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April 2nd, 2014

PDN Video: Lens Blog’s James Estrin’s Career Tips for Photojournalists

Jim Estrin: 6 Tips for Emerging Photojournalists from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

James Estrin, founder and co-editor of Lens, the popular New York Times photography blog, talks about how to launch a successful career as a photojournalist. His tips and insight cover how to choose meaningful projects, the importance of photojournalistic process, and practical advice about portfolios, mentors, and relationship-building with editors and peers.

Related:
PDN Video: Is Your Photo Project a Contender for Lens Blog?
PDN Video: How to Get the Most Out of a Portfolio Review
PDN’s 30 Photographers Provide Career Tips to Aspiring Photographers
PDN’s 30 2014: New and Emerging Photographers to Watch

March 27th, 2014

PDN’s 30 Photographers Provide Career Tips to Aspiring Photographers (UPDATED)

pdn30-2014-sva-blog2
A panel featuring three of this year’s PDN’s 30 photographers discussed strategies for building a successful career and offered a wealth of useful tips to an audience of students and industry professionals at the School of Visual Arts theater in New York last evening.

The PDN’s 30 photographers, Bobby Doherty (still life), Billy Kidd (fashion), and Bryan Derballa (editorial/lifestyle), discussed how they found their visual styles, how they use social media to get noticed, build networks and land jobs, and the importance of learning and practicing good business skills. Photographer Tony Gale, a Sony Artisan of Imagery who has taught photography, and photo editor Emily Shornick of The Cut at New York magazine, also provided insights on navigating the industry. The evening was sponsored by Sony, Offset, Canson Paper and ASMP.

Describing how they launched their careers, Doherty, Kidd and Derballa all said they developed their visual styles by shooting whatever interested them a lot–even obsessively.

“It’s important to be making the kind of photos you would want to get paid to do, before you get paid to do it,” Doherty said.

Bobby Doherty's early makeshift studio.

Bobby Doherty’s early makeshift studio.

A 2011 graduate of SVA, he started by experimenting with conceptual still life work in his apartment at night. “I didn’t have any money. I had two flashes, and [bar] stools” and broom handles that served as stands (shown at right). Doherty says he was focusing on “how to accomplish an idea with as little as possible, technically.”

Kidd says when he moved from Arizona to New York, he did test shoots with models four, five, or six times a week–”whatever I could do,” he says. “I experimented with light, to find out who I was.”

Shornick emphasized the importance of developing a distinctive personal style. When it comes to hiring a photographer, she said, “”I don’t want to be surprised. I want to pre-visualize” what a photographer will deliver.

One of the biggest challenges for photographers is getting noticed. All the photographers on the panel said they take as much pleasure in sharing their work as they do in shooting it, and they use social media–particularly Tumblr–to build audiences.

Kidd said he posted images from his test shoots on a Tumblr blog. “That’s how my rep found me–from my Tumblr page,” he says. On his Tumblr page, he says, he posts “everything I shoot, and want to show people.”

“Be liberal and fun with your Tumblr,” advised Derballa. Years ago he started Lovebryan, a blog that features not only his work, but that of several other photographers whose work he likes. Derballa also noted that he uses Tumblr “to follow trends” by looking at what other photographers are shooting.

Panelists also discussed the importance of personal connections and face-to-face networking. Doherty says working as an assistant eventually led to a job with Lucas Michael, who shoots for New York Magazine. That led to a meeting with Director of Photography Jody Quon, and a couple of weeks later, Doherty had his first assignment from the magazine.

Kidd says he got access to models for test shoots through a friend who worked for modeling agencies. Derballa got his first assignment from The Wall Street Journal after a chance meeting with former photo editor Matthew Craig while Derballa was talking about a self-funded assignment at a bar with another photographer.

The discussion also turned to business practices, particularly the importance of good communication skills, dependability, and presenting a professional appearance in your emails and invoices.

