Finding New Photographers

- - Working

There is nothing better in this business than finding and hiring new talent and getting back an amazing shoot. Nothing. Conversely there’s nothing worse than a failed shoot from someone you just hired for the first time. Ahhhhhh the highs and the lows. I probably hire 2-8 new people every issue… whaaaaaaaaaa, 2-8 N.E.W.? That’s right people, a regular shooter gets 2-4 assignments a year, that’s just how I roll.

The process for finding someone new can get a little “CSI.”

The method that requires the least amount of effort is to poach someone from a magazine I respect. That’s too easy, so if I really want to earn my paycheck I put together a case based on available evidence that tells me if a photographer is able to deliver the results I’m looking for.

It all starts the first time I see a photograph I like taken by someone I’ve never heard of (this is actually somewhat rare). I write the name down on my list and begin collecting evidence. A name can go on the list and it could be years before I’ve built enough evidence or found the right project that triggers an assignment so there’s a lot of names in various stages of case building.

The evidence: Your book, website, tears, clients, awards (American Photography, PDN photo annual, SPD), personal work, promo card, story in PDN, blog, photo I saw published somewhere, a story I heard, our meeting, someone dropped your name, the Creative Director likes your work, the editor knows your name (possibly a negative), one of my jr. photo editors likes your work, the changes in your book since the last time I saw it, you have photos in my coffee shop, the phone message you left, the email you sent that was interesting and personal, another DOP told me you rock, your handshake is solid, the email with a new tear I think is cool, you care about my magazine (not just the cover and fashion), a gallery exhibit, and a photographer who is your peer recommended you.

That’s a ton of evidence to consider but in truth since I don’t write any of this down it really just adds up to an overall feeling about someone. There’s a trigger in there somewhere but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what it was.

For someone like Kathy Ryan at the New York Times Magazine who keeps lists of fine art photographers (among other endless lists) the trigger is likely a combination of a solid subject-photographer match, growing acceptance in the fine art community and being relatively unknown in the editorial market. If any of those are way off the assignment doesn’t happen.

I will leave you with this as it pertains to how I see blogs fitting nicely into this picture here on out. It is so exceedingly rare that a photographer I respect and work with would recommend to me another lesser-known photographer that every time it’s happened I’ve gone and hired the recommended person and the results have been nothing but positive.

There Are 36 Comments On This Article.

  1. I’ve been in this business a while, and been reading this blog for several months. To my knowledge there’s never been such a frank, valuable, worthwhile discussion. I know it takes a lot of time to keep up a regular post, thanks for making the effort, I’m sure it’s making a difference.


  2. Frank Discussion

    Honestly, this post today will make the Highlight Reel. Very well written, very real world, and constructive in its tone. This one will be printed out, many times today, and plastered to photo studio walls. Thank you. This is a great contribution that you’re making to the photo community.

    Can you explain further what you mean in what you write in the final paragraph? I’m not sure I totally understand. You are advocating photographers having their own personal blogs?

    “I will leave you with this as it pertains to how I see blogs fitting nicely into this picture here on out. It is so exceedingly rare that a photographer I respect and work with would recommend to me another lesser-known photographer that every time it’s happened I’ve gone and hired the recommended person and the results have been nothing but positive.”

  3. Thanks for letting us know it’s not always an agency role call. This biz is tough, but we do what we love, so who can complain. Thanks for the great posts!

  4. Yes, blogging about your photography and others that you admire is very helpful to photo editors and art buyers. A photographer recommending a peer is very valuable to me in forming my opinion.

  5. “Yes, blogging about your photography and others that you admire is very helpful to photo editors and art buyers.”

    I have sold from my food blog ( ) even tho that blog is not about me selling anything but rather about me doing my creative multi-content thing.

    Its not a major generator of leads tho, which is fine. I get more work now (in the dawn of my photo-career) from word of mouth.

    If I were a PE or art buyer, I would find the world of blogs overwhelming in terms of looking for new talent.

    Its easy to get “lost” in cul-de-sacs of cliques that self-referentiate .. newer talented bloggers come online every day but get lost in the shuffle.

    Google-fatigue would be a real problem!

    I do not know how you all do it.


  6. So I guess that’s a big “NO” on the “BE MY ASSISTANT” campus tour visit happening anytime soon then, huh?

    *crumples duct-tape name tag*

    Its like a sponge and trying to wipe off some jelly on the counter…You could pick a totally dry sponge(total newbie with NO insight OR training) and you might get the spot off with a HUGE amount of effort on your part.

