Publicis SVP Ed Han: Where Photographer Promos Go Wrong

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“One of my pet peeves—the biggest one—is that photographers don’t seem to think about the target audience,” he says. “In our business, you’re always thinking about the target and how to appeal to them. So if you’re thinking about the audience, then you have to consider not just the content but how that content is best delivered. The successful photographers are the ones who understand that.”

via Via Photoserve.

There Are 18 Comments On This Article.

    • @tus, I agree. I think many of us photographers are tired of jumping through loops just to get a moment from some of these gods to look at our work. you either like my work or you don’t.

      • Arty Farty


        Exactly. Just more meaningless waffle designed to make us more insecure and spend more on marketing materials.

        If they really like what we do they’ll engage with us – even if we have the worst website known to man.

        It’s the IMAGES stoopid!

      • a photographer

        @Tim, & @Arty Farty,

        why so defensive? this is a possible client telling you what they WANT from you. you should LISTEN and factor that into your marketing strategy. Doesn’t mean you have to be insecure or cater solely to their needs but, you should take it into consideration. that is how you serve you clients…this is after all a business of customer service at its core.

        maybe it is supposed to be the images but, the way things are presented counts for a lot and so does the way you deal with people and create relationships w/ your clients.

        you should be thinking about what your target market wants. you should be trying to get into their minds and understand how they work. that’s how you stay in business. To call them gods is self defeating. they are people with jobs like you and me. how good are you at really collaborating and communicating with people?

        “If they really like what we do they’ll engage with us – even if we have the worst website known to man.”

        this is BS and a cop out. you should be pro active in pursuing your clients. you need to engage them! that is how you get business. waiting around for them to engage you will put you out of business. engaging them doesn’t mean harass them but, you do need to make things accessible and create a comfortable environment for them.

        your amazing images alone are not going to keep you in business. in fact i would say that is the least important factor in the equation. it’s personality, how well you negotiate, track your overhead, handle crews on set, organize production, communicate issues and resolve problems through the process. oh and how well you know and understand your target market.

        • @a photographer, I’m not being defensive, I’m simply referring to some of the comments about the article itself.

          I fully agree that we need to find, then serve the needs of our clients. But how does one do that when those needs aren’t being expressed? I think that is the tone in the negative comments about the article. This guy didn’t really lend any new insight on how to do that. To me, the article was more about catering to ‘how’ you approach me as opposed to ‘what’ you approach me with. The article seems to be more about the work of the marketing tool as opposed to the photography itself. That, I think, is what frustrates photographers.

          “your amazing images alone are not going to keep you in business. in fact i would say that is the least important factor in the equation.”

          I sincerely hope that his isn’t the case. Yes, having a good personality, work ethic and knowing how to handle your business are important. But, ultimately, it is, or should be, about the ‘work’.

          I refer to some art directors, creative directors, etc., as gods, because it seems to be more about catering to their ego than about producing good work. I would think that a good art buyer is just as eager to find new talent, as a new talent is eager to find that buyer. It’s all about finding new creative partners. I wonder how many have missed out on having a good relationship with a good photographer, because said photographer didn’t ‘present’ him/herself in a way that the CD thought.

          That’s the frustration. So, if you’re going to claim to have great insight and stand on your soapbox to tell me how I need to approach you, then fine, I’ll gladly listen. But at least say something educational.

          • a photographer


            “To me, the article was more about catering to ‘how’ you approach me as opposed to ‘what’ you approach me with. The article seems to be more about the work of the marketing tool as opposed to the photography itself.”

            That’s exactly what it’s about. and maybe it should really be about the work. but guess what? that’s not the reality of the situation. So what do you do if you’re in business and want to stay in business. You play the game or you try to create your own game. It’s fine if you don’t like the game. I don’t particularly like it but, it’s worth playing if it means I get to shoot for a living. waiting for someone else to give you answer ain’t gonna make it happen.

            My biggest issue is that most photographers here on the internet seem to be a bunch of babies always complaining and looking for someone to tell them the secret to making it in this business. whereas if they got off there asses and did some research, tried different techniques, picked up the phone and called pe’s & cd’s instead of emailing, etc… they might actually learn something.

            “I refer to some art directors, creative directors, etc., as gods, because it seems to be more about catering to their ego than about producing good work.”

            just another part of the game…find those that don’t have the ego or learn to schmooze.
            personally, i’m ok w/ schmoozing and i intend to do a lot more of it in the coming year b/c i’m starting to learn that is one of the biggest factors in initiating relationships w/ clients and prospects. it’s a good icebreaker. Schmoozing doesn’t have to mean being an ass kisser or a Yes Man. It just means being a little charming and making ppl feel good about themselves in a sincere way. I think it would be fair to say most ppl like to be complimented and made to feel like they are appreciated. It helps to build rapport and it gets ppl to open up. Once you get the door open it’s a lot easier to keep that rapport going.

