Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to explore more of the commercial side of photography (not my area of expertise) and to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.
Our Second Question:
I sent out mailers and emailers to agencies recently and received asurprising amount of positive replies.
I recently drove for 9 hours after an Art Buyer seemed really enthusiastic about my work on the website and replied to my mail saying sure make the trip, I’d love to see your book. We sat down with two of his colleagues and things were going well.
About a third of the way in to the book he started to lose interest and then wandered off like a grazing dairy cow, I was bewildered but continued with his colleagues. He reappeared when the we’d already finished the book. Shook hands, said thanks for coming in and left. I exchanged a few more pleasantries with his colleagues and was left to pack up and let myself out on my own. Humiliated. Ok so this is the industry, not for wimps, fine. Maybe if the book and all the answers were perfect you might still get a jerk or get the right person on the wrong day. But how do you avoided blowing that valuable opportunity?
Our Response combined with the help of a very sought after rep and art buyer:
Just from reading this question – we see many red flags.
Our first thought when he said – “We were a third into the book and lost interest” and then follows up by saying “We had finished the book” – lets us know he was controlling the book viewing process and dialoging it the whole way through.
We think the first thing to remember is that every one can have a bad day and that may have been the cause. You never know what someone is dealing with on a personal level. Maybe the AB had bad news that morning, thought he could handle the meeting but just couldn’t. Since you don’t know, the best thing to do immediately is to send an e-mail thanking him for his time as you could see how busy he was and that you truly appreciate the time given. That you will send new work as you shoot it and would love to hopefully work together in the future. Okay, that being said after the fact what should you do in the future?
- Make sure your website and portfolio compliment each other- the best of your work in the beginning of your website while the portfolio has to be consistent throughout. Sometimes it is best to work with a neutral person like a consultant or a client you have a close relationship with for a non-emotional attachment to the images. Rob has a huge list (here)- interview the ones you are interested in working with.
- Make sure your portfolio is professional and what the industry is expecting to see. If you portfolio looked thrown together, then you have cheapened the images. The presentation talks about your attention to details as you would on a shoot- the production value of the book transfers to the production value of a shoot.
- Let the viewer look at the images at their pace- don’t comment on every image- wait till they ask a question. If they don’t ask anything then you need to ask them questions from your research (i.e. about an ad you loved that they did)
- Research- who you are talking to and the agency. This is why a database is so crucial to your marketing. A database is not only for sending out e-promos and mailers but used more efficiently for research. We like Agency Access for several reasons- it’s clean, folders tally up total contacts, accounts and titles plus it has map quest to get you to your meeting.
- Research the agency by going to their website to see their accounts. Then research the person you are meeting with. Also, go to these websites to find award winning work:
Kat Dalager of Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis has been especially kind to show you how to do this. The first thing I do is go to my Agency Access account and look her up. She is listed as the Print Production Manager, but over sees art buying and buys herself. So when making your list make sure you include art buyer, creative buyer , print producer and print production manager since Agency Access uses their titles but makes sure they purchase photography.
From this page, you have a live link to the agency as well as the map:
And you can see samples of their work:
You can also look at their work at www.agencycompile.com This is a free service but used for new business and marketing managers so it will not give you the creative personnel, hence the reason for a database.
After you have researched the company, research the person:
And you can find a video with her talking about the business:
When we went through more Google pages , we find this:
She is adorable and friendly. You can see that in the video as well. And this from Plaxo:
Read this and find common ground to create a non-invasive conversation- you don’t want to get too personal. But it is good to see who you are talking to. Suzanne found this info on her own and found a lot. You may not find this much information on one person but you can find plenty about the company where they work. Kat reviewed this and she said:
“One thing to mention is cross-checking sources because they are only as current as the information provided to them. For example, we no longer have H&R Block.
Also, since they can see we don’t have any car accounts, it would not be the best use of my time or theirs to send me a car book.
1 technicality: I go by “art producer” rather than “art buyer”
To summarize, some meetings go bad and that’s just part of the process. When I (Amanda) repped for a short period of time I experienced the same thing, so you are not alone. I flew to NYC to meet someone and at the receptionist desk I was told she was too busy to meet with me. I also had an AB look at the portfolio in the lobby. So there are no prejudices against particular people for meetings – everyone will experience a bad meeting in their lifetime. We say – good! That means one important thing – you are doing meetings. With every 5 bad meetings comes a great meeting. A client once had a meeting and was told “Great work, but we have no clients that need your style to ever hire you”. A week later – that same agency called to book him for a job with a new client. Go figure. Keep your chin up and just battle through it…it’s part of the game