Tuesday December 4th, 2012
by Kayleen Kauffman
One-on-one portfolio reviews should be an essential part of any photographer’s marketing plan. It’s a great opportunity to get your work literally under the noses of decision makers at ad agencies, magazines and design firms. We’ve found that creatives are more likely to work with photographers they know, and meetings are a great way to solidify those relationships. It’s your opportunity to present your brand, your work and yourself. However, many photographers find the idea of setting up meetings to be somewhat daunting, so I’ve put together a step-by-step guide to securing and preparing for your own portfolio reviews:
Preparing Your Promotional Materials
- Make sure your print portfolio is up to date and well edited. Get a second opinion on your edit from a friend or consultant (see Sean’s Expert Advice: How To Edit Photographs).
- Consider whether an iPad portfolio is appropriate for you. Print portfolios still get more attention from clients at our portfolio events than iPads do. But tablets are essential if you shoot motion and they’re also a nice supplement to show recent projects and to go into greater depth on a particular subject.
- Have an appropriate leave-behind ready to go. A simple postcard can work. However, you’ll score extra points for something unique like a small booklet or even your own app (like Tony Burns’ Shooting The World). Whenever possible your leave-behind should be memorable, inventive and reflective of your brand.
- Make sure your website is up to date and working properly. Nobody is going to make an appointment with you without first checking out your site. Make sure it’s solid (see Paul’s Expert Advice: Website Dos and Don’ts.)
- Whether you’re traveling across the country or just across town, you’ll need to do some research to make sure you’re barking up the right trees. Check out each client’s website to make sure that your photography matches up with their needs, so you don’t waste your time or theirs. Start close to home and then branch out from there. You will only be able to meet with a relatively small number of prospects over the course of your career, so you have to make each appointment count.
- Put together a list of 40-50 clients that you can tackle. List services are a great place to start finding appropriate clients and building prospect lists. When we’re setting up meetings for a photographer, we’ll first search for prospects in our internal database. Then we’ll visit Agency Access for additional names. As useful as list services are, nothing is more valuable than personal networking. When you find one client who really responds to your work, ask them if they know any others who might be a good match for you.
- As you start to cultivate relationships with prospective clients, it will be important to keep good records of your interaction with them. See Craig’s Expert Advice: Understanding Contact Databases.
Requesting & Planning for Meetings
- After you have your list of prospects complied, start reaching out. We’ve found that contacting people roughly a week before you’d like to meet is a good rule of thumb. Do it too far in advance and you risk having them forget about the meeting or cancel on you. Too little notice may find them already booked up. Start with a casual email that includes:
- The prospect’s name.
- A little about how your skills and interests might match up with their needs.
- A link to your site.
- The dates and times you’re available.
- Don’t attach images to your email. I find that this increases the chance of your email getting stuck in spam filters.
- Give the impression that you’re going to be in town for other meetings (even if you haven’t set up any others yet). You don’t want anyone to feel pressure that you’re making a special trip for them.
- Don’t ask for too much time. “A few minutes” is what you should ask for. If get more than that, great. Here’s a basic template:
- After a day or two, if you don’t get a reply, follow up with a phone call. Yes, this can be scary, but it’s good to be proactive. Don’t create an awkward moment by saying, “I was just calling to follow up on an email I sent you…” They will probably not remember your email among the other 100 they got that day. Simply reiterate that you’re going to be in town next week and you were wondering if they might have a few minutes to take a look at your book. Keep it friendly, short and to the point.
- Sometimes it’s helpful to write out a script and practice it so you’re comfortable with what you’re going to say. You might have to practice it a few hundred times so you don’t sound like a robot. But creating a really succinct message that you can deliver in a relaxed way, will give you the best chance of success. Creating an alternate script for voice mails is a good idea, too.
- Be assertive, but don’t be a pest. If you send someone an email and you leave a message and they still don’t respond, you should take that to mean that they don’t want to meet with you at this time. There are plenty of fish in the sea. Don’t get hung up on any one client. Just move on to the next one.
