Promos We Kept: PhotoPlus Conference and Expo 2017 Edition

September 6, 2017

By Sharon Ber

With just over a month until PhotoPlus Conference and Expo, we are featuring promotions by six photographers who will be speaking at the conference, which takes place October 25-28. Each take a different approach to marketing their work, but all share the belief that a promo should represent who the photographer is as an artist. We asked them about their marketing strategies, and why they enjoy sharing their knowledge through education. You can find details about their upcoming classes below or see the full conference schedule here.

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Lindsay Adler

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Lindsay Adler

Lindsay Adler

“My style is clean, bold, and graphic,” says fashion photographer Lindsay Adler. “I use rich colors or high-contrast black and white.” She’s refined her style over 17 years in the business, starting with a portrait studio and shooting weddings. Later she transitioned into fashion and beauty. She designed her current promo, which is housed in a wooden box, to emphasize her artistry.

Measuring 5-inches square by 2-inches deep, her promo, created by Miller’s Professional Imaging, includes ten 4×4-inch prints and four matching wood stands to display favorites. “I’ve used Miller’s for printing my promotional and marketing materials for more than a decade and I’ve always loved working with them.”

Miller’s produced a total of 50 boxes, which Adler filled with three categories of images: fashion, hair and makeup. This allowed her to better target her marketing efforts to specific clients. Each box cost around $20-$35, and her overall budget for a project this size ranges from $2,500-$3,500 per year.

Despite her busy calendar, Adler teaches live workshops and online classes on CreativeLive and her own tutorial website. “I love to teach” Adler says. “Teaching makes me a better photographer. It pushes me to understand my craft to its fullest. It forces me to understand my creative process and visual problem solving. It encourages me to constantly  innovate and create.”

Adler’s class Fashion & Beauty Photography Essentials takes place on Thursday, October 26 from 4:30-6:30PM at the PhotoPlus Conference.

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Doug Menuez

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Doug Menuez

Doug Menuez

“Maybe it’s the anti-promo,” photographer Doug Menuez says of his 8×10-inch self-printed book “A Good Death.” Menuez’s book wasn’t created as a marketing piece—it was a personal project about the death and funeral of a close friend. “My friend led an incredible life as an entrepreneur, producer and also as a believer in the power of storytelling,” says Menuez, who shoots both commercial and documentary work. “The way he faced his end was incredibly inspiring to me and I felt it was important to document that for his friends and family—but also for myself.”

While a funeral doesn’t seem like the most likely subject for self-promotion, the book is a good representation of the work Menuez has always created. “What I bring is always about authentic emotion and real moments, even in service of commercial work,” says Menuez. “I can’t go shoot a commercial project and turn off the core of who I am.”

Menuez says his career has proven it is possible to get paid to shoot what you  love. His promos have always included very personal projects. “The most jobs and awards I’ve gotten have always been through revealing something deeply meaningful to me, or an expression of something personal.”

A small number of copies of his book were printed via, and cost less than $300 for printing and Fedex delivery. “We’ve used [Issuu] a fair amount over the years and they do a great job for the price.”

While Menuez says he prefers “to work with great designers,” the timing necessary to create this project didn’t allow for it. So he created it himself using InDesign, and worked with picture editor Karen Mullarkey to help make the final image selections. “She’s amazing and ruthless,” says Menuez. “Ruthless but with love. I am so lucky to get to work with her.”

Menuez also believes in helping other photographers through sharing knowledge. “Maybe it’s because my parents were involved in social change, but I’ve always believed in contributing in some way what I’ve learned to my community and the next generation.”

“A Good Death” ends with an image of a muddy hand print left behind by the eldest bereaved son. “We all pressed hands into the mud to leave an imprint on his simple pine coffin,” Menuez says. The image reminds us of how we all leave our imprints in this world.

Menuez is teaching two classes during the conference this year. On Thursday, October 26, from 4:15-6:00 PM is his photo walk, The Zen of Street Photography: A Daily Practice, and on Friday, October 27, from 8:00-10:00 PM, Menuez presents lessons that have helped him succeed during his class Photographer as Entrepreneur: Unleash Your Creative & Financial Potential.

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Drew Gurian

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Drew Gurian

Drew Gurian

When Drew Gurian was about 14, he gained access through family friends to shoot the alt-rock band Guster. “Most of those photos were awful,” Gurian says, “but the experience enabled me to learn the basics of photography, and it grew into a passion over the next few years.” He studied photography and communication design in college and interned for Joe McNally and Danny Clinch. For Gurian, who had also been a drummer, “mixing music and photography seemed like a perfect match.”

