There are a couple large membership controlled groups of Art Buyers and Photo Editors that I have access to, so I thought I’d do a small survey to see if that might be a good way to find some answers to questions photographers have. I purposely made the survey short (less than 1 min. to complete) to get the most people participating.

I hope you find this useful. Click to see them larger.









Other (respondents can list a source used that is not on the list of answers) :

Download a PDF of the Survey Here

Download a PDF with only the Art Buyers answers

Download a PDF with only the Photo Editors answers

Download a PDF with answers only from those who’s company size is: the biggest in the industry

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  1. Good information. I think one of the biggest things that has gotten lost in the self promotion discussion, is casual face to face contact and networking. I got invited to show my portfolio last week by a magazine photo editor who I met at a panel discussion. I also got a lot of valuable information about building a relationship with an art director, directly from an art director at a July 4 gathering. I enjoy just going to exhibit openings and parties just to meet and talk with industry people.

    There’s a lot to be said for good, old fashioned networking. When you meet someone in person and get an email address, it’s a lot easier to approach them with an email link or printed promo.

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. Brilliant. Illuminating stuff…

    With all the discussion that goes into emailers and printed promos it was really interesting to see how many replied a weblink was the best way to introduce yourself.

  3. Interesting that the screen sizes for the art buyers only report trend much more toward 15″ than the overall 20-24″.

  4. In reference to the question about introducing yourself, the most chosen answer is “all I need is a website link”. But, how do you get that link to them without one of the other choices (email, direct mail, phone call, etc)?

    Any suggestions?

    • @Craig LaCourt, yeah, I was confused by this as well…website link is listed as an option against email, call, portfolio drop, etc.

      This is very helpful though…

    • @Craig LaCourt, That is the funniest answer of them all, no? Like most of us, people don’t realize (or want to admit) how much advertising works on them. Of course we need to do our marketing to get them to that link!

      • @Callie Lipkin,
        Yeah. So I wasn’t missing anything. It just really feels like I’m throwing it all into some black hole most of the time…

  5. Useful information. I am a little surprised that a portfolio visit ranks so low on the survey. I would think meeting people would be the building blocks to building a relationship. My experience in marketing is very limited so this information helps. It looks like the winner is referrals and a strong website.

    Thanks for the survey.

    • @Brad Armstrong, I think when you put it in context of the “best way to find new talent” it makes sense. A 30 minute visit can only be done so often per week for so the success rate from the art buyer/producer/editor would not be as high as hitting 15 photographer sites in the same period. That said, the portfolio visit, if you are a good fit, is great for building the relationship and providing insights on what it would be like to collaborate on assignments.

      • @kevsteele, That answer really surprised me as well, to me that’s the ultimate goal in marketing (besides a gig), to actually get into to see someone. Kevin’s answer makes sense though, since they can see so few people per week it’s hard to pull out a winner from them. From my personal experience though, I send out mailers and emails, but when I get jobs it’s generally from people I’ve been able to do a meeting with.

  6. Thanks for putting this together, Rob. It’s really invaluable information.


  7. Hey Rob,
    Thanks for doing this. Great work and fascinating information. What stands out to me is that over 40% of the respondents were freelance. I wonder how their working methods differ from the full time people at the agencies. In a perfect world, I would love to see two separate sets of data, one for freelnace ABs and one for in house.
    Best Wishes,


  9. Thanks for all that you do for photographers, Rob. This is great information.

  10. Hi Rob,

    I have a quick question for you and I’m sorry to be nit-picky. But I just downloaded the PDF with just the AB information and I am slightly confused by the data. In all the questions the “Answered Question” response totals are all 77 however if you tally the number of people who answered the individual categories then the response totals don’t always equal 77 implying that people were able to “tick” multiple categories in each question.

    Take for example the last question:

    What do you think is the best way to find new talent?
    There are 18 possible answers or categories.
    Total “Answered Question” at the bottom equals 77
    However if you tally all the response counts for each category then they equal 356

    I’m no mathematician, but I would deduce from this that respondents were able to answer each question multiple times and I would just be interested to learn how this affects the information contained in the data.

    • @Nigel Hamond,
      Yes, I guess I should have pointed that out. On that final two questions it should have said best way(s) because they could select multiple answers.

  11. Rob, you don’t happen to have a twin Brother in the UK who writes a similar blog do you?… because that would be really useful.

    Interesting information as always though, despite the pond getting in the way of the statistics.

    Thank you,

  12. Interesting stuff. Could you explain a little about your methodology? Looking at your .PDFs you had a total of 171 respondents (94PEs, 77 ABs), correct?