- Once you start booking meetings, make sure you give yourself enough time for each meeting and time to get to the next one. If you’re going to New York, try to book as many meetings as possible within walking distance so you can maximize your time. If you have to drive from one meeting to the next, account for the time it takes to get your car out of the parking garage and then find parking at the next place. Give yourself enough time for meetings to run long. It’s not unusually for a meeting with one person to turn into a meeting with two or three people.
- Build an itinerary for yourself including time of meetings, contact’s name, phone number, email address, physical address. Plan ahead how you’ll be getting around. (By the way, TripIt is a great (free) app for keeping track of meetings.)
- Now that you’ve booked your meetings, it wouldn’t hurt to do a little additional research on those clients. Check out their blog and social media sites in addition to their website. You’ll want to demonstrate that you know their business and you’ll want to have enough to talk about. If you’re meeting with an agency because you think you’d be a great fit for their client, make sure they still have that client.
- Once you’ve arrived at your meeting, it’s time to turn on the charm! Be relaxed but energetic. Start with a little small talk. Then walk them through your portfolio, explaining your creative process and telling interesting stories about your experiences. Listen. Speak. Listen. Speak.
- Don’t ask clients to critique your photography or your presentation. That’s not their job and it will make you seem like an amateur. Just guide them through your work, then express an interest in their projects. Show that you’re interested in what they’re doing, but no hard sell.
- Don’t expect to get an assignment on the spot. The purpose of these meetings is for creatives to get to know you and to hopefully build a comfort level so that they will ask you for a bid when an appropriate project comes up.
After your meeting, it doesn’t hurt to send a hand-written thank-you note. If you have any “swag” (t-shirts, mugs, notebooks, etc.) or other promo pieces, that would be a good time to send something! From there, an occasional email or print promo update is appropriate (every few months).
If you need a hand building a client list or setting up meetings, please call us. Or you can visit our consulting page to learn more.
Wednesday January 25th, 2012
By Craig Oppenheimer
In July of 2011 Honolulu-based photographer, Marco Garcia, contacted us about a project that he wanted to pitch to magazines around the country. Over the previous few months, Marco had photographed a series of portraits of Pearl Harbor veterans, and after collecting their stories and obtaining a library of images, he was convinced that the project would be a fantastic fit for publications looking for content for the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
I worked with Marco to develop a tailored list of news and photojournalism-focused magazines that I thought would be looking for content related to the anniversary, and I quickly started to compile contact information of photo editors, directors of photography, web editors and art directors. My list included large publications such as Newsweek, National Geographic, and the New York Times, as well as smaller, more targeted magazines such as Naval History Magazine and the Naval Institute Press.
Marco originally supplied a large library of images, which our photo editors weighed in on to help him create a strong selection of great images to present. Next, our publicity director Maria Luci took his written proposal, and helped him rework the wording in order to present a concise, well-written story that would capture the attention of our prospects. I then began a series of emails to pitch the story, including a few samples of his work and a link to his website. Here is what the email looked like (click to enlarge):
Over the next few days, I followed up with phone calls to every contact that I sent the proposal too. The majority of the calls went straight to voice mail, which is to be expected, and it allowed for another opportunity to tell the story. Let’s face it, magazine editors are very busy, and they don’t always have time to chat about future stories when they’re concentrating on closing an issue. I’ve found the most important part of pitching a story is to just have patience. Receiving a return phone call is rare, and I’ll often receive email responses weeks later showing interest in a project.
I was eventually able to get a handful of contacts on the phone to remind them of the story, and I had some great conversations to learn more about what they are looking for and how Marco’s story might fit into their publication. About a week later, something finally stuck. I received an email response from a photo editor at Smithsonian Magazine who was interested in presenting the story to his editors. He liked the images and thought the story would be timely, so we began to correspond about what sort of additional content Marco had to supplement the story.
