Expert Advice: Sourcebooks and Online Directories
Tuesday May 13th, 2014
Photographers have many tools to choose from when it comes to marketing, but one tool we always recommend is a listing in at least one sourcebook or online directory. As a rule of thumb, we advise our photographers to use a combination of broad/narrow, and active/passive marketing. Just as you might promote lightly to a big list of prospects and heavily to a smaller, more targeted list, you’re going to want to actively promote to clients you know about, and at the same time, you’ll want to make it easy for clients you don’t know about to find you passively. That’s where a sourcebook or directory come in. You simply buy an ad or a listing, and wait for the assignments to come rolling in.
When it comes to sourcebooks and directories, photographers have more options than ever. Some only appear online, others come in print and/or tablet versions, still others have all three. Some focus on a particular specialty, while others feature all varieties of photography specialties. Some promote their photographers aggressively, and others less so. Some offer extra services like networking events, consulting services, website templates, and client contact information. It’s important to consider these factors when selecting a sourcebook or online directory.
We recommend that photographers list themselves in at least two at any given moment, so they can compare their relative effectiveness. If you haven’t already, sign up for Google Analytics or Clicky for your web portfolio, so that you can monitor the traffic generated by each. You can read more about Google Analytics here.
During this time, it’s very important to be committed to your investment. Regardless of the format of the sourcebook you’re listed in, you should take advantage of the medium and engage in a regular routine of creating content for your listing so that you get as much out of it as possible. For example, if you’re listed on an online directory that features photographers who updated their profile recently, make sure to regularly update your listing with fresh and relevant work. In the case of a multi-volume printed sourcebook, you should be sure to plan a thoughtful campaign to help you build a cohesive brand from issue to issue. Beyond that, it’s important to remember that even if they’re impressed with your ad or listing, most clients will also look at your website before they actually contact you for an assignment. So it’s equally important for that to be buttoned up as well.
When new clients contact you, be sure to ask them how they found you, and keep track of what they say, so you can evaluate the relative effectiveness of those sourcebooks and directories. Then, periodically replace the under-performing sourcebook or directory with a new one. Repeat this cycle as often as necessary until you find a ones that you are satisfied with. There are a lot of options to choose from, so it is very important to evaluate them all and decide what is best for your business (and your budget!)
Here are a few of the more prominent ones to consider:
Lürzer’s Archive is generally regarded as the go-to advertising compendium. It’s been around since the mid-80s and boasts a readership of 150,000 worldwide. It’s published 6 times each year and has 4 editions: German, International, US and Chinese. The Archive serves as a curated view of recent advertising photography. They also produce a digital edition for tablets. Peppered throughout are fabulous photographer “ads”, which is an interesting contrast. Their rate card details their pricing guidelines, and mentions that there are also options for inserts and other stand-out ads. L also publishes a list of the “200 Best Advertising Photographers.” (Of course, in fairness, it’s a list of the 200 who are willing to pay to be in the book.)
Communication Arts has been published since since the late ’50s and contains a variety of juried annual competitions, in-depth profiles of artists and informative industry related articles. There are several ways to get your work in Communication Arts. Their submissions page details the different feature categories and how to submit work to be considered for the magazine (or the online version). CA also hosts an annual Photography Competition, and they have a digital career resource for creative professionals. There are all sorts of folks in the industry listed on there, but photographers can post a (free) listing on the site. For $8.99/year they offer enhanced profiles that include image showcases, and the ability to upload PDF portfolios for potential clients to download.
They also use paid photographer “ads” in their publication, but like Lürzer’s the ads are quite pricey.
Workbook exists as a printed sourcebook and an online directory. Individual photographers can buy listings in their sourcebook, and oftentimes reps will purchase space for their whole roster and group them together. They publish a printed book twice annually. Workbook is paired with Workbook Portfolios, a searchable feature that serves as a digital directory of creative talent. Their online directory features over 900 art-makers (photographers, illustrators, letterers, designers, and their reps), who are searchable by specialty and location.
