Once we find a company that we think is a good prospect, we have to figure out which people at that company are in charge of hiring photographers. Knowing what all the different job titles mean will help us connect with the right people.
We use the term Publication to include newspapers, consumer magazines, association magazines, trade magazines, book publishers, radio/tv, branded content, and custom publishing. But while job titles may vary between those industry segments and they will even vary from company to company within those segments, the following list will mostly hold true across the board.
Most publications have art departments that are responsible for sourcing visuals (including photography, video, graphics, and illustrations). They may sometimes commission original photography and other times (because of budget or availability) they may license stock images. Most big publications have people with some variation of the title photo editor, picture editor, or visuals editor. At some smaller publications, it may be the art director who hires the photographers, and occasionally you’ll find publications that are so small they don’t even have an art director and the editor-in-chief hands out photo assignments.
In most cases (because of the budgets and the scale of the projects), the photo editors and the photographers usually team up to handle the shoot production rather than hiring producers or production companies to help.
Here are some of the most common job titles (in order of seniority) that you’ll find at publications, and an explanation of their value to photographers:
- Editor: Editors-in-Chief oversee all of the editorial content of their publication. Most editors stay out of the day-to-day decisions about which photographers to hire, but they are often involved when it comes to cover photos or big features. There are some very small publications that don’t have an art director or photo editor so it becomes the editor’s job to commission photography. We only list editors in Daylite when there’s no better option.
- Creative Director: Most individual publications don’t have creative directors. Creative directors are most often working for a group of magazines. Like editors, it’s rare that creative directors hire photographers, so we usually don’t add them to Daylite. Associate Creative Directors are one level lower than CD and Group Creative Director is one level higher.
- Art Director: Art directors work with the editors to decide what type of visuals should accompany the words (whether still photos, videos, or illustration). They also design page layouts. At small publications where there’s no photo editor, they will be the one who hires photographers and sources stock photos. The larger the publication is, the more likely the photo department will be.
- Director of Photography: This is usually the title of the lead photo editor at a publication. They will have a hand in choosing photographers for all of the cover shoots and features, but they may be less involved in choosing photographers for departments and smaller projects. (Don’t be confused by the fact that Director of Photography also means Cinematographer, which is a whole different thing.) Deputy Director of Photography is one level lower.
- Photo Editor, Picture Editor, Visuals Editor: This is probably the single best job title for us and our photographers. There are many variations on this theme starting with assistant photo editor, then associate photo editor, photo editor, senior photo editor, deputy photo editor. They all work under the Director of Photography, with more or less autonomy depending on the size of the project. Now that most publications are digital (and many not longer appear in print), and as high speed internet has become more widely available, video content has become a more and more important part of the coverage. As a result, more and more publications are shifting to the use of Visuals in those job titles.
- Picture Researcher: This is the entry-level job in the photo department. That person’s job is mostly about looking for stock photos and video. Though they are not going to have a lot of influence on who gets hired, they often do eventually grow into a more senior role, so it doesn’t hurt to get to know them while they’re young!
- Department Secretary: Sometimes large newspapers have an administrative assistant who helps manage contracts and invoices from photographers. While this person is not likely to make decisions about which photographers get hired, they can be a good point of contact because they’re going to know the names of everyone in the art or photo department.
We use the term agency to include full-service/integrated advertising agencies, digital/social, graphic design, public relations, and in-house. At graphic design and public relations firms, the people who hire photographers could have just about any job title. However, at integrated agencies, digital/social, and in-house agencies (like publications), the job titles are fairly predictable.
At all agencies, the creative and production teams work hand-in-hand to transform concepts into campaigns, including print and online ads, TV commercials, transit, point-of-purchase, and direct mail. Within any agency, there will be creative people and production people. As a rule, the production people will have a more direct role in hiring photographers, but the creative people will often influence who gets hired, so both groups will be good prospects for us.
Unlike publications, who are usually hiring photographers directly, ad agencies sometimes also hire production companies (like Wonderful Machine) to in turn hire photographers, videographers, and crew, to execute shoots. There’s little difference between the people who hire photographers directly and the people who hire producers or production companies, so we don’t try to distinguish them here.
Here’s a list of the job titles most relevant to us:
- Creative Director is in charge of developing the creative concepts that get pitched to the client. Once the client signs off on the creative, the CD works with the art buyers (to select the photographers) and the producers (to execute the shoots). At bigger agencies, you will also find associate creative directors (ACDs) or art directors (ADs) who will have more or less influence in selecting the photographer.
- Art Buyer (or Creative Buyer) is in charge of knowing who all the best photographers, video directors, and production companies are. Works with the creative director to choose those photographers and directors, provide them with the creative brief from which they will formulate their estimates. The art buyer is a notch lower on the org chart than the creative director, but they often have a lot of influence over who gets selected to bid on a project. This is probably the single best contact at any agency. Do not confuse this job title with media buyer, who has nothing to do with commissioning photography (they buy the media in which the ads will appear).
