Editorial Workshop


I'm so excited to be teaching this editorial workshop, along with the amazing Leslie Baldwin!

This is an updated version of a popular workshop I taught in Dallas, and will be a great experience for any photographer (aspiring or professional) who is looking to deepen their approach to destination and travel storytelling.

You’ll shoot and edit for two days in a welcoming, constructive group environment. We'll be taking full advantage of many of the wonderful things Austin has to offer, with a shot list comprised of restaurants, shops, and activities around town.

REGISTRATION IS OPEN --> http://www.ilovetexasphoto.com/shop/editorial-workshop/


You will leave this class with:

✅ First-hand knowledge of what an editorial photo editor is looking for in feature story photography

✅ Strategies for handling a feature story assignment, from logistics to building a rapport with subjects

✅ A concise edit of new images that you can add to your own portfolio, build a promo out of or share on your social media accounts

✅ Real-world examples of marketing efforts that get the attention of magazine editors and art buyers

✅ An annual marketing checklist, with suggestions for when to do social, email and print promotions


Class size is limited to 12 to ensure maximum awesomeness and opportunities for high fives!

Diversity in Photography - Resources

Originally published September 2016. Updated March 2019.

As discussions around representation, diversity, and equality in media and journalism (have finally!) become more frequent, new resources are becoming available to help creatives find, hire and publish photography by women and people of color.

This list features organizations dedicated to increasing the presence of underrepresented groups in the media. Please contact me if you have corrections or suggestions for additional links.

Creative Directories & Agencies

Women Who Draw
Illustration is not my main area of focus, but as a photo editor, I am sometimes asked to make illustrator recommendations. I love this database for the filtering capabilities (location, race, illustration style, etc).

Women Photograph
Excellent resource for finding female-identifying and non-binary photographers around the world. Founded by Daniella Zalcman.

”Girlgaze, initially created as an Instagram hashtag highlighting the female perspective, is an online jobs marketplace and creative agency that connects companies and brands with a global community of diverse and inclusive female-identifying creatives to generate award winning content.”

Women in Photography
Women in Photography is a platform for any female Photographer or photo interest. The aim is to give female artists a platform to show their work, inspire and encourage on their journey as a photographer.

Rueda Photos
A collective focusing on “themes with social context, referring to the territory, the gender issues and the current affairs that are specific to it”.

F Collective
”An initiative that asks brands + their agencies to pledge to present a female photographer option on each job, with a goal of increasing gender diversity in advertising photography.”

Free the Bid
FREE THE BID is a 501c3 non-profit initiative advocating on behalf of women directors for equal opportunities to bid on commercial jobs in the global advertising industry.

We, Women
”Through a radical transformation of image-making—with the goal of contributing to lasting change—We, Women believes we can revolutionize how we see our world and ultimately, ourselves.” Offers grants and other opportunities.

Authority Collective
”The Authority Collective is a group of womxn, femmes, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people of color reclaiming their authority in the photography, film and VR/AR industries.”

Diversify Photo
Another fantastic database of artists around the world. “Diversify was born out of a recognition that calling for more diversity in the photo industry is not enough. To diversify photo, we need to equip Art Buyers, Creative Directors, and Photo Directors with resources to discover photographers of color available for assignments and commissions.”

Natives Photograph
”Natives Photograph is a space to elevate the work of Indigenous visual journalists and bring balance to the way we tell stories about Indigenous people and spaces. Our mission is to support the media industry in hiring more Indigenous photographers to tell the stories of their communities and to reflect on how we tell these stories. “

”We connect emerging journalists, documentary makers and visual storytellers from underrepresented regions and communities with major publications and introduce them to a global audience."

Majority World
Massive list of photographers from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Hard to search by destination, suggest contacting with specific needs. “We specialise in sourcing high quality images from these diverse continents, which provide unique insights into local cultures, environments and development issues.”

African Photojournalism Database
African Photojournalism Database is a directory of emerging and professional African news photographers, photojournalists and documentary photographers reporting on cultural, economic, environmental, political and social issues on the continent, as well as sports, nature, and stories of everyday life. There are over 400 photographers currently listed on the database, including over 180 professional photographers. 

Stock photo archives

Getty’s Lean In collection
Jointly curated by Getty Images and LeanIn.Org – the women’s empowerment nonprofit founded by Sheryl Sandberg – the collection features over 6,000 images of female leadership and equal partnership in contemporary work and life.

CreateHER Stock
”A grassroots resource and digital space for stock imagery that can be used for lifestyle, business, and everyday content creation for bloggers, creatives, and online influencers.”

Refinery 29's 67% Project, creating body-positive imagery of women of all sizes: Images available through Getty

”The Gender Spectrum Collection is a stock photo library featuring images of trans and non-binary models that go beyond the clichés. This collection aims to help media better represent members of these communities as people not necessarily defined by their gender identities—people with careers, relationships, talents, passions, and home lives.”

“Culturally diverse stock photos that represent the true world we live in. Creating an inclusive culture takes both commitment and action. A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions for everyone.” Founded by Joshua Kissi.

Recently rebranded to Tetra Images. Blend used to be a decent source of more diverse stock photography options. I’ve not used Tetra and am not sure if they have maintained that area of focus.

Not specifically a stock archive showcasing the work of underrepresented communities, however, they do make an effort to feature more diverse and representational photography.


3% Movement

Portfolio Review Dos and Don'ts

Photos by George Long http://GeorgeLong.com, used with permission.

Photos by George Long http://GeorgeLong.com, used with permission.

(Originally published in 2014, updated January 2019) I just returned from 4 days of photo-related festivities in NYC. The mothership of the week is the PhotoPlus Expo at the Javits convention center, with other events happening around the same time to capitalize on having so many photographers in town at once. Every night there are parties and book signing and openings.

Aside from all seeing old friends and meeting new creatives and photographers, I spent most of my time during the day doing portfolio reviews at the PDN/Palm Springs Portfolio Review. This was probably my 15th organized review event and I thought it'd be helpful to give some guidance on how to get the most out of one.

I also reached out on twitter and facebook for creatives' pet peeves. Below are some of the most popular answers.


Be honest with yourself about if you are really ready to show the work. Maybe you need another year of shooting before you start showing your book to art buyers, art directors and photo editors. You only get one chance at a first impression, don't rush it if it's not the right time. Ask people who you trust for their honest opinion.

Research your reviewers and make sure that your work is relevant to what they do. You have 15-20 minutes, often with some pretty influential and powerful creatives in the industry, don't waste it. Would you roll up to a job interview without knowing anything about the company?

Have a purpose for each review and communicate that purpose to the reviewer when you sit down. Example: "I've been following your magazine for years and feel my work would fit in. Do you think I'm ready to shoot for you, and if not, what needs improvement?"  Or, "I would love get feedback on the book and recommendations for colleagues in the industry who may respond to my style of work." Or, "This is a new personal project that I'm working on, would love to know if you think it's ready to show to galleries."

Come armed with 1 or 2 specific questions that are pertinent to your reviewer's area of expertise.

Do bring the actual portfolio that you intend to show to clients. Hopefully the reviewers you meet with are also potential clients. They're not going to give you a pass because you intend, later on, to make a better book. So don't bring a hastily thrown together book and then say that you are going to change it later. The whole point of the portfolio review is to get feedback and how can someone give you good feedback if what they are looking at isn't what you really want to show?

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session at the International House Hotel conference facility. Photo by George Long, used with permission.

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session at the International House Hotel conference facility. Photo by George Long, used with permission.

Make sure your prints look great. This is especially important when seeing galleries.

Leave behind a well-printed leave behind. Invest in a graphic designer to help you create something that looks professional. Just because you know Photoshop doesn't mean you are a designer. If you are seeing a dream client, kick it up a notch and leave something more unique than a postcard. However, don't go overboard. See below.

