A Marketing Survey Of Photo Buyers; How They Hire: What They Consider When They Buy

You know what you would like to do as a photographer--everything! But for your own marketing purposes, "everything" covers too wide a range of subjects. Clients of photographic services are really only interested in what they need. There are no clients who hire for "everything." With that in mind we asked a variety of clients what they look for when they hire a photographer. Our goal is to help you target your marketing to specific clients by understanding what they look for in a photographer. (I would like to offer special thanks to Mark Williams, list manager at www.workbook.com, for help with my survey by providing access to photographic clients from their online Phonebook and Mailing List services.)

Client Feedback
Technical ability is an important factor all clients consider before they hire. Personal qualities such as professionalism, confidence, and flexibility are also highly regarded. Different types of clients further emphasize what is important to them.

Corporate client Ruth Babcock, art director at Cardinal Health, says, "We look for someone skilled in camera/lighting techniques. They must have creative abilities, be flexible, and have a sense of humor. We need someone with a professional studio with various background choices who knows how to procure special background requirements and to build sets. They should also have the necessary and usual props. Finally, they need to be able to negotiate fees and have good scheduling flexibility and availability."

Another corporate client, Gene Ritter, graphics manager at the Minka Group, says his number one issue is, "Experience in shooting my company's product, e.g., lighting fixtures or ceiling fans. I also look for new concepts in lighting and composition."

Editorial client Tom Biederbeck, editor at STEP inside design magazine, looks first to finding a good match for the assignment. He says, "We're most likely to use photographers brought to our attention by the writer, who has agreed with us beforehand on a specific editorial assignment. When we use photographers in our magazines, it's usually because one of our writers has approached us with a well-defined story concept. Only then do we do due diligence by ensuring that the imagery produced by the photographer is technically proficient and aesthetically accomplished."

Advertising clients had the most feedback, probably because they are the most visible of photographic clients and receive the most promotional materials from photographers. Cindy Rowe, manager/art production at Saatchi & Saatchi, says, "It's really all about the work I need. However, if an estimate comes in that either doesn't look professional or have the breakdown of the normal production items, I will definitely wonder how well this particular photographer is going to handle a complicated production. Also, the back end of the photo production is very important to me. I want to hear from the photographer right up front how he plans on shooting and delivering. Oftentimes there are unpleasant surprises."

Beverly Adler, art buyer at G2 Branding & Design Worldwide, suggests, "I feel it should start with a detailed estimate and an assurance that they want to work with us and understand the agency's need to keep within a budget. Never assume that there is a 10 percent variance. Any ideas you may have to make the shoot more productive or helpful to the art directors will make it more likely that you will work with us. Also, I don't want to hear what a great deal you are giving me. If you don't want to work with our budget we are not forcing you to take it."

Jigisha Bouverat, director of art buying at TBWA\Chiat\Day, emphasizes, "Quality of work is number one, we are searching for the photographer who has the most relevant portfolio and who demonstrates a true understanding of the creative vision during our discussions. Each project is different, but overall a photographer should be passionate about their work, professional, understand production, and, most importantly, connect with the creative."