- Producer (or Senior Producer, Art Producer, Creative Producer, Integrated Producer) executes productions under the direction of the Executive Producer (who works along side the CD). Integrated means that they produce projects in any form and for any medium, including stills/video for print, digital/social, broadcast.
- Production Coordinator is an administrative assistant to the producers. Doesn’t make hiring decisions, but can be influential.
Here’s a list of job titles that you’ll run into, but tend not to be good prospects:
- Line Producer is the person who is actually on set making sure the cast and crew all show up and do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it. They are often freelancers and they are usually do not pick the photographer.
- Production Director, Project Manager, Creative Services Manager those are internal-facing roles, coordinating and communicating the status of projects to the upper management of the agency. They don’t get involved with the details of the projects.
- Art Director works on a specific project or part of a project under the direction of the Creative Director. Can sometimes be a good prospect, but art buyers, producers, and creative directors are more valuable, so we usually don’t include art directors on our list.
- Designer sits at a computer and creates layouts of ads and other creative content. Usually not involved in hiring photographers.
- Chief Creative Officer, Executive Creative Director is usually too high up on the org chart to be a good prospect.
- Copywriter writes scripts, tag lines, and other text. Usually not involved in hiring photographers.
- Account Executive, Account Manager, Account Director manages the business side of the client relationship. Usually not involved in hiring photographers.
- Freelancers: There are lots of freelance creative directors, art buyers and producers (especially in New York), and they’re all good prospects. We link them to Agency (Freelance) so that they show up in our Smart Lists. If they are “permalancer” and work exclusively at one particular agency, we just link them to that agency and include the word Freelance in their title. Most freelancers have their own website, which can help us decide how good a prospect they are for us.
Unlike publications and agencies, which tend to use a fairly uniform set of job titles for the people who hire photographers, brands tend to use all kinds of job titles, many of which don’t even include the words creative, art, photo, or production. This makes finding the right people a bit of a challenge! Adding to this is the fact that brands are a catch-all category for us at Wonderful Machine. In other words, if it’s not a publication and it’s not an agency, it must be a brand.
But fear not, there are some basic rules of thumb that will provide a good starting point. Then as you develop relationships with those folks, you can discover other good prospects that are otherwise flying under the radar.
Most large companies have two main departments that need photography and video: corporate communications and marketing communications. The job of the corporate communications department is to communicate with employees and shareholders. Those departments are often split up between internal communications, external communications, investor relations, among others and they tend to use a lot of corporate and industrial photography, head shots, and event photography).
- Internal Communications might include employee newsletters or intra-net sites to share news about what’s going on in the company. They might hire photographers to shoot head shots or events.
- External Communications might include brochures, annual reports (including financial reports, environmental sustainability reports, diversity reports), press releases, and websites. They might hire photographers to show their factories, distribution centers, sales staff, administrative staff, corporate executives, even vendors. Their audience might include investors, governmental agencies, labor unions, or the general public. Just as the marketing department might look like an ad agency, corporate communications departments can look like a graphic design firm, communications firm, or public relations firm.
The common denominator for the corporate communications department is, well, corporate communications. At any big company, you’ll have many levels of seniority. The smaller the company is, the higher up the ladder you should shoot for. At bigger companies, a mid-level executive might be the best match. At the top of the pecking order is VP of Corporate Communications, then Corporate Communications Director, Corporate Communications Manager, Corporate Communications Associate (or Coordinator or Specialist). Our rule of thumb is we target Directors if it’s a small company and Managers if it’s a large company.
Many companies also have separate Public Relations departments who send out press releases (often with photos or video) to new organizations. The key people there would be Public Relations (or Media Relations) Director or Manager.
The marketing communications department communicates mainly with customers to promote their products and services (much in the same way an outside creative agency would). Some companies go as far as to form in-house creative agencies with their own name. For example, Roundel, which is part of Target, handles projects for Target as well as for other customers.
What’s nice about that is that those departments often use the same naming conventions as a regular creative agency would, like Creative Director, Art Buyer, Producer (see more at Client Job Titles: Agencies)
Here are some other common marketing communications job titles in order of seniority:
- Brand Manager: Maintains and develops brand image and voice based on market research.
- Marketing Director/Manager: Big picture/data driven marketing tactician. Uses knowledge of customer base and competition to plan products and services to offer.
- Advertising Director: Plans and directs the promotional and advertising campaigns of companies to raise awareness for a product or service.
- Creative Director: In charge of the “big picture” of promotional campaigns and delegates creative work to art directors, designers, and writers. Medium to high value prospect for photographers.
- Art Director: In charge of the “little picture” of creative projects. Concerned with the processes of creative projects: reviewing copy, designs, and photography. Brings the creative director’s vision to fruition.
- Graphic Designer: Lays out publications and ads. Relatively low value prospect for us.
Sometimes the titles might seem like a good fit for us, but really they aren’t. For example, a creative director at a fashion brand might design clothes rather than ads. Other times, people with innocuous job titles like administrative assistant have the power to hire photographers.
Need help finding clients that are right for you? Give us a shout!