Your Next First Stop

Posted on: February 22nd, 2011 by: Zack Seckler

Last month I got an email with “Love your work” in the subject line. Not that compliments work on me but I proceeded to quickly open the email and read every last work. What I found was a great idea: First-stop.org

The idea:

“Everyday we creatives are glutted with promos from photographers and illustrators and far more often than not, they get thrown out…it’s not that we don’t love their work, we do! but we have no place to file it all – physically or mentally. that’s why we made first-stop, a free and easy to use online showcase for photographers and illustrators. the site gives creatives direct access to the artists they want to work with, while providing a paperless alternative to the barrage of promos.”

First-Stop is in it’s infancy but there’s already piles of great work up there (including images from yours truly…not biased at all). The site has a somewhat addictive quality too…lot’s of great work accompanied by a clickable “stamp your approval” graphic which adds to an image’s popularity ranking and helps sort through what images you like. Most importantly, it’s good for the environment and easy on the photographer’s wallet!

First-Stop.org from matthieu brajot on Vimeo.

Marketing & Self-Promotion — Part Five

Posted on: February 9th, 2011 by: Zack Seckler

This series provides answers to questions that every photographer has about marketing themselves and their work to ad agencies. Each part in the series is an interview with a different art buyer or art producer about how they find photographers and what works and what doesn’t when it comes to marketing and self-promotion. Their answers are completely candid and oftentimes surprising.

If you read the whole series you’ll find tons of useful nuggets plus some interesting differences in opinion on what many (myself included) may have assumed to have been clear cut issues. Also be sure to read part one, two, three, and four.

Part four of this series is my conversation with Chris Buda, Manager of Art Buying at BBDO Atlanta, who’s been in the business for eight years.

Image from the AT&T Hands campaign by Andric.

Seckler: When you get a layout what’s your process for finding a photographer?

Buda: Every campaign’s a little bit different, and every art director works a little bit differently. Some already have a photographer in mind. Most of the time I’m providing suggestions that I think are right or, if no one immediately comes to mind, I find by combing through rep and source sites or books. It’s often a combination of a few things.

Seckler: Can you give an example of how you found a photographer for a specific campaign?

Buda: I guess one campaign that’s pretty notable is the AT&T Hands campaign.

Seckler: I thought you might mention that one, Andric, a photographer I’ve previously featured here on F STOP shot that right?

Buda: Exactly. That one was an example of having a good relationship. We had worked with Andric before on some other AT&T work. He and the Creative Director had an even longer history of working together. We collectively agreed he was the right guy for the job. That’s an example of one way of things going but it can be totally the flip-side. Something could come across my desk, that I don’t necessarily immediately have someone in mind for and I would go my various tagged sites or to sources like PhotoServe or BlackBook or flip through Archive or CA.

Seckler: Tell me about the sourcebooks, which ones do you like the most and which are most useful for you.

Buda: In terms of specific sourcebooks that I like to keep around, I think the At-Edge books are pretty cool, although they only give you a brief glimpse of the photographer’s work. They’re small, they’re easy to keep around and they’re updated throughout the year. They’re frequent enough to keep up with new imagery of the same photographers that you might be keeping tabs on. BlackBook and Workbook are good too, but honestly I found myself using their websites more so than the actual books themselves, just because it’s a little less cumbersome and more immediate to search online.  It’s also something I can do remotely. I also keep around Archive, CA and PDN.

Seckler: Do you gravitate more towards online portals instead of the printed pieces.

Buda: Yeah. So much is done online, it’s just a workflow thing.

Seckler: Is there anything you don’t like about the online sourcebooks?

Image from the AT&T Hands campaign by Andric.

Buda: They can be a little frustrating, honestly. I think PhotoServe is probably one of the better ones. I feel like a lot of times it’s depending on what the photographer has listed themselves as. And a lot of times what they claim to have as a specialty isn’t really accurate. You just run the gamut in keywords. Honestly, I find it most helpful when I’m looking for something that needs to be location specific. If I have to do something in a location that I need a local photographer, that’s where I find the online portals to be the most helpful. If I’m just purely looking creatively, it can be a little bit more difficult, to get to what I need.

Seckler: Why?

Buda: Just ’cause it’s such a wide net. If you’re not limiting by geographical area, then there’s a lot of people that can claim to be specializing in the different categories and actually aren’t appropriate.