Here are some tips the panelists offered:

On networking:

Connect with everyone you can while still in school, including teachers, fellow photography students, and students in other departments.

Attend industry events and meet everyone you can, without thinking: Who can I talk to who can give me work?

If you’re shy, and feel uncomfortable schmoozing at events, force yourself to go with a goal of meeting just one person. Those connections multiply, Gale said. “Then you’re the person who everyone wants to meet because you can introduce them to other people.”

On assisting:

Be an assistant. By assisting, Gale explained, you connect to people and resources, “and you learn so many things it’s not possible to learn in school” about technique and business.

To get assisting jobs, a good attitude is more important than technical know-how, Gale said. “What I need is someone who is going to be paying attention, and not be upset that I said ‘everybody is going to need coffee’ or ‘sorry, but you have to stand out in rain and watch the gear.’”

When you send e-mails asking about work as an assistant, personalize them, Gale advised. “Don’t send an e-mail addressed to 30 other photographers.” And don’t talk about what a great photographer you are, he said. “I don’t care.”

On approaching photo editors:

“Email with a link. That makes it easy to bookmark you,” Shornick said. Mailers just get thrown in a drawer and forgotten. Email “every now and then” about a recent assignment or new personal work, she added. “Quarterly is a good approach.”

No cold calls. “I’m really busy, I just don’t have time,” Shornick said.

Don’t show up unannounced. “That’s really inappropriate.”

Make sure your web site loads fast, and is free of bells and whistles. “I hate Flash websites. I just want to see your work,” said Shornick, who has discovered photographers at portfolio reviews and through Flickr.

Provide multiple contacts and Indicate your physical location. “If I can’t figure out where you live I’m never going to hire you,” Shornick said.

On providing good service to clients:

Be dependable. “The most important thing is [meeting] deadlines,” Shornick said.

Be responsive. “I always pick up [phone calls]. It’s probably someone who wants to hire you, or wants to know why the photos aren’t there,” Derballa said.
“Yeah, pick up the phone,” Shornick said, or she’ll just call another photographer.

UPDATE: The School of Visual Arts has published a video of this talk:

Related articles:

PDN’s 30 2014: New and Emerging Photographers to Watch

9 Tips for Getting Hired (and Re-Hired) as a Photographer’s Assistant

December 23rd, 2013

PDN Video: How to Get the Most Out of a Portfolio Review

Portfolio review events geared toward photographers have proliferated in recent years, and they’re “a great place to meet a peer group, and start a dialogue about your photographs,” says photography consultant Mary Virginia Swanson. But at a cost of several hundred dollars, not including travel expenses, portfolio reviews are an investment. In this video Swanson offers tips about how to get the most out of a review, including information about how to select reviewers, how much work to present, and some of the questions to ask reviewers about opportunities to sell or license your work.

September 10th, 2013

Tired of Getting Passed Over for Ad Shoots That Go to NY and LA? You’re Not Alone

A perennial complaint of photographers working in small and medium-sized markets is that big ad clients in their local markets ignore them in favor of photographers in New York and Los Angeles. Photographers from around the country reminded us of the indignity when we were interviewing them for “5 Great Markets to Live and Work In,” a series of articles now running on PDNOnline.

“We get passed over for talent on the east and west coasts,” said photographer David Turner of Minneapolis, one of the five cities we feature. (Minneapolis has 68 ad agencies, plus another 75 graphic design firms and in-house agencies).

Jacob Pritchard told us the big disadvantage of being a photographer in Denver is “be[ing] overlooked for the bigger budget ad campaigns…in favor of NYC and LA-based photographers.”

Therese Gietler, partner and producer at the Andy Batt Studio in Portland, Oregon, says the studio has never been asked to bid for a job at Wieden + Kennedy (a national agency based in Portland) even though she knows creative directors there. But Gietler is philosophical about it.

“It’s easy to be bitter about it, but [clients]  have a lot on the line, with giant budgets. They’re going to choose the person who they can trust to deliver. It’s a sad fact they make presumptions that the local guy can’t deliver.”

