Survey Reveals How Photo Buyers Find and Hire Photographers

PhotoShelter has published results from their 2013 Survey of  What Buyers Want From Photographers. The free report provides insights about how buyers like to be pitched, where they find photographers to hire, and the most important elements of the a photographer’s website.


The survey results are based on 340 responses from photo buyers and creatives at advertising agencies, design firms, nonprofits, editorial publications, book publishers, and corporations who are part of the Agency Access global database. Agency Access is is a full-service marketing resource that helps freelance artists find work.

The most common titles of the respondents were art director, creative director, art producer, editorial photo editor, copywriter, graphic designer, and senior designer. Some of the companies they worked for include Olgivy & Mather, Saatchi & Saatchi, Conde Nast, Harper Collins, McGraw-Hill Education, Texas Creative, IPC Media, and Modern Luxury.

In the 2013 “What Buyers Want” survey report, the responses are grouped into four categories:

  • Hiring photographers
  • Marketing to photo buyers
  • Websites and file delivery
  • Working with photographers

The results answer common questions such as:

  • Do video skills get you a gig?
  • Where do buyers find photographers and photography?
  • Do buyers hire new photographers?
  • Do buyers search for new talent?
  • Is a photographer’s location key to getting hired?
  • Do buyers take in-person meetings?
  • How important are personal projects?
  • Is a photographer’s company knowledge important?
  • How many images should go in your portfolio?
  • How do buyers like images delivered?

Here are some key findings from PhotoShelter’s 2013 survey of photo buyers:

  • 75.6 percent say that compared to 2012, their budgets are increasing or staying the same.
  • 35.4 percent have discovered a new photographer through social media
  • 71.7 percent say they look at unsolicited marketing pitches that are relevant to their needs
  • 33.6 percent cite “easy navigation” as the most important element of a photographer’s website

PhotoShelter has supplemented the statistical data with interviews with major photo buyers and tips on email and direct-mail promotions.

“A direct-mail piece doesn’t depend as much on the quality or size as it does on the image and typography,” said the photo editor at an editorial publication.”I don’t need fancy envelopes or multi-page glossy hardbound books If the image is memorable, I will put it up on my wall or in my box of promos to keep.”

On the importance of personalizing a pitch, one ad agency creative director offered this advice: “Make sure your email comes across as genuine. This means don’t act like a car salesman with gimmicky phrases and subject lines. Make the email personal. We can smell a form letter in seconds.”

Factors that influence hiring decisions include the photographer’s personality, level of interest in the project, location, pricing, and schedule conflicts.

One marketing agency representative said, “Personality and a photographer’s lack of interest can be major obstacles. We have found artists based on their work, but once we call to get to know him or her better, their personality can sway our decision.”

Learn from Previous Surveys

For an even more thorough understanding of what photo buyers look for, download the survey results from 2011 and 2012. The 2011 and 2012 “What Photo Buyers Want” surveys are part of PhotoShelter’s ongoing series of free business guides for photographers. PhotoShelter’s library includes 30+ educational guides on topics such as creating a successful photography portfolio, email marketing, and starting a photography business.

About PhotoShelter and Agency Access

PhotoShelter offers professional, reliable and innovative online tools to build and grow a successful photography business. Its latest release, Beam, offers a suite of portfolio website templates built with the latest technology to showcase images at their best. Over 80,000 photographers use PhotoShelter’s websites, social and SEO tools, online image archives, and image delivery and e-commerce tools.

Two PhotoShelter executives, Allen Murabayashi and Andrew Fingerman, will present a seminar on “Building the Right Audience Online” at PDN PhotoPlus Expo in New York. The seminar is scheduled from 1:30 to 3:30 pm on Thursday, October 24.

Agency Access provides direct marketing for commercial photographers, illustrators, artist reps and stock agencies. They offer educational services, consulting and design services, integrated marketing tools, phone marketing support, and access to a global database of 90,000-plus commercial art buyers at ad agencies, magazines, book publishers, in-house advertising departments, graphic design firms and architectural firms.



2013 Survey: What Buyers Want from Photographers

PhotoShelter Library of Business Guides for Photographers

Agency Access