Keep notes. By the end of a long day, all the reviews can start to blend together. Make a separate page for each reviewer and mark down which images they pointed out liking, where they paused a bit longer, what questions they had about your work and specific feedback they gave you. You may also want to record audio of each meeting, if the reviewer is cool with that.


Don't default to an iPad presentation. After having looked at about 20 people's work this weekend, I’ve seen that the iPad is not necessarily the best way to show still photography.  The glare in some rooms makes it very hard to see the photos, especially if your images tend to be dark. I often found myself looking at my own reflection instead of the photos.

Also, unless the iPad presentation is really slick, it can feel like not enough care was put into the portfolio. I mean, let's admit it, how hard is it to create a folder of images for someone to flip through? When I see a beautifully printed portfolio, it lends the photographer some legitimacy, makes them at least appear to have invested a lot of time and effort into their work, all which helps me take them more seriously.

Everyone spends so much time on their phones now, consuming an almost endless stream of imagery. It doesn’t feel as unique to be swipe through an iPad. Print feels special.

All that said, pay attention to your budget and don’t spend the extra money on printing if you can’t afford it.

Don't force your leave behind on the reviewer. Some people flew in for the event and may not want to tote a bunch of promos and books back. Or they may feel it's environmentally wasteful and rather not have the extra 'stuff' in their lives. Or they just may not have liked your work enough to want to take a promo. Ask if they'd like a card, but don't push it. Also don't just offer a huge and bulky leave behind. If you want to make something big, it's also nice to offer something small like a postcard.

Don't make excuses. Popular examples include: "I didn't bring my strongest work." "I didn't have time to put together much, but this should give you an idea." or "I just found out about this event."

Don't argue with constructive criticism The people looking at your work know what they are talking about. They may all have different opinions, but that is valid considering that people come from different backgrounds and that visual art is very subjective. You may not agree with someone, and that is ok, but don't tell them that they are wrong.

Photographers, what about the typical speed-dating format would you change? Do you get enough out of the reviews to justify the expense (if it was a paid review?)

Reviewers, what are your pet peeves? Can you share any review success stories where you ended up working with someone after a review?

Want to get ready for a portfolio review? Contact me to learn how we can fine tune your portfolio, create a great promo and get the most out of the time and money you're investing.

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session at the International House Hotel conference facility

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session at the International House Hotel conference facility

Photography Portfolio Website Products

Updated Winter 2018

I’ve maintained versions of this list since 2011.

A LOT can change in a short amount of time in the world of photography portfolio websites, which made the list hard to keep current. But recently, I was inspired (angered) to freshen things up. A few days ago, I received an email from Squarespace (which I used to build this site) announcing that they were partnering with Unsplash to deliver free stock photos to Squarespace’s customers.

This really rubbed me the wrong way. Squarespace has been a preferred platform for photographers since its beginning, and now Squarespace is encouraging their clients to seek out free photography. It’s a slap in the face to the professional photo community.

So with that in mind, I wanted to dust off this list and offer some suggestions for alternatives. I’ve personally built websites for photographers using Format (my current favorite), PhotoFolio (formerly APhotoFolio), and Photoshelter and think they’re all great. Here are others that friends and colleagues have recommended:

  • 22Slides - Free 14-day trial and a flat $10/mo afterwards.

  • Adobe Portfolio - Adobe has joined the portfolio game with this add on to the Creative Cloud.

  • Cargo Collective - Offers users free-standing websites and a wide variety of customizable templates. $99 per year or $13 per month.

  • Flosites- Slick portfolio websites and cool extras like Instagram story templates

  • format- One of my favorites. I’ve built quite a few sites using their platform and they look great. Easy to use interface. Basic plan for $6 per month, pro plan for $12 per month.

  • Graph Paper Press - Wordpress themes for photographers. Great comparison pricing chart at http://graphpaperpress.com/pricing/. Pricing starts at $0 and goes up to $149 a year.

  • Indexhibit- Honestly, I don’t really get how you use Indexhibit, but I know a lot of photographers like it so I’m including the link!

  • Koken - Content management and portfolio templates

  • LiveBooks - This used to be a really popular platform, and everywhere you turned, you would see one of their templates in action. They were bought by Wedding Wire a few years ago, and seem to be trying to re-boot the business.

  • Pixpa - Portfolio, storefront, blog, all integrated seamlessly.

  • PhotoFolio - Formerly known as APhotoFolio. Company was founded by Rob Haggart of the popular APhotoEditor blog. Nice templates. Very popular so without some customization, many sites look very similar.

  • Photoshelter - Portfolio templates and advanced photo archive tools. Buyer portal allows creatives to find photographers by specialty, location, etc. Company is great about offering free advice to the photo community through downloaded white papers on topics like SEO and blogging.

  • SmugMug - When I asked on Facebook for recommendations from photographers for sites they love, SmugMug came up multiple times. People commented that they like the templates, and the easy-to-use ecommerce and print fulfillment features.

  • Viewbook - Gallery basic plan starts at $4.99 per month, $9.99 for a standard portfolio, and $19.99 per month for the pro plan. Portfolio app available for viewing on ipad.

  • Visura - Visua offers a website portfolio platform as well as a searchable network of photographers for buyers to explore.

  • Wix - I used to make fun of Wix websites. They were so dated looking, even when they first came out. But they’ve done a lot of work to modernize their templates and it shows. Lots of integration options for ecommerce.

  • Zenfolio - Robust ecommerce soultions. Free 14 day trial. Basic plan starting at $25 per year. Premium for $100 per year.







Resource: Photo Contests and Grants Calendar

(updated December 2017)

photo contest and grants

Did you know that an editor can help you home in on the right images for contests and grants?

An objective, outside opinion and fresh look at work can help you craft a contest or grant entry that connects with the judges.

I've created contest edits for numerous photographers who went on to win World Press Photo, POYi, Communication Arts, and PDN Photo Annual awards.

Contests... Some are great. Some feel like they only exist to rob photographers of their precious income. Before you enter, carefully consider if it's worth your money. Stick with contests that have, in the past, recognized photographers whose work you admire.

Remember, the primary (commercial) benefit of entering a contest is getting your work in front of industry bigwigs who otherwise might not have seen it. You don't even have to win to enjoy that benefit, although, winning is preferred.

Here's a general timetable of contest deadlines throughout the year. Things change so make sure you go straight to the source for definitive info on deadlines, entry fees and eligibility.

Know of others? Connect on facebook or twitter and let me know.


Andrei Stenin International Photo Contest
American Illustration-American Photography
Alexia Foundation
Aperture Portfolio Prize (entries accepted December through early February)
Art Directors Club Photo Contest
Days Japan
Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards
Hillman Prize for Photojournalism
Inge Morath Prize - Recognizing outstanding female photographer under age 30
National Geographic Storytelling Grant
New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA)
NPPA Best of Photojournalism
Pictures of the Year International (POYi)
PDN Photo Annual
Pulitzer Prizes
Santa Fe Prize for Photography
Sony World Photography Awards
The Syngenta Photography Award
World Press Photo Contest


Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Documentary Prize (entries accepted February through May)
Foam Magazine Talent Call
FotoEvidence Book Award
CENTER awards (The Choice Awards, Project Competition, & Project Launch)


Big Picture Natural World Photography Competition
Leica Oskar Barnack Award
Communication Arts Magazine
The Renaissance Photography Prize (entries accepted March through July)
Spider Awards B&W Photo


ASMP/NY Annual Photo Contest
Imagely Fund
OSI Moving Walls
Px3 Photography Competition


Burn Magazine Emerging Photographer Grant
Canon Female Photojournalist Award
Gene Smith Grant (entries accepted January through May)
Getty Images Grants
Howard Chapnick Grant
ICRC Humanitarian Visa d'Or
POYi Emerging Vision Grant


CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography
Visa pour l'image - Visa d'Or award Pierre and Alexandra Boulat Association Grant
CARE International Award for Humanitarian Reportage
The Bayeux-Calvados Award for war correspondents
CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography


Ian Parry scholarship
Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize
New Orleans Photo Alliance, Clarence John Laughlin Award


Critical Mass by Photolucida
Moran Contemporary Photo Award - Portrait and documentary prizes (up to $150,000) for Australian photographers


BJP International Photography Award
FotoVisura Grant


International Color Awards
The Documentary Project Fund
Hasselblad Masters Awards


Aftermath Project
American Photography
Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar Contest
Magenta Flash Forward


FotoEvidence Book Award
The Julia Margaret Cameron Award for female photographers


Portfolio Reviews By Month

Portfolio Review at Texas Photo Roundup. Photo by Nick Cabrera, used with permission.