It was apparent that the photos would most likely be a better fit for the website, rather than the magazine, but this would allow the opportunity for multimedia and a wide reach on the web to people who may not subscribe to the magazine. Marco was able to reach out to his contacts at the USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial, and began to talk about obtaining audio interviews from the veterans. While the audio didn’t end up being used in this case, supplemental content (interviews, slideshows or videos) can add to the value of your package and improve the chances of having your story picked up. Fortunately, Marco did have personal accounts from the stories the veterans told him, and this proved to be a great addition to the photo essay.
After corresponding about the story over the next few weeks, the photo editor confirmed that the photos would run on the website in a slideshow format along with written content for each image. A few month’s later on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks, Marco’s images ran on the magazine’s website. Here’s a screen shot:
Overall, both Marco and the team at Smithsonian were very pleased with the results, and the images proved to be a fantastic addition to a timely story.
To recap, here are the main points to successfully pitch a story:
- Have enough content to tell the whole story. A completed (or nearly completed) project is more attractive than just an idea for a project.
- Make sure your project is newsworthy and will appeal to a wide enough audience.
- Present your story idea, images and other content in a clear concise way so that even a busy editor can understand it quickly.
- Think multimedia. Interviews, audio, motion pictures and slideshows will add interest to your story.
- Have someone edit your proposal. Your project makes sense to you, but it’s important to make sure it will make sense to others. Make it brief, attention grabbing, and free of any typos and grammatical errors.
- Do your research to find publications that are appropriate for your project. It’s better to put a lot of energy into pitching a small group of clients.
- Accept the possibility of web use. Not all stories are fit for print, so expect that your images may be a better fit for web use, and refer to tip #4 to make sure you are ready for this.
- BE NICE and don’t be offended when you’re rejected or ignored.
- Remember that whether your story gets picked up or not, pitching stories is a great way to cultivate relationships with clients who are important to you. So even if it doesn’t work out this time, you’re laying the groundwork for other opportunities in the future.
Friday January 6th, 2012
by Maria Luci
While there are ample resources available on portfolios, websites, leave behinds and promotional materials, there’s one important subject that I’ve found little helpful information on: The photographer’s bio.
Almost always found on a professional photographer’s site, the bio can make or break you. In a world where creatives often only have a couple of minutes to view your site, the bio can play a significant role. A biography is a glimpse into your personality and gives the reader a sense of what you might be like to work with. Creatives will often seek out the bio to help them make quick judgements. Therefore, just having great pictures isn’t enough. Many people will quickly abandon a website to jump to the next, so you have to make sure your entire site is not only engaging, but successfully portrays your personality. With bios being one way to express who YOU are, I’m always surprised at just how many dreadful ones I find. So, after reading one too many boring, exaggerated, absurd, grammatically incorrect and simply over the top biographies, I decided to come up with a few Dos and Don’ts.
Ok, let’s start with the Don’ts. These are easier to lay out, and there are certainly plenty of them. (Editor’s note: These are simply opinions. Please take all advice and examples with a grain of salt and a pinch of humor.)
Don’t be pompous (names have been changed to protect the innocent/pompous) “Jim Doe has left an indelible mark on the modern photography world as we know it.” Unless you’re an Annie Leibovitz, Ansel Adams or the like, I would try to refrain from overly self-important remarks. You don’t want to give creatives the impression that you’re some sort of prima donna who’s difficult to work with or doesn’t take direction. Also, try to avoid over the top, superfluous words, phrases, and sentences.
- Too Pompous 1 “I find myself becoming more and more jaded with the photographic landscape of today. I never want to be someone who takes predictable, boring photographs. To combat this, I ask myself after every photo: is this good enough for a gallery, a museum, a photo book? If so, I’m happy. I’m always looking to create timeless images; classic photographs.” Is there anyone out there whose goal is to take a predictable picture?
Don’t take yourself too seriously Overly serious bios sometimes fall into the pompous category as well (such as my previous example). Often times, photographers aren’t saving lives. Unless you’re a Joao Silva or Eddie Adams, austere and somber isn’t super appropriate and can give off a stuffy vibe. Your goal is to attract and be hired by creatives, who aren’t typically the super serious type. Remember, this isn’t a PhD dissertation.
