From: Heather Elder
Date: 21 May 2015

Dear Art Buyer;

We have been working together for over 15 years now, have grown professionally together and have become good friends. We have shared good times, confided in each other and even overcome some crazy obstacles together. After all that, it is only just now occurring to me to share with you hints for getting the best work out of me and our photographers.

I know that each project, each client and each creative team is different. I also know that the rules are always changing and you often find yourself without all of the information you need. My experience is that you do your best with what information you have; just like we do.

I often find myself thinking about how similar our jobs are. We are both translators. You have to translate account executive language to creatives and then creative language to me. I then have to translate art buyer language to photographer and producer language and then back again to your language. It is a delicate dance but when we partner together it always seems to work out.

Hopefully these notes can help you to help us make all of our experiences together even better. Even though some of them are obvious, they are still important to note so I decided to include them.

And, feel free to write me back and let me know what works best for you. I find that the more we talk about this the stronger our partnerships can become.

1) When I ask you for the budget, please know that I am only trying to get an idea of how to approach the project. My experience is that clients never really have enough anyway so if I know up front then I can set the crew and photographer expectations and save us some back and forth. I want to get you the best possible project for the amount of money you have and if I can get it to come in lower, I will. I am sure there are so many outside influences on the budget that make it hard to give me a solid number, but in those cases, a range or target are really helpful. I know how to be smart about a budget and will do my best to keep things lean when I can.

2) If I ask you who else we are bidding against, it is ok if you don’t want to share that information. I get it. But if it doesn’t really matter to you, then I could really use the information. It is so hard nowadays to know who our competition is and to determine where we fit in the spectrum of the project.

3) If you ever have feedback for me about the book, the site, the call, the estimate; any of it, I would really be appreciative. Books are rarely called in anymore and I can’t really tell who is looking at the site. I used to have ample opportunities to get feedback from you but now access is limited so any information I can share with my photographers is so helpful.

4) If I am just a third bid, please let me know. I am happy to provide a courtesy bid for you but would much rather do so without the song and dance. I can be fast, efficient and very professional about it. My photographers and I appreciate knowing when not to spend the time.

5) When we are not awarded the job, please let me know right away. I know it isn’t an easy call to make or email to send but there are many people who helped with the bid that need to know as well. We are so fortunate that often the job does come our way so we get it when it does not. We have thick skins and would much rather know. Besides, do you really want me calling and emailing?

6) I so appreciate when you let me come to your agency to brag about our photographers. I know it takes time out of your day and is a distraction from your work. And I am sure you feel the pressure when no one shows up. Please know though that if you cheerlead just a little for me then the turnout is that much better. And, I so do not mind if you call me the day before to tell me everyone is now at a creative meeting. I would much rather reschedule if I can then come when we know it will be slow.

7) I also appreciate when you spell out your expectations for a portfolio show – especially when it comes to what will entice the creatives. I know you know it is very expensive to host the shows so if you would, please do try not to be too insistent about what I should bring. In return I promise to bring something delicious.

8) Please do not get annoyed with me when I send email blasts. I know, I know you get so many. However, these are one of the only measurable forms of communication we have nowadays. Since portfolios are not called in that much, I never know who is looking at the work unless I send a blast. They help me to be more targeted. If I see that you never look at our work I actually do take you off the list. AND, if you feel that the work is not relevant for you, then please do let me know. I can easily remove you from my list. And, it goes without saying, but I promise not to stalk.

I am sure you have lots of notes that you could share with me and I welcome you to send them our way. We both speak each other’s language so it will be easy to keep the conversation going.

Thank you again for all of your support. I have enjoyed our working relationship and feel fortunate to call you my friend.


Heather Elder