Portfolio Review at Texas Photo Roundup. Photo by Nick Cabrera, used with permission.

Updated October 2017

Thinking about attending a portfolio review event? Here is a list of review opportunities in the United States, organized by month.

When choosing which reviews to attend, keep in mind that some are geared more toward fine art photography and others are more commercial and editorial. Research the reviewers who will be in attendance to see if they are a good fit for the kind of work you do. Looking for tips on how to prepare for a review? Check out my Portfolio Review Do's and Don'ts




FotoFest Houston: International Biennial of Photography and Photo-related Art with portfolio reviews.

MOPLA Portfolio Reviews: A juried, annual portfolio review. Fresh Look pairs photographers with top photography experts in their respective fields for an in-depth conversation that provides professional feedback and critique in a casual, relaxed environment.

Photo Alliance held at the San Francisco Art Institute, produced in cooperation with Lens Culture

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session. Photo by George Long http://GeorgeLong.com (used with permission)

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session. Photo by George Long http://GeorgeLong.com (used with permission)


Photolucida Portfolio Review: Photographers at the mid-career level register for one-on-one meetings with the reviewers of their choice. Each review session lasts for 20 minutes and we limit the number of participants to assure that everyone receives 4 or 5 reviews per day for four days. It's a great way to network. Numerous photographers have walked away with opportunities to exhibit, publish and sell their work after attending the Portfolio Reviews.

Palm Springs Festival Portfolio Review: As part of Palm Springs Photo Festival, Over 1,000 Portfolio Reviews with industry professionals will be offered during the week. Prices start at $250 for 5 reviews.


NYC Fotoworks: Bi-annual portfolio review where photographers can have 1-on-1 meetings w/ industry professionals.

PhotoPlus Expo: Designed exclusively for emerging and professional photographers, this is a great opportunity to meet and present your work for critique and receive the advice of the industry's top professionals. Takes place at the Javits during Photo Plus Expo. 

Filter Festival Portfolio Reviews: Participants sign up for twenty-minute face-to-face reviews and receive candid advice about their work, as well as information on getting their photographs exhibited and published.

Atlanta Celebrates Photography Portfolio Reviews: the ACP Portfolio Review and Walk offers artists the opportunity to meet with highly respected curators, dealers, editors, and agency representatives from across the United States and beyond. The Portfolio Walk (following the review sessions) gives participating photographers the opportunity to present their work to the general public at an evening reception, open to all. On hold for 2017 with new format to come in 2018.

American Society of Media Photographers: Annual portfolio review in New York for commercial photographers that is free for members.

CENTER's Review Santa Fe: The three-day, annual event offers participants a minimum of nine portfolio reviews, inclusion in the Review Santa Fe 100 online resource, a reception at the New Mexico Museum of Art, and a reception at Photo-eye Books and Prints.


Medium Festival of Photography, Eye to Eye portfolio reviews: Eye to Eye portfolio reviews offer an opportunity for photographers to receive exposure and feedback about their work from influential gallery directors, curators, and industry professionals. Takes place in San Diego.


PhotoNOLA Portfolio Reviews: Annual event that coincides with PhotoNola. Offers twenty-minute face-to-face meetings with gallery owners, editors, publishers and museum curators from throughout the U.S.

Year-round opportunities

Portfolio Reviews at The Center for Photography at Woodstock: As a benefit of membership, CPW staff are available for in- person portfolio reviews. Intended to provide constructive feedback, portfolio reviews are a great way to receive professional advice and guidance. They also feature portfolio reviews by Skype!

American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and American Photographic Artists (APA) members might have local portfolio review offerings depending on your chapter. Furthermore, both ASMP and APA often provide discounts for members that attend portfolio reviews.

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session. Photo by George Long http://GeorgeLong.com (used with permission)

New Orleans Photo Alliance's PhotoNOLA portfolio review session. Photo by George Long http://GeorgeLong.com (used with permission)

Are there great portfolio review events that I am missing? Contact me and I'll add them.

Great Promo Ideas

Looking for some self-promo inspiration?

Check out my pinterest board of great photography promo ideas. From large-format newspaper promos to simple postcards, this board features examples of great design and image choices.

Have something you'd like to add? Contact me!

Other great resources include:


Want to make a cool promo that will grab clients' attention? 

Insight on participating in contests from Tsuyoshi Ito of ONWARD Photo.


ONWARD Photo Competition 2014 is now accepting submissions. Tsuyoshi Ito, Founder and Director of the ONWARD gives six tips below on participating in photo contests. Six Tips for Finding the Best Competitions for You Now that you know how to effectively enter a photography competition, where will you test your skills? If you've begun your search, you've probably discovered that the sheer number of contests available makes it almost impossible to decide which ones to enter. The goal of this article is to help you, the photographer, cut past all of the industry buzz words and marketing efforts to identify exactly which competition is going to be the best fit for you.

I have a good deal of experience with these competitions - I host an international one annually (ONWARD Photo Competition, for a small shameless plug). And in order to help increase the information I share in this article, I consulted several pro and semi-pro photographers who have also been challenged by this issue. Given our unique experience of both hosting and participating in photography contests, we’re hoping our combined perspectives will be the missing pieces to help you “crack the code.”

So without further ado...

Tip #1: Work Toward Your Goal While this is the most basic of our six tips, it might also be considered the most important. When you come across a competition, start by taking a look at the juror(s) and finding out what "prizes" the competition offers. Do they align with your personal goals?

Having your image chosen by a famous photographer and juror may provide the nod of approval you desire, while being selected by a curator or other industry professional can result in the right contacts.

If you're solely "in it to win it," cash money and/or gifts may be enough. However, should you want to jump-start or advance your career in photography, you will want to confirm that the reward includes some kind of exposure. If so, your objective may be placement in a museum or collection versus a gallery exhibition.

Want both the prize and the ongoing recognition? Find a well-rounded contest that acknowledges various goals and offers all of the above. There truly is no right or wrong decision here. We simply recommend you choose a competition that fulfills or aligns with your personal goals as a photographer.

Tip #2: Know Their Vision


After you take note of your own objectives in entering a competition, you should take a deeper look at the hosts to learn what their goals are. Do they provide detailed information about how the contest works, as well as what's expected of you? Or do they just request your credit card information and ask you to submit your image(s)?

If you encounter the latter, the organization is most likely in the business to make a profit—the fees they collect will go toward prizes, and whatever’s left over will go into their pockets.

You may be okay with this if your goal is to win a prize. However, if you want more out of the competition, move on and align yourself with an organization whose vision is compatible with yours. This may mean you're looking for an organization that positions itself as a year-round resource with offerings that are important to you. Again, there is no right or wrong decision here; we just want you to be sure that your time and money are being invested into the right organization for you. Tip #3: Be Aware of "Free"


There are hundreds of competitions that will let you participate at no cost - but are they really free? The old adage, "nothing in life is free," applies to more of these zero dollar contests than you may think. Scan the fine print of these so-called “free” events, and you may find that they plan to own the rights to your image and may even sub-license them to third-party companies for their use, too! As you consider entering this contest, you'll also want to evaluate whether winning that free camera bag you'll use for a few years is worth losing the rights to your image forever.


