• ed_sheeran
  • basement_tapes
  • nigel

    Marketing Yourself to Potential Clients

    It’s far too easy in the current marketplace to get wrapped up in gear talk 24/7. We’re constantly inundated with the latest and greatest, and we seldomly spend any time discussing the business side of photography. As much inspiration as I find in this and other blogs across the web, I want to change things up for a moment and share a general overview of how I’ve been working to market myself in the New York City photo market.

    Though there’s several different tools we can use for marketing our work, my current marketing plan includes the following elements (each of which could be it’s own post here):

    1- Email blasts

    2- Printed promotional materials

    3- Print portfolio



    Every four weeks, I send out a fully-branded email to a large, but targeted group of potential clients. The email always features a recent photo I’ve shot, some basic information about me and/or the shoot itself, as well as links to my social media channels. I’ve built my email list with the help of a company called Agency Access, which maintains updated contact information on editorial and advertising clients throughout the world.

    Using their database, I was able to compile an email list based on the clients I’d like to reach out to, and lots of others I probably would have never thought about. In my case, I’m of course marketing to music publications, manufactures and record labels. On top of that, I’m reaching out to ad agencies who work with apparel brands, beverage companies, and other specialties pertinent to the style of my work.

    Aside from the database, one of the best parts about their service is the strength of their analytics.  Once I send out an email, I can see exactly who opened it, who clicked through to my website, and how many times they did so.  Of course, you have to use this information wisely, but it’s an amazing tool in helping to hone in on who to reach out to further.



    Every two months, I piece together and send out between 250-300 printed promo pieces, about a week after I send out my most recent email blast. This is significantly less than the amount of people I send emails to, as it’s honing in on a more concentrated group of clients, and sticking to a realistic marketing budget.

    This list is compiled of “dream” clients, current clients whose eyes I want to stay in front of, and potential clients who clicked through to my website from the email blast.

    In terms of the design, I wanted my mailers to stand out amongst the pile of promos that art buyers and photo editors get on a daily basis.  I also wanted to be able to design both sides of the card, and US Postal regulations are quite restrictive as to how you can design the side that has the postage and address information.  Most importantly, I needed the card to arrive in great condition and feel a bit more personal than your average promo card.

    Based on those thoughts, here’s what I did to hopefully make my promo stand out amongst the masses…


    First and foremost, I worked with a great designer and friend – Andy Sheffield who runs an agency called Cure For The Common. For some reason, a lot of photographers think they have a good sense of design (and some do, of course), but I’d advocate sticking to what we do best, and bringing on others to do what they do best.  We went back and fourth through tons of concepts before finalizing the design, and I’m really happy with the result.

    To personalize the concept a bit more, we made clear vinyl stickers with my logo/website/phone number which are wrapped around each card by hand. On top of that, I hand write the number of the promo they’re receiving. Each person receives six promos throughout the year (one every two months), so each is numbered with “1/6”, “2/6”, etc.  Though I’m not sure that everyone notices it, I really enjoy the small personal touch, and I feel like other creatives may feel the same.

    The promos are then put into matte black envelopes, labeled, and stamped with classic music stamps to round out the branding.





    Once I send out each round of email blasts and print promos, the next step is sending email follow ups and making lots of phone calls (aka- the fun stuff).  The hope is that with enough persistence, I’ll get meetings with potential clients, and hopefully some work will come of it.

    I think a print book is essential to portraying my brand in a highly professional and formal way. Though lots of photographers show iPad portfolios, I’m a strong believer that a print book helps to make my work stand out, and that the time and energy put into it is appreciated by whoever is viewing it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by photo editors how happy they are to be looking at a print book, and not an iPad.

    I turned to Scott Mullenberg at Mullenberg Designs up in Maine to produce my book. He makes absolutely beautiful, hand-crafted artist portfolios to your exact specs, and the personalized service he offers is simply amazing.  I’m not one to make a hard sell, but if you’re in the market for this sort of thing, I can’t think of a better resource.

