Showing Your Book

- - Getting Hired

Bar none, showing your book is the fastest way to get a job in this business. If I meet you and like your work, then shake your hand and look you in the eye, it’s a virtual lock you’ll get an assignment. I was such a pushover in this regard that sometimes photographers wouldn’t even make it out of the building before getting a call on the cell phone with a job.

Usually what happens is I’ve got a shoot rolling around in my brain that I can’t quite land and I meet you and even tho you’re not perfectly what I was looking for in this particular story, your work is strong and you’re a nice person so I suddenly really want to hook you up with a job because well, I’m human. And, usually I can trot you over to the Creative Directors office and they’ll have the same reaction as I do “Zoiks Shaggy, let’s get this person a job.”

Getting in the door with your book is not easy (sometimes impossible) and if it was, everyone would be standing in line outside the Photography Directors office holding one of those butcher counter numbers waiting to get their assignment, so you get in which ever way you can. Keep trying, “Hey, I’m in the neighborhood and thought I’d drop by if you have time” or “I’m at the newsstand, saw the latest issue and wanted to drop by and show you my work” or get a meeting with a Jr. Photo Editor or an Art Director or the Fashion Director or the magazine down the hall. Whatever it takes.

If your work is strong and you’re not a complete jackass, show your book in person, it’s the best way to land a job.

There Are 16 Comments On This Article.

  1. After reading and soaking up so much of the comment at aphotoeditor I was kind of relieved that one of the things hated by most photo editors/art directors etc was “the cold call”, (great! no more need to make those call when I really don’t feel like it, roughly translated as “I can now avoid that fear of rejection”)
    I am a firm believer in showing your book first hand as I feel that photographs and the photographers personality go hand in hand, an editor can make an instant call on if they want to work with you. It is amazing how many times I’ve landed a shoot within hours or a couple of days after having seen someone in person.
    Todays post by Rob would advocate the need to “cold call” and the feelings rush back of “I must make some appointments, well! maybe tomorrow” so now I’m confused.
    It would be great to hear the thoughts of as many photo editors/art directors/fashion directors etc as possible, and the thoughts of other photographers too!
    When I do make calls these days the first response is always have you got a website?, you give them the link, check your stats and find they have looked at the first page and checked out, not really getting to the images you really want them to see, or they have trawled the whole site several times and then you hear nothing, as though the web site alone doesn’t stay in the mind long enough.
    Sorry to be so long winded but I think it would be beneficial for all to read everyones experiences and thoughts on this subject.

  2. Anyway to the make the system more humane would be welcome. The best response I’ve received so far is a designer that sets aside noon on Wednesdays to look at books.

    Otherwise it is a tough game to get in. I use to think that I had to be from out of town to be seen. It does help. The short stay in a city adds urgency to the visit. It seems odd that it is easier to get an appointment 1,000 miles away than the shop down the street.

    I have seen more people in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago than I have here in LA. Friends joke that I should lie to get an appointment. It would make it easier to get in, but how can you begin a good relationship with a client when you start out with a lie?


  3. It’s a bit of a paradox. How do you get in to show your book when everyone hates cold calls? But, there’s a huge difference between a call where someone is pitching you over the phone (asking me what will it take form me to give you an assignment is particularly awkward) and simply calling to say here’s my website or can I drop my book or can I visit with my book. I wouldn’t allow someone to visit with their book unless I’d already seen and liked a website or book drop or promo.

    The sence of urgency certainly helps. Most locals photographers do the “I have a break in my schedule for a couple days” or “I just finished a new book or wrapped up a huge project and will be headed on the road” to create some urgency. I guess it’s easier for us to put you off if we like your work but know we can see you anytime.

  4. OK!, that makes it a little more clear to differentiate between a pitch and a simple request to drop in with my book. I was tending to lump the two together.

  5. This is such blatantly obvious advice and yet I know so many photographers who sit by the phone waiting for it to ring and are dumbfounded when it doesn’t. You can be the second-coming-of-Richard-Avedon and yet if no one knows who you are you’re not going to get work.

    One thing I’ve found is before traveling to NYC for meetings I’ll ping editors I already work for and ask if they know any other editors that might be interested in my work. I inevitably will get 4 or 5 names and introductions with no cold calling involved.


    Don’t forget the follow-up – sending a thank you card and updates. We are all human and we tend to forget after some time so I usually mail thank you cards the moment I touchdown back home and send new promo cards every 2 months or so…..I assisted a photographer once who told he had gone to New York to show his book (this was in the 80s) After he got back, he received a phone call from one of the magazines he saw. Boy was he excited ! As they talked, he soon realized that it wasn’t the impression he had made, it was the fact that another editor had given her his number. She didn’t even remember meeting him !