On the other hand, the entry fee that you balk at paying will, in many cases, pay off in the end. Those charging an entry fee typically invest that into their competitions, to finance reputable jurors, various promotions (e.g., marketing your selected images) and celebratory events (exhibitions!) — all while allowing you to maintain ownership of your work. So before you skip over a contest because they charge an entry fee, look into where that money goes, and remember how you can benefit from what is typically a small investment in the grand scheme of things.

Tip #4: Calculate the Costs Sure, the only fee written in the contest instructions is the entry fee, but have you truly understood the fine print? Exactly what else will you be responsible for? It's very important not only that you read the competition details, but also that you truly understand them as well. If you don't, you may miss a hidden message, or, even worse, a hidden cost. For example, if the competition will host a physical exhibit to showcase the selected images, will they provide the frame or expect you to frame the work yourself? Who is responsible for the shipping charges, both to and from the venue? You may notice that they will require you to supply the hardware, but not disclose the related fees in detail. Therefore, you'll need to review the information carefully so that you can determine what it is you're really going to end up spending to participate in the contest.

Tip #5: Be Truly Recognized You can usually count on a competition to post the selected images on their website. However, in today's digital world, seeing your image on a website might not be as exciting to you as seeing your image on a gallery wall, where people can experience your winning print in person. Picture your photo perched atop that bright white wall for hundreds to gaze at in awe. Even better, imagine the chance to mingle with photographic peers and industry professionals, discussing your inspiration for the image, making valuable contacts and getting invaluable advice. These networking opportunities might be otherwise difficult to come by, so you want to keep this in mind when deciding which competitions are worth your time.

Tip #6: Stay Exposed So, you've found a contest that's going to praise your work all over the Internet, but have you looked into just how long you'll be featured? Many competitions will remove all traces of your win shortly after the contest is over, in order to make room for the latest and greatest group of participants. However, it doesn't have to be that way.


There are hosts out there who remain interested in positioning themselves as a partner and trusted source to all of their selected photographers, no matter the year. If this is important to you, it may be a better option to align yourself with a competition that will continue to showcase your photograph(s) long after you've won. In Conclusion… ...With the digital age on the rise, it means that photographs are more easy to share, which has helped lead to more competitions. Wading through the hundreds that are available to you can be a little confusing at first, but knowing what you want to get out of the competition and the - sometimes dirty - little details of the competition should help you feel infinitely more confident in the decision you make. Hopefully some of these tips have helped you get that much closer to finding your right competition - or introduced you to the world of competitions for the first time! Happy contesting!

Guardian Picture Editor on Finding and Hiring Photographers in the US


Caroline Hunter is Deputy Picture Editor of The Guardian's Weekend Magazine which features gorgeous photography. I recently spoke with Caroline about the process of finding and hiring American photographers from her vantage in the U.K. How often are you hiring U.S.-based photographers? We hire U.S. photographers every week. I work on a busy picture desk and we often feature contributors and celebrities who are based in the US. Sometimes it feels as though we commission more photography in that part of the world than anywhere else!

Are you more likely to look for someone who is located in the city you have an assignment in, or to fly someone in who has the perfect style for the story? Does that depend on if it’s a big feature or a smaller front of the book story? Yes, basically if it's a big feature or a cover shoot or a very important subject, we'll almost always use someone that we've used before. If the flights aren't too expensive or the distance too great, we'll often fly someone to a particular location - it's just safer and more reassuring to use someone whose work you know very well. If on the other hand, it's for a smaller feature or a a fairly straightforward shoot/job, we'll always prefer to use a local person. This saves massively on budgets - although the end result can be unpredictable !

Walk us through a typical shoot. You get the story from the editorial team. What comes next? If you don’t have someone in mind, where do you begin your search? What are some of your favorite resources for finding people? How much do you rely on recommendations from colleagues? A typical shoot can work in many different ways. Sometimes we'll have the written copy/feature already. This is the best way to commission as you know exactly what the story is about. Quite often though, I might not know much about the feature as it hasn't been written yet. On other occasions, I might commission a shoot that is part of a much bigger and ongoing feature - which will often change as time goes on. Sometimes it will be a celebrity shoot that will require styling, hair and make-up and location scouting.

I'll discuss the shoot with one of the commissioning editors as well as the Art Director and then will have a think about ideas and photographers. I might do some research on the internet for visual ideas as well as looking at online portfolios. If I don't have someone in mind, I might look at the Wonderful Machine website or recent editorial shoots for other magazines that I like. I'll also have a look through the sites of photographers who have contacted me recently - just to refresh my memory. I like looking at websites like Nowness, which is great for visual ideas. I don't rely too much on recommendations - sometimes it's nicer to discover fresh talent.

How can a US photographer get on the radar of an editor in Europe? Obviously they can’t network with you at parties, and planning trips to show their portfolio can be time and cost prohibitive. With all the noise online, how can they get through to you in a memorable way? I think it's quite hard. The most effective way is a meeting - but I know that this is very tricky and expensive to set up. Photo-festivals are a good way of potentially seeing/contacting many editors/agents in a short space of time - but these too can be expensive. Being located in a city where there isn't much competition and you're a 'big fish' in a small pond is quite a good way to get stand out.

Most of the photographers we use are based in NY and LA - two of the most competitive cities for creatives on the planet ! Having an interesting and consistently high standard of work will ensure your work always stands out - and a well-designed, easy to navigate website is essential. Being well-connected and getting known in certain circles is important too. I often get recommendations from other photographers and editors.

Do you have favorite blogs that you follow to stay up to date on what is happening in the US photo scene? I like looking at the NYT lens blog as well the New Yorker Photo booth, Time magazine and blogs like Flak photo and Lens Culture.

Do you make trips to photo festivals or portfolio review events to meet new photographers? I know in the past a lot of European editors went to Visa pour l’Image and Arles, but it seems like travel budgets aren’t what they used to be.  Yes, I regularly attend photo festivals. I find them really energizing. I like doing portfolio reviews as it gives me a chance to meet and spend time with new and existing photographers.

What are some of the trends that you’re seeing when it comes to the kinds of photographers that are getting assigned? Any trends in promos you receive? I get a lot of monthly newsletters (always emailed) from photographers who have just done a shoot or e-zines where they're telling me what they've been up to in the last few weeks. I think the trend for highly retouched, digitally remastered images will be with us for some time. This seems to have replaced the very natural-looking painterly style imagery that was fashionable around a decade ago.

Can you share some pet peeves when it comes to photographers courting you? For a photographer, I think that it's important to know the market that you're pitching to. If you're ringing up a photo editor, agent or art buyer - don't expect them to give you a page-by-page description of their product. You should already know which sections you'd like to contribute to and be able to ask questions and comment on recent work that was featured. It's really no point pitching a lifestyle or travel feature to a magazine that only deals with current affairs. It might sound like commonsense but you'd be amazed at how many times this happens.


Caroline Hunter is a magazine photo editor and Deputy Picture Editor of The Guardian's Weekend Magazine. She has over fifteen years experience of commissioning and art-directing portraits, photo-journalism, celebrity shoots, still-life, interiors, beauty and conceptual photography. Previous to the Guardian, she worked for Time Out London, Emap publications and The Saturday Telegraph magazine.

 She has degrees in Fashion Journalism and English Literature from the London College of Fashion and the University of London respectively. She is a regular portfolio reviewer and judge at international photo-festivals. She lives and works in London.