- Too Serious “Jim Doe is a leader in the planning and creation of visual media that connect people with their lives and connect their lives with the world.” (Exceptions to the rule: wartime photojournalists)
Don’t get too lengthy This is self-explanatory. Please, no novels… or even novellas. Be short and sweet. Leave them wanting more. I’ll spare you the long example.
Don’t be illiterate Please try to avoid typos, bad translations, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. If you know you’re not the best writer (or aren’t writing in your native language), think about hiring a writer. Everyone should have someone look over their work, no matter what. You’re not going to impress anyone with your cringe worthy grammar or semicolon misuse. Also, please don’t use an online translator to translate your bio from one language to another.
- Bad Translation Leonard Doe a man that after a long romance with the art gets to find in photography the muse of his own creativity His lovely grandma and an analogic camera announces a discovery, the emergence of a birth, and there his eyes understood the power that residedon them to inmortalize momentsof diary intimate stories and free In his presents days is to improveand expand his knowledges, his actual works and those will comeare expectedanxiously for this photographs the perfect return that track to enter more in the white and black world where his more comfortable muse shines… WELCOME TO THE TIME NO TIME
OK, that’s enough negativity for now. I’m sure we could all come up with more bio don’ts, but I’d rather focus on the good. There are plenty of great examples out there that I’d love to share.
Do have fun You only have so much time to catch the eye of a creative. Showing some creatively in your bio and having fun with your writing is a great way to get attention. Below are some of my favorite “fun” examples:
- Fun 1 Adam Voorhes Not only is Adam’s bio amusing, but you can also play pong on his site! Here’s his bio: HI I’M ADAM I was born somewhere, and then grew up. Along the way I went to a prestigious college where I learned about important things. Like student loans. Then I lived in different cities and worked for different famous and important people. Then I ended up where I am now. And this is where I do stuff. I’ve won a bunch of important and/or impressive awards for some of that stuff. I hope to continue doing stuff for sometime now
- Fun 2 Roberto Westbrook Robert’s bio stretches over several pages and includes a fun image to go along with each blurb. Usually, I would discourage such a long text, but Robert’s quirky and charming writing style keep you engaged and leave you wanting more. Check it out on his site: www.robertowestbrook.com It’s worth a read!
- Fun 3 Bruton Stroube Studios On top of having well written photographer bios, each BSS staff member also has their own bio. And each includes a goofy poem. Adding a little fun poem goes along with their fun loving brand. Assistant Jake Pott’s poem: A lightweight, at least at first glance, He just fills out his ski pants. With work so high rated, To success he is fated. In the darkroom when given a chance.
- Fun Suggestion Mad Lib style bio. I saw this done once where each member of the studio filled one out. So fun!
Do keep it short and sweet Concise, informative and thoughtful bios are always appreciated. Just make sure to not err on the side of boring.
- Short/Sweet 1 Ryan Ketterman Ryan Ketterman is an editorial and commercial photographer, specializing in people and corporate photography with a style consisting of colorful and energetic imagery. Running a client-friendly, service-oriented business he believes that great creativity often is the result of team effort and values working closely with his clients. Based in Jacksonville Beach, Florida Ryan and his team are ready to create outstanding visuals for you.
- Short/Sweet 2 Bradley Spitzer I am a simple man who loves making photographs and spending time with my wife and son. I am fortunate to be able to spend a good amount of time on personal projects, traveling and collaborating with a team of rad people. I make my bed in Nashville, Tennessee and am a sucker for assignments where I have the opportunity to travel.
- Short/Sweet 3 Grace Chon Grace is an animal photographer. Her bio is short and sweet while also giving you a glimpse at her personality and love for animals: The camera is the least important element in photography.” -Julius Shulman
Grace combines her background as an award-winning advertising agency art director with her photography, creating modern, lifestyle portraits of people and animals. Her clients include ad agencies, magazines, publishing companies, celebrities, non-profit organizations and TV shows.
When she’s not writing about herself in the third person, Grace likes to go hiking with her dogs, meditate, and grow organic heirloom tomatoes. She makes a mean guacamole (want to challenge her to a guac-off?) and really hates Comic Sans.
