Are photography contests worthless? Like most arguments, there are two…
Standing out from the crowd is a key goal of photographer promotions. In the days of yore, a promo sent to a photo editor might have headed for the trash, or languished in a “keeper” drawer. But the Internet has allowed outstanding promotions to go viral thereby multiplying the intended marketing effects.
Promotions are no longer limited to the postcard – they are a branding mechanism that allow you to show your professional personality. Photographers have gotten increasingly savvy, and also willing to spend big bucks to grab the attention of their favorite art director, photo editor, or even their peers.
Here are a few of our favorite promotions from the recent past.
This isn’t Clint Davis’ first dance. His 2010 promotion entitled “Give me a shot” featured a disposable camera with custom selected postcards. But that effort paled in comparison to his 2014 promotion featuring a Pelican case, handpainted ammunition shells, large postcards drilled to simulate a gut shot, and a vinyl stencil.
2. Casey Templeton
With no past concerted effort to market to commercial clients, Casey Templeton decided to make a splash. Working with photo consultants and a graphic designer, Templeton came up with a custom printed box that contained a metal lunch box holding coffee beans, a t-shirt request form, postcards of his work, a candle, a diet coke, and a cigar and matches. All the things that a photo buyer needs to get fired up.
Bonus points for starting(?) the trend of creating a YouTube video of the promo (a promo of the promo), which has garnered over 21,000 views.
3. Emiliano Granado
Emiliano Granado rebranded himself several years ago, unleashing a new website and email newsletter that has become somewhat famous amongst photo editors. Not one to rest on his laurels, this hipster photographer created a 52-week postcard subscription – that is of course, if you’re lucky enough to be on his mailing list.
In a world of emails and Facebook posts, there’s something pretty cool about getting a postcard from Emiliano every week for a year.
When Jason Myers moved from Florida to Nashville to be more central to his clients, he decided to make a sunny splash. His “Fresh from Florida” shipment included oranges, a juicer, a glass, and some honey along with postcards of his work. A map indicating his travel radius from other major US cities illustrated how much closer he was to potential assignments than one might initially think.
The rise of bookbinding printers like the HP Indigo (the same printer used by services like Blurb) have brought the cost of short run printing into the realm of mere mortals. Maryland-based Dave Cooper used the technology to compliment his wonderful photos of boat builders to produce 100 books along with a map and DVD. He initially hoped to print everything himself with an Epson printer, but decided that trying to fulfill all aspects of the promo creation was too overwhelming, and not an efficient use of his time.
His dream client, Charleston, SC-based Guns and Gardens, gave Cooper his first response. PDN reports that Cooper said, “The emailed response from the photo editor was one of the best emails I have ever received.”
Following the success of self-published book he produced containing a portrait series from Mexico, Terry decided to work with designer Chris Hill, with whom he had collaborated with on other commercial projects before. “What would be a good way to promote this work for designers, art directors and creative directors? Something besides a little card or just a little book full of photos…[We wanted to make] something that people might want to hang onto; that they might put on the desk. It’s not huge or overwhelming. It’s not a card that gets lost with all the other cards. You hear that all the time, ‘I get 25 promotional cards a day!’ and most of them end up in the trash,” said Terry.
What they came up with was a seven book set with embossed covers that were delivered in a custom built wooden box. It is, in a word, stunning.
“We got great emails back from people and certainly jobs that we got and/or bid on were a result of it. Numerous times when we we’d be up for a project, we’d overnight one of these to the agency or designer, and for the most part, I feel like that’s what sealed the deal. If it was close between myself and a few other photographers, I know that in numerous case people said, ‘The client just flipped over this, and we’d love to work with you on this.’”
7. Jens Lennartsson
Taking the phrase “self-promotion” to the extreme, Swedish photographer Jens Lennartsson contracted with an Asian manufacturer to make 400 action figures of himself. Although he had worked for years as a photographer, Lennartsson had never produced a promo, but he had a firm idea of what it needed to accomplish.
Lennsartson writes, “1) People would like to keep on their desk, 2) The owner would like to show to others, 3) In a second would present what Jens Lennartsson Photography is all about: raw and natural lifestyle and travel photography, without too much gear and photoshop.”
What might strike some as narcissism, strikes us as a bit of genius.
“Artisinal” and “homemade” have entered the lexicon as the newest soup du jour. Jim Scherer combined his gorgeous photos of cocktails along with recipes and a martini bottle stopper to get happy hour started a little earlier in the day.
Scherer worked with an art director and writer to produce a visually compelling and entertaining piece that uses photography to engage the viewer in a story – with just a little sauce. Cheers to that.
9. David Alan Harvey
Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey might be considered old school, but his marketing promotions would beg to differ. Upon the release of his short-run book entitled “(based on a true story)”, Harvey also produced a large format magazine to give out to his subjects of the book as well as leave behinds at photo festivals, where people charged the tables for a chance to grab the collectible.
The glorious piece is reminiscent of another time, and yet, still so cutting edge.
10. Tiny Atlas Quarterly
Travel and lifestyle photographer Emily Nathan is already repped by the venerable Berstein and Andriulli, but this great photographer has also proven herself to be a pretty bad ass marketer as well. Tiny Atlas Quarterly is an online effort with her photographer, make-up, stylist, and model friends to create a quarterly e-zine that features the type of stuff they want to shoot.
On demand publishing has also allowed them to create a printed annual, which you should promptly buy to see the big world through tiny atlas glasses.
Get more great branding tips for your business. Check out our latest guide, 10 Branding Secrets for Photographers.