Photo Editor Maggie Soladay Critiques a Week of Promos

Maggie Soladay (@maggiesoladay) generously shares critiques of print promos she receives. Here’s what she has to say about this week's batch:

1. Jonathan Robert Willis lives in Bellvue, Kentucky. I have been working with him for years as my go-to for Midwest portrait and lifestyle assignments.  Luckily, I know that Bellvue, Kentucky is the Cincinnati metro area.  His website and card don’t make that clear.  In fact, his card lists a NYC number.  The card is terrific and wild and I am guessing it’s aimed at advertising clients, which it should be.  Though, for an editorial photo editor that doesn’t know him I think it would be tough to identify his region without digging.  For example, he just shot an assignment for me this past month in Indianapolis, Indiana, a 1.5hr. drive from Cincinnati.  In this batch of promos his really stood out.

2. Brooklyn based Daniel Glazer’s card was meant to direct me to a video vignette of a model.  Not my interest area or work area. Totally not the kind of photography we use.  But, what Daniel shoots and how he shoots reminds me of why and how I got into photography in the first place.

3. I want to love Van Ditthavong.  He has been sending promos for a while.  The current one has a bluish/cyan cast to it.  Not great. Van has a great environmental portrait series called “Portrait of the American Dream” in which he photographed immigrants on the job wearing popular culture kids Halloween masks.  I know him as Dallas based but the postcard and the website say Los Angeles and Dallas.  That always irks me. Who lives in more than one place?

4. Milwaukee photographer Adam Ryan Morris has a good identity design that is simple, memorable and fun. Strikes me it represents him well. And his photography is good. Only one problem: his website has a commercial section and that makes no sense.  He seems to have been much published in a couple of magazines, namely Milwaukee Magazine and that’s great.  But I don’t see how the other work is or can be called commercial work? Confusing.  A fun charming image on the postcard totally caught my interest and I remember him from previous similarly fun promo cards in the past year.

5. Knoxville, Tennessee’s Hollis Bennett is a great photographer with a sleepy promo card. The 3 images on his card are too dark and not very engaging.  The work on his website on the other hand is fantastic.  I could spend a lot more time there.  Few photographers have the ability to give a sense of place to a story like he does.  Hollis is the discovery of the week!  Great work, great subjects, and totally original eye.  If I wasn’t going to write about the promos I may not have ever visited the website due to the promo card alone.  I am glad I did.

(editor's note: number 6 was removed per photographer's request)

7. Michael Murphree’s card has a very straight picture of Cameron Diaz on a grey background. He included an 866 number and his URL but nothing else- no location, email, greeting or photo caption. I need to know where someone is located because I am a magazine photo editor and, like many, I haven’t seen a travel budget in years.  I assumed Los Angeles and was correct. Where else would a picture of a celebrity be promotion enough?  Some great work in the “human interest” section and some shots on grey of all of our favorite comedians.


I think Maggie's feedback is spot on. Especially:

- Know who you are targeting to and try to send an image that is relevant to what they do (my exception to that rule is when you are sharing personal work. I think it's ok to share something that is not totally relevant when your goal is to give the editor a better sense of who you are and what you are passionate about).

- Make it easy for the editor to know where you are based. Although photographers do sometimes get sent to other locations for assignments, for the most part, photo editors are looking for great regional photographers.

- Be mindful of the quality of your paper and reproduction


Check back next week when Maggie highlights some of the quirkier promos she receives (think box of oranges, remote control car, etc).