Category "Marketing Tips"

Marketing Tips: How do we get decision makers to seriously look at our work and meet with us?

- - Marketing Tips

Guest post by Kristina Feliciano

I’ve been doing this a while and been in the industry in all forms—PA, driver, photo assistant, shooter. From my experience and from talking with my peers, most work is not gotten by that “lucky break” but rather from some relationship that turned someone on to your work. My peers and I are a little older—30s/40s—so we have been around and know the industry and are really good at what we do, and are just good people, but we are not “sexy.” We all do promos and calls and emails, but how do we get the photo editor/art buyer/art director/in-house photo producer/etc. to actually consider taking the time to seriously look at our work or, better yet, meet with us? I am realizing no one has that answer. —Alex Palombo,

Thanks for writing me, Alex. If I’m hearing you right, you want to know how someone who’s got experience, knows what they’re doing, and promotes themselves gets photo editors and art buyers to pay attention and give them work. And you say no one has the answer, which suggests that it’s an unanswerable question. And I totally get that it feels that way.

But we need to look a little more closely at the premise that you and the colleagues you mention are all doing the things you’re supposed to do and still coming up short. How consistent, well designed, and targeted are the promo efforts you’re talking about? How clear is your brand and—jargon alert—value proposition? Is your website well edited and easy to navigate? Does it clearly support your identity and vision? How’s your social presence? Number of followers notwithstanding, are your IG and/or FB pages genuinely compelling, illuminating, funny, or

I think by now, most photographers know that they need to market themselves, but I’m not positive they really know how to do it—that they need to take a big-picture view of their efforts, make an annual plan and set goals, establish a schedule, and understand how all their initiatives come together to add up to something larger and persuasive. You really have to know who you are and what you have to offer. That doesn’t mean doing only one kind of work or pigeonholing yourself, but it also doesn’t mean professing general competence and telling clients you can shoot anything—as if you have no point of view, as if you’re a blank slate waiting for someone to define your purpose for you.

Obviously, you have to be a damn good photographer, because this is an intensely competitive industry. But as a well-respected photo agent told the crowd at a recent photo talk here in Los Angeles, you also have to be a good businessperson. I know, gross. But it’s an inescapable reality.

 I would suggest doing an honest assessment of, for example, the marketing and outreach efforts you made through 2018, as well as your website and social. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client and be mercenary in how you evaluate what you see. Make note of what works, what’s confusing, what needs to go. When I look at your site, for example, the categories are “new work,” “men,” “women,” and “personal work.” But what does a portfolio called “women” mean? When I click through on it, I see the potential makings of a sports & recreation portfolio and one on beauty. Why not break it up into two portfolios? Having descriptive portfolio names helps define you to visitors to your site. As in, “Oh, he shoots sports & rec, and I work for Eddie Bauer, so let me take a look.” (Also, unless you’re a celebrity portrait shooter, portfolio names like “men” and “women” are probably going to be too vague.) For your personal work portfolio, which contains studio portraits on white, is there a story behind the images you’re showing? They’re so different from the other work on the site; it would be helpful to have a short paragraph to introduce why you shot them and explain what you’re trying to communicate. Or consider renaming it “real people” or “portraits on white”—category names that could appeal, for instance, to pharma clients—and eliminate the first four portraits (because they appear to be about something else entirely). Otherwise, the portfolio is just a collection of disparate images, you know?

I completely agree with you that most work comes from relationships. But to spark those relationships, it helps to have your presentation and marketing efforts as on point as can be. That’s what will get you work. That and patience, because marketing and refining your presentation are two items on your to-do list that you will never be done with.

Kristina Feliciano is a marketing consultant based in Los Angeles and the former creative director of Stockland Martel. If you have questions about marketing send her an email and she can answer them here:

Marketing Tips: Breaking Into Commercial Assignments and Promo Leave-behinds

- - Marketing Tips

Guest post by Kristina Feliciano

I’ve developed a large body of personal work but have never shot commercial assignments. How do I get started?

I suggest you do something that is truly unfashionable these days: Assist. Technology—digital photography, the Internet, social media—has been wonderfully democratizing, making it super easy for anyone to make and distribute work. But the low barrier to entry has also inspired people to skip steps that are essential to their education as a professional photographer. When you assist, you’re getting paid to learn while enjoying remarkable access. You’ll be watching how a pro runs their set, works with their team, collaborates with their clients, and solves problems. You can learn about lighting, directing talent, gear, logistics. You’ll also meet people, from crew members to clients. If I were you, I’d commit to assisting for at least a year. It’s a small investment of time, and you can still shoot your own work on the side. Yes, there are successful young photographers who never assisted. But behind the scenes, you sometimes hear that the producer or art director on these photographers’ shoots is actually running the show because the photographer doesn’t know how to light, what to do when the weather doesn’t cooperate, how to lead a crew. In those cases, it’s unlikely that the photographer will be hired again. To survive beyond a few lucky breaks, you need to prepare yourself, and spending a night or two asking Dr. Google for information does not count. Go the old-school route and find yourself someone to apprentice with.