    As for printing, I worked with my good friends at Ilford to come up with a couple of gorgeous paper options. In the end, we printed on their Fine Art Smooth (double-sided) paper, the same as I used for my last print book. After lots of print tests, I couldn’t help but come back to this paper for a second round – it’s just that good.  I’m exceptionally happy with the black and white tones, and it’s done a great job in holding detail, where I expected there to be some major challenges.

    All of these things combined are a huge amount of work, but it’s all part of running a business.  Whenever i’m not shooting or editing, I’m most likely doing a combination of the things I mentioned above to try and get more meetings.

    If you have questions on any of the elements I spoke about, please let me know! I’m happy to dive in deeper and share more specifics.


    Adjusting Ambient Light to Work in Your Favor

    Portrait of blue pianist and preservationist, Ethan Leinwand, shot at the The Manhattan Inn, in Brooklyn, NY on July 23, 2014. (Photo by Drew Gurian)

    Although I grew up just outside of the city in northern New Jersey, until about two years ago, I had never actually lived in the city.  Sure, I’ve spent tons of time here over the years, but I really enjoy being able to consider myself a New Yorker for the first time in my life.

    I moved here for a few reasons.  It’s one of the largest markets in the world, which means that there’s always room to grow and evolve as a photographer.  I’m surrounded by tons of other creatives who inspire me, and I’m now right in the middle of this thriving community.  Being here also enables me to be around these friends more, meet tons of new people, and sooner or later, it will lead to new work.

    Part of being in the midst of this very social scene includes finding a great local bar. Back in January, I was introduced to The Manhattan Inn, which has quickly become one of my favorite bar/restaurants.  Several nights a week, they have someone playing piano in the back room, and I absolutely love the atmosphere.

    One performer in particular, Ethan Leinwand, used to play there every Friday and Saturday night.  His self-described style as a preservationist/blues/boogie-woogie player was the perfect fit for this place, and I went to see him play anytime I was in the city on a weekend.  His vintage look was seamless with the music he played, and I knew I needed to photograph him.

    We exchanged cards, and after a few months or trying to align schedules, we finally made it happen last year.


    The room itself was really dark, and the only ambient light was the hard sun hitting the piano from the skylight.  If I exposed for that highlight, I knew the rest of the room would go almost completely black, and the showing the atmosphere was really important to me.

    When the ambient light isn’t working in our favor, we can either dial it out completely, or modify the light to make it usable.  Since I tend to try and light in as natural of a way as possible, I picked the latter, and instead of totally covering the skylight, I turned it into a soft fill light with a shoot through Umbrella Shallow Translucent M.  If I had a ladder with me, I probably would have gaffed a bed sheet to the entire skylight, but a c-stand and umbrella got me by just fine. Sometimes a set needs to look pristine (ie- when a client is present), and sometimes it looks like a battle scene.  All that really matters is what the final photo looks like, and nobody needs to know how much improvisation is done on the fly to make a photo happen.

    I lit Ethan with a Profoto B1 and a Softbox RFi 1×3′.  I used this particular strip softbox to make sure I had enough control on the light, as to not overlight or blow out the white piano.

    Portrait of blue pianist and preservationist, Ethan Leinwand, shot at the The Manhattan Inn, in Brooklyn, NY on July 23, 2014. (Photo by Drew Gurian)

    Even once the skylight was diffused, the difference in exposure between the foreground and background were still far too much.  Once I dialed in my main light for Ethan, I added a second light to bring just a bit of detail into the background.  Based on the warm nature of the scene, I added a 1/4 cut of CTO (color temperature orange) to warm up the flash a bit, and blend it in as seamlessly as possible.

    The last element which helped to softly blend the scene together was a hazer, which was hidden behind the piano, and aimed towards the back corner.  Fog machines pump out really thick white smoke that can be tough to control.  Hazers, on the other hand, are much more natural looking and can be a beautiful element in a photo- especially in a case like this, where I’m trying to emulate a smoky bar.

    I set up, shot and broke down in about two hours, and kept it simple enough that I could work on my own to make it happen.  Ethan is such a great guy, and I’m really happy to be able to provide him with photos for his own promotional use.

    More than a personal shoot, opportunities like this let me connect with my community through my work, and it’s a win-win all around.

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