12 Nov 2010
Ask an Agent: What work wins commissions?
Lisa Pritchard of the Lisa Pritchard Agency, which represents photographers such as Julian Calverley, Iain Crockart, Nick Daly, Rob Murray and Jenny Nordquist, answers your questions
“I’m a people photographer (commercial, catalogues, editorial) and I am about to give my portfolio and website an image overhaul as they are looking a bit jaded. I’m not exactly relishing the prospect, have you got any tips on how to got about editing my work for these and other promotional materials.’’
It’s important to regularly update your website and book with fresh work, otherwise it could do you more harm than good. A client will only revisit so many times without seeing anything new. It’s also important that all work seen by potential clients is consistent, both in style and quality: whether on your website, in your portfolio or on any other marketing portal you choose.
In my experience photographers are not always the best judges of their own work and find it difficult to be subjective ; too many emotional connections seem to cloud their judgement. An image that may well inspire a commission might be excluded because the photographer has tired of it or associates it with a negative experience. Get a second opinion from a peer or preferably an industry expert.
Without seeing your work and spending a few hours with you I can’t talk specifics , however the same rules apply to photographers from most genres. I have prepared a general list of tips.
Ten Tips for editing your work for promotion
1. Be selective and only show your best work. For some reason, the inferior shots stay in people’s heads much longer than the brilliant stuff. I often find photographers include commissions because they think it will it will get them more work, only do this is you are truly proud of the imagery.
2. If you’re find yourself being indecisive over any particular image, ask yourself –if you could only choose one image for a mailshot, would this one be good enough or representational enough. If the answer is no, don’t include it.
3. Only include work that will be relevant to the viewer. An art director in an ad agency will not want to see your wedding photography; just as a bride to be won’t be interested in your ads for dog food. There’s not usually much point in showing gritty photojournalism to a design agency or board director shots to a fashion magazine.
4. Do include a broad range of subject matters within your niche. An architectural photographer might include interiors and exteriors; a portrait photographer a variety of ages, sexes and global ethnicities. Some markets are extremely literal so give yourself a fighting chance - if you haven’t got a shot of a lemon in your book some clients may not be confident that you can shoot them, even if you have got an lime and an orange. No really!
5. But don’t repeat yourself unnecessarily. You don’t need four shots of roads at night, too many white backgrounds or shots of kids playing in the garden.
6. Pay attention to juxtaposition and flow. Position images so they complement and work for each other. Your portfolio should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. First impressions count and clients will want to define or categorise you from the first few images they see. Similarly the last image should leave an impact. Your website should be divided into user-friendly categories – avoid ‘folio one’, ‘folio two’ etc, so people have to hunt around or look at images that don’t interest them. Avoid anything too arty or random - People & Places works better than Air, Chairs and Trees for example.
7. The goal is to leave a clear and memorable impression. Achieve this with a confident, signature style and/or cohesive subject matter. At the very least it needs to look like it’s all by the same photographer. If you do shoot in diverse areas, consider marketing them separately. I’m always in favour of sticking to one thing and excelling at it.
8. Show work in a genre that you want to get more of.
9. Mount your first edit on a wall or view as a slide show, and live with it for a bit.
10. Look at lots of photographers’ websites and other promotional materials (and if possible their portfolios) to see what works and what doesn’t.
As you are probably aware, the edit of a photographers work for marketing isn’t a one off task. Act on any constructive feedback, regularly refresh your book, website, blog etc with new work, keep clients informed of what you’ve been up to. It’s a constantly evolving process but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be an enjoyable one.
If you have more questions for Lisa, please mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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