  7. So painfully true. My wife always gives me a hard time about all the money I spend on promo stuff which leads seemingly no where. I’d say 90% of my work comes from somoe sort of direct connection to the client. My best client I got into from a call, where I left a message saying I know so and so, they have lead me to probably 40,000 dollars in billings in the last year and a half or so. My second best client I met when out to dinner with a friend, it’s all about those personal connections. That’s why people shell out 2000 to go hang a round fotofest in houston or other such events and press the flesh, we need something like that for comercial clients as well.

  8. When starting out I found that taking your book/picking it up from a standing drop off day was much better than using a messenger. Call before picking it up and ask the assistant p.e. “hey there, did you get a chance to look @ my book? I happen to be in the neighborhood and I thought I would pick it up myself. Do you have a minute for me to say hi?” Be charming shake lots of hands and exude confidence. It is how I landed my 1st editorial jobs. Also important to be nice to everyone. People move around a lot and they will try to take you with them.

  9. I love making calls to creatives and I get a great response when I show up in person.

    I arrive just like I look on my site, jeans, rock shirt (or rap cause I’m not hater), my big ass book and a inflated blow up doll.

  10. For me…for whatever reason…the whole venture of going to NYC and meeting photo editors always seemed to backfire. Maybe I’m imagining things, but at least in the beginning, I got the feeling that p.e.’s were more curious about me or I appeared more intriguing to them when I was just a voice on the phone, photographs on a website, or photographs in a fedex box from a shoot I did for them. It was as if the actual meeting made them realize I was just a normal nerd and not as interesting as my photographs were. It did occur to me that the act of showing work in person may have brought out an air of desperation in me that was communicated in these in-person meetings. Picking up on that…I always tried to lay low. I once came out to NY to shoot a cover for a magazine and the p.e. was at the shoot. We did hit it off, but she asked if I wanted to stop by the office and meet the rest of the staff the next day and I had to think fast and talk my way out of it. I’m not shy…it was just part of my business plan.

    At this point I’ve been doing it a while and have had to meet the editors…and blogs and such have made everything more intimate. Now I’m trying to send a message that I’m accessible and nice and smart or fun to work with or something like that…but it would be nice to be able to hide behind the photographs again.

  11. With big interest of you read!
    First of all themes are interesting and which you mention models of business, for example in Russia of these problems of 80 % even is not present. Because the most part
    the market of a printed matter is license, very much
    frequently here there come the american and european photographers which photograph for these Russian analogues (Esquire, Rolling stone, ELLE, Newsweek, etc.)
    Branch and not the big magazines are poor (-in Russia), therefore occurrence of a photo of drains istock and
    shutterstock many publishing have been met by an applause – wo-ow co-ol!!!
    In America and Europe, corporative and business-trade papers in hundreds times more! (I know it on the cooperation with some from them..)
    Till now in Russia it is possible to meet price on a cover of magazine of 50-100 dollars.
    It is natural, that any promo (-Showing Your Book) we do not have speech. The basic feed-back only from the web link.
    Sorry my bad english.

  12. This is the fourth or fifth time you made reference to “The Handshake” on the blog……. Didn’t realize it was so important.

  13. I know that the direct connection is always the lock on getting a gig. I know that the cold call is part of the process to get the attention in the first place. But my question is: how is an email to a photo editor perceived, specifically when a direct phone number isn’t accessible?

    I wonder if I may just be knocking on doors that only open after spending some time in the business. Should I just do more research to get that phone number?

  14. I’ll be happy to go shake hands…as soon as I can find someone interested in my type of photography. Is there an “Abandoned Buildings Weekly?”

    I love reading this blog, it really gets my noodle turning.

  15. Tom Broadbent

    I would say as a photo editor in London that not enough photographers do call me and try and arrange to see me.

    I run the picture desk on Bizarre magazine, it’s totally picture led and we are currently commissioning five or six photo led features a month.

    I commissioning shooters all over the world so certainly I can’t meet them face to face although we do tend to hook up at Perpignan or when they’re over here.

    To be quite honest I’m quite happy to be phoned up and pitched ideas. I recently met with a reportage/ portrait shooter called Jon Challicom who was the first photographer to introduce his work and his practise before we’d opened his book. Who he’s worked for, the sort of pics he takes etc etc.
    I was impressed, a small thing but so often I think photographers expect their work to say everything about them.
    It’s sounds like a cliche but a good firm handshake, eye contact and a smile and suddenly I’m thinking I’m going to get this guy a job, especially if their work is great.