Direct marketing can serve as a powerful tool for professional photographers. Both as a way to stay connected with valued clients, and as a way to engage new ones. But knowing when to send what and how can often be a challenge.
Read on as award-winning commercial and fine art photographer Lorne Resnick shares his strategies for promoting his work to art directors, art buyers, gallery owners and collectors, and creating relationships that last.
Right Place, Right Time
“Marketing is always that 64-thousand-dollar question,” Resnick says, describing the process of figuring out when, what, and how as equal parts art, science, and frustration.
“The frustrating part is that you know that there’s probably someone, somewhere at least every day on the planet that if you were to connect with them, they would buy a piece of your art or commission you to create images. So it’s a right place, right time sort of situation.”
Then there’s the financial component.
“At one point I was sending out five different promo card mailings to art directors and buyers, 1,000 at a time,” he recalls, emphasizing that they were wildly expensive. “I concluded that you had to have a really big bankroll behind you to mail that many printed promo cards, and you have to do it every other month or every third month. And you have to send 6,000 to 10,000 because 1,000 doesn’t make a dent in terms of finding that right-place, right-time person.”
On top of that, he talked to art directors and art buyers again and again who told him they received 70 pieces of mail a day. “So you’re sending out this really expensive piece of mail and they might not even see it. It might go into the trash right away.
What Resnick finds to work well is e-mail marketing.
“It’s the easiest way to continually send new work,” he explains. “If I shoot something this week and I want to send it out in a printed piece, I’ve got to get it designed. I’ve got to take it to the printer, proof it. It’s maybe a month or two or three before I’m able to get that piece out. But if I shoot something now I could send it out this week in an e-mail promo.”
Make It Personal.
Though Resnick could have his e-mail promotions outsourced, he chooses to build them himself. “I want them to be very personal. So I design them myself, I build them myself, and every month I put it together. I choose the images and I put the text in and test it out, then send it out.”
He also strives to make his e-mails as recipient-friendly as possible, which means he never sends attachments. “People have sent me attachments and it makes me angry because it clogs up my e-mail,” he says. “These are HTML e-mails which means nothing has to be downloaded.” Resnick regularly adds the names of clients, peers, people who visit his website, and others who ask to be put on the list.
Make It Relevant.
“Even if you're e-mailing to a list of opted-in people, you can’t just send a couple of pictures and say ‘Hey, I want your business.’ If all I say is hire me for a commercial job or ‘buy one of my pieces of artwork,’ then it’s all about me,” Resnick cautions. “You really have to provide the people you’re sending it to with some kind of content in terms of what’s good for them, or what’s interesting for their site or their business.”
Because Resnick is a voracious reader, especially of books on the creative process, he likes to provide a little bit of what he learns in his e-mails. He calls these e-mail promos Museletters.
These Museletters celebrate creativity in all its forms, and include excerpts, stories, quotations, and various musings. More importantly, they allow him to share his thoughts, give a little bit of content, and separate himself from the herd, and from what everyone else is doing.
“I know there are a ton of other photographers that are sending e-mail promos out,” he explains. “Obviously, you have to have the work, and the work has to be good, but I like to add a little bit more so that people will stick on my e-mail for an extra three or four seconds or keep it in their inbox.”
A Disdain for Spam.
Resnick is very much against spam and it drives him crazy when he gets it. “The bottom line regarding spamming is this question,” he says. “Is the e-mail relevant to who I am or what I do?” So he adheres to all the rules to make sure his emials are not spam.
to ensure his e-mails are not classified as spam.
It’s important to note that while Resnick utilizes e-mail for the commercial side of his business, he does not use it promote his fine art.
Gallery and museum directors and private collectors don’t look at e-mail in the same way as art buyers or art directors. It’s not expected, so they may not look as kindly to receiving it,” he says. “Plus the list is much smaller – maybe 700 to 800. So I’ll go back to printed matter. Only this time, it won’t be as elaborate or costly. I’ll send out a monthly 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 card. One card with one photo on it and some details on the back.”
He will also use post cards to highlight recent news and achievements, such as when he won the 2005 Travel Photographer of the Year Award, or to promote new projects, such as his new book, Cuba Dreaming.
Resnick views his camera as a bridge to connect people, and he hopes his book will help bridge the gap in understanding between Cuba and the rest of the world. When it’s finished, the comprehensive book about the people and culture of Cuba will feature about 40 interviews with Cubans and over 250 black-and-white and color images.
A Lasting Relationship
Though Resnick has embraced digital capture, he still has a strong relationship with film. The images of Cuba Dreaming were shot largely on film – a combination of slide and negative film. “I shot a lot of the KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA Film, ” he says. “Especially on my last trip. I thought it was a really great film. Especially since I do my own scanning. It gave me a lot of latitude to work with. And Cuba is a place that has a lot of very contrasting light conditions where the light is sort of slanting into these alleyways or these houses, so it’s very dark inside the house and yet this bright sunlight is coming in. The PORTRA Film held everything together beautifully.”
Resnick also shoots KODAK PROFESSIONAL High-Speed Infrared Film to create images that transcend the ordinary. “I’ve been experimenting with that for so long,” he says. “The KODAK Infrared Film is just so special. It’s got a wonderful feel to it and I’ve gotten spectacular results. I’ve still got hundreds of images that need to be scanned and brought up as fine art prints from my trips to Africa with that film.
When Resnick first went to Africa, he took about 150 rolls of KODAK Infrared Film. “It was kind of tricky because I was going through maybe 25 different countries in Africa over a period of a year, and I actually took every single roll of KODAK Infrared Film and took the film out and in a darkroom bag put it into an unmarked canister because it said infrared on the film and we were going through some very tricky countries military-wise and if I was stopped with 150 rolls of film that said Infrared on it, who knows what would have happened.”
He remembers driving down south of Amsterdam through France and Italy and South of Spain with a changing bag on his lap, switching out all the film. “I had that film through deserts and for weeks on end and then I would mail it back for a friend to store in a freezer but I never had any problem with that film,” he says. “I was amazed. I had that film in Africa in 100° heat for weeks on end. And I never had a problem.”