Want to see your photography in a magazine? Get the inside scoop on how to get an art director’s attention and sell your photos in this excerpt from an interview with HOW magazine’s art director Adam Ladd. The complete Q&A, by F+W Media managing photographer Ric Deliantoni, will appear in the 2014 Photographer’s Market. Purchase a copy of the 2014 Photographer’s Market (available in late August 2013) or subscribe to ArtistsMarketOnline.com to get the complete interview when it becomes available in August.
Keep creating and good luck!
Adam Ladd: HOW Magazine Art Director
Adam Ladd is F+W Media’s newest art director at HOW, one of the leading magazines in the graphic design industry. As a photo buyer, Ladd provides a unique perspective and view of the photography business as it stands today. After getting insight into his thoughts and style, I’m confident Ladd will shine in this new role. I am impressed with his outlook and his passion when it comes to photography and the overuse of stock imagery in today’s design work. Ladd’s attitude bodes well for up and coming photographers.
Tell us about yourself and your career.
I’ve been a professional in the design industry for nine years as a graphic designer and art director. The first five years were spent as an in-house designer for a large, contemporary church in Cincinnati. The next three to four years were spent in a variety of contract and freelance positions, collaborating with firms and working with my own clients. January of 2013 I started at HOW magazine as art director and designer.
Do you have a formal arts education?
A 2-year diploma and portfolio in advertising and design to get me in the door. I grew from there.
How would you rate an education vs. a mentor program?
I had both, education first from a small portfolio school, then a mentor/friend in my art director at my first job. He helped me immensely to grow.
What inspires you to create?
It is hard for me to just go to town on a blank canvas (like an artist). I am indeed more of a designer in that I need a problem to solve, and that gets the creative juices pumping.
Talk a bit about your creative process and how you approach your assignment work.
As often as I can, I try to make sure I understand the need thoroughly before I start, whether that means asking a bunch of questions or getting a creative brief in place. From that point I will do a lot of pencil sketching to rough out quick, instinctual ideas. Then I massage out the ones that seem to have potential.
What are your thoughts on specializing in specific fields, and why have you come to these conclusions?
I think it is very important to be a specialist. Your name becomes synonymous with that area, and it’s typically what you’re most passionate about. I want to be an expert in what I’m most passionate about in the design field. But you can’t be too narrow-minded.
Talk a bit about how you like to view photography from prospective vendors.
Though I, unfortunately, have to throw away a lot of them, I like seeing photos that are mailed to me because it feels a little more pure and shows me how well the photo can be produced when printed. A clean online portfolio is always good, too.
Talk about your thoughts on effective marketing. What do you feel works and what falls short?
If you send me that postcard in the mail that clearly displays your style, and it intrigues, I need to easily be able to see more. So make sure your portfolio online is current and easy for me to see your work and find out more about you as a professional photographer.
What are your thoughts on social networking in the marketing process?
Crucial. If I want to research someone more, I don’t want to go digging for scraps. They need to be very present so that I find what I’m looking for quickly. Being active in social media (namely Twitter) helps exposure. Make sure that if you’re trying to represent your business that you keep it professional. I don’t want to sort through a bunch of random posts that are irrelevant to your profession.
Talk about your experiences with artist’s representatives, if any.
The reps do a good job to help an artist’s exposure, but it can also be a pain because of the overhead costs that are factored into the artist’s fees to pay their rep. The backend of invoices and communication can be a little trickier too. But, if your work is good enough, it really is not too much of a factor. I’ll want you regardless.
When you are looking to hire a photographer, what steps do you take in this search?
I almost always check out their work online first, then contact them usually via e-mail if I’m confident they will be a good fit for a project. I’ll already have a set budget and timeline to discuss with them.
In recent years there has been some talk about developing a set of professional standards to govern the business of photography. What are your thoughts on this subject?
It’s a slippery slope to implement standards, but the ride can prove promising as technical things like file formatting, resolution, color spaces, etc. can become more consistent for people like me, who may deal with a bunch of different images from different sources.
What are your thoughts on the subject of licensing photographers, akin to other professionals such as contractors, CPAs, and the like?
I don’t see a problem with it. You’re getting paid for work on a hopefully more regular basis.
What are your thoughts on the digital age, and how has it affected the industry as a whole?
I know as a designer, I feel for photographers. We fight the same battles. A client can too easily find someone posing as a professional to do work cheaper. But the quality is poor. This hurts our credibility and saturates the market with too many cheap alternatives. It changes the general population’s perception of how much things should cost. We become devalued. But, at the same time, if you need to make some money, there are now more outlets to do so. Plus, if your work is good, there are people who recognize that. You just need to focus your marketing efforts on them.
Talk a bit about your workflow, your process, and the tools you use.
I primarily use Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator. If it’s an editorial design I’m working on, I make sure to do it in InDesign (which is made to handle multiple pages and gives you preflight quality checks). Some people like to place photos in Illustrator, I just don’t think that is a best practice. I also try to keep the original image saved if I need to manipulate it. I don’t want to save over top of it in case I need to refer back.
Do you have any parting words of wisdom you would like to share about the future of the photography profession?
For the photographers who care about their craft, please don’t sell out. While I appreciate a good stock image as much as the next for the reasons you would typically list, it is at the same time hard to find someone who loves their craft on those sites. And the images reflect that. It also stinks when you see a stock image that you used appear on someone else’s material. So those who can create custom imagery, take direction, and provide expertise are of great value. Please keep fighting for quality and distinction as things that those who need images should value.
Ric Deliantoni is a professional photographer and director with thirty years of experience, with a focus on still-life and lifestyle imagery for advertising, design and publishing. He has developed a unique style that has been described as impressionistic and bold. Ric has also spent much of his career teaching and mentoring students of all levels to better themselves as artists.