In his 11×15-inch newsprint promo, Gurian highlights his passion for music photography. Inside are images of James Bay, Bonnie Raitt, Ed Sheeran and Kendrick Lamar, to name a few. He produced 100 pieces at Prestone Printing in Long Island City. The cost for the the promo was about $2,500, which included printing, envelopes, postage and design.

In the past, Gurian has worked with photo editors to help make image selections, but for his latest promo, he collaborated with creative director Catherine Gray. “She helped me on the overall edit, and designed the entire piece.” The goal of the promo, Gurian says, was to “showcase two distinct styles of work I often get hired to shoot—produced portraits, both studio and location, and more journalistic work, oftentimes backstage, in recording studios or on tour with a band.”

With an annual promo budget of roughly $1,500-$3,500, Gurian usually sends out between two and four printed promos each year, to a mailing list of 100-200 contacts. “In this current digital age, I find it really important to show my work offline. Ideally, this means an in-person meeting, but oftentimes the precursor to that is a printed promo piece. Art buyers and photo editors are all inundated with email and print promos, and it’s very tough to break through the clutter.”

Gurian sends promos to relevant editorial contacts and ad agencies who work with alcohol, beverage and apparel brands. Over the last few years, he’s become “much more targeted” with his marketing efforts, both online and especially when sending printed promos. About a week after the mailing, he sends personal emails to anyone that received a promo. It’s usually at this time that Gurian will hear back from a client. Sometimes it turns into a meeting, and sometimes a shoot. “In this particular case, I was able to correlate at least two jobs directly back to this promo, which made this a successful campaign.”

Recently, Gurian began teaching workshops and giving talks around the world, most notably at the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, ME, and the Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai, UAE. “Teaching is certainly rewarding, in that you’re inspiring a new generation of shooters.” Gurian says a huge amount of information can be taught in a workshop setting, but that once a workshop is complete, the real work starts for the participants. “The greatest reward,” Gurian says, “is to see how [participants] used the workshop as a jumping off point,” and to watch their work progress.

Drew Gurian’s workshop The Quick and Simple Portrait takes place on Thursday, October 26, at 8:00-10:00 AM.

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Ramona Rosales

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Ramona Rosales

Ramona Rosales

“My promos are 100 percent me, down to the font choices and Pantone background colors,” says photographer Ramona Rosales. “I think these elements say a lot about you and your brand. The choice of images and the flow of the pages relate [to] your esthetics and consistency of your style and approach.” Rosales edits all her images and designs all her promos by herself, usually laying them out in a day. Then, she’ll often walk away from the project for a week or two, to give her time and space to see if the narrative works. Since most of Rosales’s clients come from an art and design background, “they are in-tune to these visual cues beyond the photography,” she says. “The presentation says a lot about a photographer.”

Rosales’s inspiration comes from fanzines and small-run magazines, which she collects. “I always love the format and idea of a limited edition collectors piece—something you would want to save or display on a shelf. This promo is #4 of what I consider my own fanzine.” The first and second in the series were newspaper print pieces and were created in “limited, hand-numbered editions” which Rosales distributed to contacts she thought would appreciate them. “For #3 and #4, I switched the format for better quality printing and something that would display nicely.”

Rosales sends her promos to editorial, advertising, film/TV, in-house fashion and design contacts. She usually sends 500-2,500 promos to her list twice a year.

“With social media drowning everyone in sensory overload, I wanted to give my clients something tangible and a piece of me, my work and esthetic. Of course the main objective is to get work in front of people,” Rosales says, “but to frame it in a way that can show them your work in a few pages and elaborate what YOU are all about. It’s a unique approach if you are true to yourself and voice.”

Rosales declined to disclose her budget, but says she’s been using the same print broker for about 10 years. He uses different suppliers to help get the best prices for the quality Rosales requires. Clear Image, which Rosales has used before and who she says has “an amazing set up and crew,” printed 2,000 pieces for this job.

When it comes to teaching, “There might be unique insights that you don’t learn in school or even as an assistant that comes into play on every level of a job,” Rosales says. “I’m always happy to share my point of view or personal antidotes that may make someone’s else job a little easier or more fulfilling.”

Ramona Rosales will be part of a panel discussion on ESPN The Magazine “Body Issue”: The Photography and the Photographers on Friday, October 27, at 10:15 AM-12:15 PM.  This panel of editors and photographers will discuss the process of planning, producing and shooting the annual “Body Issue” of the magazine.