Seckler: Photographers spend tons of cash advertising in Archive, Communication Arts and similar industry pubs…do those ads have an impact on you? Do you even look at them?

Buda: Yeah, you can’t flip through and not look at them. Obviously when you’re picking up the books it’s not to look at the ads first, it’s to look at what content was published editorially. But it’s like I mentioned with At-Edge, it’s a way to keep up with the new imagery.

Seckler: Photographers spend so much time and money entering photo contests, does a photographer who has a reputable industry awards under their belt in any way affect your judgment about hiring them?

Buda: It’s not everything but it certainly doesn’t hurt. If you see photographers that are consistently recognized, then they’re likely doing something right. Especially if you’re going into a situation where you’re with a new photographer or someone you don’t necessarily have a personal recommendation that led you to talking to them. It gives you peace of mind when you’re looking in the bidding process and considering moving forward with them.

Seckler: When you’re hiring a photographer how often is it based on a relationship that you have with them or their rep, and how often is it that you’re finding someone off of a promo, or through an ad or a sourcebook? How often is it relationship versus going in blind?

Image from a Georgia Pacific campaign by Michael Schnabel.

Buda: I’d say it’s a good mix, probably 60% relationship based, 40% not. Even if it’s a new photographer, it might be a rep or producer that you’ve worked with before. Triple bidding comes into play here as well, while culling down to the final three, it’s often a mix of familiar and non-familiar photographers.

Seckler: How do you feel about email promos?

Buda: It’s the first thing to get deleted if I’ve got too many e-mails to deal with that day. But I do take a look if the preview image sparks some interest. Then I’ll hit their website. If I like the website, then I bookmark it. So I think they’re helpful and effective, but there are a ton of them. They are deleted frequently.

Seckler: So you don’t look at all of them.

Buda: I look at what I can. And if the file size on them is huge or if they’ve sent me big attachments, and it’s filling up my inbox, then they’re immediately gone.

Seckler: Now what about mail promos, whether it be a simple card or something more extravagant…how do you like receiving those versus email promos?

Buda: It’s hard, because I really do like a lot of the stuff I get. I get some really pretty clever packages, and there’s a lot of stuff that I put up and keep around. But I do get so much of it that a lot of it has to go straight to trash or recycling. And that is aggravating for a few reasons. But I also just feel the pain of the photographers paying a bunch of money that – I can’t necessarily keep everyone around, so I feel like it can be a little bit of a wasted resource. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword I guess.

Seckler: Going back to bookmarks, how many bookmarks do you have approximately?

Buda: It’s a lot. It’s got to be easily over 100 and constantly growing. But categorized into different needs.

Seckler: And what percentage of those people have you actually hired for a job?

Image from a Georgia Pacific campaign by Michael Schnabel.

Buda: A lot of the sites are reps and whatnot so it’s not necessarily all photographers. It’s a bit hard to give a percentage but over the years I’ve probably bid with, I don’t know, maybe 30 – 40%.  It’s obviously a lesser percentage of photographers being awarded.

Seckler: Does a photographer having a rep matter to you?

Buda: No, not at all.

Seckler: It doesn’t matter in any way?

Buda: Sure, often times I find photographers through their reps but I wouldn’t base a decision on a photographer on whether they’re repped or not.

Seckler: Any reason?

Buda: No, not necessarily. As long as the photographer is able to turn around bids and be savvy in the bidding portion as well as the creative portion, I’ve got no problem going for a photographer that doesn’t have a rep.

Seckler: Great, thanks for your time Chris.

Buda: You bet.

Guido Vitti

Posted on: February 1st, 2011 by: Zack Seckler

Written by Sheri Radel Rosenberg

Guido Vitti is a Boston-based photographer who has done award-winning campaigns for Skittles, Truth, Orbit, Bank of America, and others. He has shot editorial campaigns for GQ, Lemon, Best Life, and Esquire.  We have it on good authority that he loves the Clash, his wife and son, and his sometimes well-behaved dog.

I first thought of Guido for this Q&A because he’s cool, because he’s a true collaborator, and we share a love of punk, the Northeast, and big ideas. His work always inspired me for its honesty, and I think it’s his personality that lends itself to a real approach to art, photography, and life.

