Q&A with Marketing and Creative Consultant DIANE EAMES


This week I am featuring a compelling interview with Diane Eames, a former art buyer who opened her doors 7 years ago as a photography marketing and creative consultant to some of the top photographers in the business. Specializing in developing custom marketing programs, she has helped them land clients and reps, generate considerable PR and build long-standing relationships.

Her passion for photography and for helping photographers refine and deliver their message is apparent in the level of attention she brings to the strategic programs she develops and the unique and beautifully executed promotions and events she produces. I first met Diane at Taking Liberties, a fine art show she produced in partnership with Tidepool Reps. The pop-up show ran for three weeks and featured the personal work of Tidepool photographers Erik Almas and Timothy Archibald and Digital Artist Michael Tompert.

With the increasing challenges of getting the time and attention of art buyers and the growing interest in photographer’s personal work, it seemed a very smart approach to showcasing the artists in a relaxed environment that invited engagement and added a personal dimension to professional relationships. We chatted for a few minutes at the opening about her marketing consultancy and the custom services she provided to photographers beyond standard portfolio consultations and general marketing plans and support. I know from experience that highly targeted marketing promotions and events are unique in their ability to generate results and build relationships and was very interested to learn more about some of the programs she’d developed and how effective they had been.

We met again at another flawlessly executed event she worked on with Tidepool—Erik Almas’ San Francisco APA presentation at Dogpatch Labs. Again impressed, I asked her on the spot if she would do an interview for POP. We had a very interesting conversation about what has changed in the market that requires photographers to be more strategic with their marketing, what types of targeted marketing gets results and best practices for traditional marketing.

A big thank you to Diane for all her enthusiasm, hard work and sense of humor (I kept her parked in her car for an hour at one point asking some final questions—which she handled by wondering why the neighbors in Piedmont hadn’t called the police) on her interview!

POP: What is your background and when did you launch your consulting business?

I was an art buyer in San Francisco for about 15 years — Y&R, Hal Riney and Digitas + freelance. I transitioned out of art buying when stock started to take hold and my affinity was more with the photographers and what they were doing — their creative and production processes. I started Eames Marketing and set it up as a general marketing consultancy that offered a menu of options: Portfolio development, competitive research, production calendar and implementation, etc. This lasted for several years but started to become an antiquated way of viewing the marketing experience for photographers.

A few years ago, many things were changing within the commercial industry and few felt that things were ever going back to “normal.” With the downturn in the economy lasting longer than anticipated, it was becoming increasingly difficult to break through the clutter of mass email and direct marketing. There were a lot of photographers relying on the same more/less “affordable” types of marketing to get their name out, many times sending to huge non-targeted lists. This resulted in art directors and art buyers getting inundated.

For full interview, please click on link below.

Around the Fall of ’10 I realized that I needed to promote myself as much more adaptable to the business needs of photographers. I took down the website and changed the name of my business to Diane Eames, A Creative Consultancy. The frame of mind I was going after was much more of a unique and special-project consultancy as opposed to standard marketing services. It worked with my personal creative evolution as I too became drawn to unique opportunities that were more about the vertical dive than a horizontal swim — custom books, fine art shows, coordination of events, etc.

A good example is Tidepool Rep’s (Brooke Embry and Kate Chase) “Taking Liberties “ — a fine art show that showcased three of their commercial artists in a pop-up gallery in San Francisco last November, to open in New York this Fall. We (myself and my clients) spent a lot of time on the strategy behind supporting the show including the various avenues of marketing and promoting the event. As I managed the production (something I take to naturally after years of being an art buyer), we were committed to a worthy ROI. There was such an intense amount of detail at every level of production from the artists, Tidepool and myself. We put 110% into every aspect. The artists received a tremendous amount of positive press regarding their work, including Time Magazine, NYT and MSNBC. Michael Tompert eventually produced a Blurb book with all the press articles and blog chatter from around the world that is fascinating to read. Timothy Archibald received work directly related to agency folks being invited to an intimate event at the gallery to view his “Echolilia” collection.

I still maintain the general marketing consultancy, however that aspect is the price of entry. I love working on portfolios — editing, categorizing, pagination, etc. and it is rare that I would ever turn that type of work away; it is a highly rewarding creative process. However, in today’s economic climate and the hyper-competitiveness of a market with fewer jobs that rely on assignment photography, a well-spun tale won’t further a career.

