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!
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 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.
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.