What Art Buyers look for when searching for talent (PhotoShelter survey)

We’ve summed up the key points from the a survey on What Buyers Want From Photographers to bring you a short list of what to pay attention most when showcasing your work and contacting your potential clients.

The survey gathers hundreds of photo buyers worldwide to help educate photographers on how to improve their marketing efforts, web presence and overall business workflow to attract attention from those who hire. Art buyers from ad agencies like Ogilvy & Mather and Saatchi & Saatchi, and from editorials like Conde Nast and IPC Media were interviewed and we gathered some of the most interesting points in the lists below. To see the full survey report, click here.

2013 industry trends show that:

1. Budgets are increasing
2. Photography style going towards natural, raw, reportage trends
3. Improving your SEO great way to be found by art buyers
4. Art buyers turn most of the time to online search for talent, not so much to printed sources. They repeat what’s the most important when coming across a website: fast loading time, easy navigation and clear contact information. Also the ability to view on tablet or phone.
5. Mostly editorial publications hire photographers for 40+ shoots per year. Second are ad agencies.
6. One of most important factors to get hired is LOCATION! Buyers will often search resources by location depending on the shoot.
7. Another very important factor is RELEVANCE!
8. Most art buyers find new photographers through major search engines, photo reps, agencies or directories
9. Most important features to be hired: nice website, relevant work, easy navigation, fast lead time, clear contact information
10. New photographers get more chances getting hired based on location & category relevance and cool new style.
11. Updating online portfolio is very important; buyers want to see your latest work
12. Social media important new way to find new talent
13. Show your moving image portfolio
14. Best tips for email marketing: Great images, clean presentation, short and condensed copy, relevant subject lines, links to websites, consistency
15. Art buyers like a focused niche so, they recommend 10-30 images in portfolio at a time.
16. Tips for breaking in the industry: have a great website, listen to the brief, send friendly reminders, be a storyteller, find a rep, be a good brand advocate.

 “What is the best method you would suggest a photographer use to capture your attention, share their work, or share new work?”

Of the 354 responses provided:

38% of buyers said email is the best approach
21% suggested any form of communication – but to ensure it is uniquely targeted to their needs
10% buyers said direct mail is the best approach
7.6% buyers suggested an in-person portfolio visit
23.4% other responses were provided, from social media, to personal introductions, to sourcebooks and directories, to reps and agencies.

“What makes a good email campaign?”

Consistency/ regularity in sending promos
Image(s) and copy immediately relevant

“What’s a good way to be found by an art buyer online apart being listed in relevant industry directories”

Improve SEO (search engine optimization) to be found easily on search engines.

Key advice from art buyer

“I need to be able to download a comp of an image if I am doing photo research for a story. It’s fine if it is low-res or watermarked. But if your photos are in a Flash animation that I can’t download individually, I will usually move on.”

Key advice from photo editor

Photographers should focus on fast load times, simple design, image viewing and navigation. An art buyer will wait maximum 10 seconds for a website to load. For a busy potential client, speed is essential. Buyers will give up if a website loads slowly.  After 15 seconds you’ve lost 81% of buyers visiting your site.

What size is the best for viewing images?

Majority prefer 700pxl wide, but not more. The “bigger is better” axiom doesn’t always apply for buyers when viewing a photographer’s website. Buyers preferred sizes that fell in the 700 pixel (wide) to 900 pixel range. Even in the advertising segment, the preference for +900px was only marginally greater than average, at 9.6%.

Key advice

An art buyer advises photographers to be very specific about the email subject line. “Tell me what’s featured in the promo,” she instructs. For example “Lifestyle Photography // On Location in Vancouver” or “Food Photography // Seafood for Conde Nast” work well in her system, while “URGENT! Please open immediately” is useless for future reference.

Regarding websites, art buyer suggests photographers keep their websites as simple and easy to navigate as possible. “We’re not looking at your web development skills, we’re looking at your work and trying to get a hold of you!” Among pet peeves, she lists roving scroll or “next” cursors, slow upload times, loud music, “Agree To” conditions. Kat suggests photographers make it very easy for clients to request and download hi res images for comping. She points out that Corbis and Getty do this – that’s what photographers are competing against.

“Which background color works best on a website?”

Majority prefers black background.

Key insights

Buyers loved (and liked) black and white backgrounds the best. Colour and texture were most hated because they tend to distract from images. We suggest avoiding backgrounds that strive for uniqueness in favour of simplicity.
Majority will not watch slideshows.

“What do you like to see on a website?”


Fast image loading
Email address always visible
Phone number always visible
Ability to click to view all thumbnails
Search all images by keyword
Ability to send or copy a link to a photo or gallery
Showcase a ‘newly added’ section
Captions below photos or on roll-over
Ability to view at full screen
Ability to create/send a lightbox of select images
Ability to price/purchase/license images right on the site
Navigation menu consistent on all pages
Ability to email a photo
Make browsing easy and logical
Simple navigation
Group photos in logical categories/ galleries/ portfolios
Enable a buyer to request a comp download


Ads (ie Google text ads)
Full-screen ‘intro’ (e.g. animated photographer name/logo) that plays before you get to main menu
Slideshows as default/slideshow-only galleries
Contact forms instead of listing email address
Slideshow as intro
Photographer’s recent Facebook/twitter status
Hidden “next” arrows that move
Long, Flash intros that can’t be skipped
Complex, unique navigation

“How do you like to view a photographer portfolio?”

Website – preferred

Key insights

66.5% of buyers said that for photographers with video skills, they want/expect to see video as part of the photographer’s portfolio and marketing. If you’ve got the skills, you’ve got to showcase them.