This November, we were able to land meetings with HGTV Magazine, The New York Times’ T Brand Group, the Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, and both M. Shanken Communications and Creative Group.
Split between two days in NYC, our first major trip included HGTV Magazine, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and M. Shanken Creative Group.
Our CEO Bill and Assistant Photo Editor, Alex, hit the ground running with a visit to the photo editors at T Brand Studio, which is a division of The New York Times. Senior Photo Editor Kathryn Roach leads the department, with help from Photo Editors Sophie Butcher and Cielito Vivas. T Brand Studio creates branded content (also known as “paid posts”) for their advertisers. Those stories are clearly labeled as advertising content (so as not to confuse readers), but those articles tell the stories of brands with the same look and feel as the other editorial content you’ll find on the pages of The Times. Kathryn explained, “We create stuff that looks native to the New York Times.”
Not only does this provide much-needed revenue for the paper, but it’s also great for their freelance photographers, who commonly charge $7-10k (all in) for those shoots that take a day or two to create, and for 12 months use. The stories can take place anywhere in the world (they’ve got offices in Paris, London, and Tokyo in addition to their main office in New York), and though they emphasize still photography, Kathryn says she loves to add short motion clips when she can.
Looking through our stack of portfolios, everyone stopped to rave about Ben Weller’s book (which our photo editor Molly Glynn just printed!) They also mentioned that they’ve enjoyed working with Audra Melton in the past.
Meanwhile, I split off and went to HGTV to visit with Photo Director, Stephanie Kim and Photo Editor, Rachel Barker.
The team was immediately attracted to the work of Inge Prins. They said that they loved her style and bright colorful aesthetic. Stephanie told me that an HGTV Magazine picture has to be bright, colorful, and well styled.
In addition to Inge’s portfolio, Stephanie and Rachel really enjoyed the work of William Geddes, one of our photographers who they had worked with before. They said Wonderful Machine is often their first stop when they are looking for photographers because they love being able to search by location and knowing that the photographers they find will all be solid prospects.
After a quick lunch at Chipotle, Bill, Alex, and I headed over to The Wall Street Journal, where we were met by Photo Editors Allison Scott and Kat Malott. They are always looking for photographers all over the world, and mostly use Wonderful Machine to source Home & Garden photographers, but they also need the occasional Celebrity photographer to photograph a movie star at their childhood home or mountain hideaway.
Bill peeled off a little early for a super-secret meeting (we’ll keep you posted on that!) and Alex and I packed up the portfolios and bid our goodbyes to Allison and Kat and headed off to M. Shanken Communications where we met with Creative Director, Ken Ferris.
After we admired the beautiful lobby full of dozens of bottles of incredible wines and whiskeys for a bit, Ken appeared and led us to the conference room. Initially, I had thought that we would be speaking with Ken about M. Shanken’s publications, Wine Spectator, Whiskey Advocate, and Cigar Aficionado, but as it turns out, Ken is the Creative Director for M. Shanken Creative Group, which is an agency that lives inside of M. Shanken Communications.
To prepare for the meeting we had mostly brought photographers’ portfolios that had experience shooting alcohol campaigns or that specialized in liquids, but Ken was also interested in seeing the portfolios of the Home & Garden, Reportage, and Portraiture photographers that we had brought for our other meetings.
Ken also told us he only does 6-12 shoots a year and that most of them are in Nappa Valley or around the United States. The magazines, however, are much more international, often following stories that come from the many wine and spirit cultures across the globe.
For our second round of portfolio events in NYC this month, I brought along marketing consultant Thomas Lawn. We first stopped by Reader’s Digest, where we met with Director of Photography Rebecca Simpson Steele, Photo Editor Kelsey McArdle, and Freelance Producer Nick Mrozowski.
Most people know Reader’s Digest as one of those publications that an older member of their family reads. As it turns out, their readership’s age range and demographics are pretty diverse. Admittedly, their print version skews older, but their growing online presence hits a younger demographic. Rebecca told us that some of the images are designed to appeal to their older readership, but they are always looking to push those boundaries, describing the images they’re looking for as “fresh”, “poppy”, and at times, even “modern”. To that end, they try to include conceptual photography and creative portraits in as many of their issues as possible.
Our next stop was back at M. Shanken, this time to meet with the Communications division, or publications side of the brand.
M. Shanken’s creative team mentioned that they have two main considerations when looking for photographers. The first is finding photographers in locations that they have trouble covering. Most of the portfolios that we brought were from major metro areas where wine and spirits are big, like California. They are always looking for more talent in those areas, but they were particularly interested in us helping them find talent in places like South Dakota and Wyoming, where they struggle to find photographers that can cover stories. They also had a lot of interest in finding photographers in Las Vegas, which had become a bit of a dessert for them as well. (Pun intended.)
In addition to locale, they are always interested in learning more about photographers’ personalities and how they handle light. Many of the people that they profile are pretty interesting characters or aren’t particularly comfortable with having their picture taken. They also are often owners of liquor stores, distilleries, and wineries, which means that a typical shoot will include several low light shots. For example, they are often shooting in wine cellars, which can be tricky. Overall, they value photographers who are willing to roll with the punches, work well with people, and come up with creative solutions.
While interested in several of our portfolios, there were a few standouts for the team. In terms of pure aesthetic beauty, they keyed in on Lauren V. Allen‘s portfolio, which we actually printed in-house. They also mentioned that Doug Levy would be a good match for their publications and that they had worked with William DeShazer in the past and were very happy with his work.
We had a lot of meetings this month, which means we met with a bunch of interesting people, learned a lot, and were able to promote many of our photographers. We expect that this trend will continue, so if you’re interested in having us show your work, feel free to reach out! We would love to take your portfolio with us on our next trip.