In her spare time, Grace photographs homeless dogs looking for their forever homes and donates her photography services every year to multiple dog rescue groups in Los Angeles. She lives in LA with her husband and their two beloved rescue dogs, Maeby Fünke and Zoey.
Do keep our interest If you’re more of a dreamer, an imaginative biography that keeps the reader engaged might be right up your alley.
- Interesting 1 Forest Woodward Raised by Woodwards and tamed by wolves, I live under the influence of a man who walked into the wild. Haunted by the allure of point breaks and powder days, steep creeks and tall peaks; i am a hunter gatherer of natural light and candid moments. with an appetite whet with a taste of the unknown and the smell of home, i wander a path paved by open minds and trusting eyes, guided by willing feet… …and a desire to bring you with me.From my early days drinking fixer in the dark room, learning zone system and processing 4×5 negatives, to recent trips photographing fashion in tokyo, surf volunteerism in peru, a moped odyssey through spain, rock climbing in patagonia, or a music festival in california, my pursuit of new experiences pushes me to continually evolve my vision, while reminding me of the importance of carrying my camera with humor, compassion and curiosity.
- Interesting 2 Nick Burchell My name is Nick Burchell. I’m an Englishman, but I live in America. By way of Canada, technically. Photography is my calling, my profession, and the thing that will undoubtedly drive me insane someday. I don’t photograph subjects. I photograph the way they make me feel. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a strange concept. But it’s honest – and it’s the best way to describe my approach to the craft. I wrestle with every image I shoot. I assume perfection is possible and I want to wring it out of every picture. If that’s all you ever know about me, it’s enough to say you know me very, very well.
Do have a photo One of the first things I do when viewing a photographer’s website is to look for their portrait. I’m sure I’m not alone. This is one of the reasons we like to have head shots for all Wonderful Machine member photographers. It’s always nice to put a face to a name. Also, it helps if the photo actually looks like you. Ignoring the fact that there are many dos and don’ts in themselves for bio photos, I’ll just share a few I like.
- Bio Pic 1 Alvaro Leiva Alvaro is a travel photographer, his photo highlights this well while also showing a bit of his personality.
- Bio Pic 2 Stephanie Diani Stephanie is a celebrity photographer, something you get right away from her photo. It also shows that she’s fun loving and laid back.
- Bio Pic 3 Nick Hall Nick has a Q&A style bio that I really like, but I also enjoy the images on his about page. They give you a good sense of Nick’s personality and his photo style.
- Bio Pic 4 Ethan WeltyEthan is an action/adventure photographer and his photo displays this quite nicely.
© Yoav Bar-Ness
In the end, you need your bio to feel right for you. Don’t get too caught up with the rules and certainly don’t try to copy someone else’s style. Just be you, a grammatically correct and typo-free you.
Tuesday August 9th, 2011
The recent abundance of social media platforms has introduced a plethora of new outlets for photographers to market themselves. While the social media options may seem endless, you can count on us to help you navigate the social marketing terrain. Here at Wonderful Machine, we are always keeping an eye out for books and online resources that might be helpful for our photographers, and with the launch of the highly anticipated Google+, I can think of no better book than The Linked Photographers’ Guide to Online Marketing and Social Media. I recently reconnected with my friend and co-author of the book, Lindsay Adler, and asked her to share her insight and expertise with me.
Tell me about yourself. Can you briefly describe your path to where you are now?
I’m a professional portrait and fashion photographer based in New York City. I also direct fashion film shorts and help produce digital content for a variety of clients. I spend my time split evenly between client shoots and personal creative projects. I am currently pushing myself to experiment with new forms of digital media and image making.
See my blog for content on my career, tutorials and behind the scenes at www.blog.lindsayadlerphotography.com
What encouraged you to write a book on social media for photographers?
