The 15 Biggest Insights from the Portfolio Panel
Our panel of experts kept it real.
At Portfolio Panel, we brought together experts from Landor, BLDG, MORTAR and Polly magazine to discuss what they look for when they need creative talent. Armed with a few questions, we sat down for a conversation about client needs—and the audience of image-makers had questions of their own. Here’s what we learned.
Want to learn more about what to include in your portfolio? Read the Portfolio Review Series here.
Q: How are you finding image-makers to work with?
“Get your digital game on first. Focus on your Instagram and website SEO.”
By far the number one way people find creative image-makers is through Instagram, usually when you’re tagged in someone’s post. Make sure your IG is on point: a good bio, regular updates, and let your personality shine through.
Spend an hour or two optimizing your website (and yes, you do need a website if you’re serious) for search engines. Get Google-able.
“When it comes to promotion, be consistent. Repetition helps.”
Some clients pay attention to mailers, some people hate them. Some clients open emails, others will send them straight to junk. Clients are people with personal preferences like everyone else—you have to try a bit of everything.
“I totally go off recommendations.”
Clients want to work with people they trust, who are often recommended by other people they trust. Do you have crew members you can trade testimonials with? Can you ask your favorite clients to share a quote about working with you?
Q: What are you looking for when you need creative image-makers?
“Be authentic and focus on humanity.”
The days of perfectly glossy everything are ending. Brands want realness—think about the messy authenticity of Snapchat (or InstaStories if we’re being real. Sorry, Snap.) vs. perfectly curated Pinterest projects.
Clients want image-makers to understand how people live with their product or service and how it fits into their lives. Can you show it in action via video or stills? Can you capture the soul or essence of the subject?
“Get it done, like, yesterday.”
The never-ending content churn is real. Your client’s clients are often looking for quick, branded content that helps their customer in some way: think how-to’s, demonstrations, explainer videos.
“Know how you fit into the big picture.”
For one project, Landor hired a producer, a Director of Photography, and outsourced audio, while they owned creative direction. You need to be able to supply pieces of a whole, but those pieces must visually and emotionally align with the brand/story/campaign.
For example, if you’re hired to produce stills that will be used on social media and as part of a digital video spot, it has to have the same look and feel of the video—which may be produced by someone else in a different city. Don’t be afraid to ask the client for clarification or additional visuals, and approach each project from a holistic perspective.
“Sometimes the photographer’s style will drive the look.”
Clients want to work with people who have their own visual style. Create your own brand criteria based on the message you want to convey: is your imagery powerful? Magical? Whimsical? Make your work easily identifiable.
“Tailor your me-sheet.”
Create mini-portfolios for the types of work you do. If a burger chain is looking for a food stylist, curate a selection of your burger- and sandwich-related images and send that. Clients don’t want to search through everything you’ve done to find what they’re looking for.
Q: But specifically, what type of work do you need people for?
“Food stylists are the real heroes!”
Panelists are currently looking for:
- Food stylists for packaging
- Direct-to-consumer e-commerce photo and video
- Storytelling and interview video
- Short digital videos to promote campaigns and activations
Q: What are your expectations for client service?
“The best thing I see on set is when the crew is one step ahead of you.”
You’re the expert! Prep for clients before the shoot and anticipate their needs.
“Diva behaviour is not welcome.”
Yes, you’re talented—that’s why you’re there. But you’re also getting paid, so treat your clients with respect.
“Know how to deliver large files.”
Logistics and workflow matter. Make sure the client gets what they need, when they need it.
“Offer up stuff we may not think about. Give us options for A or B.”
Stay on top of industry trends and think about how they apply to each job. Clients want your creative input.
“I like to see a good relationship between the crew. Be fun and cool!”
Expectations vary from client to client, but no one wants to spend 12 hours on set with a grouch. You love your work, right? Have fun!
“Just be professional.”
Show up on time, be responsive, and be easy to work with—how you work is just as important as how good you are.
The big takeaway: These days, speed and creativity are key.
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