Video interview with KLRU Collective

klru.org/collective Turning your love of photography into more than a hobby is not an easy task. With the rise in popularity of apps like Instagram, everyone has the ability to be a photographer, but it takes more than just having the right equipment. We’ve got some tips from Austin professionals at the Texas Photo Roundup on how to "develop" your photography. Music: "You Belong Here" by LEAGUES

KLRU Collective filmed photographer Kimberly Finkel Davis and me at the Texas Photo Roundup!

I talk about what it takes to be a working professional, and Kimberly visits AgavePrint and Cloverleaf Studio for help with her beautiful print portfolio.

Q&A with Garden & Gun's Maggie Brett Kennedy

Why do you think Garden & Gun is at the top of so many people’s “dream clients” lists.

That’s amazing. We’re fortunate that photography is a focus of the magazine’s design. A lot of full page images and great paper stock to ensure high quality reproduction. Our readers let us know how much they relate to the photography each issue. We’ve always been a photo friendly publication.

You have hired Peter Frank Edwards for many stories, and one of those recently won a James Beard Award. Can you describe what it is in Frank’s work that keeps you coming back? How do you two work together? Is it a collaborative process?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Peter Frank Edwards since the very first issue of Garden & Gun (Spring 2007). He’s from the South, spent his life in the outdoors, and previously was a fisherman and sous chef. Peter Frank Edwards IS Garden & Gun! He’s covered everything from hole-in-the-wall barbecue joints to traditional foxhunting and continues to get excited by every assignment. He lives the pages of the magazine so really gets what we’re all about.

It is very much a collaborative process. There is a level of trust after working together for many years. I know he is going to find the creative angle with each assignment and bring back the unexpected. I always look forward to his tales from the road. (Read more about their collaboration in my Q&A with Peter Frank Edwards).

You use such an amazing variety of types of photographers, that it is hard to pigeonhole Garden & Gun as having a particular style. How do you describe the visual aesthetic to people?

I like to work with a mix of national photographers and Southern-based talent in each issue and try to deliver the unexpected whether it’s for the front or back of the magazine or a feature.

It’s a balance between seasoned well-known shooters and up-and-coming photographers. We always strive for images that communicate a sense of place. Images that make you want to be there, in that moment. We like lots of natural light and rarely incorporate conceptual photography.

Walk us through a “typical” day at work.

Garden & Gun has a small staff so each component of photography and the overall process is very hands on. The magazine contains a wide variety of content so each day is filled with assignments ranging from Southern food and chefs, hunting and fishing, architecture and interiors, portraiture, music, you name it.

The magazine covers a wide editorial range and incorporates a high/low mix of content. For example, a profile of actress Anna Camp or a new modern architectural project verses gritty and soulful juke joints or frogging in Louisiana. Every day is exciting and keeps me on my toes. I also like to set aside time each week to respond to inquiries, research photographer’s new work, etc.

How many print and email promotions do you receive in an average week? Have any stood out to you lately, enough to where you actually contacted the photographer?

I receive about 30 promos a week. Bryan Johnson sent me a promo that turned into an online photo essay for G&G. The content was perfect for us: http://gardenandgun.com/newsletter/spill-one-year-later.

When being promoted to, do you prefer print or email?

Both are great, so however the photographer is most comfortable showcasing their work. I’m old school and still love print. I continue to hold onto those real standout print promos. Witty design on quality paper with gorgeous photographs always excites me.

Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to the marketing materials photographers send you?

Do not send emails with large file attachments. Be familiar with the magazine’s content and visual style and send an appropriate selection of photos. I prefer a tighter, well-constructed edit rather than a large quantity of work. Websites should be easy to navigate and show me images immediately.

What are some of your favorite ways to discover new photographers?

All types of blogs (photo, galleries, designers, magazines, etc.), chatting with people in the industry, those standout promos I receive, and an occasional portfolio review.

Questions from photographers

1. Is it OK to call Photo Editors to follow up after sending a promo?

Email follow up is great and always easier than phone calls.

2. When I send an email, should it be in a email newsletter format or will a simple note saying what I've been up to suffice?

Either is fine. Be sure your work is easy to view.

3. Do you take a chance on photographers just starting out fresh out of school?


4. What is the best way to get noticed by a photo editor and ultimately hired to shoot a job?

Develop your own style, have confidence in your work, and do your research on each publication you approach. Send quarterly updates about your projects, travels, etc. I just worked with a photographer for the first time I’ve been corresponding with for two years. Everything has to fall into place before that project can become a reality.

5. What are some of the qualities of an ideal photographer to work with?

Passionate about their work, down-to-earth, excited to tackle all kinds of challenges, professional, someone who thinks outside of the box and brings something new and fresh to the table visually.

6. Can you share some names of some photographers whose work you are inspired by?

I love to look at classic Southern icons (Jane Rule Burdine, William Christenberry, Sally Mann) as well as current shooters (Marcus Nilsson, Peggy Sirota, Andrea Fazzari, Ditte Isager, Trujillo- Paumier).

7. What is the most interesting shoot, photographically, so far?

The next one...

Peter Frank Edwards G&G Cover

Peter Frank Edwards G&G Cover

photos by (clockwise from top left): Joey and Jessica Seawell, Dan Winters, David McClister and Michael Turek

photos by (clockwise from top left): Joey and Jessica Seawell, Dan Winters, David McClister and Michael Turek



Miller Mobley Spread

Miller Mobley Spread

Maggie Kennedy is the photography director of Garden & Gun magazine. She previously worked as a creative director and producer of commercial photography in San Francisco and New York with an emphasis on food, still life, and interiors.

Q&A with Travel Photographer Peter Frank Edwards

James Beard Award-winning Oyster story by Peter Frank Edwards
James Beard Award-winning Oyster story by Peter Frank Edwards

Tell us about how your relationship began with Garden & Gun. Did they contact you?

Garden & Gun contacted me when they were in the planning stages for the launch of the magazine -- well before the first issue came out.   As I recall, at that time there was no real photo or art department.  They sort of "reorganized" after a couple of issues, made some staff changes. I've enjoyed a great relationship with them.

Can you describe your work process with Director of Photography Maggie Brett Kennedy? Do you collaborate on ideas? is the editing process collaborative?

Yes -- we do collaborate on ideas -- which can be anything from a quick phone call to bouncing sketches back and forth.  We talk less about composition and set-ups and more about texture, color, mood, etc.  She is interested in and respects photographers' points of view and is genuinely interested in the creative processes of each photographer she works with.  I always feel like they are hiring me (or other photographers) to "do what we do"  -- there's a lot of trust in that.  The edit is also collaborative, and she's always interested in what I think tells the story or what I'd like to see published.

What's the most challenging shoot you've done for them and why?

One of the most technically challenging shoots was an assignment covering the oil spill.  They sent me to Louisiana right as the oil was just starting to show up in the marshes.  I had a lot of ground to cover in a very short period of time, and because of the time frame there was no opportunity to get official press credentials.  I'd show up places, and even though we had called ahead and had a contact at an area or location, the National Guard or local police would not let me in.  In addition, it was about 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity, and all the camera gear was fogged up and would literally drip with condensation.  I had one little camera that seemed immune to this problem, probably because it's more plastic and less metal and glass.

What's your all time favorite story?

I worked on a piece about a North Carolina BBQ road trip with writer Sandy Lang -- we got the call on a Tuesday and we were on the road Friday.

BBQ Road Trip by Peter Frank Edwards
BBQ Road Trip by Peter Frank Edwards

It was a very stream of consciousness couple of days -- we met some characters, ate tons of great food -- and it was one of those assignments where you feel like you're getting gold at every click of the shutter.

Why do you think G&G is on everyone's dream client list right now?

Both Maggie and Marshall McKinney (art director) give photographers a lot of creative freedom, and you can see that come through in the stories and the single images. They treat the work well and with respect -- they are champions of great imagery.


