Welcome to our 6th series of posts where we share the results from our conversations held directly with community leaders about top-of-mind photo-industry issues. Community Table was formed from the collective efforts of Matt Nycz and Kate Chase of Brite Productions and Heather Elder and Lauranne Lospalluto of Heather Elder Represents with the idea that there is nothing more powerful in our industry than education.
L’Étoile du Nord is a French phrase meaning “The Star of the North”. It is also the motto of the US state of Minnesota. It was chosen by the state’s first governor, Henry Hastings Sibley, and was adopted in 1861, three years after admission of Minnesota to the union.
And so it was that after year’s of projects and portfolio shows with many a Minnesotan, we bundled ourselves up and went to Minneapolis to host a Community Table for 7 of our industries “star” Art Producer’s. And true to their motto, they were stars indeed, giving generously of their time and expertise to help us dig deeper around a subject that seems to be on everyone’s minds these days: “The Art of the Portfolio Show”.
As a reminder, each Conversation Starter was directed to one person with a general discussion ensuing. Rather than sharing the entire conversation, we included the original question and then the quotes and notes that were most relevant. Please note, often times the person leading the conversation spoke most often.
Please note, there will be 5 posts shared over the next 2.5 weeks. Tune in every Tuesday and Thursday for the latest installments.
Minneapolis buyers in attendance:
Jenny Barnes/Content Producer, Carmichael Lynch
Kat Dalager/Director of Project Operations, Life Time Fitness
Christopher Grimes/Senior Integrated Producer, OLSON
Dave Lewis/Photography Production + Art Buying, Freelance
Mark Pakulski/Senior Integrated Art Producer, OLSON
Chris Peters/Senior Art Producer, Colle+McVoy
Jason Santos/Producer, Zeus Jones
So with that, we welcome you back to the table, and our 2nd installment from this series.
Question 3: What is one tip or insight to share with fellow producers that you feel makes a show successful for you, your agency? How is the best way for you to be contacted?
Jason Santos/Content Producer, Zeus Jones: Differentiation. We’ve all been to a trillion portfolio shows. So many of the books are the same. It makes me wonder if we have lost the script in what we’re trying to accomplish. And, of course the work is paramount.
Kate Chase/Brite Productions: How is the best way for you to be contacted?
Kat Dalager/Director of Project Operations, Life Time Fitness: Email (around the table, everyone agrees)
Kate Chase/Brite Productions: How many times?
Kat Dalager/Director of Project Operations, Life Time Fitness: Three or four times. But I don’t think anyone here at this table would let it get to that many times.
Kate Chase/Brite Productions: But if it did get that far, should they keep trying?
Kat Dalager/Director of Project Operations, Life Time Fitness: I don’t know if you can quantify. Part of it is being at the right place at the right time.
Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents: If I don’t have a response after three or four times, I usually stop. I assume you are busy or aren’t going to be around. Maybe the email fell to the bottom of your list. Regardless it isn’t a priority for you and I totally get it. Timing wasn’t right. It makes me wonder though, how can we be better about making it easier for you to reply?
Kat Dalager/Director of Project Operations, Life Time Fitness: I’m a huge believer in using the subject line wisely. I will be in town Dec. 13-24. Then I know that’s what it’s about. It’s not a promo. You’re coming into town. I get it.
Mark Pakulski/Senior Integrated Art Producer, OLSON: That’s good. We’re inundated with so many emails. Communicating that you know your dates and times is very important. It is hard to reply to the open ended emails about whether I want to meet or not, what my schedule is etc. I do not have time for a multiple email exchange. Just tell me what works for you, give me options (clearly!) if you have them and then I can choose one. We can cut down a massive email chain to one or two emails. Put it all in one place. Be clear.
Christopher Grimes/Senior Integrated Art Producer, OLSON: And, if none of that works, we can always grab a drink. We’re here to build a relationship. It would be nice to have a glass of wine or a coffee or lunch. The key people are the people you’re contacting. I appreciate you taking the time to build a relationship with me. At the end of the day, I’m going to be the person who works with you.