In other words, it’s nothing personal, and it’s a prejudice that is unlikely to disappear. But Gietler and others listed numerous advantages of their markets to compensate for the inattention of those national clients. Details can be found in our stories about those markets, which are now posted online.

Smaller Markets Photographers Are Big On: Portland, Oregon
Smaller Markets Photographers Are Big On: Charlotte, North Carolina
Smaller Markets Photographers Are Big On: Denver & Boulder, Colorado
Smaller Markets Photographers Are Big On: Atlanta & Athens, Georgia
Smaller Markets Photographers Are Big On: Minneapolis & St. Paul

September 5th, 2013

Facebook Makes Alarming Changes to Terms, ASMP Breaks Down the Changes

Facebook has altered their terms of service to make it possible for companies that pay the social media network to utilize Facebook users’ content and likeness without compensation or permission. The changes are sure to alienate Facebook’s users in the creative community, who make a living from licensing their work and content.

Among the changes is this gem:

“You give us permission to use your name, and profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related that content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you. If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it.”

ASMP created a handy Q&A about the new terms of use that helps break down the changes and what they mean for photographers.

This comes on the heels of the ASMP-led criticism of Instagram that was recently issued.

We have to wonder, at what point will a social network take the step to actually compensate the users that make it tick and protect them from unauthorized exploitation and surveillance? Seems to us like a network that figured out how to do that would find a community very quickly.

Related: Photography Trade Organizations Take Aim at Instagram Terms
AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyrights, Judge Rules
Morel Case Highlights Copyright Risks of Social Networks

August 23rd, 2013

Crusade for Collecting: A Controversial Experiment Meant to Create New Photo Collectors

Instagram grid by @crusade4art

Instagram images from the @crusade4art Crusade for Collecting organized by Jennifer Schwartz.


Earlier this year Jennifer Schwartz, a gallerist and the founder of the non-profit arts organization Crusade for Art, traveled to cities around the country in an effort to create demand for the work of emerging photographers by encouraging people she met on the street to consider collecting art. Working with five photographers in each of the cities she visited, Schwartz organized street-side exhibitions, asking the photographers to talk with passersby about their work, and to give away signed, non-editioned prints to those who wanted them. The project drew both criticism and skepticism, but it also, Schwartz says, created positive dialogue between artists and would-be collectors.
PDN invited Schwartz to explain the motivation behind the trip and recap her experiences.

Nearly five years ago I began a journey to cultivate audiences for art, specifically the work of emerging photographers. By creating innovative programs that make art immediately and affordably accessible to new audiences, both online and through special events, my goals have been: to promote and develop the careers of talented, emerging, contemporary photographers and to educate and cultivate a new crop of collectors.

Working with emerging photographers, I recognized from the beginning that the challenge is to find an audience for these artists. Too often as gallery owners, we hang the art and then wait for an audience to come. With that in mind, I created Crusade for Art, a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating demand for art by creating opportunities to introduce new collectors to artists and their work.

In my Atlanta gallery, I have discovered that the most successful programs to get new people interested in art involve meeting the artist and making a personal connection. They give people who have had only a limited relationship with art a unique, fun experience where they engage with photography and the artists in a thoughtful way. These programs also give photographers an opportunity to interact directly with an audience and advocate for themselves and their work.

In April 2013 I took this concept on the road with a special project, the Crusade for Collecting Tour. Traveling to ten cities over the course of three months in a 1977 VW bus (affectionately named Lady Blue and purchased through funds raised on Kickstarter), I staged spontaneous pop-up events to give away original, signed photographs and bring grassroots art appreciation to the streets, moving outside the traditional boundaries of the art world. (more…)

August 16th, 2013

Photographer Partners with Billboard Company On Public Art Project

© Chi Modu. An early portrait of rapper Snoop Dogg as it appears on a billboard in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood.

