14 Ways Photographers Can Screw Up an Email

14 Ways Photographers Can Screw Up an Email


There are certain things you should never do when communicating via email with photo editors and creative directors. The PhotoShelter Research Team uncovered 14 of their biggest pet peeves recently, and the list initially appeared in the free downloadable 40-page report titled “What Buyers Want From Photographers.”

The report, released in April, 2011, reveals the preferences and habits of the most influential image buyers – and is must-read material for any serious photographer.

In this blog post, I decided to add expanded definitions to each of the points listed in the report – just to make absolutely sure you aren’t doing any of them.

14 Ways Photographers Can Screw Up an Email

1) Irrelevant content
Think twice before you send. Make sure that the content within your email (the images, the text, what you’re offering) is right for the people you’re sending to. Your recipients should feel like you know them, and the content/subject matter is hitting their sweet spot.

This means knowing something about the person, publication, or business you are sending to. What are they interested in? What subjects do they cover? What photographic style do they like to use? What would be of interest to their readers? What’s a unique subject that they haven’t already featured?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you may be making some big email mistakes.

2) Website inconsistent with sample photos in email
If you succeed, and a photo editor clicks on a link and visits your website, make sure that the photos you have displayed in your email are visibly displayed within your website. In fact, link directly to these images.

One mistake a photographer can make is not updating their website before sending out the email. Even if the work is new, don’t send out an email if those images aren’t also on your site.

And finally, if you have a certain style or approach present in your emailed images, make sure this style is also present on your website. Be aware of the relationship between your emails and your website, and make sure that people can get more of what got them excited in the first place.

3) Poor subject lines
Don’t waste the most important opportunity of your email – the subject line. This is the primary way that photo editors decide if your email gets opened, or deleted.

Don’t resort to tricks just to get them to open it. Don’t misrepresent the content inside the email, and don’t use words like “URGENT!”, because these tactics will cause you to lose credibility (and in some cases set off automatic spam filtering.) Instead, be descriptive. Use keywords that are appropriate to you, your work, or your geographic location. Choose words that will help clients sort and save for recalling you later.

4) Boring or over-the-top images
Be sure you aren’t sending out routine images that have been seen/done a million times before. Boring images are all around us, so make sure you’re sending something special. Show your style, be unique, and grab their attention for being an individual.

Also, don’t send images that are extreme or offensive or borderline crazy. If you’re trying to get their attention, do it with your unique vision and professionalism, not by shocking them.

5) Emails that lack photos
You’re a photographer, and you’re sending an email to a photo editor. What do you both have in common? Hint: It’s not a shared love of text-only emails. Include an image in the email itself, and avoid sending a text-rich email that only contains links to images on your website.

Get them excited by your images so that they’ll click to see more.

6) Image display errors
While we’re on the subject of images, double check the email before you send it. Photo editors tell us that emails often arrive with images that are broken, improperly inserted, or forgotten to be included. If needed, send the email as a test to yourself first, just to make sure everything displays correctly.

7) Too many (or too large) attachments
It’s generally not a good idea to bog down a photo editors computer and/or network connection with bulky attachments. If you are sending a marketing email, keep the attachments to a minimum, just large enough to be displayed at screen resolution.

If you are sending the client a high resolution email (for example, after an assignment), you should avoid sending it via email. Include a link to an online image gallery where the high resolution files can be easily downloaded. (And if you’re a PhotoShelter user, consider using the popular ‘Quick download’ feature – which makes is extremely easy to download very large high-resolution image files.)

8) No context around the new work being shared
Photo editors love seeing new work, especially things that are unique. But without any kind of explanation of what the image are (and what makes them special or unique), they’re likely to be frustrated and confused and move on. Make sure you provide context (that means you’ll need to write something) about the images.

9) No indication of location
Location, location, location! Make sure you disclose where you are, what’s “local” to you, and the areas you commonly travel to. If a photo editor is looking for a photographer to cover something in a certain region and wants to avoid travel expenses, they’ll look for a photographer who is local to that area. Leaving out that critical bit of information may cost you an assignment.

Some photographers worry that they will be pigeon-holed by mentioning their location, and therefore, never get assignments outside of their local area. Instead, photographers should realize that there is either a budget for travel, or there isn’t. If the budget exists, it’s the quality of your work that will dictate if you get the assignment in a far-away land – regardless of where you live.

So stop being paranoid and make it clear where you call home.

10) Conversational tone with no prior relationship
If you’ve never met a person, or never worked with someone before, don’t pretend that you did. Striking a friendly conversational tone with a stranger is disrespectful, and should be avoided. Remain professional, polite, and respectful in your email communications. Avoid using slang, and words like “dude”, “rad”, “OMG!”, “bitchin”, and “Yo!”.

11) Links that don’t work, or link to a slow loading site
This is pretty obvious (and related to point #6 – checking your work before you send), but make sure that all the links in your email actually work, and that they go to the correct places.

It’s also a good idea to test the speed of your website prior to sending an email. Make sure it’s actually up and running, and serving files quickly. A slow-loading site can kill the momentum and enthusiasm of a potential client.

12) Repeating the same email, or emailing too often
Email isn’t Twitter – it’s not cool to resend something if you didn’t get the response you were looking for. Don’t be a pest. Re-sending an email with a note added to the top saying “I never got a response, so I am resending this…” is a bad idea, and is likely to annoy just about any photo editor.

Likewise, if you send emails too frequently, you could be seen as a pest. Don’t come off like a stalker – only email when you’ve got something really important to say.

13) Single image with no copy
This is similar to point #8, except that it goes even further — from “no context” all the way to “no text.” Sending an image with no supporting text at all is a very bad idea, no matter how great you think the image is.

14) Careless errors
When composing your emails, don’t be in a rush, and don’t be lazy. Avoid careless errors. Check your spelling, use proper grammar, make sure that agency or publication titles are correct, make sure you are spelling names correctly, and job titles are accurate, and make sure to include contact information (photographer or rep name AND a telephone number) within the email.



Speaking of email, you should also get your hands on Email Marketing for Photographers, another FREE guide that will teach you how to turn your client emails into an effective marketing tool. Produced by the PhotoShelter research team, this 15-page guide shares valuable information that will help you grow your business using proven email marketing tactics.

Download this free guide right now!

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