            Those comments under that article are immature. A bunch of grown men/women whining instead of trying to do something about it.

            what should you do? i don’t know. But, the best thing I’ve done for myself is stop worrying about what everyone else is doing. There is no silver bullet. it is a process and slow one at that. Everyone’s situation is different and I think you learn from experience and trial and error. I haven’t really been in business that long(3 yrs) but, I am starting to learn what works for me and my personality and how important it is to have a good attitude and roll with the punches.

            In the beginning I was really defensive in regards to dealing w/ PE’s. I’m seeing now that’s really counterproductive and I think a lot of ppl are in that boat. It’s entirely possible to lead the conversation and take the reins with these ppl but, most photographers have such an inferiority complex and are so scared of losing jobs to someone else they don’t set boundaries w/ the creatives hiring them and can’t assert themselves in any meaningful way which is why i think you see so much bitching on the internet.

            i try not think of my business as a photography business or as a photographer. I think it’s more productive to focus on it being a service industry and learning how to create an enjoyable experience for your client which whether you like it or not goes way beyond just taking good photos.

            just my 2 cents. take it for what it’s worth.

            • @a photographer, I won’t argue with anything you said. In fact, you summed it up in one paragraph when you said, (paraphrase), do what works for you. Sometimes, that means not working with certain people who act like they should be worshiped in order to get an assignment. I’m not bitching and moaning, I just get tired of all of these so-called ‘experts’ telling me how get close to them based on things other than the quality of my work and personality. Yeah, it’s a part of the game. But it’s a stupid game.

              • p.s. Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about. This is how it should be.

                Just this morning, I called a Creative Director and I’ll admit, I kind of stumbled my introduction which threw the conversation for a minute. I could tell that she wasn’t impressed and figured I was just another photographer trying to get work. She gave me her email address and I sent some images I shot last week of the VP of her company, along with my website.

                She was impressed. That’s how it should be; about the WORK.

  1. When we cast our promos too widely it makes it harder for us to see that people that would be right for our style. We need to be aware of the clutter we create for the people we are trying to attract.

    Sending an email to everyone on a photo buying list is easier than deciding the right match for our work. But it also makes it harder to connect with the people we can help with our talent.

    • @Mark Harmel, I agree 100%!!! But, isn’t that just common sense? If I shoot sports, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to present a book of football images to a PE at BusinessWeek.

      • @Tim, Yes the magazine example is easy. How about design firms, or an ad agency? For me I research the firms that are interested in my healthcare photos. That takes work.

        • @Mark Harmel,

          You never know what a client will want creatively. I have done many health and Pharma shoots that are nothing about lifestyle or doctors portraits. Sometimes it might be a football players or plate of food or even something conceptual.

      • @Tim, What if Business Week has a crazy idea to shoot CEOs as football players? It makes more sense to me to send work that looks different than what ADs or CDs are currently using.

        Does anyone have a concrete example of researching a target and appealing to them? I’m reading “Give the target client what they want” but I’m hearing “Read the target’s mind and don’t give them what they don’t want”

        • @jmags, That’s a good point. I would think that skills as a good portrait photographer would outweigh skills as a sports shooter.

          But it’s a good point because lately I’ve been hearing a lot about shooting what ‘you’ love and not so much catering to specific trends. Now someone comes along and tells us to target our audience with the kind of work we think that fits them.

          It can get confusing, and that’s probably why some art buyers, etc., get promos with work from all types.

  2. I did a big project last year for Acura Cars. It was with my food photographer. If I simply sent car work to that Agency, they might not have thought of my food shooter when they were working on an ad showcasing the car’s GPS in terms of finding restuarants. You never know what concept a specific campaign might use.

  3. last year i did a paper about the points who are important in getting a job from an agency. i did interviews with artbuyers, agents from representations and photographers and found out, that the most important thing getting a job is … sounds simple…trust.
    there are diffrent ways of getting trust… for example you have the kind of picture in the portfolio they are looking for… so there is trust, that you can do the picture. but can you handle the shooting, do you have the social skills to manage a team, to speak with the client? this trust will come from your reputation of your clients before or from the fact, that the agency worked with you before and everything was great. or the ad knows you …and your work (perhaps from nightlife… and is trusting you, because he knows you as person… so privat contacts can help too)
    but in the end the mix of presentation is important… good work that you stand for is the basic.. sure… but over all its trust. can the agency trust the photographer, that he can handle this job?… cause if he cant, the agency can loose the client.

    :O) from germany

    • @mg2star23, this is truly insightful advice! as a commercial shooter for over 30 years, i feel my “circle of friends” (editors, photo editors, creative directors, other photographers, etc.) is is one of my most important business assets.
      ••bottom line: the quality & desirability of my images will always be an important factor, but the professional connections i’ve made within my industry, have resulted in a life-long career for me.

      early to bed, early rise, merchandise and advertise! it IS your work that gets you hired, but it’s up to you to let the world know
      1- who you are
      2- what you do
      3- how it would benefit them to do business with you.

      finally, your acumen at developing positive relationships with ppl who WANT to do business with you is the essence of longevity.

      if you’re selling $100 bills for $20, but you don’t understand the importance of letting people know about your offering, at the end of the day you go home with you $100s.