When I was first starting my career as a fashion photographer, I found that it was very difficult to get my work in front of the right target audience. I quickly realized that social media was one way to grab the attention of potential clients. The reason that I wrote the book is that I found I made a LOT of mistakes in using social media—I wasted a lot of time on unproductive content and geared toward the wrong audience. My book helps photographers to identify their target audience, determine where to find them online, and then figure out the most efficient and effective ways to grab their attention. I aim to help photographer to build a reputation online, find clients and network with colleagues in the most resource-effective way.
Do you have any success stories in your own business that can be specifically attributed to social media?
Where should I start? I have had dozens of successes and business growth achieved through the help of social media. To start with, when I first move to NYC I found my photography studio by tweeting that I was looking for a space. Someone on Twitter had a studio space available for rent. Then, a college friend reconnected with me through Facebook and told me he knew of an agency looking to bring photographers onto their roster… this led to my first photo agent. I’ve tagged images from editorials on my blog, and had magazines contacting me and requesting to use my images. I’ve used LinkedIn to figure out the ideal target for pitching a campaign and then found ways to connect with them through Twitter and Facebook to get them familiar with my name and work before going for the pitch.
The examples are endless.
What sort of content is best to show on a blog, and is a blog necessary?
A blog is necessary for most professional photographers. A blog allows you to do several important things. (1) A blog allows you to build your reputation by continually showing you produce high-quality work. While your website is the ‘best of the best’, your blog shows that you always produce amazing work. (2) A blog allows you to show your personality. People don’t just hire creatives because of their work, they want to know that you are professional and easy to work with as well. Your blog allows you to give more insight into what it’s like on your set or give a peek into behind the scenes video. (3) A blog allows you to improve the SEO—search engine optimization—of your website. Google uses words to help index webpages, yet many photographers’ websites use flash or use minimal words (mostly photos). This does not help your site to become associated with certain keywords. On a blog, however, words are an essential part of your communication. By repeatedly using certain key words, you help your blog and brand to become associated with these keywords in the eyes of Google.
What are the best ways to drive traffic to your blog?
By building community on other social networks like Google +, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, you develop a core group of people to drive traffic to your blog. This community spreads the word about your work and may even become evangelists.
In your book, you describe the importance of creating a resource out of your blog. Can you briefly elaborate on how a commercial or editorial photographer can do this?
Ask yourself these essential questions.
(1)What content could I put on my blog that my target audience would be interested in? Would they like behind the scenes to see my personality? Would they like to see my personal projects, to see beyond my more commercial portfolio?
(2)What could I create that’s USEFUL for my target audience? Are there any tutorials I could provide to help the client? Or maybe interviews with ‘movers’ in the industry? Or maybe my musing about the latest visual styles or technological advances.
You want to create content that would intrigue your target audience, but don’t be too restrictive in your thinking. Even non-photographers would find behind the scenes content interesting, or an overview of a shoot, or you talking about the inspiration behind a particular concept. Analyze the types of things that would be of interest to your clients, including content that attests to you being an in-demand photographer.
How many hours a week should a photographer devote to social networking? What percentage of a marketing plan (print mailers, emailers, cold calling) should be devoted to this?
There is no right answer to ‘how much time’ a photographer should devote to social media. Different types of marketing work best for different photographers and as well as types of clients. I recommend photographers devote 1 hour per day to social networking efforts. Also, other marketing elements should point back to your social networking (blog, twitter) as a way to allow your potential client to get connected with you.
What’s the deal with Google+? Is it a valuable tool for photographers? How does it compare to other social networking sites?
Google + is a great social network because it helps solve many of the problems that photographers (and our clients) had previously had with other social networks. For example, Circles provides a way to segment the different audiences and clients we interact with, and thus we can better control our message and privacy. There are dozens of other benefits, but it is attractive because it really address many concerns that had previously existed.
How can a photographer determine the best social media platform for them?
The best social media platform for you is likely the best social media platform for your client. Where is your target audience. You need to answer the following questions.
1. What is the key message I want to convey about myself and brand. In other words, “What do you want to say?”
2. Next, who is your target audience? Or “Who do you want to say it to?”
3. Where can I find my target audience online? When I find them… how can I get their attention?
Can you list the top 5 best practices for social networking?