As someone who knows a thing or two about what’s trending in commercial photography these days, I’d say Guido is right on target – you have no idea how many times as an art buyer of late that the art director ask has been looking for “real, authentic” images.  Of course, all of us in advertising know that there are great pains that must be taken to keep it real – and the balance of making the images still look beautiful while stripping them down takes a professional approach. Guido is that professional.

© Guido Vitti

SRR: What are you doing right now?

GV: Right now I am staring out the window drinking coffee trying to muster the energy to once again throw myself into the breach and continue working on two new websites. One a revamp and redo of my current site with tons more work that I have just shot / kept hidden.  The other site is for all of my personal work which will be split up into two or three book ideas. The personal work will be transformed into actual books soonish.

SRR: What has been your favorite project of the last year and why?

GV: My blog actually. it has been a repository for all the small pictures that feel the most personal to me. It has been a bit of a revelation to see how they all hang together and take on a new meaning and has been the inspiration for finally doing a book and personal site where all those images can live.

SRR: What inspires you?

© Guido Vitti

GV: My son. Low light, the things I see when I am driving in my car and catch in the corner of my eye as I pass by.

SRR: What trend/artist/movement do you think is going to affect our industry?

GV: I don’t believe in trends or movements. I think anything you do photographically has to matter to you personally to affect anyone.

SRR: How has working with agencies changed in the past five years?

GV: It hasn’t changed much except for the fact that the actual printed portfolio doesn’t get that much use anymore. I find myself making custom PDF’s for particular projects that address an aspect of the project at hand.

SRR: What would be your dying meal?

GV: Anything with Pancetta. Pancetta makes everything, even dying, better.

SRR: What Do you do when you’re not working?

GV: I try to ride my bike and spend every moment with my family… usually riding our bikes. Lazing around Davis Sq. and cooking…a lot of cooking.

SRR: What are you listening to at shoots these days?

GV: It would come as no surprise to most that I am a huge fan of The Clash and The Jam and all that punk / post punk from a time ago.

© Guido Vitti

SRR: Describe your dream project in 50 words or less.

GV: Impossible. I guess it is the same for most but someone to give me a pile of cash to just go shoot whatever I want to shoot. I don’t believe in the way that photography is taught in school. I don’t believe in a grand architecture to one’s work. The idea that the concept is king is limiting to the images you make. It edits the way you look at things that would otherwise be interesting to you and ruins the discovery process that happens while shooting.  Not every image has to fit into an overall idea of a “series”. I think it needs to flow naturally and over time. An idea for a picture is not a picture, it’s just an idea.

SRR: Why did you become a photographer?

GV: I started out life as a painter, while in art school I took a photography course and fell hard for it. It hit me square in the head.

SRR: What other photographers do you admire?

© Guido Vitti

GV: First and foremost Luigi Ghirri and it’s not because he is Italian. Eggleston had always been a huge influence. The work of Stephen Shore, Gary Winogrand, Lise Sarfati, Mitch Epstein.

SRR: What pop culture trend drives you crazy?

GV: All trends drive me crazy so it’s really hard to narrow it down. I tend to not listen to all the noise out there, in the end it doesn’t really help anything except to wear you down.

SRR: Who is getting it right these days in terms of advertising?

GV: I really don’t know who gets it right… there are so many agencies that I admire. if pressed I would say my short list is Mother, Wieden, HHCC.

SRR: The future of creativity is BLANK.

GV: Yup… it’s always a blank slate. That is the most exciting thing about it.

© Guido Vitti

SRR: Baseball players have tics and habits on the mound- do you have a pre-shoot ritual or outfit you wear to bring you luck?

GV: Nope I’m not superstitious at all, I just show up and smile a bunch. I consider myself pretty lucky to do what I do.

SRR: Where do you get your news on the industry and beyond?

GV: From friends and on Facebook.

SRR: What do you think of social media as a marketing tool?

GV: I think anything that allows you to get your work in front of people is a good thing. I just think that it can be too much shouting “look at me” all the time.  I don’t think anyone wants to constantly be told how cool you are, it’s exhausting. I love blogs, but the tendency for some to always talk about themselves as having “arrived” is weird to me. I especially see it with photographers who spend more time blogging about their work than making pictures that move them forward as photographers.  Believing one’s own press is never a good thing I think.

SRR: Tell us a talent you have other than photography.

GV: I am an excellent cook, I know it sounds pompous as Hell but it’s true.  I’m pretty damn good in the kitchen.