Sourcebooks, Photography Directories, Listings… What are the differences between them, and which one will give me the highest return on investment? You asked, so I did the research.
I interviewed dozens of photographers and directory agents and conclude that there are no best or worst. Your genre of photography, location, target market, how you prefer to interact, and of course your marketing budget will collectively determine which one (or more) of these resources is right for you. This review will help you decide which resources are best for your business.
The most important thing to know is, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. As with all of your marketing efforts, you have to be consistent, you have to be the squeaky wheel, and you have to be patient.
The majority of these source books and directories are by invitation or selective review, and I do not recommend them for photographers who do not yet have commercial or editorial experience.
Below you will find an abbreviated version of my full report which is available to my clients or subscribe to my newsletter to receive a download. Numbers and costs are based on research completed in October 2019.
WORKBOOK is one of the oldest and perhaps most well-known bi-annual print directories for photographers and illustrators. Their hefty books are ubiquitous at most ad agencies and Workbook is known for great customer service and ROI. ”We are still relevant to creative buyers after 41 years. The Workbook is the most recognizable direct mail pieces in the world.” BORN: 1978 COST: Between $2000 (website) -$7500 (Pro tier includes a 2-page spread in spring and fall books as well as online and free portfolio presentations). Current number of photographers: 321
Best for (IMO/In My Opinion): Advertising photographers interested in print and online marketing support willing to update their work regularly.
LE BOOK is another one of the print originals, born in Paris in 1982, expanding to New York (1995) and further in Europe (1999) to include film, photography and other production and event resources. I actually purchased my one and only source book listing in Le Book as a photographer in 2007. Le Book still publishes directories annually in four markets but their business model seems to be more focused on events and production. BORN: 1982 COST: $110/mo. Current number of photographers: 126 in the U.S. (more internationally).
Best for (IMO): Fashion Photographers in larger markets.
AT-EDGE is a series of print publications (5 books/year) sent to agencies and major brands in the U.S. By invitation only, AtEdge limits their roster to 150 artists so that they can promote and provide their members with individual attention. “We focus on the most innovative photographers, directors and CGI/post-production studios and always make your image the hero. The AtEdge marketing program sets the bar for talent on our digital platforms, in our books, and at our exclusive industry events. Creatives know and love us for that reason.” BORN: 2003 COST: $8340/year (includes a spread in all 5 sourcebooks, a web portfolio, consulting, and one face-to-face portfolio event with 4-6 senior-level creatives.) Number of photographers/directors: 150.
Best for (IMO): Advertising photographers wanting a more personalized collaboration.
WONDERFUL MACHINE began as a photography collective and has expanded into a global online-only directory of photographers in more than 40 countries. In my opinion, Wonderful Machine is one of the few directories that has an intentional foot in the editorial and reportage space (not solely focused on advertising agencies and direct-to-brand.) They also do a lot of production. ”We take a personalized approach when marketing, estimating, and producing for our photographers. We have a lot of photographers that have been with us for many years, lasting relationships. We enjoy seeing their careers grow.” BORN: 2010 (as a directory) COST: $192-$240/month (listing only.) Number of artists: 595.
Best for (IMO): Photographers wanting more global and editorial reach with the availability of a full suite of services like bidding and production.
FOUND is an online and print directory known as one of the best in design and user experience. It’s also one of the more affordable options. Found is unique in that it hosts portfolios showings without the artists in attendance. If you are an introvert, this might be your jam. Found Artists print curated sourcebooks twice per year (100 artists per book) and “Decks” (unbound) six times per year (50 artists per deck). ”We’re unique in our team and passion as well as our price point. We know what it takes to market our artists and we’ve built rapport with clients over time and in doing so many portfolio reviews.” BORN: 2016 COST: $40/month (does not include portfolio reviews nor placement in print books) up to $3995/year. Current number of photographers: ~700.
Best for (IMO): Advertising photographers needing flexibility with their marketing budgets, wanting help with bids, less interested in or unable to attend in-person reviews.
BOULEVARD Artists is (more than) an online directory of photographers created by the founders of Fotoworks. They host in-person portfolio reviews several times per year in multiple cities. Although you do not have to be a BLVD Artist to attend some of these reviews, their members receive priority and discounts. ”We see ourselves more as a roster than a directory, we host portfolio reviews and focus on personal relationships.” BORN: 2014 COST: $1399/year or $4200/year for Select members, buy up to $6950 to include 3 portfolio review events. Number of photographers: ~40.
