This is the second installment of the Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community series.
Now that we have some photographers that we want to contact, we can start thinking about HOW we want to get in touch with them. There are many ways to do this, of course–phone calls, snail mail, knocking on doors, working at rental and camera stores–but I have found that sending an email is the best ice-breaker.
There are basically three important reasons to start seeking photo assisting gigs with email.
First, by sending an email, you are introducing yourself to the photographers you are trying to get to know. You are showing some initiative to the photographer that you are interested in working for them in a way that the photographer can handle with their schedule. It’s easy for them to read your email whenever they have time. Photographers are usually very busy, and some may find it distracting when, assistant after assistant, is calling on the phone or knocking on the door without an appointment. Obviously, this won’t help you. I find that an email gives the proper amount of “urgent discretion” that most photographers find agreeable. Also, once you’ve established some rapport with a photographer or studio, by continuing to send occasional emails helps you to stay on their radar. Many times, it’s the most recent assistant who has contacted a photographer who gets the job.
Second, is that it gives you total freedom to express yourself. You have total control over what you send, who you send it to, and when you send it. You can send out the same layout to zillions of photographers, or just a few. You might customize your template for a few special photographers you really want to focus on. You can attach a few shots of recent work. You can link to your blog and your website. You can just send out a letter with a resume. It doesn’t matter, just do it, but do it well. I started out just sending text emails, illustrating my skills and experience in a sort of advertorial. Then I started adding some images. Now, I use a program called Email Campaign, which allows me to create an HTML page with color and image and text options.
The third reason email is so appealing is that it’s basically free! If your ISP limits the amount of outgoing messages you can send each day, just send out 20 less per day than your limit, and send out all your bulk email over the course of a week or so. Otherwise, you can pay an inexpensive monthly fee ($2 or so) to increase your daily outgoing limits. The purchase of Email Campaign, or other software, will help you in designing and managing your emails, and is just a one time purchase (about $50-100). Or, you might use an email marketing service like Constant Contact or MailChimp, which will also incur some expense, but at least you won’t be licking or sticking postage stamps! The point is, that, sending emails can be free, or at least very inexpensive, and give you ultimate control.
As I began accumulating photographers in my address book, I would send out a simple text email to five studios at a time. My email was essentially a mini bio, highlighting some of my skills and background. Resume writing skills come in handy here, as you want to make yourself shine and be the star that will really help the photographer. Be honest, positive, and resourceful. Make your message unique and stand out from all the other emails that will also be in the photographer’s in-basket. Keep it simple, easy to read, and to the point. Give the photographer or studio manager a call-to-action. You want them to call you and find out more about you and have you come in for an interview and then hire you! Make it happen with an awesome email that will illustrate your character, skills, and passion for photography.
Add a photo of your own work into your email. It doesn’t have to be anything pertaining to working as an assistant, but it could be a shot of you working on-set or on-location somewhere. A shot of your own best work, which shows your own abilities as a shooter is great. It shows the photographer that you are serious, knowledgeable, and able-bodied. These days, I am creating assignments for myself, which work into a design or layout with a particular art direction or brand that I am creating for myself. Ultimately, this is what you will be doing as a shooter for your clients. So why not start practicing now? Look at the emails you get for ideas. Research what other photographers’ are using for their own publicity and marketing materials and try to emulate them with your own style and flair.
If you want to take this a step further, design an email campaign, which will encompass multiple emails over a period of time. A photographer does this to show a body of work on a particular subject matter, or previous ad campaign, to art buyers and ad agencies. You can choose a subject to explore photographically from different approaches, and incorporate a creative art direction using text, graphics, and color.
Send out your emails regularly–maybe every three to eight weeks. There is no right or wrong time-frame, but you ultimately want to stay on everyone’s radar without being like the kid in grade-school who is always raising his hand, squirming in his seat, and begging to be the one to get called on. Perhaps the best way to accomplish sending out your emails regularly is to make a schedule and stick to it. This will create a sense of urgency and help you keep creating new content for your emails.
Here’s a few other things to consider while creating your emails:
• Use the words “photo assistant” in the subject line.
• Personalize “Dear Photographer,” so that you insert the photographers first name into the greeting.
• Illustrate at least one of your skill sets with an example of how you achieved a task or solved a problem.
• Include links to your website or blog, and always include your phone number in your signature so it can be found easily. I have designed and built different text signatures, as well as graphical banners in Photoshop, then include them at the end of my emails. Many times I’ve gotten jobs because a photographer found my recent email with my phone number on it.
Keep in mind that sending an email to a photographer that you want to work with is just the beginning of the process. As the Attracting Work and Staying Visible in the Photo Community series continues, we will look at more ways to begin, develop, and continue relationships with the great photographers we want to work with.