Kate Chase/Brite Productions: So, once we have a show scheduled with you, how can we fine tune or curate the work so it’s most relevant?
Kat Dalager/Director of Project Operations, Life Time Fitness: My presumption is you did your homework before you contacted me. And, I am guessing we have a relationship; so just ask me what is most relevant for me to see.
Jason Santos/Content Producer, Zeus Jones: Show that you did your homework and tried. Don’t bring me food photography when we have no food accounts. Limited communication is key. Less is more in email.
Kat Dalager/Director of Project Operations, Life Time Fitness: I’ve had reps saying, “Send me a list of people I should see when I’m in town”. They don’t realize how much work that is for me to do that.
Jenny Barnes/Content Producer, Carmichael Lynch: One book is enough. I don’t need to see all of them. When you can, consolidate your books.
Christopher Grimes/Senior Integrated Art Producer, OLSON: Someone came in recently who had a lifestyle, a kid’s book, and a personal project. If you can’t get it down to one thing that shows you value my time. Please don’t say, “Here’s 4 things for you to look at.” Say, “I respect the 30 or 20 or even the 5 minutes you have.” It gets to be overwhelming and puts a bad taste in my mouth and makes me think they don’t get the industry. And, as you can imagine, we get bored after looking at 5 books. Each one has over 20 pages. I just looked at 200 images. Or 400.
Unattributed: People don’t realize how big digital portfolios get. Oh my god, it doesn’t stop. When reps come in with all iPads it is hard to concentrate.
Christopher Grimes: (making the iPad swiping motion) this motion puts me to sleep. I want to see it printed.
Chris Peters, Senior Art Producer, Colle+McVoy: In general, the creatives love big prints. The pages are much more scrutinized than the images on an iPad. Curate what you’re showing. Drill it down to your best work.
Unattribued: If I said, “I love this food photography, do you have any more?” Then the iPad would work great. You could have it in your back pocket. People are so diverse, the iPad helps showcase all.
Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents: We could use some clear guidelines from each agency as to what your expectations for a show. For example, do you expect large catering? Light snacks? Do you have a favorite place? How about who is the contact person if I ship my books ahead of time? Do you know the size room I will have? What type of work is most relevant? Some agencies have a document all ready to go once the show is booked. It is brilliant and very helpful. It cuts back on emails for sure. AND, it shows me that you respect and understand what is about to happen.
Kat Dalager/Director of Project Operations, Life Time Fitness: There are some people that maybe don’t understand that it’s good to bring food to get people to come out. Sometimes I feel like I need to spend time educating them or their show won’t be that great. But that takes time too.
Kate Chase/Brite Productions: That is where the Document comes into play for some. All the information about what you expect in one place. You send it out each time.
Chris Peters/Senior Art Producer, Colle+McVoy: I don’t have hard and fast rules, its usually depends on the size of the show. I appreciate when reps ask these types of questions when planning a show, a short conversation about catering, number of books being brought and how many creatives to expect can go along way towards a better show.
Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents: The agencies out there hosting the most successful and relevant portfolio shows are starting to limit the number they host per year. We think this is a great thing. Some will only do 2 a month. And, you need to sign up way in advance. The idea is that you do not have to be available to every single person. And, If I come to town and am not able to host a group show, then maybe you can meet me one on one or maybe not. Either way, you have boundaries. Those spots are very coveted but those turnouts are amazing. And consistently so.
Kate Chase/Brite Productions: And, the whole department comes out. They know the time; it is same time every week. They don’t schedule meetings around it and they actually look forward to them.
Unattributed: Who coordinates the dates?
Kate Chase/Brite Productions: There is one person in charge. And there is no obligation. Everyone knows the routine. The preference is to plan the shows and not be spontaneous.
