“People aren’t hiring you to create great pictures, but to get results,” advertising photographer John Keatleytold PDN. In today’s rapidly changing advertising market, the photographers who have the advantage in landing jobs are able to demonstrate an understanding of a brand’s needs, provide solutions to clients’ problems and handle production details—all while being competitive on price. PDN has tracked shifts in advertising and client expectations by talking to photographers, reps, art buyers and producers. Here are a few tips gleaned from PDN’s coverage of the advertising market. PDN subscribers can read these articles in full.
In an interview with PDN, Amy Salzman, a veteran freelance art producer, noted that during creative calls, she wants the photographer “to add some vision. We’re presenting you with creative and we know what we need to accomplish; the photographers should be adding what their vision is for accomplishing it.” She notes that the triple-bid process helps educate clients on the real cost of a job. But the lowest bidder doesn’t necessarily get the job automatically. If all three bids come in between $150,000 to $160,000, “then you can more easily say to the client: This is what this production demands,” she says. “If you get one bid that’s low ball, you wonder: Are they cheapening certain things to get the job? If two bids come in at $150,000 and one comes in at $250,000, you wonder if they’re overdoing it.” The creative director may have a preferred photographer in mind; if the photographer’s bid is much too high, she says, “I’ll say, ‘We really want to work with you, but you’re way out of the range,’ and let them re-try.” Click here to see the full interview with Amy Salzman.
Two of the most important ways photographers can win creatives’ trust is by making a good impression during the creative call, and by developing a treatment afterwards that presents—in words and pictures—an appealing way to produce and execute the assignment. Several veteran photographers shared tips for how to handle creative calls with confidence, and also ask the questions that glean the information needed to produce a treatment that solves the client’s problems. After a creative call, Eva Kolenko says, “I like to sit with my notes and then I can really visualize what my process will be, and what the production will be like from start to finish. Then I offer those solutions in a lot more detail in my treatment.” During the call, says advertising photographer John Keatley, “You have to communicate that you understand the clients’ goals andneeds, and that you can help them meet their goals.” Click here to read the full story.
“I think the value of the photographer has shifted a bit, to where you have to be a full-fledged partner in the creative process or else, what good are you?” says Paul Costello, a veteran advertising photographer who has worked with the clothing manufacturer Draper James since its first branding efforts. Over five seasons, he helped conceive visual ideas for the brand. “I think we’re in a time where there are so many photographers, that you have to be someone who brings ideas to the table,” says David Walter Banks, half of the duo Brinson + Banks. When contacted by Garnier, the hair care products company, about shooting online and social media images, the duo suggested additional shots and setups. Their suggestions required a bigger budget, but they landed the job, and Garnier subsequently hired them to take on bigger productions. PDN published three case studies showing how photographers offered their input and art direction to clients and, in the process, landed more work. Click here to view them.
Maren Levinson, founder of the agency Redeye, asked fellow reps and an art buyer why creating treatments has become such a common and important part of the bidding process in the last five years. “We now create treatments even if we are not asked for them,” Levinson says. She asserts that they are yet one more opportunity to show what you are about and the rigor of your creative and production package.
What are treatments exactly? Most of the time they are a 5-10 page PDF with:
2. Approach/Lighting Technique/Team (Production, Styling, Sets)
4-5. Reference/Mood Boards/Inspiration. Artists often include their own applicable work as well, marked as such.
Levinson, Carol LeFlufy of Eye Forward and other reps describe just how much time, thought—and also money, if a photographer chooses to hire a copywriter—can go into a treatment, with no guarantee of getting the job. “The good news is that once they have a well-designed template, artists can tweak their treatments for future jobs and customize them according to each bid—be it a motion bid, a stills bid, or a combo of both.” PDN subscribers can learn about some effective treatments, and the other valuable parts of the estimating process by clicking here.
PDN asked freelance art buyer Karen Meenaghan to concoct a fictitious commercial assignment, then asked two reps to prepare bids for the job. We listened in on their pre-estimate calls. After each of our volunteer rep delivered their bids, Meenaghan explained in conference calls how ad agencies and clients might respond to their estimates.
Meenaghan’s brief called for various executions for a “hero” image for print use, including out-of-home advertising. In addition, the brief called for 20 “inset” images for online use, including social media.