A former fish monger and sous chef with a degree in anthropology, Frank was born and raised in coastal South Carolina. During college, he practiced photography at a camera shop and was soon off to Europe – and ultimately to Berlin – where he shot artist portraits and projects before returning to the American South, to live again by the ocean. In his photography, Frank mixes his passions for travel, people and food. When not on location, he splits time between his Charleston home and a cottage in Maine.

Q&A with GSD&M Senior Art Producer Shannon McMillan

Shannon, thank you for taking the time to share your opinions about self-promotion with the photographers and illustrators who read this blog. Can you start by describing a typical day for you at GSD&M?

Every day at GSD&M is different, which is nice because it keeps the work-life scenario interesting. Production is hectic, fun, stressful, an adrenaline rush, and a love/hate relationship. There is definitely never a dull moment!

Shannon McMillan's Office at GSD&M
Shannon McMillan's Office at GSD&M

Each job is a different can of worms but, you learn something new every time. I spend most of my days answering emails, putting together bids, submitting estimates, negotiating with reps or photographers, doing stock searches, chasing down creatives, and looking at Good & Not-So-Good work. However, there are some days that I'm not at my desk due to meetings, which is a challenge,  because you still have to find the time to squeeze in all the administration required for the entire business. Keeping a list of "To-Do's" really helps me keep it all check because otherwise the small details can get missed. The best part of my job is that I do have days when I DO spend all day searching for hot new talent. I have a long list of photographers categorized by Conceptual, Fashion, Lifestyle, Portraits, Landscape, etc., but I'm always on the look-out for additions to the list. My job is challenging, frustrating, detail-oriented, and ultimately rewarding... I love it!

How many unsolicited emails do you get every week from photographers?

I probably get about 50 emails a day.

How do you handle all of those? Do you bookmark any sites because of them?

If an image or two pops up, I do take the time to review. If I like the work I do bookmark the work. If the email has a long drawn out message + a link, I'll either quickly click the link or just delete it. I do like to give everyone an opportunity but some days I'm just way too busy to read and review the work.


How many print promos do you get each week?  How does that compare to a couple of years ago?

It's a joke how much mail I still receive and toss out. Let's just say sometimes the mailroom has to bring me my mail in a box. Compared to a couple of years ago,  I feel it hasn't changed much except that I've noticed promos aren't as elaborate. I'm seeing more posters, larger postcards with multiple images and accordion style promos.

Most of the samples of promos you gave me that you liked feel more special and custom. How do you respond to the more simple postcard promos?

Most of the time the single picture postcards end up in the trash, unless the subject is interesting, unique or funny and it's just a damn good shot. I like to be inspired and intrigued. The postcards with multiple images can give you a better idea on the quality of the work. I also feel sometimes the one picture postcards end up being a 'one hit wonder'. (see examples of single postcards in gallery at bottom of page)

Which format, print or email promos, do you prefer?

I still like both. Some of the promos I see as an art piece. I love when a promo is a well designed cohesive piece (paper, design, 3+ images). Oh, and I LOVE the coffee table books!


How do you feel about unconventional or gimmicky promos: boxes of candy, matches, treasure hunt maps, ransom letters, etc.  These seem to be very popular lately because they have the potential to garner a lot of attention on blogs. But do they really make a better impression with you than simpler printed promos?

The gimmicky promos do get my attention but doesn't necessarily convince me to save the work.


If you could change one thing about the way photographers reach out to you, what would it be?

Limit the number of times you send emails per month. I get emails from the same group of reps/photographers every week to every two weeks. I think once a month to every 3 months is sufficient. When emails start to come every week, I just end up deleting and not taking the time.

What are some of your favorite ways to learn about new photographers?

I think what Wonderful Machine is a great idea for agencies and photographers. I also recently sourced AtEdge, FoundFolios, PDN and we sent a group to LeBook.


I know you have participated in portfolio reviews in the past. do you think those are a good investment for photographers? Have you formed any new relationships with photographers because of them?

I really do think the reviews are a good investment. I personally try to be honest and provide constructive criticism. I've kept in touch with several photographers and continue to provide feedback. I want to helpphotographers grow and further their career.


Shannon McMillan_head
Shannon McMillan_head

During her 14 years in Advertising Shannon McMillan has worked as an Art Producer with worldwide clients (BMW, Kohler, Brinker, The US Air Force, Southwest Airlines, AT&T, AARP, Harrah's, and others), talented photographers and production teams, and reviewed hundreds of portfolios, websites and promos. She has been a juror for panels such as: PDN’s PIX, PDN’s Photo Annual, and the Palm Springs Photo Festival. She enjoys the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes creative power and strives to maintain her artistic integrity. Photography is her personal passion and she looks forward to any opportunity to create.

Photo Editor Maggie Soladay's Self-Promo Picks

Maggie Soladay takes photos of her favorite promos. Here's what she had to say about last Monday's batch:

The planets aligned Monday to deliver to me one of the tightest batches of photographer postcard promos in a while. I only received 6 postcards, but all 6 photographers made it onto my new photographer list. What I loved about the cards was the love the photographers showed for people and portraiture.

Every one of the photographers sent me postcards that alluded well to the work I was to see on their sites.  Most exceeded my expectations.  I laughed, entertained co-workers, and hung some of these on my wall (rather than send them right into the recycle bin). This batch of postcards were all beautiful, technically proficient, and showed originality.  I must say they look pretty good all together somehow too!

Maggie Soloday's Favorite Promos from Week of April 19, 2011

Maggie Soloday's Favorite Promos from Week of April 19, 2011

Jayne Wexler from NYC http://www.jaynewexler.com
Sara Rubenstein from Minneapolis, MN http://rubinsteinphoto.com/
Jeff Singer from San Francisco, CA http://www.jeffsingerphoto.com
Bryan Regan from Raliegh, NC http://bryanreganphotography.com
Jenn Ackerman + Tim Gruber from Minneapolis, MN  http://ackermangruber.com/
Joshua Paul from NYC http://joshuapaul.com/

Photo editor Maggie Soladay photographs the snail mail postcard promos that arrive each week (unedited) and posts them on Twitter @maggiesoladay.  She thinks photographers benefit by seeing what photo editors see and are hopefully inspired. She is the photography editor at ALM for The American Lawyer Magazine (the RollingStone of the legal world) and Corporate Counsel Magazine.

PDN Interviews JWT Art Buyer about Self-Promos

PDN has an ongoing series called "Promos I Kept" where they interview creatives about what self-promo pieces are effective. The most recent installment has some really great and solid advice from JWT Director of Art Buying Shawn Smith. To read the whole piece you must have a subscriber log in. If you don't already have a subscription to PDN, you need one. On email promos:

Shawn Smith: I get tons of them, at least 50 a day, especially on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays—it’s an insane amount. The problem is that I open and read 90 percent of my e-mails on a Blackberry so if you are sending me images in an e-mail, chances are I won’t see them.

The best e-mails are very focused, event-driven announcements about a show or a new book that’s coming, things of that nature. Keep in mind that creatives are not constantly looking for photographers, we’re doing our other job too.

On personal projects:

I think it’s really important for photographers to be working on series and stories and sequences, rather than just single images.

On print promos:

I really like when people send photo series, show announcements, book announcements, etc. I also love to receive small books, though I do understand that cost can become a big issue when doing these types of piece.

Interesting bit about all of the email promos coming in on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I advise photographers to send emails on Tuesday or Wednesday, because the data consistently shows that those get the better open rates. But if everyone is sending on those days, it will become overwhelming for the client to even begin to look through all those emails.

Best advice: only send out an epromo when you actually have something to say. Don't just send one when you have a new picture to show off. If there is something interesting or newsworthy in your promo, you have a much better chance of the buyer reading it and clicking on a link.