Jenny Barnes/Content Producer, Carmichael Lynch: I would actually prefer it be spontaneous. We have a hard time forecasting. Things change. Several years ago we had a better idea of the cycles of the clients. Now it’s more random. I tend to not know 3 weeks in advance what it’s going to look like
Kat Dalager/Director of Project Operations, Life Time Fitness: If we plan it, I can make more of an effort to get a group show. There tends to be times of the year a lot of people come here — often in the fall. Knowing in advance helps us out.
Christopher Grimes: Anyone who comes to Minneapolis in January is going to be totally remembered. If you came them, you could make US pay for treats, and we would even go meet you in a parking lot. “Oh my god, I remember that person who came in January!” People know that Minneapolis is only truly nice 4 months a year. People don’t think about what’s right for us, they think about what’s right for them. Think about what’s right for the person or agency you’re visiting and what’s right for them. You might stand out more!
Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents: How about flyers? Do you use them to promote the shows? How do you cheerlead for your guests?
Kat Dalager/Director of Project Operations, Life Time Fitness: Flyers work well and ones that are a collage of images always look the best. BUT you have to showcase the names of the photographers as well. The creatives need to see who is coming. That excited them as much as the images.
Kate Chase/Brite Productions: Saatchi will put flyers in their elevators. RPA in LA has a big easel by the door when you come in.
Christopher Grimes/Senior Integrated Art Producer, OLSON: It’s nice to change things up not always have to be show. At the end of the day it’s about the face time, spending time together, becoming friends and having a trust in a mutual bond. Let’s grab a coffee or a drink. That works too. I’ll look at the work later.
Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents: Maybe release the reps from doing shows? You don’t have to host anymore if it’s not working but just continue to meet the reps but in a more social atmosphere. Discard the portfolio show for a while until people are hungry for it.
Question 4: What is the best way to follow up after a show?
Christopher Grimes/Senior Integrated Art Producer, OLSON: I love handwritten notes. And, going that little extra bit. Say someone really liked a certain photographer’s portfolio; it would be great to be able to leave something on that person’s desk to remind them of what they just saw. A cupcake and a leave behind maybe? Or, at a later date a small print or new collection of work. This is the moving back and forth between rep and art producer, that extra follow up, putting something on their desk, it makes me shine and it makes you shine.
Mark Pakulski/Senior Integrated Art Producer, OLSON: If there’s a photographer we’re digging or an image we’re really drawn to – and then you get a book in the mail, that is really cool. Or, if a creative really likes a photographer, have that photographer email them. That could be a cool connection too
Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents: How about promo pieces? Are those good follow-ups? Or, even in general do they get your attention?
Kat Dalager/Director of Project Operations, Life Time Fitness: I keep the ones that are meaningful. I have a drawer and a half full. I don’t have a place to keep them anymore so I recycle a lot of the physical promos. I also keep bookmarks on web-pages.
Christopher Grimes/Senior Integrated Art Producer, OLSON: Plastic on mailers! Let’s talk about how wasteful that is for a minute. So, this comes (gesturing like he received a mailer). It’s almost a slap in the face. Jeez, I can see it. But now you have to make me open it. Because I love the environment, I’m going to separate it and throw it away. At least put in an envelope so there is some anticipation when I open it. All the stupid plastic…the first person that says I’m getting rid of plastic gets my attention. A postcard is fine. That’s all we need.
Chris Peters/Senior Art Producer, Colle+McVoy: Yes, I think we all appreciate a well-designed promo piece with a hand written note. My favorites get pinned to my office wall and creatives comment on them and asking who shot them. I try to cycle them every couple months to keep it fresh. I love custom promos that have a theme or incorporate a creative way to help tell the story of the images.
Jenny Barnes/Content Producer, Carmichael Lynch: People send it in a plastic sleeve because they think it gets damaged before it gets there. But here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter. So what if there is a streak. I can go online and see the images anyway.
Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents: So, the portfolio show is still a positive tool?
Everyone: Yes, definitely. Absolutely. YES!
Tune in Thursday, February 26th for the 4th installment, answers to our classic, one-word that best describes our industry question.
And to see previous Community Tables posts from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City and Chicago, go here: please link here.