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!
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’.