1. Build Community. Be personable and interact with your target audience.
2. Become a resource for your target audience. Find ways to hold their interest and to be memorable.
3. Use SEO. Find ways to make your site and online presence more search engine friendly through the use of key words, links, and an active online presence.
4. Use analytics to determine your most successful networking practices.
5. Go to your target audience. Don’t expect them to come to you… when you figure out where they are active online, pursue them and provide content on your site that will attract them.
Tuesday April 5th, 2011
by Craig Oppenheimer
Many people store the contact information for friends and business associates on their cell phone or in their computer using Apple Address Book, Microsoft Entourage or other simple applications. But it doesn’t take long before most professional photographers accumulate enough information on prospects, support services and other resources to test the limits of those basic programs. After all, you will not only want to store that information, but also be able to organize, access and utilize it. That’s when you need to start thinking about getting a professional contact management software.
Imagine getting a last-minute call for a shoot and having to track down and book an assistant, make-up artist and wardrobe stylist. Maybe you have to rent a special piece of equipment or find an unusual prop. If over the years you’ve kept track of those resources when you come across them, a simple search will yield a list that you can choose from, allowing you to quickly call and check availability. A good contact database will not only allow you to search for individual and company names, but also for custom keywords (like “assistant” or “wardrobe stylist”) and locations.
Let’s say you just shot an annual report for a hospital and the client gave you 20 copies of it. If, over time, you’ve tagged appropriate prospects with a “healthcare” keyword, a simple search of that term will narrow down a list of good prospects to send them out to as promotional pieces.
If you find yourself headed to Chicago for an assignment and you decide you’d like to show your portfolio around while you’re there, a search on “Chicago” and “prospect” will generate a list of possibilities. If that list is too long, an additional search for “ad agencies” or “clients” (that you’ve worked for) will whittle it down to a manageable size. If you’re on a tight schedule, you could even search for prospects in a particular zip code or on a particular street. Browsing through your search results, you may even have a record of your previous correspondence, phone calls, meetings and assignments with those people. A quick review of those notes will help you remember who they are and allow you to pick up with them where you left off with your last conversation.
What features should I look for?
For many applications, the contact database is just the starting point of a business management package. Here are some other features to consider:
- Calendar, reminders
- Project management
- Email integration (Can you send an email directly from your database? Will your database automatically save your email correspondence for each of your contacts?)
- Word processing (Does your program allow you to write a letter to a contact and automatically include the recipient’s name/address/phone and print it with your logo?)
- Estimating and invoicing (Does your database talk directly to your accounting program so you don’t have to enter/update contact information more than once?)
- Image management (Does it make it easy search for metadata, generate licensing agreements, track sales?)
- Pricing guides
What brands should I look at?
One popular brand that I’ve used is FileMaker Pro. With more than 30 out-of-the-box starter solutions, this software can help you keep track of just about anything. For example, in my previous role as an art buyer, I dealt with a huge library of stock photography. In addition to managing routine contact information and notes, Filemaker Pro enabled me to keep track of the licensing and usage for thousands of images, and the data search functionality gave me the power to quickly find information about any project that I had worked on. Managing these projects and licensing barely breaks the surface of what Filemaker Pro can do. For a quick introduction to its extensive possibilities, I’d recommend viewing this video. It’s important to note, however, that my company had the luxury of a team of in-house IT wizards who could modify the software to run according to our exact specifications. Filemaker Pro is the most customizable solution out there, but it may not be the best option for an individual photographer with limited knowledge of or interest in writing code. But if you are so inclined, there are countless books and “Dummy” guides to help you customize Filemaker Pro to perfectly fit your needs.