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Ian Spanier

Photo by Sharon Ber for PDN. © Ian Spanier

Ian Spanier

A few years ago, Ian Spanier and creative director Warren Mason realized that between them they had “nearly 40 years of magazine experience,” and decided to create a magazine. Spanier and Mason and editor Brian Dawson are currently working on the latest issue of IAN.

For Spanier, IAN magazine is a labor of love. The process starts with discussions with Mason  about theme and image selection. As a former photo editor, Spanier says he has no problem breaking emotional attachments to his images, but he often defers to Mason when choosing what images ultimately tell the best story. “Without Warren and my editor Brian Dawson, there would be no magazine. Their contribution makes this work, and I can’t say enough about my appreciation for their part.”

Blurb has been printing IAN from the beginning. “The nice thing with Blurb is it is print on demand, so I don’t over print and have to deal with storage.” Spanier generally prints 20-50 copies after a new issue is finished and then orders more as needed. Over time, Spanier says, the printing has gotten “better and better, and the reaction by creatives has supported the desire to keep going.”

Spainer says the magazines is a great leave-behind. “If you want to know what I am about, this is by far the best tool I have found to explain all the aspects of Ian Spanier Photography.”

Until recently, Spanier mostly used in-person meetings, email marketing and social media as a means of promotion. “However, I think with the onslaught of emails and constant electronic noise, there’s a return to the printed promo.” Currently his annual marketing budget for promos—including email marketing, meetings, portfolios and the magazine—is approximately $3,000.

Spainer admits that he’s made mistakes in the past by not having a budget for marketing. “I love mistakes,” he says. “It’s where we learn. I am going to take a hard look at what I end up spending in 2017 and make a better plan for 2018.”

When it comes to teaching, “I’ve always been an open book,” Spainer says. “As the photographer crowd has grown,” Spainer says, “I would rather be surrounded by knowledgeable peers than not. At the core, maybe it’s the photo-nerd in me, I just love talking shop.”

You can talk shop with Ian Spainer on Friday, October 27, at 4:30-6:30 PM in his class Lighting to Tell a Story: Lighting Techniques and Understanding Light.

Monte Isom

When talking with art buyer friends, commercial photographer Monte Isom inquired about the number of printed pieces they receive each week from photographers. He was astounded by the answer they gave—about 250 pieces. Distraught at the thought of creating a promo that would be thrown away without even being seen, Isom decided to make something that people wanted to keep.

Isom began sending out USB drives to serve as both a promotional tool and a portfolio. He went with a 16 GB Sandisk USB flash drive, since “Sandisk is a trusted brand known for quality,” says Isom.

Instead of printing his information on the outside of the drive, and risk the ink rubbing off, Isom used Precision Laser Technology in Rochester, New York, to laser-engrave the USB. He branded the opposite side of the drive with a vinyl laser-cut sticker in his “m logo” design. He then places the USB drive in a medical grade plastic tube with vinyl caps purchased from Visipak in Missouri. The tube is also branded with Isom’s “m logo” stickers. Both stickers were created at Yipes Stripes in Vermont.

Isom makes 500 drives at a time, but buys the packaging and decals in bulk to reduce cost, in batches of 3,000. “Each year flash technology gets less expensive, so it makes sense to only purchase 500 at a time to save money on the next order.” Isom gives out about 1,000 USB flash drives over a year. “I use them as my business card when meeting people and ship them to a very targeted list of potential clients.”

Isom wants his promo “to reflect the attention to detail and quality my client can expect from a production with me. I personally assemble each piece, from applying logos to uploading content.”

“I put on a 90 second video portfolio of images on the drive as a quick overview of my work.” The presentation “takes the limited time an art producer has into account and ensures they see all the images you want them to see. Anyone who wants to see more work can click the trackable link to my website included on each drive.” This click also provides valuable analytics, tracking how many people reach Isom’s site directly from his promo.

Also included on the drive is a behind-the-scenes videos of past jobs. “Before even reaching out, it gives a sense of what [clients] will get if hiring me and what the tone is on set when working with my crew. Many art buyers have shared that they have used the BTS to sell me into their creative team, thus landing the job.”

Isom says he loves to share information. “If I have something that will help someone else, I’ll give it.” And while some might think teaching and “sharing everything you know” runs the risk of aiding the competition, Isom says he doesn’t see it that way. “Up and coming photographers are not my competition, rather my peers.”

Monte Isom will be at PhotoPlus Conference on Thursday, October 26, at 8:00-10:00 AM for his session Talent Only Gets You so Far: Learning the Business of Photography.

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