Process 060 ☼ How to Pitch Your Photography To Press and Clients
GIVEAWAY: 4 photo books by Alasdair Watson
This week is about how to pitch your photography to clients or press via email.
This week’s PROCESS GIVEAWAY is a wonderful four book box set of half-frame photos shot in and around Glasgow by Alasdair Watson.
CASTING CALL: I’m looking for Lisbon-based creatives to cast in a beautiful shoot for a diverse new book publishing company at the end of May. Each creative will be photographed as themselves telling their story. It’s a paid shoot, and a love for reading is a plus. Email me if this is you or you have tips for folks to check out.
How To Write A Pitch Email
You’ve put all this blood, sweat, and tears into to make a beautiful project or portfolio, but where do you go from here? How do you get your work noticed by a gallery, client, or publication? Who do you speak to about all this?
Below are seven steps to creating a great pitch email to reach the right people and move your career forward.
To break up the text I included seven diptychs from my new series 30 Days of Walking in Amsterdam, which is the largest commission I’ve worked on since NOTICE. I wrote about in issue 058 and the full series is being released today by Obscura as part of The World Today alongside work by 137 other photographers around the world.
1. Find Out Who You Want To Work With
Knowing who to contact starts with knowing yourself. Take the time to arrive at a clear vision about your work and who you are as a photographer first.
Once you’re clear on who you are, you can start researching which clients, press, or collaborators are a good fit by looking at who has featured or hired for a similar work.
For example, when we pitched my book NOTICE it was clear which publications would be a good fit fit and which would not be. It’s a high-end fine art book that touches on street photography, travel, long distance walking, and tells the story of a meditative journey during the first few months of the COVID lockdown.
That’s enough to determine that it would not be a fit for magazines like Vogue or Forbes, but it could work for newspapers or in-flight magazines with an arts section.
Similarly, when I start pitching my new portrait portfolio to clients this month I know it won’t be a fit for Business Week, since their portraits are more straight-forward, but I will certainly pitch Die Zeit, The Guardian, and Volkskrant Magazine.
Do your research, make a list of everyone you want to work with, make sure they’re a fit, put this list into a spreadsheet and keep track of who you pitch and when.
2. Keep It Short and Sweet
Keep your email short and to the point. Be clear about why you are writing, what you’re offering, what you’re looking for, and why there is a fit.
For example, when pitching NOTICE to one of my favorite art newsletters I wrote:
Hi [NAME REDACTED].
Thanks for another great issue. I’m writing to put my new photo book on your radar for the art book section of your newsletter.
The book is called NOTICE and was created during the first five months of the pandemic while I got stuck in a suburb of Vancouver.
During this period I took a photo walk in my new neighborhood for 123 days in a row learned how to slow down and better notice small bits of beauty. I walked for over 1200 kilometers and this meditation helped me process the lockdown.
To see the work you can flip through the book online [link] and this page [link] includes more info on the book and the team involved. I’d be happy to send you a copy in the mail too of course.
I’d love to hear if you think it’s a good fit for the newsletter. As a long time reader it would be an honor to be included.
Note that I included: why I was writing, what I was offering, what I was looking for, why it fit, and links for more info and visuals if they wanted to see more. This resulted in a lovely little feature in the newsletter with several photos and a buy link.
Remember that a good pitch to the right person means you are meeting them in the middle with a mutually beneficial ask and offering. Yes, you are asking for something, but you’re also offering something that helps them do their job to find work that fits.
3. Be Personal Yet Professional
The note I shared above has a human tone but I still kept it professional. I didn’t get too personal by talking about how I lost all my income during this period nor did I overload them with information that’s not relevant to their job. Keep it clean.
4. Links, Not Attachments
The note above included two links with relevant information and a book slideshow that can be viewed online. Be thoughtful and make this person’s job easier by not including a huge attachment or requiring downloads that slow them down.
5. Double Check, Then Check One More Time
Before you send it, double check, then check one more time. Your perfectly crafted email can be ruined by accidentally leaving in the name of another publication or by misspelling their name. Be considerate.
6. Follow Up, But Not Too Soon
Whomever you’re writing to is probably overworked and short on time. Don’t feel bad if it takes them a while to get back to you. If it’s not the right fit, they may just delete your email because they don’t have the time to reply to everyone.
It’s totally OK to follow up, but give it a week or two. If you’ve followed up once or twice, let it rest and wait to write to them until your next project.
7. Don’t Give Up
There are very few overnight successes in photography, or any other creative discipline for that matter. Don’t give up, keep making work, keep researching who might be a good fit for your work by going to exhibits, reading magazines, looking at photo books and noticing who is supporting work that feels like it lives in the same creative universe as your work. Photography is a calling, not an easy career.
Here are some past issues of Process that are relevant to today’s topic:
Process 002 ☼ How To Create A Portfolio
Process 027 ☼ Giving Clients What They Want + Showing Them What They Need
Process 044 ☼ Who Are You Taking Pictures For?
Process 054 ☼ The Best Advice I Ever Received
All film was developed and scanned by my friends at Carmencita Film Lab. Use code “PROCESS” at check out to get a free size upgrade for your scans. I highly recommend them.
That’s it for this week! Next week will be….amazing. A new Process video piece and the biggest Process Giveaway ever…oh sorry did I drop this preview photo in here? Oops.
As always it’s for Process subscribers only so if you for some reason haven’t signed up yet just click below and next Sunday at 3pm CET Process will drop into your inbox.
Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others.
PS My latest piece for Lens Culture takes a look at Alice Dempsey's beautiful ongoing series Farleigh Hungerford Swim Club, an ode to wild swimming as an antidote to the mental and physical strains of the pandemic. Read it here.
PPS If you enjoyed the diptychs in this issue and want to see more, the full set of 100 will be revealed today at 5pm EST/11pm CET in the The World Today online gallery.
For this week’s giveaway we have a lovely four book box set by Scottish photographer Alasdair Watson. This four book box set makes up a portrait of Glasgow spread out over 300 images shot over a twelve month period. Each book represents a season with its own identity and color. The entire project was shot on a half-frame film camera.
To enter email me at firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject line PROCESS GIVEAWAY NUMBER 060 before 11pm EST on May 11th and answer the following question:
Which publication of client would be the perfect fit for your project or portfolio, and why?
My answer: The newspaper Het Parool would be the ideal fit for 30 Days of Walking in Amsterdam because it tells 100 shorts stories I came across in the city that they serve, in a style that suits their creative direction, and they have supported my work before.
The winner will be randomly drawn and notified. This giveaway is for Process subscribers only. Subscribe by clicking the button below:
Make sure to show Alasdair some love on Instagram and check out his web store.
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Great advice Wesley, and, just to add, when pitching, while a project might not be a good fit at the time, good Photo Editors will keep you on their books in case a commission comes up that is a good fit. As an example, I was pitching something in late summer 2020 that didn't get placed, but it resulted in a commission nearly 1.5 years later in January this year.
On that note, out of interest, how would your example letter differ when pitching your new portrait portfolio to [existing and potential new] clients you want to get commissions from?