What Do Big Ad Agencies Want from Photographers?

What Do Big Ad Agencies Want from Photographers?

Kaia Hemming is an art buyer at JWT, one of the world’s best-known marketing communications brands with more than 200 offices in over 90 countries. Kaia has worked with many of JWT’s clients, including Rolex, Royal Caribbean, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Nestle, and Johnson & Johnson. As part of her job, she regularly hires photographers and searches for photography to license.

We asked her to describe her workflow in finding images and the best marketing tactics photographers use to get her attention – and learned that connecting with buyers on social media can actually lead to gigs, but don’t pretend to know them if you’ve never even met before. Read on to get more of Kaia’s insights into what big ad agencies want from photographers.

What is the best way for a new photographer to promote their work to you?

I enjoy meeting photographers in person, especially at portfolio review events like NYCFotoworks and the Palm Springs Portfolio Review. The next best way is to send a great, simple, well-designed and -produced postcard with an outstanding image on it. Whether it is relevant to what I’m working on at the moment isn’t as important to me as whether I can see that you’re a great photographer with vision. In an agency like JWT, with the variety of clients and projects we have, you never know what your next photography need might be.

When you’re searching for images to license and photographers to hire, where do you turn?

Anywhere and everywhere, depending on the project. Typically, for stock, I will look to the large stock houses like Getty, Alamy, and Corbis. However, if those don’t work and I’m looking for specific content or style, I will look deeper into other sites like Google and Flickr, and directly on photographers’ sites.

For a typical photographer search, I will usually go to the people who I think of off the top of my head first, then to reps, then individual photographers. I sometimes use online sourcebooks, general Google searches, and even Flickr. I’ll also do offline searching through my saved printed promos and sourcebooks.

Have you ever discovered a new photographer using social media? If so, which platforms do you typically scan for new talent?

I’m not sure if I have actually discovered a new photographer with social media. But, social media can help a photographer get a job. For example, I was friends with a photographer on Facebook and learned through his updates that he was shooting a lot of great food and beverage imagery. Because of that, he was put into the mix for a shoot and ended up getting the gig!

I do like following photographers’ blogs and Instagram feeds, as well as seeing updates on Facebook about cool projects photographers are working on. I’m a big fan of Tumblr, so if I am on a photographer’s site or get a promo from someone and see a link to Tumblr and I like the work, I will almost always click on it to follow their blog. I don’t really see much benefit from following photographers on Twitter, but I will. The social media sites that I go to most are Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram.

Please describe the qualities of photographers’ email promotions that capture your attention.

For me, it is usually the image or a clever subject line. The simpler the better. The bottom line is the work.

What are some mistakes photographers make when promoting themselves to you?

Unfortunately, most of the time I can’t see images on my Blackberry. So I need to be at my computer if the images aren’t embedded in the email. Also, it is pretty unlikely that I will open an email with the subject line “new work” or “new website.” I think it is more useful to know who you shot or what it was for. Also, have a purpose for the email promotion – just sending out an image without any sort of additional information doesn’t usually grab my attention unless the image is totally amazing and happens to be relevant to what I am working on right at that minute.

In terms of printed pieces – this is more of a personal preference – I really find that most promos don’t usually need to be put in an envelope. I am also less likely to save large, folded promos, unless it is a cool poster or printed book. Photographers should remember that promoting themselves is about showcasing their work. But, there is definitely room for some fun and unique ideas – just make sure that it makes sense for the type of work you do. And always make sure it is easy to find your contact info on any promo, and if you have a rep to include their info.

Other mistakes I’ve seen are from social media. I totally understand that people like to connect on LinkedIn and Facebook, and I absolutely use them both, but if we haven’t met before I’m not likely to connect with you. I also think it is misleading to say that “you’ve done business together” when you’ve never met.

To read more interviews from photo buyers in other industries – like Random House, Billboard.com, and more – check out the 2012 Survey: What Buyers Want from Photographers.

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