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Photography Question 
Michael S. Arrants
 

Commercial Advertising Photography


How can I get started in the commercial advertising photography business, photograpjing products for catalogs, brochures, etc...?


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5/6/2007 4:45:38 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  There are a few things you can do, Michael.

When I expanded from photojournalism to shooting work for advertising, I'd already established myself at least as a reliable photographer who could be counted on to carry out assignments. I was degreed but under-equipped so I also knew that when I got commercial assignments, I needed to rent equipment like lights and even a large format camera with lenses to carry them out. I also joined Advertising Photographers of America and attended local chapter meetings. That helped a lot. Having a subscription to PDN is pretty important, IMHO, to keep tabs on what the industry is doing.

Marketing this kind of work and the skills that go with it always requires some kind of portfolio that offers some degree of specialization of shots in terms of the work you want to be commissioned to do, both in black and white and color. Having a niche is useful. For example, initially, I was hired to shoot agricultural work based on a shot of mine an art director saw I'd done in Salinas Valley, CA.

Promo pieces sent to potential clients, art directors, media buyers, may or may not be useful. I honestly don't know. Some say yes, others say no, I've done it and it's "iffy" cause your promotional pieces have to land in front of the right buyer at the right time for them to even consider you.

Know the business Michael, including electronic and mechanical press reproduction. If you talk to an art director who's producing a catalog, large or small, you have to know pre-press work, printers windows, how to oversee a press run of your work and get it color corrected, and deliver a huge volume of work. You also have to know how to price it reasonably and competitively or you won't get the bid.
And again, in terms of reputation, you're only as good as the comments on your last job. If you blow one, it'll tend to follow you around for awhile.

Then you have to solicit, usually with portfolio reviews with art buyers at ad agencies. Knowing who's doing what, you should read "Ad Week" or one of their industry publications. I took my "books" around to 45 agencies in NYC one week many years ago. THAT trip paid off work with for UPS, an annual report for Union Pacific and some long-lasting relationships.

It's a ton of work but once you get established, it's STILL a ton of work. And be prepared for a lot of people saying "no thanks". Rejection is a major part of this biz and how you handle it is important. OTOH, acceptance can be a real high.

One last thing: Your shooting technique has to be good and your lighting top quality. Like I said, master a particular product or service industry and stick with it until you can branch out later.

Good luck. Take it light. ;>)
Mark


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5/7/2007 7:43:09 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Anybody else got any input to share on this subject? Class??? Anyone???
New rule: I think I may never respond to anyone who's been a member for less than a month.
M


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5/9/2007 8:04:06 AM

 
Raymond H. Kemp
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/2/2004
  Good idea.


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5/9/2007 1:23:13 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  I'd like to hear about how you handled the pre press work and delivering the high volume back in your getting started days. Most people are under the impression that when you start getting jobs like that, when the photos get approval and it's a go, the photos are given in whatever form is required by the art directors, and then pre press and press press is done on their side.
You can email me if you'd like.


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5/9/2007 2:57:54 PM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  I am using html e-mail to contact potential clients. I am aware that unsolicited e-mail may offend some clients but the price is very effective compared to mailing postcards. I have acquired a few accounts this way. I also have my images in a variety of free portfolio site. This is of limited use, but itís fun when I Google myself. There are other ways of doing promotion, but dinner is on the table. Gotta go, thanks, John Siskin


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5/9/2007 8:08:10 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Actually unsolicited emails aren't really frowned upon, those that are seriously intended of course. I was reading about that one time and an art director was talking about how he read every email that he gets and that having a website to look at really is a good thing to have.
I think the unsolicited emails of product marketing, spam, and the like go carried over to actual inquiries concerning actual business concerns.


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5/9/2007 8:32:55 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Hi ya Greg. Back in the "good ole days", yes I delibered chromes to the art directors and they edited them down to what they wanted. After that, the work went on to the printer for separations and then the plating process. For big jobs, like catalogs as the guy here was originally asking about, most of the time the printers wanted the photographer around for the press run to double check the color balance and offer suggestions on how they could adjust the press to improve on it, if at all.

Back then, we used to look at a printed sheet with the color index tabs along the bottom under a daylight bank of flourescents and tell the printer to do things like add .5 magenta, subtract -6 of cyan or add blue or whatever. Even though art-directors back then knew the process as well as we did, the photographer was most familiar with the work itself so was the best one to make the call on color balance.

As to what John mentioned about internet promos, sure, they work fine these days, but there are still commercial print houses that do the promo cards and art buyers who appreciate getting promos that they want to hang on their walls or office partition dividers. I think those are the memorable shots that generate work. Course, they can always print out the internet shot you send, I suppose. Now, what's for dinner???
Take it light guys.
Mark


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5/10/2007 9:57:52 AM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  I just wanted to say a few more things about this. I wish I had the money to entertain art directors, but when I can get their attention for free thatís better. Most of the work I have mailed out over many years has not generated much response. Thatís the way it goes. If you send out a 5000 piece mailing that cuts 75Ę a piece delivered you can hope to get 50 responses; is that enough?

I look for inexpensive ways to promote my self, and the html e-mail is one of the best. I also use Craigís List both to advertise and as a source of new clients. In addition to looking for art directors I also look for companies who are doing in house promotion and companies who have too document processes and projects.
Thanks, John Siskin


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5/10/2007 2:29:25 PM

 
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