I’m a portrait, entertainment, and advertising photographer planning to go on meetings with magazines, ad agencies, and movie & TV studios, and I want to print a two-sided promo card as a leave-behind. How do I choose which images to use?

The first step is acknowledging that one card for these three different audiences will not serve you well. To be effective, a promo should be relevant to the recipient. For the magazines, you want to show off your portrait capabilities but not ads or key art that you’ve shot—generally speaking, photo editors don’t want to see campaigns. So consider a card featuring two of your strongest celebrity portraits, ideally ones that either contrast each other in some notable way—serious/humorous, studio/location, natural light/stylized, a single/a group—or that work together to make a strong, consistent statement of your style. For the movie & TV studios, demonstrate your narrative and production skills. Consider showing key art on one side and a publicity image on the other. And for ad agencies, aim to inspire the art buyers and creatives to want to work with you: Show two of your strongest portraits that speak to your capabilities in terms of lighting, production, style, and uniqueness. They’re visual people and love photography as much as you do. Dazzle them; show them what makes you special. As an alternative to all of the above, if you’re presenting to a group, you could print four or five cards, each with an excellent image one one side and your branding on the other, set them out in stacks on the table, and let people choose which card/s they want as they leave. No matter which route you choose, though, make sure you’re making decisions with your audience’s needs in mind. Otherwise, all you’ll be leaving them with is the impression that you didn’t do your homework.

Kristina Feliciano is a marketing consultant based in Los Angeles and the former creative director of Stockland Martel. If you have questions about marketing send her an email and she can answer them here:

Marketing Tips: Naming Website Portfolios and Entering Competitions

- - Marketing Tips

Guest post by Kristina Feliciano

Is it boring to name my website portfolios by category, like portraits, lifestyle, etc.?

In a word, no. Category names like portraits, lifestyle, automotive, and celebrity are the photo-industry equivalent of, for example, entertainment-industry categories like movies, TV, and podcasts. They’re universally understood labels, and everyone knows what to expect when they click on or refer to them.

That being said, sometimes it’s necessary to break the categories down further to make them more descriptive (like “movies that make you cry”) because of the sheer volume of imagery. Dedicated lifestyle shooters, for example, will have too much work to present in a compelling way in a single portfolio, so it makes sense for them to create sub-categories that highlight their specialties and make the images easy to navigate: families, kids, seniors, etc.

Some photographers like to play the numbers game: entertainment 1, entertainment 2, etc. This isn’t wrong in any provable way, but it feels like a missed opportunity. And it’s kind of confusing. There’s no aesthetic or qualitative difference between 1 and 2, so do I click on 1 because 1 comes before 2? If I’m not so impressed with what’s in 1, do I bother clicking on 2? Why put your viewers through that decision-making process? Chances are, you have enough work to create two distinct portfolios, like “entertainment: advertising” and “entertainment: publicity.” Or it’s time to do two discrete “celebrity men” and “celebrity women” portfolios. You can also divide by environment and studio. One more thought: Simply doing a tighter edit and leaving it at one entertainment portfolio might also be the way to go. It’s amazing how quickly portfolios grow over time. You have to keep going back and reassessing to make sure they’re communicating what you want them to.

Now, there are some photographers who choose to come up with unusual names for their portfolios in an attempt to look different from everyone else. It’s a strategy, but it’s not one I’m in favor of. Art buyers, creatives, and photo editors have very little time. Think of them when you name your portfolios, and be kind to them. Do you want them trying to solve an anagram in order to decipher one of your portfolio names? No, you do not.

How do I decide which competitions to enter?

Some broad-strokes advice: If you’ve never heard of the competition, chances are no one else has either. Avoid it. Given that you want to be a good steward of your money and time (which are basically the same thing), it’s smart to stick with the big brands: the PDN Photo Annual, American Photography, the APA Awards, Luerzer’s Archive, Communication Arts Photography Competition, the International Photography Awards, and the Graphis Photography Annual. All of the above have earned their status as trusted arbiters of the medium, as opposed to some new website that’s either looking to build its business model off your name and talent or collect entry fees from the growing population of aspiring photographers; their juries tend to be carefully chosen, with jurors who are well placed; and they have the means to properly promote the winning entries—on their website, through social media, and perhaps even through a notable event. Both PDN and American Photography, for example, draw a sizable and enthusiastic audience with their Photo Annual and The Party bashes, respectively.

Once you’ve decided which contests to enter, be strategic about the work you choose to submit. It should go without saying that you should send in only your strongest images, mercilessly pared down to a select few. But think, too, about what your submissions will say about you—and about what you want them to say. Getting into a photo annual or winning an award is helpful to you only if it aligns with your overall strategy. What’s that, you say? We can talk about it in a future column

Kristina Feliciano is a marketing consultant based in Los Angeles and the former creative director of Stockland Martel. If you have questions about marketing send her an email and she  can answer them here: