How To Get Hired By Creative Agencies - Interview With Creative Director: Scott Wallace

Most photographers looking to advance their commercial photography careers come to the realization that in order to score the big jobs, they need to work with creative agencies. The question is, how does a photographer get those agency gigs? I sat down with Associate Creative Director Scott Wallace of Magner Sanborn to discuss the creative agency/photographer relationship and what we can do as photographers to get noticed and ultimately get hired.

It's a pretty casual interview which consists of questions provided by viewers via Twitter and stuff I just made up on the spot. I've worked with Scott on projects in the past and felt he was a good representation of the creative teams I've done business with over the years. Some Art Directors are micro managers, while others provide almost no feedback on a shoot. I found Scott to be someone who was right in between. He knows what he wants, but doesn't drive you nuts on set while trying to get there. He'll let the photographer work through issues and evolve the shot(s) through their own creative process, while providing valuable feedback when necessary. It's really a personal preference each photographer will figure out as he/she gains experience working with varying degrees of art direction.

If you don't feel like watching the video interview (I don't blame you, I'm no Katie Couric and it's not the most riveting of interviews), the short and skinny of it is that every creative team is different. Creative agencies still like to see a printed book, and source books (Workbook, AtEdge, etc) are still relevant. As you can expect, whether through social media, portfolio website, Behance, professional organizations, or rep sites, they pretty much turn to the internet for it's broad reach when looking for photographers. It's a slow 25 minute video, but there's some good nuggets of information, especially for those just starting their careers and building relationships with creative agencies.

Log in or register to post comments

14 Comments

Avrohom Perl's picture

So this is an idea I have floating around my head:

I don't think I'm ready for that level of work, but working with creative directors is where I would like to be in a year or 2. I have read about these guys tearing photographers portfolios apart. (Does that happen?) So can I seek out CDs just so they can tear me to pieces? Is that taking advantage of the process?

Fantastic fantastic post, hope for more related to working with creative directors, clients, etc!!

Once we are talking about critique, how can we arrange critiques from people like yourself and Fstoppers other commercial photographers ;)

Savi You's picture

You're assuming they'd even respond. If you want your portfolio to be torn to shreds, go post on the Fstopper's FB group.

Avrohom Perl's picture

Ha! Dont worry, I do :)

Tony Roslund's picture

Avrohom, the best way to get ADs to critique your portfolio is to join whatever professional photography organizations are available in your area. They usually host various portfolio reviews throughout the year and invite guests who are decision makers in the industry. I wouldn't send my portfolio to creative agencies expecting to get a critique. You'll likely just not hear from them at all.

Anyone who rips your portfolio to shreds is probably not someone you want to work with. It doesn't seem like it would be a positive relationship in the long run and frankly it's unprofessional. Just make sure they are really ripping your work to shreds rather than you feeling sensitive because it's personal to you. There is constructive that you maybe don't want to hear and there is flat out being a jackass.

Avrohom Perl's picture

Perhaps "rip to shreds" is the wrong way to put it.
Critique has been a huge HUGE part of my education, particularly the Fstoppers FB group.
Its nice to get comments from fellow photographers, but getting feedback from the exact people you hope to work with is invaluable!

Tony Roslund's picture

Avrohom, feel free to send your portfolio to info@tonyroslund.com and we'll do an honest, no BS, portfolio review. That goes for anyone else too! Be sure to have a thick skin, I don't sugar coat it.

Avrohom Perl's picture

Hell ya, thanx man :)
I'll be in touch.

Adam T's picture

Avrohom, What are you talking about. Your work is great, I'm wondering how have you not worked for a agency yet. Go now, not 2 years, fly and market yourself be free

Avrohom Perl's picture

Lol, thank you :)

Anonymous's picture

Great Q&A and this should shed some light on the process for new commercial photographers.

A photographers personality is crucial. During an interview with a Seattle art director, he stated:

“ I looked at your website and I knew you could do the work, but since we are spending a week together in NYC I wanted to be sure that we would work well together.

And you are the only photographer out of 10 that I met with that created sample images of what we are shooting for Electrolux.”

Needless to say I got the job and he hired me for every product shoot for the next 8 years.

Another art director told me that he looks at a portfolio for skill and technique, BUT hires photographers based on their personal work and passion.

I have met photographers that proudly boast of only picking up the camera when money is on the table. Those same photographers rarely got the job and complained about being underbid…yeah right, LOL.

If one loves their craft…they are always shooting projects or testing new ideas or lighting. I shoot personal projects all the time and always manage to get one portfolio piece out of it.

In a larger market, I agree that one needs to specialize. In Seattle I shot primarily product work. But I also shot a great deal of fashion for local designers. Product and fashion are two very different animals, yet they both share the same design principles & elements such as figure/ground, balance, emphasis, proportion, shape, space, value, and texture.

I presently live in a much smaller market and shoot a little bit of everything. To be honest, I would get bored shooting only products, fashion, portraits, or architecture. I like the variety of subject matter as well as the variety of problem solving involved, LOL.

Scott made a very important point, two jobs are on the line, yours and his. I always get as much information about the shoot beforehand. Depending on the level of difficulty, I may even do a few test shots and pass them on to the art director for suggestions or stress management.

On one job I was working with a relatively new art director and she was very anxious about her first big client. I shot 3 different examples of how we could tackle the project more efficiently. We shot the gig without a hitch and she was forever grateful. She still fly’s me out despite the extra expense.

Knowing your gear well is more important than the brand. Home Depot certainly didn’t care if I shot it with Profoto or Einstein lights. They DID care a great deal about the color accuracy of the different brands of power tools…..Hilti red vs. Milwaukee red. For the FStopper techies…I shot with Einsteins in color mode and used the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport profile in Lightroom 5.

Photography will always be about creating relationships and teamwork. As my old college instructor said, “He who serves the best lunch gets the job”.

Thanks again Tony for a great video interview! Wasn't boring at all :)

Chris Blair's picture

Great video, I assume all that information applies to Video as well. It looks like social media is more important than I thought. I better get started.

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview Tony. Really interesting watch.