© Chi Modu. An early portrait of rapper Snoop Dogg as it appears on a billboard in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood.

Wanting to get his portraits of Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg and other images from the early years of hip hop stars in front of the public, photographer Chi Modu decided not to go to a gallery or a museum: Instead, he’s taken over billboards around New York City. Modu, a former director of photography at the hip-hop magazine The Source, contacted a billboard company, Prince Media, when he saw that they had unused billboards.

The company had worked before with artists and were eager to provide him with unused billboard space, he says. “They were fired up about it.” Within days he and the company had come to an agreement on a deal that allowed Modu to put up his photographs on four billboards in Manhattan and Brooklyn through the end of September. “[Photographers] don’t need Nike to get us a billboard,” Modu says. “You can get a billboard without Nike; go ahead and show your work.” (more…)

July 9th, 2013

New Look PhotoShelter Adds Portfolio Sites and Social Media Integration

The homepage of photographer Robin Moore's new PhotoShelter Beam portfolio site.

The homepage of photographer Robin Moore’s new PhotoShelter Beam portfolio site. Moore was among the photographers who beta tested Beam.

Today PhotoShelter launched Beam, its new portfolio website platform, which is connected to its e-commerce, cloud storage, image delivery, client proofing and marketing tools for professional photographers.

The launch also includes integration with popular social media, blogging and video tools like Instagram, Tumblr, Vimeo and WordPress, allowing users to add content from those platforms to their Beam site, and to easily share content from their site to other platforms.

Beam is available immediately, at no cost, to current PhotoShelter users with Standard and Pro accounts, and to non-users on a 14-day trial basis. After the 14-day trial, new PhotoShelter users can pay either $29.99 per month for a Standard account, which includes a Beam site, 60GB of storage and all of PhotoShelter’s other tools, or $49.99 for a Pro account with 1000GB of storage.

At launch, Beam offers four different portfolio website designs that were created using HTML5 and CSS3, which the company says will allow images to render on “virtually any” digital device.

The “Site Builder” tool allows photographers to quickly update the look of their site and requires no coding experience.

“The biggest upgrade is the user interface, which means that I now use Photoshelter as my primary online portfolio to showcase my images,” said Robin Moore, a DC-based conservation photographer, in an email interview with PDN. Moore was among the beta testers for Beam.

A longtime PhotoShelter user, Moore used to use PhotoShelter for storage and WordPress for his portfolio. “Now,” he says, “I don’t have to fuss with that integration, and I can display my images, blog and videos on one site that I would be happy to share with prospective clients.”

Though Moore says there were “some hiccups” in the beta testing process, he is pleased with how easily he can modify his new portfolio site. “For someone who gets goosebumps every time they see code, I have really enjoyed the user-friendly interface,” Moore adds.

For more information, visit the PhotoShelter Beam microsite.

June 14th, 2013

An Unusual Tactic For Portfolio Reviews

© Amy Wolff

 

Photographer Jordan Hollender was scheduled to do portfolio reviews at NYCFotoworks in New York City this week but was called away on a job. Rather than abandon the reviews, he made a cut out of himself, and had an assistant show up to the reviews for him, placing everything on the table in front of each reviewer. The photo we took shows the assistant’s set up: the cut out of Hollender, portfolio, letter to the reviewer from Hollender, notebook for the reviewer to write notes in, and business cards.

Although PDN did not get the opportunity to meet with “him”, it was a memorable encounter.

June 10th, 2013

PDN Video Pick: Miller Mobley’s Tips for Landing Clients

Photographer Miller Mobley: How to Build Relationships with Clients from PDNOnline on Vimeo.

Miller Mobley built a successful business as an editorial and commercial photographer in his native Alabama, then gave it up to start all over again in New York City. In this video produced by PDN, he discusses how he landed jobs in both places, and the importance of showing new work to potential clients every time he approaches them. To learn more about how Mobley launched and then re-launched his career, see our story, “Miller Mobley’s Transition,” at PDNonline.com.