides, all we need is that one person to be interested, right?

We have had many art buyers brainstorm with us at shows about what could make a show more successful as we all realize that it is getting harder and harder to cheerlead for us.  Next time the conversation comes up, I will tell them about my recent visit to Leo Burnett with Char Eisner and the creatives in her department.

Here is what I would tell them.

I recently visited Chicago and Leo Burnett and was struck by how extra fantastic the turnout was for the portfolio show.  So much more so than at a typically good show.  There was an abundance of creatives who attended and  they all showed up on time.  They asked where the sign in sheet was to sign in, engaged me in conversation and took promos.  Some even asked me to make sure they were on the email list of particular photographers.  The energy of the show was very upbeat and I didn’t get the sense that anyone was trying to get in and out quickly so as not to have to engage.

When Char and I chatted afterwards, I could not thank her enough for how well she produced her portfolio shows.

I attributed the 100% of the success to

Expectation Management

 for me and the creative department.

Char explained to me that a while back, she realized that in order for her creative department to find portfolio shows relevant, she needed to make some changes.

Here are the changes that she implemented:

•   Portfolio shows will only be hosted on Tuesdays from 10-12 AM only.  There are no other times allotted, regardless of if you are from out of town or not.  You are welcome to come meet with individual creatives and art buyers but no exceptions to the show schedule will be made.

•  Reps are sent a detailed letter that outlines what they can expect from her department and other relevant information.   Receiving this letter up front answers all of the questions at one time and saves everyone a lot of back and forth later on.

Some things mentioned in the letter are:

-What will be provided by Leo Burnett; such as tables and other supplies

-What rep will need to bring on their own (portfolios, treats and as needed -music and AV needs)

-An idea of reasonable treat specs and quantities

-Permission to reach out to creatives on my own during the show

-Contact information and the role each person plays in the show

-Specific appointment information such as address, security information, contact person and floor information; which is important for caterer and rep.

With such a well oiled machine it is no wonder that the shows are a hit time and time again.

Here are some benefits of a detailed approach to portfolio shows:

1)   Creatives are not overwhelmed by shows scheduled one after another.  They do not get jaded or feel obligated to drop what they are doing to attend.  They do not try to avoid the art buyer when she/he wrangles them and they actually look forward to events.

2)   The art buyer does not feel obligated to squeeze someone in.  I am guessing this makes the job easier and allows the art buyer to let a rep know quickly whether or not they can visit.  I appreciate this because I know that I can move on and find another agency to fill that slot rather than cross my fingers and hold off until I hear back.

3)  Because spaces are limited, the creatives know that the art buyer will select talent to showcase that is relevant and appropriate to the agency and what they are currently working on.

4) Creatives can schedule their time accordingly and know that if they have to miss one Tuesday there is another one coming next week.  They no longer feel pressured to attend and the routine of it all makes it feel less like an interruption and more like a part of their day.

5)   Because it is a routine event, the art buyer is able to secure the same space for the same time every week.  She or he requests a space larger enough for different size rep agencies and even provides extra folding tables.  For those of us who have many books or large books, this is an ENORMOUS gesture.

6)   A rep can have a clear understanding of how involved the art buyer is able to be in the planning and execution of the show. When I know that an art buyer is not a resource for things like caterers, I know to work this out on my own without even asking.

7)   Having consistent and well attended shows also makes it possible for the art buyer to provide accurate insight into quantities for treats.  It is always helpful to hear that  treats work well and are very much appreciated but not required.

8)   I do not need to guess how my show will be promoted.  Knowing the deadline for the invite and how often it is distributed and how makes me feel confident that there is some promotion happening and this goes a long way towards a successful show.

9)   Being encouraged to reach out to the creatives on my own during a visit is a relief.  Knowing that the department wants reps to make their own connections makes making the call that much easier and less intrusive.

I share this with you not only because it was a positive experience for us and a  successful show for our group but because Char Eisner and her Leo Burnett team insist that it was the same for them as well.    Another example of a win/win situation.  Something we should all strive more towards nowadays.

If you have any other successful tips for how to host a successful/well attended portfolio show for both the agency and the agent, please email us or comment on this post.  We would love to hear what you have to say.

Solving Mysteries with Jigisha Bouverat of TBWA\Chiat\Day

© Leigh Beisch - http://www.leighbeisch.com

We all know Jigisha Bouverat of TBWA\Chiat\Day as a professional and talented art producer.  So it was no surprise when she agreed to answer the top 5 questions that we are discussing in our group right now.  Thank you Jigisha.  Your insights are always valuable.

