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 solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.


Most photographers think that summertime is a time not to do any marketing but if memory serves us correctly it is one the busiest times because of concepting for Spring lines with Fall Shooting as well as Back to School and year-end car sales. What are your thoughts about how photographers should be marketing while creative folks are so busy in the concept phase??

Amanda and Suzanne:
Well, most American’s do not take holiday for weeks on end (like we should) – so we are always working through the summer time. Market, Market, Market…


ANYTIME should be the time to promote ones’ self. The traditional “seasons” of retail have dissolved somewhat because of CGI and because retailers often have to work so far in advance. Advertising has become far less predictable with the current economic crunch as well.

Marketing should be a consistent, pre-determined activity. It should not be a one-time event and it should not be in one medium only. Think about what advertisers do: market to multiple “channels” (media) and target their marketing efforts so less money is wasted on people less inclined to buy.

What could be more of a concern is the compression happening at agencies. With the myriad of layoffs, there are fewer educated buyers out there. Entry points into each agency or company may have changed.

I think there is no bad time to advertise. You may hit the AD with an image that inspires how he/she approaches the design solution. I know this has happened to me … And when it comes time to execute the design … Why not hire the photographer who’s work inspired the design (providing the body of the photographers work holds up).

One other thought on advertising … That game has drastically changed in the last 3-5 years. Personally, I dislike emails (If I smell marketing … delete) … Not a fan of postcards (99% hit the trash within 10 seconds of it being in my hand). If you haven’t read the book “Crush It” … Please do. It’s one of the best books I’ve read regarding social media, building a fan base and turning into a profitable business.

This is two fold. Yes, Fall, Holiday and Spring campaigns are being concepted/developed, however vacation time is usually also kicked into hyper-drive. I’d still get out there and show and talk about work. Just be realistic about the creative turnout when showing work. If you were just meeting with an Art Buyer only, this wouldn’t apply. Though just keep in mind, someone is working on the upcoming work/campaigns. If it fits with a particular concept/idea it’s a good thing regardless who sees it. I’ve also seen shown work, inspire a particular project, and in that case it’s pretty much a done deal on who’s shooting it. This then becomes a true project of collaboration. Nothing is more relevant than when it applies to the now.

Tip: Also an afternoon meeting with some cookies/snacks goes a long way. It helps me initially wrangle the attention of creatives. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or particularly pretty. This time slot may not work for everyone. I just know my creatives and how they work best. See if you can pry some of this info out of whomever you’re meeting, if more than just the art buyer is expected.

To Summarize: We ask and ask and it’s always the same answer, ALWAYS keep marketing regardless of time. If someone is away, their mail will be waiting for them. Take time, produce something special and invest in consistency and for the long term.

Call To Action: Where are you spending your marketing dollars? Map out your plan and start marketing today! Look at your options: Social Media, Mass Direct Mail, e-promotions, In Person Marketing (events, meetings, etc…), Specialized Marketing (targeted and high end), etc… Lastly look at the time you have available and see what options works best for you. We recommend picking 2-3 options and then adding to it as time and finances allow.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.”

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  1. Interesting comments from “Creative Director” about deleting emails or tossing postcards….

    • @Alan Matthews,
      I thought so as well but then the CD’s don’t catalog photographers like the AB’s and PE’s so it makes more sense that they are looking for creative inspiration not work they think they can use some day.

      • @A Photo Editor,
        That’s a really good mental note!

  2. With regards the CD deleting marketting emails and trashing postcards etc… I’ve never really felt comfortable sending promo material to CDs since they are dealing with so much more on a project, so his/her comments don’t come as a surprise to me.

    At an agency it’s usually AB(s) I contact, unless told specifically to contact a CD or AD, or I know the CD/AD personally… In fact, a few agencies I’ve worked with have a policy of ABs distancing themselves from projects once all the creative people are on board, which means they’re usually entirely commited to the job of hiring (in my case) photographers.

  3. “Always be marketing” is sound advice. But if you can’t do something every week or every month and have to make some more limited promotional choices based on your time or money budget, you can get some valuable insights from your own data.

    These days there are all sorts of tracking metrics. Pay attention to them.
    But even in the old analog days, when I was repping a stable of photographers, I didn’t have click-through data but I did have a FileMaker database of our jobs. From that data I got a sense of when it was a good time to promote based on the both the artist’s style and the accounts they wanted to be shooting for. I always found that when I looked at our historical data I could make some effective choices that led to a very good R.O.I. on our promotional budgets.

  4. I have always felt that a promo should be done with quality of image and design in mind. My promo getting made now is a mid-size poster of recent work that we narrowed down to two images. One image on each size. Off set press printing, six colors ( 2 extra hits of black) with a spot UV varnish to add a layer of design without complicating the image. It’s got to “wow” the viewer or forget it. Even the envelope is getting screen printed to help with the design and allure. An art directors mail box is busy with stuff so I have to make sure they will want to open the promo. It’s worth spending the extra bucks if the finish product kicks-ass.

  5. I personally hope as many people as possible don’t market in the summer… Makes it easier for me to stand out.

  6. …and on my way to pick up “Crush It”…

  7. Wait, I cannot fathom it being so straigthfrwoard.

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