The Business Of Fashion Photography; Finding Clients, Marketing, And Image Making
Next to people and products, fashion photography is one of the most popular areas of commercial photography. Images are used for a wide range of uses: to tell a story (editorial), to sell apparel (catalogs, websites), and to promote a fashion brand (advertising). Not to be confused with portrait photography, models are almost always used to achieve the highest level of focus on the products. Often, beauty products such as cosmetics are included in this category, which expands the appeal and marketing efforts even more. Of all the specialties in photography, fashion photographers often attain widely recognizable status and, to many critics, have created some of the most exciting and lasting images of their age.
I interviewed some of the current luminaries of the profession for this article and thank them for their time and efforts. They include: Rebecca Drobis (www.rebeccadrobis.com), Jeffrey Fiterman (www.jeffreyfiterman.com), Betsy Hansen (www.betsyhansen.com), Heidi Niemala (www.heidiniemala.com), and Nick Onken (www.nickonken.com).
Shutterbug: There are a range of fashion photography clients, including editorial, “client direct,” and ad agencies. What types of fashion industry clients have you worked with, and what types are you marketing to now?
Betsy Hansen: My fashion experience has been within the editorial markets of Florida, focusing on local and national clothing and swimsuit designers. The editorial fashion market in Florida is small, which makes the search for clients even more difficult. It’s good to reach out of your area, but most fashion editorial clients like to be on set with the photographer to art direct their shoots because they tend to be larger productions.
Nick Onken: I’ve done mostly sports lifestyle fashion clients such as Nike and Reebok. I will be marketing to other lifestyle fashion brands in the near future.
Rebecca Drobis: I specialize in children’s fashion and apparel, so I am exclusively marketing to those clients directly. Most of my current clients produce sustainable/organic, free-trade clothing, which is a subspecialty of mine. I work outdoors and my photographs are more spontaneous, rather than the more traditional studio style.
Jeffrey Fiterman: I have actually shot a lot more beauty and cosmetics than I have fashion, however I have shot for Seven7 Jeans, Hale Bob, and Coco Eco Magazine. I market directly to retail, cosmetic, and clothing firms plus some advertising agencies.
Heidi Niemala: I’ve worked with fashion designers, retail stores, catalog designers, editorial, graphic designers, and ad agencies, and I market to all of them. This past year I’ve focused more on advertising agencies and in-house (client-direct) agencies.
SB: What have been the most effective marketing techniques to find these fashion clients?
Nick Onken: I think the key is to create personal fashion work that is something the clients can aspire to. I believe a lot of fashion clients like to “find” a photographer personally rather than search through portfolios with a photo rep. I have found sending direct-mail promos are a good way or potential clients to get familiar with my work.
Betsy Hansen: I do what I can to reach out to potential clients, starting with researching companies and discovering clients who could use my style of imagery. I use a number of different outlets to find these clients, such as Agency Access, search engines, and even my local bookseller. Each one has helped me to discover the best clients to reach out to. I use e-mail the most when contacting current and potential clients, but I’ll never disregard going the old-fashioned route and picking up the phone. Sometimes having that personal connection is a wonderful thing.
Rebecca Drobis: I do a lot of research and subscribe to industry and trade magazines. There is so much information online that I can use to get educated in the current fashion trends and styles. I also reach out to fashion brands that I feel have a common aesthetic or approach to mine. I send promos a few times a year, both e-mail blasts and direct mailers.
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