I’m still amazed by how much the pandemic has changed the way people work. Even though video calls have been around for many years (remember Skype?), it really wasn’t until people were forced to use them that we realized the value of video calls. Now that people are comfortable with meeting (and even directing photo shoots) remotely, it’s harder to justify the time, energy, and expense of in-person portfolio reviews.
Since so much of our work at Wonderful Machine is centered around connecting photographers and prospective clients, I thought it was time to get some hard data about what (and how much) has changed about the way publications, agencies, and brands meet with photographers. So we decided to send an anonymous survey in early August to the photographers in our network and the people who hire them to find out.
Before Covid, clients had in-person portfolio reviews almost double the amount of reviews that were online. Post-Covid, clients are meeting with photographers much more online and much less in person.
Clients reported that part of this shift toward online reviews is due to continued remote or hybrid work scenarios. Here’s what we heard:
We are only back in the office two days a week. Schedules are packed and there is little time for reviews.
The company where I work is still mostly remote. We have small offices in four cities, but most people still prefer to work from home, thus in-person portfolio reviews are rare.
It’s worth noting, however, that even before Covid, more than a quarter of clients were already doing more online portfolio reviews than in-person.
Online is more convenient and allows folks from all over (regardless of location) to participate easier.
I assign shoots all over the country, so in-person portfolio reviews were infrequent — unless a photographer happened to be visiting the DC metro area, where I’m located.
Since Covid, when clients do meet with photographers in person, they are seeing print portfolios much less frequently and digital portfolios much more.
Though the trend is toward digital, not all clients are thrilled.
I don’t love it, but I understand it.
I still believe print portfolios are crucial for reviews.
When we asked Clients whether photographers are showing them websites or presentation decks on video calls, we found the proportion unchanged from before Covid to now. However, the comments from clients (and the same survey question to photographers) seem to show clearly that photographers are showing presentation decks more often.
One client wrote,
I can review someone’s website anytime so I do prefer if there is additional work or a PDF presentation that they share on a call. A recent project that they shot…something additional that’s not what I can see on their website.
Clients are divided on whether in-person or online meetings are more effective overall, with the largest group showing no preference.
Here’s what clients are saying.
In-person is nice to get a sense of the photographer — their personality, and if I or my client would gel with them on assignment. But it’s just not convenient most of the time, so video reviews have become the norm for my business.
I think online video reviews are more efficient because in-person reviews tend to go over the allotted time. That said, I think in-person reviews are more effective at making a connection.
It’s more a question of ‘preference’ rather than effectiveness. I prefer to do reviews in person because I like to interact with the photographer. I get to meet my colleagues, which is a big part of participating.
Before Covid, three-quarters of photographers were meeting with clients in person. Since Covid, three-quarters of photographers are now meeting with clients online.
Before Covid, the number of photographers who presented their print portfolios to clients at in-person meetings was roughly equal to the number of those who presented digitally. Now, digital portfolios are three times more utilized by photographers at in-person reviews.
Close to 7% of photographers currently use a mixture of print and digital portfolios at in-person meetings.
About 5% of photographers reported that they have not had any in-person portfolio reviews since before Covid.
Since Covid, photographers have been shifting toward showing more presentation decks during video calls and fewer websites.
Some of the applications used for these digital presentations include: PowerPoint, Keynote, Lightroom, Photo Mechanic, Flowpaper, Slack, Instagram, or a simple PDF. We also heard of photographers who use customizable pages on their websites. These often require logins, which can be good for tracking engagement.
Also worth noting, of the photographers who answered the survey, almost 10% reported having little to no online portfolio reviews before Covid.
I did not have Zoom calls to leads. If we were having zoom calls, we were already planning a job.
Before Covid, video calls didn’t exist. You would only use Skype to call your grandmother.
When asked their preference, more than twice as many photographers answered that they are more in favor of in-person portfolio reviews than video calls.
But when asked how many photographers still maintain a print portfolio, less than half answered yes.
For those who answered yes, the most common reasons included:
Clients like to see and touch print portfolios.
I like showing my pictures in a way that the client can’t see online.
I like the way my photos look and feel in print.
I’m nostalgic for a traditional portfolio presentation.
For those who answered no, the most common reasons included:
One of the trends we’re seeing is that the photographers who do use video calls to meet with prospective clients are increasingly using presentation decks, such as PowerPoint, Keynote, or a simple PDF, to show their photos rather than navigating through their website. This makes sense for a number of reasons.
Another dynamic worth mentioning is that on both the client and photographer side, there is a significant portion of individuals who are not in favor of the shift away from print portfolios and in-person portfolio reviews. What is interesting is that for both clients and photographers, the resistance seems to stem from something more personal (or aesthetic) than business-oriented. It is largely agreed upon that video calls and digital portfolios save both time and money. Because of our proximity to the newness of this trend, it is difficult to know how much of this sentiment can be understood as industry ‘growing pains.’ Or is there perhaps something tangible or intangible about photographs and people, for which we have yet to find a worthy digital form?
Wonderful Machine tracks over 100,000 people and companies related to commercial photography. Is there anything you’d like to ask them? Send your suggestions for our next industry survey to Bill Cramer.