Editor’s Note: This post was originally posted on March 20, 2019, but we believe the content continues to be relevant to members today when setting up or refreshing their Find A Photographer portfolios, so we have republished for another review.
With ASMP now regularly promoting its Find A Photographer service both online and in print publications like Communication Arts — there is no better time than now for you to update your Find A Photographer portfolio. For many members, Find A Photographer is one of the key benefits of ASMP membership, and many of our pro members say that their inclusion in the platform pays for their membership dues several times over every year.
Below are a few tips for making sure you are getting the most out of your Find A Photographer experience.
Update Your Portfolio — Regularly (Or At Least More Than Once A Decade)
One of the most common complaints I hear from the end users of Find A Photographer (buyers and editors) is that occasionally the work they see seems a bit out of date. Sometimes a few years out of date… and in the worst cases… a few decades. You may have been the hottest photographer of 1981 (won all the awards, landed all the assignments) but if your aesthetics and work haven’t evolved in a few decades, your likelihood of landing assignment for current campaigns and assignments dwindles dramatically (unless your strategy is to wait for the inevitable next wave of 80’s retro revival fever.) That’s not to say you should chase trendy looks (and some of you may have some incredible career making images from that era that still stand on their own) but you should at least be making sure that your subject matter reflects the fact that you still work in the modern age (or that the work has at least aged well.) Some of us may just need to pay more attention to how often we update our portfolio with new work, while others may need to be more aggressive in terms of pursuing self-assigned work and personal projects. I try to update my Find A Photographer portfolio every six months to make sure that the work I am showing is the best current representation of my pursuits and desires as a photographer. And I always try to keep in mind a saying that was passed on to me by one of my mentors.
“Show what you want to shoot”
Make Sure Your Contact Info Is Current
Every now and then we come across anomalies with the Find A Photographer search results in which someone appears in a search far removed from where they actually work. Often when this happens we find that people have often forgotten to update their ASMP account and contact info. So while they may list themselves as working in one city, they are showing up in the searches for another region based on their primary address. Be sure all your info is up to date in your ASMP profile when there are any changes to your contact info.
Have a target in mind for each body of work
Relevance is becoming a huge issue in regards to how art directors and editors are perceiving the marketing materials they receive. Too many photographers take the shotgun approach to marketing by sending their work and promotions to literally every potential client out there — regardless of how relevant that work may be. The end result? Photo editors at baking magazines receiving images of monster trucks when what they want to see are gorgeous pictures of cakes that look like monster trucks.
The same extends to your Find A Photographer portfolio — have a specific target or type of client in mind, and build your portfolio around that. Even better, sit down and have a good long think about the type of work you want to be shooting and the type of stories you want to be telling — and build a portfolio to attract those types of clients. Trying to please everyone often results in pleasing no one.
Ever since I first heard him speak about it, I have always been enthralled by Doug Menuez’s idea of a “F#$@ You” Portfolio (You can hear him talk about it in this interview with me here). And I think it’s a pretty good thought exercise for photographers trying to focus in on the work that they think is most important to defining who they are and where they want to go with their work.
They care about more than just your images.
The number of technically competent and skilled photographers out there is growing — every day. Whether they are working pros, have aspirations of such, or are simply talented and passionate amateurs — being a skilled photographer is no longer the career-defining attribute it was once, in fact, it has become something of the bare minimum for many clients.
So how can we differentiate ourselves outside the bounds of our work alone?
We need to start adapting to the idea that every single interaction and point of contact that we have with our potential clients is a reflection on our personal brand, and has an enormous effect on how we are perceived. Every phone call, every email, every in-person meeting, and every piece of written content that we generate or associate with ourselves is scrutinized and weighed (whether consciously or subconsciously) and has a dramatic effect on whether or not we get hired for an assignment.
Are you trustworthy?
Do you inspire confidence?
Are you someone the client sees as a unique and valued collaborator? Rather than just a technician or vendor who can be swapped out as convenience dictates.
Do you have a unique point of view — not just in your work, but also in how you deal with clients and related to your working process?
Are you someone the client wants to work with? Or do they view you as difficult and too much trouble despite the talent you bring?
The last thing you want to be perceived as is generic and interchangeable, a fungible resource that fills a role just as well as any other photographer could in the client’s eyes. And yes, your work has to be good, but you have more tools in your arsenal than that. On your Find A Photographer profile, your bio is an often overlooked forum for communicating what about your background, passions, and process makes you unique — someone more suited to be seen as a partner and collaborator. Someone who is regarded as THE photographer they want to work with, not just “a” photographer.
I’ve read so many bios on Find A Photographer that read the same:
“Photographer X is internationally recognized…..”
“Photographer X has won these awards…..”
“Photographer X studied at these schools and worked under these photographers….”
Nothing about what drives them, nothing about their process or how they work with clients, nothing that sounds human or relatable. It’s flat, institutional, and unremarkable. The awards, clients, and recognition may be monumentally important achievements but they amount to nothing if you can’t get people excited to be reading about them.
If you are looking for some tips on writing a great bio that is engaging and humanizing, then I suggest you start here and here and here.
We talk a lot about what great communicators we are visually, but that means we often let other forms of communication (like writing) go untended and unrefined. Let’s change that.