Friday, January 30, 2009

Communication Arts Photo Contest

This is definitely one of the contests you want to enter to get everyone to see your work. There is not one art director, designer, or art buyer I know who does not read Communication Arts or at least steal it from someone who does.

Deadline is March 6, 2009
enter at

Categories include:
Advertising, Books, Multimedia, Editorial, work produced For Sale, Institutional, Self-Promotion and Unpublished.

This is for both Illustration and Photography.

This is the type of competition that is known worldwide and definitely worth entering.

Taking a job

In times like these, freelancers will take any job (and we should), however don't take on anything that is more than you can handle. If you are used to doing smaller production jobs be wary of taking on a larger production (I'm NOT saying don't take the job). Make sure that the team you hire to help you is capable of taking on this type of job and also work with them to make sure the clients are getting the best value and work for their dollars. Be prepared and be confident.

Clients and agencies are super aware of the dollar amounts they are spending now (especially when a commercial shoot can be the same cost as an employee's yearly salary if not more). We will question every dollar if we're unsure of why the cost is higher than we expected or when there is a line item we think is unnecessary.

If the shoot is a bit bigger than you are used to, don't go overboard and get extravagant with the line items and your bottom line costs. Don't hire 3-4 photo assistants if you don't need them. Don't have set builders on location if there isn't a set to build. Unnecessary costs like these will be questioned and will be asked to be removed. Make sure you communicate the best you can between you, your producer, the art buyer and the art director. Make sure you have all the scenario or shot descriptions and keep those lines of communication open during the entire project

I had a recent job where I was working with a team that I felt got greedy and charged for several things that were overkill and not needed. The person even confided in me that this was only their 2nd large production job and wasn't sure how to come up with usage license costs for print advertising. This is a big no-no. As an art buyer I will work with artists but I completely lose confidence in the ability of the artist if something like this is said. It basically says to me ... this person didn't have a good handle on what they were doing.

If you are unsure, get help... ask someone you know who has done jobs like these, get a stellar line producer that can help, talk to a photo consultant or a photo rep to help with estimates or suggestions on the production and approach to the job. Most of all don't bite off more than you can chew if it will ultimately work against you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


About a month ago someone asked me here about estimating and I wanted to try and answer her questions:
How do you present your estimates?
Do you present the photography bids to the client or compile into your own? Do you show each line item? Do you pad anything on your own?

It really depends on the company I'm working for and how they format their estimates and terms and conditions. Normal practice is the photographer/producer estimates are worked into a separate estimate dictated by the company or the program the company is using. Not all line items are shown unless the client specifically requests it. I usually break the costs into photography fee (creative + usage fees) and then into production expenses (which include everything from crew, talent, and equipment to travel expenses and meals).

To be quite frank I usually will pad an estimate and most art buyers do depending on the project. If there is a strict bottom line we won't go above the number dictated by the client however I usually pad numbers because inevitably additional costs are incurred and if not, well then the costs come in lower. Although I should note I never pad the estimate by an incredible amount and usually will add sales tax (My state is 5%) to the bottom line. The thing about padding is that it is not an exact science and sometimes I won't even pad an estimate. It really depends on the project at hand.

In the event of a competitive bid I will do my own estimate formatting in excel to provide an "apples to apples" comparison of the photographer's bidding and where their line items are comparing. I will provide this if asked but also like to have it in my own files and available to the account executives so that they can answer any questions the client might have regarding the estimate (and use their own discretion to provide it to the client if they choose to).
It looks a little like this:

I also can't take credit for this design.. a friend and fellow art buyer showed me this several years ago and it has remained a great asset to my bidding process ever since.

The main thing to remember when presenting estimates is how do you normally put them together and present them and how/what does your client expect? If you morph the two make sure you have backup that details your break down of costs and then the breakdown of the estimate that goes to the client.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Photo Contests

One of the best ways to get your work seen is by entering into photo contests. With all the artists (photo, illustration, design, etc) out there, it's hard to be familiar with everyone. The photo contest work is published in materials that I read and peruse through, therefore I see it and become familiar with it. Many other buyers do the same thing, we read photo annuals and other trade materials. When an artist's work gets published in a photo contest it's viewed by several buyers of imagery which in turn means more views to the artist's website and other materials (add in plug for marketing plan here).

PDN has put a list together for January deadline contests (think "best of 2008" opportunities) here.

While yes most of these photo awards and contests require an entry fee, if you don't try you can't succeed or achieve.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Consultants can be an artist's best friend... so to speak.
They'll give you advice, they'll tell you how it is with honesty and help you morph a plan into reality.

It's a good idea to find a good fit though, most consultants offer preliminary services to make sure the partnership is a potential. For example a 20 minute introductory consultation where the artist can ask questions and the consultant can look at the portfolio and get an idea of the needs the artist is looking for.

Many consultants have a questionnaire they will give you to determine where you are at and any goals you may have. The artist should also go in with a small list of objectives they want to achieve - long term and short term. In addition ask about the consultant's experience and background. After all, this is the person who will be giving you advice on your livelihood. Speak to a few consultants to get an idea of which match the needs you are looking for.

Start your checklist for your 2009 plans and aspirations. If a consultant is someone you'd like to work with there are several well known and respected ones in the creative community. Ask for recommendations (from other artists, reps, art buyers/photo editors, adbase, agency access, etc.) and peruse through their sites (if they have them) or give them a call to start discussing.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Year, New You...

...well not really a new you. But it's the time of year to send out reminders of new work, new websites, new promos, new everything.

I've been getting a bunch of email promos with subject lines like:
New Year, New Work
New website for 2009
not participating in the recession so here's some new work

Lots of "new" in the title

A few suggestions when sending out e-promos to celebrate the new year and draw people into your 2009 marketing, website, imagery, etc.:

Make sure the work really is new. Don't include a few filler images from previous e-promos or imagery that people may have already seen. If you're calling out that it is new work, make sure it's brand new imagery that your audience hasn't experienced yet.

Also think about what your competitors are doing... the same thing. I get bombarded with emails the first 2 weeks in January and then hit a dead zone until late March or April.

I'm a big hater of New Year's resolutions (mostly because I can't keep them past 5 days). I always suggest making any resolutions/changes mid to late January or even in February, this way you actually have a chance of sticking with them. Same goes for e-promos and mailers, everyone sends them out at the same time and then you don't see or hear anything for several months after. When you start out the year with a marketing campaign, stick to it. Come up with a plan that works for you and gets a good response from your audience.

This is the biggest suggestion I have, to come up with a solid marketing plan for yourself this year. With all the hype about the economy, ad agencies having layoffs, magazines closing up shop, and the rest of the doom and gloom it is crucial that freelancers and artists have a plan to market themselves and make their work visible. There are several resources out there that can help with suggestions and ideas (consultants, websites, blogs, etc.). Having a plan can help you achieve this year.

Happy 2009!