    Or you could choose a sponge that’s filled to capacity with water and easily get the spot off…but then you have to worry about making a BIGGER mess with all the water, which may double your clean up time.

    Or you could get a damp sponge (some budding Digital guy in college who has SOME knowhow and ALL the enthusiasm needed to make a great assistant) *Elvis Show finale’ pose* and whittle him into the perfect assistant for your particular needs.

    *starts thumbing through the college course catalog…again*

    Maybe a nurse?…nahhh Male nurse sounds light…besides the medicine locker key is too enticing.

    Accountant?…nahhhh I love “Office Space” too much.

    Astrophysicist?…nahhh I’d use the Observatory’s telescope for prurient interests…and the thought of a fellow colleague finding a pubic hair on the eye piece or daddy lens would haunt me to no end.

    WalMart Cart greeter …No way in hell, (even though it would be fun to play “Name that Virus” I received from touching all those cart handles)


  7. Enigmatic photo editor, I bow to you. This blog is better than going to school for photography…not that I’d know anything about that.

  8. Um, am I the only one who has no idea what TJ is trying to say?

    Actually the best way to clean up jelly is with a clean rag – wet thoroughly, squeeze out excess water, wipe, fold over, wipe again, fold, wipe again…

    Not sure what relationship any of this has photography though.

  9. APE- you are too cool. Most AB’s, PE’s say they like taking risks on new talent but when it really comes down to it they don’t.

    You’re approach to the evidence you collect is right on. That should be a HUGE HINT for other photographers— the more ways buyers hear your name and see your work the better chance you have of getting on a project. All of course without being annoying.

  10. As a consultant to photographers for 30 years BLESS YOU!
    Fabulous information…anyone reading this should pay attention …all of your efforts are hugely important, marketing is cumulative …in regards to recommending other talent when asked, always only sugges the best!

  11. THANK YOU for writing these entries. It is so, so helpful to me (and I know to many others) starting our careers to have this insight into how these decisions are made.

  12. not a photographer

    APE should hold a reality TV show contest for the chance to shoot for the magazine. But what if it sucked? No problem, photographer wannabes would still watch anyway- they can’t help but watch…

  13. i am a former photo editor at a magazine, turned art buyer. i have been reading your blog for a month or so now and i wanted to say that i really appreciate your insight into how you gather new talent. i don’t think there is anywhere else online where i can find such valuable information. thank you so much for creating and maintaining this blog!

  14. Hi
    I have been assisting in Vancouver for a couple years, for both local and international photographers when they are in town. I have also started shooting jobs myself. I recently read Selina Maitreya’s book (who commented earlier) and just found your site. I have learnt more about marketing my work in the last month from you two then I ever did from any photographer I have assisted. Thank you!

  15. Finally a blog post that actually helps.

    One bit that made me wonder was how you feel about receiving e-mail ports and communication? Is this something you like or recommend against doing?

  16. DUDE…I’m saying that just because I’m just a soph in college shouldn’t diminish my value as an viable assistant. I’m artistic as all hell…a quick thinker on my feet…I’m bigger than Paul Bunyan and just as strong (great for those days when you stroll into the wrong bar for a beer or that model wants your head on a platter NOW!)…I’m funny as all hell as long as you can toss “Office Space” and “Happy Gilmore” quotes back at me just as fast as they come, we’ll be fine. I can suck in knowledge faster that Ron Jeremy’s girlfriend and retain it better than Steven Hawking hooked up to 220 vac….and I like to see people succeed. I was in the US Navy…(flying type) 52 countries, 5,000 hours of flight time and one killer 4 year vacation in Hawaii later…I’m ready to do something else.

    So anyone know of a Shooter looking for an assistant without much experience?

  17. As a french editor who is trying to show the photo can be a new langage for child’s books, your work here is a precious help. Thanks for taking the time to show new works and explain too.

  18. So I guess my “Editors Choice Award” from the International Society of Photographers at isn’t worth too much in regards to establishing my reputation as an artist and photographic genius?

    (places face into folded hands on my knees and starts to weep – uncontrollably)

  19. Hi,

    Just discovered your blog. I’m struggling to get my work out there like so many others. I found your blog on Cara Phillips blogroll. Her thoughts on photography are quite interesting as well.

    Happy Thanksgiving


  20. I don’t often get the chance to look around at other photographers, but do enjoy the opportunity from time to time. It is very difficult to break into the media in Australia as everyone wants to be a journalist and I was flat out refused when I made enquries.