How do you search for photography nowadays?
One of the core functions as an art producer is to maintain a current and extensive knowledge base of the artist community, technologies, and trends. We use all the industry resources available, such as web, email, social media, blogs, etc to search out talent.  Still…so much more important are the human opportunities; in-person meetings, industry events, gallery shows, art books, portfolio reviews at schools, chance meetings.

My favorite method for sourcing photographers, both emerging and established, are meetings conducted at the agency.  It allows us to have a more personal insight into the artist’s work and access the chemistry they might have with our creatives.  Industry publications like PDN, American PhotographyArchive, and Communication Arts are very important reference points for most art producers and art directors. Source books are useful but not our first line of research. 

Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration is two-fold.  One aspect is purely commercial, working with the creative teams and being inspired by their drive to create impactful visuals and ideas for our brands.  A great producer needs to be inspired by the work. The other aspect is from the artist community.  Inspiration comes from the work we see everyday in photography, fine art, graphic design, illustration, street art, etc.  Seeing the passion an artist pours into their work is always inspiring.  I love the days when a new talent walks into the office to show their portfolio and I’m in awe of the work.  That is the best part of the job!

What are you reading online?

On an average day, I’m on the computer for 90% of the day so if I have down time I prefer to pick up a magazine or publication versus online content. I do check out a few industry related blogs each day for inspiration or research.

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

Passionate, honest work.  That is the one constant in this rapidly changing industry.

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

Diplomatically, I would say most of our clients value good work that delivers the concept or brand idea….within budget and schedule…had to say it : )  Art directors and producers are always looking for the perfect artist to collaborate with on the project, who can bring the idea to life.  In that respect, I would say nothing has changed.  What has changed dramatically is the expectations on the budgets and schedules.  We’ve moved into a fast paced world with unrealistic budgets and timing.  In the past two years, the economy and technology played a role in creating this unfortunate dynamic. But this always happens when something new is shaking up the industry.  Right now it’s the word digital. The beginning of this year has been very promising.  I believe the quality of the visual is becoming important again and clients are understanding the connection of strong imagery to the brand identity. We’re coming back full circle to having the same goal…great work for the brand.

If you are an art buyer or a creative in our community and would like to contribute to this conversation, please do email us.  We would love to hear from you.

Perspectives: Eric Harris from Tracy Locke shares his experience with Leigh Beisch



Who would have thought that a simple request to a recent client to share his observations about a shoot would lead to such a lovely reply.  It is not everyday that a client is able to take the time to reflect on their experience with the studio and then share it with the group.  Well, Group Creative Director Eric Harris of Tracy Locke did just that.   And for that, we are grateful.

Here is what he felt compelled to share:

Leigh Beisch is a rare breed of photographer. One who truly drives the creative process; one who goes beyond merely capturing the result of it. For many reasons, it was clear to me from the beginning that Leigh’s vision would define not only our time in her studio, but also the outcome of our entire project.

First of all, what a rare occurrence in this industry to stumble across a photographer/stylist relationship like Leigh and Dan Becker. They compliment each other so well, and they speak very highly of each other (even when they think the other isn’t listening!). As the line blurs from styling to shooting, one of them is there to complete the other’s sentence… Visually. I can’t count how many times Leigh – looking at the monitor – would ask Dan to move a shred of parmesan, or add a small puddle of sauce to the dish. Only Dan had already done just that. And the difference in the shot was night and day. It’s an art director’s dream.

Speaking of art director, it’s clear that Leigh’s wheelhouse sits on an AD’s foundation. She injects and demands the highest quality design into every single shot. She deliberately and carefully affects every element of every photograph, and she does it seamlessly and gracefully. I found it particularly interesting that Leigh did not have a prop stylist on set with us. Leigh is so capable and confident in her tabletop styling that she understands the physical presence of a stylist isn’t necessary. When sifting through the props on set, I knew they were meticulously combed over by Leigh with her unwavering eye for what would support the brief. Props that added life. Props that added soul. Props that told a story.

Just like in her work, at Leigh’s studio it’s the details that make the difference. The little things: The quarry of cordial glasses resting on the hearth. The herb garden just outside the kitchen. Bella, the bloated little pug that sits around all day licking her chops. A sushi lunch on the picnic table in the backyard. These are not typically things we see in studios. These are all the makings of a home. And that’s how I felt when I shot with Leigh.

At home. It was the icing on the cake of beautifully strategic (or strategically beautiful – depending on your stance) work. “