Best for (IMO): Advertising photographers & directors willing to hustle their physical portfolios, travel to meetings, and make face-to-face connections.
PRODUCTION PARADISE is one of the most internationally recognized online resources for finding photographers, stylists, producers and almost every category of production service you could hope to discover in 55 directories around the globe. ”We are unique in our reach and have the highest number of email subscribers out of all of the online photo directories (over 200K).” BORN: 2002 COST: $2-$5K/year for photographers (less for stylists and other production resources, prices are determined by profession and location.) Number of photographers: ~500 in North America & the Caribbean (more internationally, supporting over 2500 creative businesses worldwide.)
Best for (IMO): Photographers wanting broader online reach and promotion.
THE NEW PIONEERS
KOMYOON is a digital directory offering services and tools for professional artists & the people who hire them. The app and soon to be desktop version allow artists to customize a searchable digital profile. Paid membership includes profile curation, portfolio/website reviews, spotlights on social media and access to varied in-person events. ”Our commitment to better unify our industry is aimed at addressing current pay for play models and making it easier for decision makers to find and track artists. We provide an affordable, useful solution that works fairly for qualified commercial artists of all levels.” BORN: 2019 COST: Free up to $3450 (4 tiers). Current number of artists: 265
Best for (IMO): Advertising photographers with zero to large marketing budgets who enjoy the social media model/experience of sharing their work, and are willing to stay active and update their content.
PHOTOPOLITIC began as a production services company in 2012 and expanded into its current online directory model in 2017. More than a photographer directory, PhotoPolitic is rapidly forming as an all-in-one stop for promotion, production, consulting, marketing, design, and soon to be direct casting model. PhotoPolitic is unique in many ways but notably in its mission to connect photographers to each other with a members-only discussion group and fireside chat style events. ”Our website is state of the art in functionality and speed. We make it easy for art buyers to find new photographers. Artists who join PhotoPolitic are side by side with some of the top photographers in the world.” BORN: 2017 (as a directory) COST: $900/year (going up to $1200 in 2020). Current number of photographers: 272 (limited to 25 photographers per category per major market)
Best for (IMO): Advertising photographers interested in community and more direct support.
The companies that I researched for this blog are the most well known in the space of promoting commercial/advertising photographers. I’ve discovered numerous other artist directories and listings in addition to the ones included here. There are many resources that blur or dilate the lines of what might be considered a directory, some that are free and many that are niche. So as not to overwhelm here, I will be posting future blogs to share what I have learned about these additional resources. Please sign up for my newsletter to be notified.
Pro-tips before spending your money:
1. Prepare and ask lots of questions. This is not a vending machine. Make sure to get a phone call or face to face meeting with a rep or salesperson before deciding to commit to a listing. Consider the professional background, experience, and vibe of the people you speak with. Some of these agents may be representing you and your work to potential clients in the future or advising you on your career and portfolio, make sure it’s a great fit. Take your time.
2. Look at the caliber of other artists in each directory that you are considering. They should be as good as or better than you. Call or email several artists using the same directories you are considering who are in your same genre and/or location and ask about their experience. Ask yourself if there are a lot of competing artists in the same directory, that can be a good or bad thing.
3. Define your goals and expectations. Different directories have different resources available to photographers. Some are more hands-on than others. Decide if you want to drop and run or if you are the type of artist who prefers a bit of handholding. Know if you are willing to attend reviews and if it’s realistic in your schedule and budget to travel and also update/submit/print new work regularly.
4. Know your budget. Some directories might start cheap, but ROI usually grows with “buy-ups” (buying in to email or print promotions, portfolio reviews, editing services, etc.) A sourcebook or directory should never consume your entire marketing budget.
5. Ask for a discount (politely). Most of these directories have discounts available, it can’t hurt to ask!
Get inspired, keep up with my pro-tips, and meet some of my favorite clients and artists: follow me on Instagram @amyvcooper.
I hope this blog has answered some of your many questions: Which photography directories are the best? Which photography sourcebook has the best ROI (return on investment)? Are photography directories and source books worth the money? Can you get a job from a photography source book? What are the differences between photography directories and source books? Compare prices between photography directories and source books. Do advertising agencies still look at photography source books? Can I get hired from a photography directory? How many jobs do you get from a photo directory?