Caitlin Ravin is an experienced freelance art buyer/art producer living in the northeast having worked on accounts like MacDonalds, Merrill Lynch, New Balance and others. Caitlin publishes a really excellent blog titled An Art Producer's Perspective.
Yesterday, Caitlin made an optimistic entry about how photographers and agency creatives might collaborate together in producing down & dirty, low-production images for these creatives to, in turn, use as comps for the purpose of pitching both new & established agency clients on potential new campaigns. Caitlin reasons that such a collaboration would result in a pitch more tailor made to the individual client's advertising and positioning needs rather than relying on generic stock images for FPO's & comps when putting together those pitches. She then goes on the discuss how working in such a relationship can ultimately be beneficial to all involved... the agency gets the new account and in turn, remembers well the photographer that worked with them with no budget to produce the images used in the successful pitch and will ultimately assign that photographer when the high production value campaign comes up to be photographed.
Caitlin makes some good points in this blog entry about building relationships with clients. The path she suggests certainly looks good on paper and I have little doubt that when she is the art buyer on such a campaign, she does take into consideration those that assisted her in putting together that account landing pitch. Just the same, my experience has been, on most occasions... not all, just the opposite. More often, it seems, you're remembered as the guy/gal that does the down & dirty work for cheap, the ultimate result being that the client only contacts you for those types of assignments that have very limited budgets and lower image quality requirements.
All this does not mean that Caitlin's suggestions have little or no merit when it comes to making the connection with or firming up relationships with art buyers in hopes of raising their awareness of you as an art producer or helping you land those bigger & better assignments. What it does mean is that there is no hard and fast rule for how to handle these types of situations and that each and every one needs to be weighed carefully for both the potential upsides and downsides.
Caitlin's post is especially relevant to me today as I have just received a request to shoot multiple images of a new resort spa that the resort's GM plans to use in a presentation at the chain's corporate mainland offices. And... while I am more than happy to take on such an assignment in the spirit of just the type of relationship building that Caitlin describes, further email discussions with the client revealed that the GM wanted to allot no more than a couple of hours time to produce what amounted to 4-5 interior images of the spa facilities and up to 2 exterior images.
Quite frankly, my decision to decline such an assignment had almost nothing to do with the lack of budget and everything to do with the potential negative branding my reputation might suffer should the corporate powers that be get exposed to anything less than images representing my best efforts. Already this resort's corporate offices fly in photographers from the mainland to produce much of the imaging needed for their national and international marketing and editorial needs. Were I to agree to produce lower quality work only for the use of this corporate presentation, I still would run the high risk of reinforcing the corporate idea that local talent can't hack it... can't produce the quality they require.