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September 15th, 2009

Preparing for first-time meetings with NYC art buyers

Posted by Jeffrey Thayer

When I heard that editorial and commercial photographer Jeffrey Thayer was heading to New York City for his first round of face-to-face meetings with editors and art buyers, I was eager to have him share the experience with RESOLVE. The NYC pilgrimage is an important (often nerve-wracking) right of passage for many photographers. Through Jeff’s eyes — with posts on preparing for the trip, the meetings, and the follow-ups — photographers planning a similar trip can get a peak inside the process.
©Jeffrey Thayer

©Jeffrey Thayer

My name is Jeffrey Thayer and I am a photographer. I am early in my career, but I have been using the camera as a medium for expression as long as I can remember. I can’t paint or maybe I’d be a painter.

At the moment I am trying to push my career up a notch. I have great clients, from boutique designers to smaller editorial, but I want more. I want the clients with huge visions that are a challenge to create and who want to make them with me. I want clients that embody the laughter in life and fun lifestyle that I enjoy.

So how does one go from being an assist to a photog? That was the question I asked myself — and to be honest, I needed some help. I have worked with a lot of great photographers in the Los Angeles area, as well as some of the ones who came to town for shoots. I have shot pre-production stuff for one of today’s most in-demand photographers … and all of this means nothing in the end.

So I started asking these guys and gals I work with what I should do to move forward. I also started attending every possible APA event on these topics. I went to portfolio reviews and was told I seemed to have multiple personality problems. I narrowed my vision and started to do some e-mail blasts, which got a good reception, and then did a postcard.

But budgets are tight due to this awesome economic climate, and I still wasn’t getting the calls I wanted. So I hired Leslie Burns-Dell’Acqua at Burns Auto Parts, who told me I was using too much of a “shotgun” marketing technique. I was sending things to people who probably wouldn’t hire me and I probably wouldn’t want to shoot for. What I needed to be was a self-promotion sniper. So Leslie helped me fine-tune my contact list and market only to the clients who use images like mine and the companies/magazines I want. We also trimmed a couple more images out of portfolio.

“Get in front of them and sell your personality, your images — do whatever you have to.”

One good friend kept telling me go to New York and get in front of the people I wanted to work with. “Do whatever you have to,” has been a common suggestion. So has, “Get in front of them and sell your personality, your image, and who you are.” So I scheduled a trip to NYC.

©Jeffrey Thayer

©Jeffrey Thayer

I spent the last week and a half talking on the phone and listening to voice mails. What do I do with voice mail? I hadn’t thought about that yet. I checked with a friend who shoots for some of the mags and clients I want. He said, “Just keep calling.” I feel a little pushy but, heck, when I get uncomfortable good stuff normally happens, so I went back to the phone. I mentioned to the individuals I got a hold of that I was going to be in the city for a few days and asked if I could meet with them.

It has been daunting — no one answers the phone. Luckily Communication Arts recently interviewed me, so I used that as leverage and did a specific New York E-blast. So far I have appointments with some leading reps, some great photo editors, and a few art directors. Five minutes here, five minutes there, but it is a start.

I have tried to offer coffee or what ever else I can to get in front of the people I want to shoot for. The good news is that some will see me. Others will just get my mini-book and others, well, maybe next time. These guys are extremely busy and get hundreds of request like mine every day. I am truly grateful for the time that some are giving me and I am not offended in the least that others cannot. I try not to take anything personally — though it is hard sometimes — and to learn from the experience.

I also get to visit with some photographer friends in the city and to get out of town. What could be better? I’ll let all of you know how it goes.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Top editorial photographer Marc Asnin has good advice for meetings with editors, and Jasmine DeFoore from Redux Pictures has written several posts about getting an editorial rep. What were your first editor meetings like?


  1. September 15th, 2009 at 7:32 am

    Preparing for first-time meetings with NYC art buyers | The Click

    […] Preparing for first-time meetings with NYC art buyers | RESOLVE — the liveBooks photo blog: When I heard that editorial and commercial photographer Jeffrey Thayer was heading to New York […]

  2. September 15th, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Tim Gruber

    Nice post Jeffery. Having made the NYC rounds for the first time this summer I realized first hand how important it is to be persistent in getting meetings. I’m not much of a cold caller so I used the email approach which worked nicely for me. Although at the beginning I was getting no responses and was ready to try things by phone. With a little time and a dose of persistence things started happening.

    Big lesson I learned was to keep at it and those doors will open.

    Good luck with the meetings.

  3. September 15th, 2009 at 11:00 am

    John Loomis

    Good luck Jeffrey — and remember that once you do finally get the meetings booked you need to really think about how you are presenting yourself and your work, and what sort of words you want to use in talking about the work. Practice will usually overcome any elevator nerves.

    Any good editor is going to be more interested about what you want to do next or in 5 years down the road, and so you need to be ready for that question. If you have a project you are showing, have the essence of it summarized in no more than 2 sentences… And make sure you research each editor and publication as much as possible so that you can ask real questions which show that you are engaged with what they are doing. Lastly, the surest way to have a meeting pay off is if you have a good read on that client and have smart ideas to present them.

  4. September 15th, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Cheri Amour

    Yes I agree, great post! I learned that narrowing down your prospects to ones that have a higher chance of hiring you works well. Finding the right fit for your images is important, and of course persistence is important as well. Keep at it, be patient and you’ll start to see results. Having thick skin doesn’t hurt either:)

    Good luck, I’ll look forward to hearing your results!:)

  5. September 16th, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Ryan Smith

    Thanks for the insightful post Jeffrey. Good luck!

  6. September 16th, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Jared Soares

    Great post Jeffrey, I’m sure a lot of us can relate.I actually did my first round of NYC meetings a year ago and I learned quite a bit during that week. Always be sure to research the publication/gallery/art buyer you’re meeting with and have questions. It’s also important to be articulate when speaking about your work and ideas. And avoiding the awkward silence is a always a good idea.

    Also, I found that editors and art buyers are more apt to schedule meetings once your feet are on the ground in NYC. Before landing in NYC I had scheduled a few meetings but after a few calls once I landed, I was booked for the rest of the week.

    Lastly, its always good to have some sort of item to offer to leave behind. Like a promo card or something along those lines.

  7. October 14th, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Richard Avedon

    Ok let me give you all a rude awakening. First of all most art buyers have NO-NONE background in this endeavor what soever. Making the rounds is great but how in hell do you get them to hire you. YOU DO NOT. The art director does and its is USUALLY THE CD that does most of the heavy work. For it is their ass on on the line.

    Art buyers will discuss fees usage rates and try to get you down on a buyout.

    Personally I find it to be just an other layer of BS. I am sure there are AB’s that do the job just fine. But my experience tells me most of them are clue less. Have no Idea about a an ad campaign ROI AE’s and client immediate and future needs.

  8. July 23rd, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    How to get into Photography - Part 2

    […] best way forward to get your first job. But you still need to meet people. So, make it a point to see as many photo buyers, creative and art directors and business owners in your target industry as you can. That way you […]

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