    That’s a pretty good sampling, but how did you tabulate the responses? Many of the answers are more (sometimes way more) than cumulative. Was this a “check all that apply” kind of questionnaire? That’s fine, some of the questions lend themselves to more than one answer. But I think you need to clarify that, otherwise the historgram charts are somewhat misleading. It’s a reasonable measure of attitudes, but you can’t really legitimately conclude that any single marketing approach is most popular since the respondents may have answered multiple times for some questions. I don’t think that invalidates what you’ve done, it just deserves clarification.

    Question 1 “How would you categorize the size of your company/publication?” responses are a little strange. You got 174 answers from 171 people. The only rational explanation I can think of is some people (3 specifically) answered the question for both their company and publication (e.g. you might work for a publishing company that is the biggest in the industry, but your specific publication is a small national book). Is that correct? Schizophrenia is really the only other explanation I can think of.

    • @Tom,
      yes, that was pointed out above too. the last two questions they could pick multiple responses. I don’t know how many did that or if I can filter for it. I should have pointed it out.

      I think I made a mistake on the first question and they were allowed to answer multiple times.

  13. Very informative. Thanks.

  14. The person(s) who responded that they dump or throw out everything, should not be a buyer of art or maybe even have a job in this industry.

  15. interesting data, I wonder how illustrators and their agents would respond to this data. I will post it on my blog because it’s a great at a glance starting point for more discussion.

  16. I should point out that three of the answers on the opinion of direct mail and email are basically the same answer. Love/Hate, It’s my job so whatever and necessary evil all seem to be saying the same thing. Bade answers on my part.

    • @A Photo Editor,

      There’s a lot of good information here as-is, so I don’t want to sound like I’m just finding fault; but if you do future surveys (and I hope you do) all of the questions could be more tightly written. The response choices should represent discrete positions with as little overlap as possible. If you can minimize ambiguity in the questions your results will be much more powerful and easier to analyze.

      Also you might reconsider allowing people to check off multiple responses. Some topics are difficult to choose only one answer. In those cases you might want to allow people to check off their top two or three answers. If you leave it open-ended you are always going to get people who check off all, or most, choices. When that happens it dilutes the overall quality of the responses.

      Good questionnaires are tough to write. It’s different from interviewing people where you want some flexibility to drive a discussion. With questionnaires you want answers to be as binary as possible. But you have to provide enough choices so most people can find a response that matches how they feel. People get uncomfortable if they feel they are getting boxed into “for it” or “against it” responses. You need to find the middle ground without allowing too many shades of gray. If you can stick to 4-5 well-reasoned responses you stand a good chance of getting decent results.

      It might help to cultivate some test subjects within the target audience whom you can trust to give you honest feedback on the questionnaire.

      All-in-all I think you did a nice job on this survey. Good stuff.

  17. I skim a lot of blog posts. This one I actually stopped to read. Thanks for the info…

  18. Very useful information. Thanks!

  19. Without digging real deep into the great information presented it seems to me to be a no brainer,referrals. Yes you can get work through mailers,portfolio drop offs and email but when rubber hits the road it’s who you know. You got to be in with the “in crowd” . I’m not giving anybody anything unless I have a track record or know somebody who knows you.
    Awesome survey !

  20. Great info. It seems that we need to do most of the forms of marketing listed, although the best seems to be the oldest. Word of Mouth.

  21. I retouch and occasionally photograph for large direct mail ad agency. It will be interesting to share the results of your survey with my boss and coworkers.

  22. I am glad to see that no one is viewing portfolios on their iPhone. If you read some photog forums, people always seem to be worried that their portfolio is not “iPhone compatible”. Alternatively, some photographers have their websites “optimized for the iPhone” which I always thought was dumb. Glad to see the stats backing common sense up.

  23. […] they will remember when good work was in front of them. That said after reading a recent post on aphotoeditor the data shows that a portfolio meeting is the least likely to work in your favor…. go […]

  24. This has helped a ton! Thanks! :D I’ve been INSANELY weak on my marketing but this makes it all feel MUCH easier! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  25. I would love to see the same Poll used for Art Directors to see the comparison .

  26. […] comes into our purview after someone endorses it. You don’t have to look further than the survey I did with Art Buyers and Photo Editors to understand that this is how hiring decisions have always been made: someone recommends you, a […]

  27. This is interesting info and I appreciate the effort, but I would caution anyone drawing any major conclusions from it. The real answer is that there is no one-size/method that works for/fits all art buyers/photo editors. Word-of-mouth has always been the most effective advertising, but none of the other approaches can be ignored. I really wish some entity would commission a statistically reliable study of how purchase decisions are made at the art director level (perhaps that’s something ASMP/APA could team up on), because in my experience, if an art director really wants to work with someone, they usually get the gig.

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