Self-Promo Round Table (Part 3 of 3)

It's the last of my three part series on what creatives love and hate when it comes to photographers' self promos. Hope you have found it helpful so far. Today we get the dish from people in the marketing and advertising world. If you missed the previous installments please check them out. Monday was editorial and Tuesday was entertainment.

Today's panelists are:

Sandy Boss Febbo, Executive Art Producer, Carmichael Lynch

I receive dozens of mail promos and an average of one hundred email promos daily.  For me, it's all about the image.  Period.  It's that simple, and that hard.  The image must be compelling enough to get my attention and with the vast talent producing and promoting their work - standing out is a big deal.  But they do.  It can be as simple as a postcard with a single strong image or an email blast with a similarly simple format - that's all it takes.  I've received more elaborate pieces from photographers that feature a strong body of work - a published book, set of postcards, blurb book, etc., as well as a several pieces recently from agents and artist collectives that are stunning.

[nggallery id=4]

Of these Just Add Water and Giant are certainly worth mentioning.  The first was a great collection of folded posters with a range of work from each of their artists and the latter a bound book with again a range of work from each of their artists. In both cases, again, the quality of the imagery was the hook.

My only pet peeve is overly designed promotions. It's about the image, not the package, the extras, or investment.  I would rather see a simple promo than one where the imagery becomes secondary or lost.  I also cringe when a promo isn't recyclable.

Just Add Water promo specs:

designer - Rinse Off Wallace

printer - Capitol Press (www.capitolpress.com)

quantity - 1500

Giant Artists specs:

Designers: Megan Steinman & Eric Roinestad

Printer: Oceanic Graphic Printing

Quantity Mailed Out:1,000

Elise Robins, Senior Print Producer, Publicis West The type of self promos that I have kept and generally hold onto for longer periods of time are ones that are beautifully printed and have something very unique about them.  The images selected to be show cased on the piece are obviously extremely important, but almost as important is the presentation.   The promo piece does not have to be particularly expensive, but it needs to stand out.

This can be done with "show stopping" photography that is unusual or dramatic.  But it can also be done by formatting the piece differently.  I believe that the presentation of the piece also shows the originality of the photographer and I particularly like those pieces that are cut differently, folded differently, printed on a unique stock or with a unique technique. I also like to see more than one image displayed in these pieces so that I can get a sense of the photographer's style which is not always easy from one shot.  The key takeaway is an emotionally moving picture on a unique platform.

I have no real pet peeves when it comes to photographers marketing themselves other than the frequency of their communications.  I think hearing from a photographer 3-4 times per year is adequate.  Having my mailbox cluttered with promotional pieces each week and sometimes the same promotional piece is overwhelming and not appreciated.  I realize that in a digital age, this is a weird thing to say, but I actually prefer to receive promos in the printed form versus electronic.  Printed pieces seem to have more impact and evoke more emotion than an email.

I think the only place for more elaborate promos is during a portfolio showing.  I definitely gravitate toward well made books and ones that are more unique.  One photographer showcased his work using a scrapbook theme which allowed him to show a variety of work in an unusual way that stuck with me.  Along with books, the leave behinds at portfolio shows are usually more elaborate and that feels good to me, as if I am part of a select audience that is important enough to get those special promo pieces.

Prentice Howe, SVP, Executive Creative Director, Door Number 3

I get bombarded by photographers' mailers. Most of them are postcards or simple fold-out pieces. With so many hitting my desk, it's hard to tell them apart. Honestly, most go straight to the recycling bin. The ones that really stand out? They have a killer image that just begs to be stared at.

I love when photographers pick an interesting topic and then deliver a photographic narrative around that. The more interesting the topic, the better. Rather than just sending beautiful shots from a scenic coastline, they're actually digging in and telling a story through their shots and showing many different sides of their skill sets along the way. It shows creativity and the ability to tell a story through the lens. Those kinds of pieces get passed around the creative department the most.

[nggallery id=2]

One photographer who always sends beautiful, well designed mailers is Dana Neibert. He sent an incredible book a while back, printed on very tactile paper with hand stitched binding.

Dana designed his book himself. Printed by Neyenesch in San Diego. Quantity 7,500 (!)

Jon Setzen, Creative Director, Something Massive LA

The best promo pieces for me are always the most simple. When you get numerous promo pieces a week the last thing you want to do is follow instructions to see a photographer's work. I once had to do a paint by numbers sort of exercise to see a photograph of NYC at dusk. I also never understood the corporate gift sort of promos - matchbooks, calendars etc. I understand why it's nice to have something to use and reuse, but for me I only ever saved things I thought were well designed. Recently I have kept promos from Amanda Marsalis (samples of newest promo below), Jim Franco and Kang Kim.

[nggallery id=5]

I always open envelopes and when you have to open an envelope your attention is always fully given to what is inside. When sending out my own promo pieces in the past I've always hand-written the addresses. People will generally open a hand-written envelope before a machine printed one. If you put a postcard with a short hand-written note in an envelope, it will get looked at and read. I would argue that your website (which hopefully appears prominently on the back of the card) will most likely be visited.

This definitely requires more work, but it's better to spend the time writing the note and addressing the envelope then it is trying to figure out which photo will look best on the mass-produced journal you're thinking about sending out. Work with a designer to think about layout and typography on the back of your card. If you have a logo (which you really should) have a custom stamp made and use that as your return address. Custom stamps cost about $30. It makes you look organized and invested in yourself and your brand.

Blair Thompson, Creative Director, Believe in

Being in the position of hiring photographers for projects, I am contacted fairly regularly. This can manifest itself in many forms. No particular medium has a better chance of attracting my attention. The main, and most obvious, distinction between those that succeed and those that fail is that they understand our visual direction and approach. We should be targeted because the photographer feels there is a 'good fit' and that their creativity 'mirrors' ours. Failing to understand this and subjecting me to irrelevant and unconsidered marketing is wasting both or time and money.

Ultimately we are most impressed by the work. That speaks loudest. Your capabilities and experience are all important but nothing speaks more loudly that the pictures! How it is presented is not necessarily the issue as long as it is confident and resonates with us. Usually this is most likely if the photographer is creative and resourceful and is not afraid to take risks — much like ourselves.

Focusing on particular mediums of delivery — here are my thoughts:

Digital Brilliant on the side of the photographer in terms of tracking and monitoring click throughs etc. But easy on the side of the recipient to ignore or intend to revisit — and never does. This approach requires considered design and imagery, working in harmony to cut above the sheer level of mail an average recipient gets on a daily basis and create an impression. Clicking through is step one. Having a site which then fully satisfies the users interest is what will make the biggest difference of all.

I am also a fan of the 'this is what I've been up to' email route. It's honest and allows the recipient to feel a privileged view into the photographers world. A bit like a blog but less frequent and again highly considered. It definitely provides a strong opportunity for building positive brand awareness. Don't overdo it though — there are still limits which border on annoying. About every 6 weeks is good.

Print A simple and creative approach works best here. Don't spend fortunes on elaborate brochures. Go with something which is cost effective and easy to replace with newer or targeted content. Think about what your customer is likely to best respond to. Also think responsibly in terms of the materials you print on and the lifespan of your materials. Beautiful images and design will stand a greater chance of being retained for longer — or even passed on, which is ultimately what you are looking for.

General Show your best work and try not to show everything and anything. Focus on what you do best or what you want to do more of. You will appear confident and professional and more likely to command a decent fee as a result.

Contributor Bios

Sandy Boss Febbo is the Executive Art Producer at Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis where she has produced for a great range of clients for over fourteen years. Sandy has a degree in Art History and English Literature. Her background includes time with the Minnesota State Arts Board and she has volunteered as a docent at the Walker Art Center for over fifteen years.