A program that is specifically designed for commercial photographers, that we have some experience with, is InView, which is made by Hindsight. This is one of the few packages that is specifically designed for commercial photographers. It may not offer as much customization as FileMaker, but you will certainly be up and running more quickly. InView includes a contact manager, scheduling, word processing and complete accounting capabilities. It has a mail merge feature that allows you to customize your email promotions, not only personalizing them to the recipient, but also allowing you to automatically include different images for different types of prospects. The contact manager can also be set to automatically sync with your smart phone. In addition to their basic package, Hindsight also offers a Photo Price Guide (which now includes video pricing) and StockView to manage your stock photography including a metadata utility with keyword prompts and licensing templates. They also offer multi-user capability which allows people in different locations to access and make updates to the same database. Jim Cook owns and runs the company, and he has a reputation of being very responsive to his users.
Another is fotoBiz by Cradoc. It’s also geared towards commercial photographers, but it’s perhaps slightly less robust than InView. Cradoc Bagshaw introduced his popular photography pricing software fotoQuote Pro nearly 20 years ago, and launched fotoBiz in 2002. fotoBiz offers many of the same features as InView, with special emphasis on tracking and analyzing stock photography sales.
Other programs designed for photographers include Shoot Q, Light Blue and SuccessWare, though they are more geared toward wedding and portrait photographers.
Here at Wonderful Machine, we recently switched from a program called Now Contact (which recently suspended operations) to Daylite, made by Marketcircle. Everyone in our company uses Daylite to some degree, but it’s a priceless tool for me and our other producers. One of our favorite functions includes the ability to attach keywords to individual contacts, and then implement these keywords into “smart lists.” Every time we add a client prospect to our database, we add keywords (see list below) to their data record that makes them easy to find later. We record their company type, the kind of photography they use, and whether they are an “active” prospect (someone we pay a lot of attention to) or an “inactive” prospect (someone we want to keep track of, but not actively promote to). Separately, we record their metro area (in addition to their actual city) so that we can search by region. Then by using those tags and keywords in a search, we can quickly compile a list of people that match very specific criteria. For example, if I’m working on promoting a food photographer from Minneapolis and she wants me to focus on commercial clients in her area and editorial clients everywhere, I can very quickly create a smart list fitting those criteria and dive right into my phone calls or emails. Most databases allow you to keyword or tag data records to search by. Daylite is just especially flexible in this way.
Daylite also offers a powerful project management feature that can help you manage tasks, project timelines and client communication. This could be particularly useful for managing a studio where multiple staff members need to share databases and see the progress of multiple projects. Daylite can also sync with iCal and Address Book to maximize productivity amongst other programs that you already use. Daylite can connect with your iPhone and iPad. This could be crucial for accessing and adding contacts while traveling. Daylite may be unique in that it can “link” individual contacts with companies, notes and calendars. Most programs require you to create a separate entry for each company that an individual is associated with, and a duplicate note if the same one applies to different people. Daylite allows you to easily link any of these items to any other, which can save time and minimize confusion. This feature wasn’t completely intuitive for me at first, but it has turned out to be very valuable. A separate Billings module can handle estimates, invoices and billable-time tracking. If you decide to go with Daylite, you’ll find a third-party tutorial here: http://www.macangel.com/.
(Since we have such a heavy emphasis is on marketing, we chose Daylite. But the Hindsight and Cradoc products may be more appropriate for individual photographers.)
Is it worth it?
Don’t underestimate the value of a good contact database. As you get busier as a photographer and as your network of connections grows, the more you’ll need to access that information and the more valuable a resource it will become. Skimping on the proper software will save you time and money in the short-run, but cost you time, aggravation and money in the long-run. Good business management software won’t do the work for you, but it will make the time you spend on those tasks less painful and more productive. We’ve also arranged some discounts that might make it easier to get started; check out the discounts page and look for Hindsight and Cradoc.
If you’d like to relive the good-old-days of the Rolodex, there’s an interesting blog post on Gizmodo.
Keywords we use:
C (company type):
G (genre of photography those companies use):
P (prospect type):
- P_active (we are actively pursuing them)
- P_administrative (their company is a prospect, but that individual is not)
- P_inactive (we are not actively pursuing them)
- P_unsubscribe (they have opted out of our mailing list, but they’re still a prospect)
R (resources not directly related to photo shoots):
- R_documentaries (this will appear on the Resources page but not as a keyword)
S (support services for photo shoots):