Expert Advice: Prospect Guidelines

Marketing is a big part of what we do at Wonderful Machine, and in order for our efforts to be successful we need to make sure we are targeting the right people. By nature, that “person” changes from company to company, but with the right set of knowledge, anyone can expertly market themselves to the right clients. From ad agencies to corporations, we can help you navigate the world of prospects.

Not only do the job titles of people who hire photographers change from ad agency to magazine to graphic design firm, but so do job descriptions. While bigger ad agencies tend to have similar structures with specific people for specific jobs, small ad agencies will have someone who’s like a “one-stop shop” doing everything from hiring the photographer to graphic designer.


It can be hard to know who’s responsible for hiring photographers within certain companies, but you can usually figure it out on your own with a bit of research. First, use a database like Agency Access to search the company and find out who’s who. To take it a step further, search that specific person on LinkedIn, most will have their job descriptions listed under experience. If you’re still unsure of who you should be contacting, the best option is to call and simply ask for the person in charge of photography.

Either way, having knowledge about the structure of these companies can go a long way. Here are our recommendations for reaching out to the best prospects:

Ad agencies are like the mother lode for fantastic prospects; many people there are worth reaching out to. But to cut to the chase, the first and best person to go to is the art buyer. While there is often influence from the art director, creative director and producer, the art buyer is at the top of the food chain. This person looks at the project from the economic side of things, and knows how to find the perfect marriage of budget and talent.

In addition to having the biggest role when it comes to choosing the right photographer for a job, the art buyer is often in charge of coming up with a healthy list of prospective photographers to show the creative director or art director. Even if you don’t get the job initially, reaching out and getting yourself on the art buyer’s radar is always valuable. Art producers, creative buyers and print producers are also key people to look for when reaching out to ad agencies. After those positions, next in line would be the art director, then a creative director/assistant. Magazines are also huge outlet for prospecting, but it’s important to note that the hierarchy tends to be a little different here. At many magazines, instead of finding an art buyer, art producer, creative buyer, or print producer (though sometimes custom publications will have staff with those titles) you will often find a photo editor. That title holds an umbrella of tasks that are broken up into many different jobs at other organizations. A photo editor may be in charge of everything from the production of the project to the design of the editorial itself.

Graphic design firms tend to be structured a bit more like ad agencies. You will often find an art buyer, art producer, creative buyer and in some cases, a print producer; these are going to be the most promising people at graphic design firms. If you are not able to get a hold of someone with those titles, (or that firm is smaller and doesn’t have those positions,) a graphic designer or art director will be your go-to. Creative directors and assistants fall in the third tier of prospects at graphic design firms.

Last but not least are corporations. This could be anything from a pharmaceutical company to a children’s clothing line. Corporations can have structures similar to ad agencies with art buyers, art producers, print producers and creative buyers, or they can have a structure unique to the company. Typically, this means there will be someone with any variation of titles like communication manager or marketing director. Much like photo editors at magazines, these people are often in charge of a range of tasks. If you are not able to get in touch with anyone at a corporation with these titles, an art director, creative director, graphic designer or creative assistant are all good options. There can be a twist to this hierarchy (depending on the scope and budget of the project), these organizations will contract out to ad agencies and production companies to handle all aspects.

Still, getting your foot in the door with the corporations could get you a leg up on your competition: other photographers.

If you need other advice or help with building a prospect list, visit Wonderful Machine’s consulting services page.

Suzy Reynolds


  • Wonderful Machine

    To bring a new voice, a valuable perspective, and great advice for all photographers, we have teamed up with the fine folks at Wonderful Machine. They share a lot of great content and offer amazing resources for professional photographers, and this blog post is only one of many!