DripBook, which was recently acquired by Workbook, is a portfolio network for creative professionals. Creative buyers can search the portfolios by genre, tags, by how recently the listing was updated, by how popular the listing is, and allows the option to “follow” listings, similar to a social networking site. Dripbook also offers HTML5 website templates, which can be linked to Dripbook portfolios, allowing for automatic and instant web updates. They also offer other services such as portfolio presentation apps and automated social media updates linked with updates to DripBook listing updates. Dripbook has a 30-day free trial option available.
Like Workbook, AtEdge exists both in print, and online as a searchable directory which can be navigated by specialties, techniques, and location. AtEdge lists about 150 photographers (who tend to concentrate heavily on advertising work), and they tend to be picky about who they allow in. Since its start in 2003, they’ve publish 4 smaller books and one large book each year, which they send out to an extensive mailing list of creatives. They also promote their photographers through email newsletters and in-person networking events.
Le Book is a sourcebook for the fashion photography industry. Each printed book is designed by a different art director from the industry. They publish annual directories for each of 4 markets: New York, London, Berlin & Paris. The directories come in two volumes, the first being a compilation of work by photographers, illustrators, art directors and other image creators. The second volume contains portfolio work of production professionals such as models, hair & makeup stylists, post-production houses and more. Le Book also runs an online database where their advertisers can be searched by multiple criteria, and the advertisers have complete control over what is published on their listing. Similar to AtEdge, Le Book hosts networking events.
Owned by Agency Access, FoundFolios is an online directory of artists, featuring portfolios of photographers, illustrators, reps, CGI artists and more. Listings can be searched by specialty, location, awards won, as well as how recently they were updated. FoundFolios keeps an active routine of social media publicity associated with the artists who are listed in their directory. Monthly “Collections” featuring specific images associated with themes are showcased on the site. FoundFolios offers four different tiers of listings, with reciprocal increase in exposure on their search results and opportunities for publicity. Their top-most listing, “Featured” is reserved for photographers who apply for the listing and are approved.
PDN’s PhotoServe is an online directory of over 900 photographic professionals. They have different tiers of membership, the bottommost being free of cost. The free option does not allow the photographer to show images on their listing. The membership rate increase corresponds to incremental increases of exposure for the photographer’s listing, as well as increases in the amount of images that can be shown. Other benefits to the paid listing include vendor discounts and subscriptions to PDN’s publications.
Behance is an online platform designed to showcase creative work and connect art-makers with art-buyers. It’s free to join, and is a great way to share your work, interact with other creative professionals and find inspiration. This is more of a social media platform as it exists now, but has a great number of users sharing and viewing work in the creative industry.
Wonderful Machine provides members with the most efficient way to be visible to a broad range of high-quality clients. By optimizing the number of photographers, specialties, and locations on our site, and by insisting on a high standard of quality from all of our photographers, we’ve been able to create a uniquely valuable resource for clients. Keeping our focus on the needs of those clients allows us to deliver superior results for our photographers.
We don’t take commissions and we don’t require exclusivity. We simply charge a monthly fee for a listing on our site, and an hourly fee for help with photo editing, design, publicity & copywriting, marketing, pricing & negotiating, and production, upon request (we offer our consulting services to all photographers, not just members). This structure allows photographers to scale our support up or down according to their needs at any given moment, and it allows us to promote our otherwise-represented members without conflict of interest.
- If you have a lot of money, we recommend you engage in one or two of the printed sourcebooks, and also maintain an online listing with them.
- If you’re just starting out, consider trying out one or two of the free or low cost online sourcebooks to start with.
- If you shoot fashion, you should consider Le Book as well as another more general sourcebook.
- If you want to maximize your investment, spend a little bit of money on a lot of different sourcebooks rather than a lot of money on one heavy-hitter sourcebook.
Below is a chart of the different sourcebooks and the features they offer. We’ve differentiated between networking events, which are organized to connect photographers with creative industry professionals, and portfolio meetings, where photographers’ books are brought to creative industry professionals.
Remember, sourcebooks are just one marketing tool available to photographers. Check out our other Expert Advice articles for help putting together a social media strategy, how to make meetings with prospective clients, what to think about when creating a print portfolio, and the importance of a solid graphic identity.
Also keep in mind that our expert staff of photo editors, designers, publicists and producers is available to assist you along the way. You can visit our consulting page to learn more.