Elise Robins: Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago Graduated from Illinois State University with a BA in Marketing Graduated from Depaul University with an MBA in Marketing Management Has worked in the advertising industry for about 18 years Currently lives in Seattle with her husband Interests are reading and travel

Blair Thomson is Creative Director of independent design and branding agency Believe in. Established in 1996 Believe in exist to articulate engaging, provocative and effective brand experiences driven by ideas and solid research. They push boundaries and exploit possibilities, working in partnership with ambitious clients to realize the full potential of their brands. Experience encompasses branding, identity, print, packaging, illustration, art direction, digital, advertising and environment.

Prentice Howe is the head visionary and trailblazer at Door Number 3 in Austin, responsible for leading the indie ad agency’s creative team while playing an integral part in the overall company operations. As Executive Creative Director, Prentice supervises all art direction and copywriting, while developing strategic campaigns that communicate a brand’s truth to a desired audience.

Jon Setzen is the Creative Director of Something Massive, an interactive advertising agency with offices in LA, NYC and Buenos Aires. His personal work has appeared in numerous magazines, blogs and rock posters have been exhibited worldwide including London, Tokyo, Copenhagen, NYC and LA. He lives and works in Los Angeles where he also runs the Los Angeles chapter of Creative Mornings.

Self-Promo Round Table - Part 2 of 3

Today's self-promo round table panelists are from the entertainment industry:

If you missed yesterday's post from the editorial/magazine world, please check it out.

Wednesday I'll post feedback from ad agency creatives.

Leah Overstreet, Photography Director, Spike TV

I work at a guy’s network, so its great when promos come in that are geared toward the type of work we are doing. I make sure and hold onto these for reference for upcoming shoots that we have. Its very important to make sure and tailor your work towards your client and the type of work they are doing.

I receive so many emails each day and lots of times email promos get lost in the shuffle. If you send me a promo through the mail, I am 10 times more likely to see it and hold onto it, then an email.



I love this promo by Scott McDermott because it is not a pretty portrait. It shows all of the grit and imperfections in the skin, face, and hands. The contrast of the black and white backgrounds really make it stand out. It's a 6 x 8.5" card and is printed on thicker stock paper.

I also really like a recent promo I received from EJ Camp. It is 6x8.5. This promo is made of a thicker stock paper, with a photo finish. Its a great advertising shot and right in line with the work that we do. It made me want to look at her website and see more of what she does. I usually think that one or two images per promo card should be the max, however I think this is a good example of a series that works well using more images.



Put your strongest work on your promo that will drive the potential client to your site.

Maggie Fost, Art Director, Merge Records

I am more likely to keep a single postcard than anything more elaborate because if it's an inspiring image or something that just makes me smile, I'll pin it up on my bulletin board, which spans a full wall of my office and is filled with all kinds of images and objects. That said, an email that is specifically written to me (rather than crafted for mass distribution) is probably the most compelling kind of promotion. Knowing that someone is eager to work with Merge makes me more likely to file their email in my "photographers" folder than someone sending images of their recent work every quarter. If they include their location in the subject line, it's easier for me to find when I go back looking for a photographer in a certain city or region.

Another way I learn about photographers is by asking someone whose business it is to be in the know, like Jasmine (this is the straight dope - she did not ask me to say this!) For a recent project, I needed an L.A.-based photographer who had a sun-drenched dreamy style. Rather than googling away or sifting through my e-archives, I sent a quick email to Jasmine and she pointed me directly to the perfect person. It turns out this photographer had sent me promos in the past, but I ignored them because they weren't relevant to my needs at the time.

I also learn of photographers through our bands. If they want to work with someone specific for promotional shots or an album cover, we almost always honor that. If I like the results, we are likely to use that photographer again, so making connections with the subjects photographers are interested in shooting is just as important as marketing to the client.

Gail Marowitz, Creative Director, Roadrunner Records

The promos that I tend to keep are of two types:

The first promo has an image that directly speaks to what I do and my needs as a creative director for a Rock Music record label. It can have a portrait of a band in an interesting location, it can have a musician that looks comfortable and that properly telegraphs the sensibility of the recording artist. It can also be a still life or an illustrated photo collage that is dark, edgy and well executed.

The other promos that I keep are those of the extremely well designed nature. They have beautiful typography, interesting paper selection and are conceptually solid. These are the promos that assure me that the photographer has a good eye and cares about his/her work from concept to final output.

I do have pet peeves.

  • Do a little homework before blindly sending promos. If you send me still lifes of lipstick and flowers or women doing yoga, or children or beautiful fashion models, I will delete and/or throw away and not go to your website. I work for a Rock/Heavy Metal label. Try to send me appropriate work for what I do.

  • If you still go the snail mail route, make sure your promo is well designed and printed well.

  • Don't send me an email promo every week. I know there is a way for you to check if I found your promo interesting enough to look at your website. If I haven't checked your site, and you keep sending me promos (I receive approximately 20 of them a DAY), I will get annoyed. You don't want that.

What I appreciate the MOST, is when I meet a photographer who is talented, look at their book, explain my needs and in the following week or two, they have put together and sent me a body of work that captures the essence of what we talked about in our meeting.

Simon Keeping, Art Director, Kraken Opus

I receive a fair few printed promos from photographers. Its always nice to look at but in terms of referring back to them later I'm not sure I actually do. In the course of the publishing projects I work on there's alot of paper on my desk, flatplans, editorial plans, proofs, print samples etc etc so I normally lose them within that pile of paper or failing that it gets 'filed' somewhere safe which I then forget about.

I much prefer e-promo's which are easily forwarded to editors (when it comes to commissioning), other team members or even fellow designers and most of which I think represent photographers better than a printed flyer as the quality of the images is never compromised by poor printing.

One thing I find very irritating is when I take the time to click through to a site to check out a photographers work it can be at times a battle to just look at the images. A word of advice, If you direct me to your site, I don't want to see loads of flash animation and over designed navigation, I want to see the quality of your work. Keep your site clean and functional other wise people will just get frustrated and give up trying to view your work. Remember what the function of your site is: a tool for art directors (very busy people) to see your photography. I'd rather see the worlds most basic website which allowed me to quickly view your work and get a feel for your style (with easy to find up-to-date contact details) than an all singing, all dancing web extravaganza. Remember your site is often the first point of contact with clients, don't miss out on work because of it!

Contributor Bios

Gail Marowitz has been art directing and designing for the music business for nearly twenty years. She has worked for various labels including Tommy Boy Records, the Imago Recording Company, Wind-Up Records and Columbia Records where she was the Design Director for ten years collaborating with artists such as James Taylor, Patti Smith and Bette Midler. In 2006, she won a Grammy® Award for "Best Recording Package" for Aimee Mann's "The Forgotten Arm" and was nominated in the same category again in 2008 for Mann's latest release "@#%&*! Smilers". Her work has been selected for Print Magazine's Regional Design Annual and she was a recipient of a Silver Telly Award in 2008. Currently, she is the Creative Director at Roadrunner Records, a label whose stock in trade is mostly hard rock and heavy metal. You can see her personal work at www.thevisualstrategist.com

Maggie Fost is the Art Director at Merge Records, an independent record label in Durham, North Carolina.

Leah Overstreet began her career photographing for the Smithsonian National Zoo in DC. After moving to New York she worked in the photo departments of GQ, Vogue, and Men’s Journal Magazines. Leah is currently the photo director for Spike TV/TV Land and a freelance photographer.

Simon Keeping is a freelance art director, currently working with Kraken Opus who specialize in high end, limited edition books. He has recently art directed 5 titles for such luminaries as Ferrari, Deigo Maradona and Tottenham Hotspur. Influenced by music, design, illustration, fashion, photography and reading too many skateboard magazines as a teenager, he describes his style of work as ‘clean, stylish and bold’.