How to Make Your Marketing Hum: Advice from Emiliano Granado

How to Make Your Marketing Hum: Advice from Emiliano Granado

This interview is just one of many from our free, downloadable Guide: Breaking Into Commercial Photography. For more tips, download your copy today, here.

Emiliano Granado picked up a camera in 2001 as a hobby. He was working at a New York advertising agency and didn’t like it at all, so he decided to take a class at International Center of Photography. It snowballed into a new career, and he was able to quit his job in 2005 and start freelancing as an assistant while shooting personal work. He got his first assignments in 2007.

Today, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based photographer’s portfolio includes work for commercial brands like Converse, Nike and Smirnoff. Granado is also a founder of Yonder Journal and Manual for Speed, two creative projects partially underwritten by brands. “I don’t think of myself as specializing in one thing,” Granado says. “I do quite a bit documentary style work, but also commercial and lifestyle stuff, portraiture and more humorous and youth culture stuff.” Here, Granado gives insight into his marketing strategy, which he describes as a “constant, pleasant background hum. Not a series of loud pops and bangs.”

Photo by Emiliano Granado

Photo by Emiliano Granado

What types of clients are you trying to attract? Who are some of your favorites or ideal clients? 

I’m kind of all over the place. I think it’s great that I speak many languages, but sometimes it can be difficult to market yourself. Since I do so many things, I’m trying to attract a bunch of different clients. I’m definitely interested in portraiture. But I’m also looking for lifestyle/ youth culture clients, as well as sports, athletics, and outdoor stuff. And because I think I’m pretty versatile, spontaneous and shoot a lot compared to other photographers, I’m well suited to shoot large image libraries for brands.

I have a long relationship with Outlier Clothing that exemplifies the type of client I like. I get to shoot portraits, fashion, outdoors, in-studio and athletic style images for them. They are fusing tech, fashion and motion into one brand, so I get to flex different muscles.

Where do you focus most of your marketing efforts? Why?

You can choose to market yourself with big, loud tactics. I’ve chosen a slower approach with my marketing; I’ll call it “white noise marketing.” The secret for me has been to continue to produce quality images and quietly remind people about them. To do this, I like to send people anywhere from five to eight postcards a year and usually write something funny and personalized on the back. I’d hate to be the photographer version of a used car salesman with loud gimmicks and cheap suits.That’s not the association I want people to make when they think about my work.

The focus for me has always been and will always be “make good work.” Of course, I can do things to help promote that work, but if it sucks to begin with, then I’m failing. I’ll continue to self publish and create personal work—that is essential to me as a human and as a brand.

Photo by Emiliano Granado

Photo by Emiliano Granado

How does this translate into new and returning clients?

Every year since I started getting work, my business has progressively improved. The assignments get better. The budgets get bigger. I can’t really say any one thing is getting me new clients. But the cumulative efforts of producing good work and showing people that work over the last 10 years is yielding results.

What’s your digital marketing strategy? There are so many outlets these days; what do you find the most effective?

I’ve given up on several digital formats recently. I simply don’t have the time to make them compelling or interesting. They become a “Hey, look what I shot” thing, and that gets boring.

So I’ve honed it down to Instagram, a (almost) quarterly newsletter, and very infrequent Facebook and tumblr posts. Also, when I have a new project, I’ll share it with blogs or content aggregators. Depending on the project, I would share it with the editors at the photo blogs for The New Yorker, MSNBC or Time Lightbox. For press I try to share everything with PDN, but then I try to cast a wider net and have built relationships with design and art blogs like It’s Nice That, Coolhunting, etc. There are several cool small-scale photo blogs/aggregators that make sense for me like Flak Photo, Lintroller, Paper Journal, etc.

How much time to you devote to marketing efforts? What’s your workflow like for fitting it all in? 

I think about marketing quite a bit. I like to send emails and introduce myself to potential clients and influencers. You have to build your network in order for that network to pay off for you. I don’t have an established workflow for it. Between travel, shooting, family, trying to ride my bike and everything else, you find some time here and there to try to reach a new potential client. If I find out about a new agency doing cool things from a blog or Instagram post, I try to find out who the art directors are and send them postcards. Maybe I’ll email them and try to set up a meeting. It depends on how much free time I have and how brave I’m feeling that day.

And that hits an important point. You have to be brave. You have to learn to put yourself out there and not get a response from someone. In general, you’ll reach out to 100 people and only 20 of them will respond, and of those you’ll only ever meet five of them in person and maybe one of those people hires you down the line two years from now. So you just spent several hours trying to reach 100 people and you failed 99 times. But that one person. . .

Photo by Emiliano Granado

Photo by Emiliano Granado

Can you explain your online $10 print sales?

I published a new photo every week in 2014 and made 3 prints of it and sold it for $10 each. Just enough to break even. You can still see all the photos on It was about forcing myself to publish work that was sitting on my hard drives. It was also a way to get people excited about the work that I was excited about. I had to honor those images by putting them into the world. Otherwise, no one would have ever seen them.

Can you point to some specific successes that have come directly from your marketing efforts? 

I can think of two really specific successes. Many years ago, I found a cool new agency somewhere on the Internet. They had just started out and were doing some cool small projects. I found their address and sent them a postcard with a funny message. They really liked it and posted it on their blog. I eventually met them in person to say hi. We stayed friendly for years, and last year they asked me to shoot a really great project for a big athletic brand.

Back in 2008, I published a newsprint publication called “Thank God That’s Over.” It was a humorous photo essay taken on a five-day cruise from New Jersey to Bermuda. It was every bit as awful as you can imagine. To this day, people still reference that newsprint thing. I learned that to make good photos is not enough. You have to package them up nicely and deliver it to the world in a format they will enjoy.

Photo by Emiliano Granado

Photo by Emiliano Granado

What marketing dos and don’ts have you learned along the way to attract the clients you want? 

I try to engage potential clients the way I’d want to be engaged myself. Don’t be annoying, don’t be pushy, don’t be irrelevant. Be entertaining, be yourself, speak candidly, don’t be a robot, spellcheck, use pretty colors.

What advice do you have for new photographers about how to market to commercial clients in today’s changing photography landscape?

You have to approach this whole thing as a long-term thing. Just because a photo editor followed you on Instagram doesn’t mean you’re going to get a job. Just because they responded to your email doesn’t mean you’re going to shoot the cover. You’re going to bid a thousand jobs and not get any of them. You’re going to strike out a million times before you get any jobs. No one owes you a damn thing. It’s a slow, slow process, so bunker down for the long haul. The only thing that you can control is your creative output. Make sure it’s fire.

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Marketing associate at PhotoShelter

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