Field Report:

The Non-Glamorous Side of Photography

Interview with Advertising Art Director, Kaleena Tucker

After just a few years in the advertising industry, Nashville, Tennessee-based art director Kaleena Tucker has already received accolades from the ADDY’s, One Show Student Competition and the Young Guns International Ad Competition. Find out what she has to say about photography.

How to get your book seen by ad agency art buyers is a source of endless debate amongst professional photographers. So set the record straight by telling us what methods a photographer can do to get your attention and keep it?

I’ve always been amazed at how many photography samples the average Art Director receives on a daily basis. Whether postcard-size, full-page prints, or booklets, most samples get thrown in the trash. Many without a second look. And it’s not because it’s bad photography. Most of the time it’s beautiful. The problem is, where do you put all of these postcards and work samples? It’s like getting coupons in the mail. They may be useful, but after so many, you just start trashing them. The 5% that get kept are the ones that use non-traditional methods and do something really cool. For example, I like to put cool stuff up on my office wall, so… if I get something fun in the mail from a photographer, it goes on my wall. As far as what works, I’d have to say that cold calling works. I know it sucks. But, a photography/illustration rep was able to set up a 30-minute showcase in our creative department just by giving me a call one morning. Emails easily get ignored. Mail mostly gets trashed. But, most phone calls get answered. I’d say that’s the way to go.

What has been your process for choosing a photographer to work with?

Most of the time, I go to the agency’s print production department, tell them what kind of style I’m looking for and ask them for any suggestions. In addition to that, I scour the Internet, and go through photography books to look for someone whose style fits what I’m looking for. Do they do a lot of indoor shooting? Are they good at lighting? Etc…

Where do you typically go when looking for stock photos? Do you ever look for photos on Flickr or Google?

No, Flickr and Google are only good if you’re looking for reference materials. In my experience, if you’re looking for something to actually use, it’s a complete waste of time. An agency’s clients have to be able to buy the image. Most of the images on Google and Flickr are a hassle to figure out ownership/rights. I use the big stock sites: Getty, Corbis, JupiterImages, etc. I know that I can usually find something useable.

Would there be occasional exceptions to this, say if the photographer had a website that was set-up for e-commerce licensing transactions similar to a Getty or Corbis, or if their bio listed a slew of big-name publishing credits such as National Geographic, Time, Ogilvy & Mather, etc…?

Yes it’s definitely possible that while you’re searching for reference materials/images, you may stumble across a photographer’s site who’s done some cool stuff and offers great stock photography. But honestly, I rarely seek out individual photographers that provide these services. It’s like, if you’re trying to meet someone to date. Your chances of finding someone at the company party, or at a bar is greater than running into someone on the street. It’s a numbers game. That’s what’s great about the big stock houses. It’s like a big online bar of drunken photographers waiting to be taken home.

(Alcohol. Does a body good.)

When you are doing a stock photo search, does it make a difference to you whether or not the image is rights-managed or royalty-free?

Absolutely! That is the number one question I ask my Account Manager. What kind of budget do we have? Do we have to get something royalty-free, or can we afford rights-managed? Again, no need to waste time finding a great image that the client can’t afford. Money matters. Budgets are real. Especially to smaller clients.

Aside from art direction reasons, what type of photography do you enjoy looking at the most?

I like a lot of classic black and white photography with simple imagery. I find that I’m much more captivated by a single subject, rather than photography with a lot going on.

I’d like to thank Kaleena for her time and insightful responses to these questions. Hopefully you’ve found this information to be useful for your own photo business.

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July 28, 2008 - Posted by | Interviews, Marketing, stock photography | , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. Great interview Richard! Looking forward to reading more of them!

    Comment by Sherri Meyer | July 28, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thanks Sherri. I believe that you’ll really enjoy the next one. 😉

    Comment by Richard Wong | July 29, 2008 | Reply

  3. Hi Richard

    Well interviews like this certainly make interesting reading!
    As a photographer I was brought up on black and white images but I have to admit I haven’t shot black and white directly for years. It’s a shame because I love it – maybe I’ll get inspired again.
    I won’t come cold calling as I live too far away but yes, it really shows some more of the weird and wonderful and really unpredictable world of stock photography

    So, into the sunset

    John Rocha

    Comment by John | July 29, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thanks John. I think how to get approached depends on the person. I agree about the postcards though. One art director I used to work with commented about how many food photography postcards he gets and can’t tell the difference between them.

    Comment by Richard Wong | July 29, 2008 | Reply

  5. Great interview! Some really pertinent points on getting work for photographers.

    Comment by andrewgibson | August 7, 2008 | Reply

  6. Thanks Andrew, hope this info helps.

    Comment by Richard Wong | August 7, 2008 | Reply

  7. Great interview-gives alot of insight about the business side.

    Comment by Leann Greene | August 9, 2008 | Reply

  8. Thanks Leann, hope this helps you.

    Comment by Richard Wong | August 11, 2008 | Reply


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