The reps took two different approaches, and ended up with drastically different bottom line estimates: $155,053 versus $100,636. Rep1 took a no-expenses-spared approach. During the post-estimate conference call, Meenaghan suggested cutting the talent rate and video production budget, and Rep1 explained the things she would avoid cutting. Rep2 prepared her estimate to come in at a competitive price. Meenaghan told Rep2 that the estimate should increase to $120,000 to $130,000 because the estimates for several important line items were too low. “There’s a [bottom line] amount that’s to the bone, and there’s an amount that allows you some wiggle room for bumps in the road,” Meenaghan says.
Meenaghan has learned that there’s often a gap between what clients say they’re willing to pay and the actual costs of their expectations. “It’s beer budgets and champagne tastes,” she says. But she says that some agencies don’t allow art buyers to tell photographers (or their reps) that their estimates should be higher, even if they anticipate overages during the shoot. “If someone says, ‘I can get this job done for these numbers,’” agencies often take them at their word, Meenaghan explains. PDN subscribers can read Meenaghan’s brief, transcripts of the calls and the bids both reps prepared by clicking here.
Photographers-turned-directors who want to get their work in front of potential clients have decisions to make: Which social media platform works best? Should your portfolio show multiple projects, or combine clips in a single reel of your best work? We asked three directors who have successfully landed jobs creating 30-second spots and other video pieces to describe the various approaches that have helped them land video assignments. They include the self-assigned projects that helped photographer/director Rob Howard create a marketable portfolio, the marketing efforts that Logan Havens made to demonstrate his ability to create video-still packages, and Brook Pifer’s director’s reel, which showed the esthetic she brought to commercial clients and personal film projects. Having a reel is “crucial,” she says. “It’s your visual esthetic, your director’s cut.” Click here to read the full story.
Clients are often gathering images first, then deciding where they might be used—in banner ads, in-store displays, native advertising, on the company website or social media. Rather than carefully crafting single images, photographers are expected to “yield as much as possible from every shoot day,” says Susan Cartland, art production manager at mcgarrybowen. To find photographers who can handle library assignments, art buyers are looking for specific skills and talents. Library shoots generally require photographers to follow talent and action by shooting on the fly. Lindsay Tyler, senior art buyer at Havas Worldwide Chicago, says she hired Ryan Heffernan to shoot a 25-image library for a pest control company because she could tell he could think on his feet. “He’s shooting stills in an almost cinematic way, and I think that lends itself well to getting a lot of images.” Getting a high volume of images of every scenario requires good production skills. Kevin Arnold, who has shot libraries for MillerCoors, Sperry Top-Sider and other clients, notes, “If you think through every little detail [in advance], then when you’re shooting, there is at least the possibility that any shot you make will be usable in the final art work.” He explains how casting, directing, wardrobe and propping can help him maximize his time while shooting requested images and capturing unplanned shots the client can use. Click here to see the full story.
“More and more advertisers are trying to find a way to connect with an audience,” says Chas Edwards, the co-founder, president and publisher of Pop-Up Magazine Productions, which publishes California Sunday Magazine. Rather than a sales pitch, advertisers want to produce “some kind of content experience that’s worth spending a few minutes with. If it’s really good, it might be a thing that you remember. If it’s really, really good, it might be something that you tell other people about, either in person or… on social media.” Photography is important to the “story advertising” (their name for branded content) that California Sunday Magazine produces because it’s important to their readers. “The photo direction of the magazine has struck a chord with our readers and with the broader industry,” Edwards explains. “When we collaborate with a brand around story advertising, a component of that campaign is going to be in the print edition of the California Sunday Magazine, and photography is really central to that experience.”
PDN spoke with representatives of content studios at three magazine brands to find out more about their business, and about how they are working with photographers and videographers to produce content that speaks to their readers. Click here to read the full story.
Jennifer Lamping is the director of art production for RPA, a full-service agency in Los Angeles. An art producer for more than 12 years, Lamping notes, “Producers aren’t operating in their own silos anymore. They’re expected to wear more hats, and to get more content that will function on multiple platforms.” She adds that at RPA, art producers are now more involved as ads are being conceived. And, she notes, “We’re definitely producing content for digital and social uses more than ever before. We’ve been doing more GIFs, short CGI animation, and more productions where it may be primarily a stills shoot but the client wants to capture some motion elements as well.” Click here to read more about how Lamping finds and hires photographers.
Creating Motion Content for Short Attention Spans