I want to help create a main marketing point of view that is about building relationships and ROI. We all want to do that, right? The personal connection has to be a goal and it typically takes a few steps to get there but it is a worthwhile venture. With purposeful targeted pieces and events, you have a chance to give your audience something that is relevant. The reward is developing a promotional piece that is delivered to the right person, that allows them to see something of yourself as a photographer/artist. And then there is the follow-up and folding that one piece into another, etc. It is an ongoing marketing effort not just a one trick pony.

Dennis Welsh "Kids" Cover

Dennis Welsh "Kids" Inside Cover Spread

Dennis Welsh "Kids" Pages

My first glimpse into this type of continuum was working with Kate Chase on Artisan magazine. Artisan was a beautiful retouching magazine that we produced three times — each showcasing recent work but with unique focuses from initial introductions to what the artists were “jonesing” to work on. We did a print run of about 3,500 and followed up with events in SF and NY. The response was insane. People loved it and were so excited to see the process and get a glimpse behind the scenes of a retouching project — befores and afters have always garnered a lot of interest. The thought behind Artisan was to educate industry folks as to what a high-level retoucher brings to the process of artwork, the experience and precision of an expert artist. We wanted them to understand that these retouchers were doing something that no one else could do. It was eye opening for a lot of people. We also got a lot of compliments regarding the concept, content and design.

The marketing was tight — an email blast introduced each edition, each volume had an online component and eventually the third edition was flanked by two special events in SF and NY. We ran detailed credits that tied the KCP site and each issue, each artist — what I like to fondly think of as our early SEO days:) The analytics for each execution were tracked and fostered.

POP: In what way do you find that for photographers the definition of ‘marketing’ is changing?

There is an incredible amount of marketing that photographers have to do: Social media, targeted dm and/or email marketing, SEO, portfolio updates, award show entries, source books, special engagements such as art shows, portfolio shows and presentations, etc.. I don’t know where it’s going to net out, but we’re riding the search and social trend right now and there isn’t a lot of time to question it. There are many examples of those who do it well—competitive research is in plain site.

You’re probably not going to get hired off of Facebook or a blog, but you can use the back-end analytics to their full extent. It’s also a part of developing the personality of the artist.

In an ideal world, a photographer has a rep, studio manager and/or consultant that partners with them for at least a portion of their marketing so they can do what they do best—shooting, creating new work, being an artist.

POP: What do you offer in addition to traditional marketing?

Well, I hope I offer thoughts and ideas that truly support the integrity of the artist — specialty projects that provide purposeful insight for the client. I’m serving my client and the target audience — I have to break through the clutter.

POP: Do you find that photographers are becoming more marketing savvy?

I would say yes, but I’m not sure if it’s the constant verbiage to market or using tools more effectively. There are some stellar examples of photographers that have a real talent for cohesively marketing their business. For those that aren’t able to get into that mindset (for any number of reasons), tweets, blogs, FB, + general marketing efforts like dm and email can be great ways to build an audience but it most likely behooves them to have help maintaining additional marketing elements from someone who is versed in the other channels.

POP: What is the frequency and duration for a successful targeted marketing campaign?

Without trying to sound coy, I would say that the frequency and duration depend on your message and how long it takes to communicate it effectively. What is your objective? I would tend to be focused on the results of each campaign and let that be your determining factor — did you succeed or fail at reaching your goal? Fold the learning into the next campaign. It can’t be a solitary investment.

POP: Photographers will continue to use email as a marketing tool. What are best practices and how do you measure success? And what would you recommend for follow-up once you have analytics?

I would focus on click-throughs and not be so concerned about open rate. It’s about what page they’re going to and how much time they’re spending there. If you’re bounce rate is high, it’s important to check relevant subject matter against who you’re sending it to and other key elements of your email.

Best practices would include a portion of your list being custom built, tracked separately. I recommend the follow-up be broken down into manageable portions, consistent messaging and again, a set objective. This could be the objective of getting your portfolio in front of X% of your click-throughs or to scrub your list after several executions to hone in on those that repeatedly view your emails. There are many ways to set your goals and build a plan. Being mindful of your recipient is at the top of the list, too.

POP: Targeted/direct mail campaign/piece that was especially successful or that you really enjoyed working on?

The projects I really enjoy have a custom printing component; I am passionate about paper, printing, bookmaking and packaging. Success is getting those high-investment pieces in front of the right person and growing the relationship. “Artisan Magazine” was one of those dream projects. Most of the portfolios I have worked on, in varying capacities, are also amongst my favorite projects.

A great example of a successful project was one I worked on with an East Coast photographer. He contacted me when his business was growing and it was time to create a relationship with an artist representative. Concurrently, he was wrapping a beautiful campaign for a ballet company, which was soon to be published as a coffee table book.

We began with a site update, including an in-depth edit of hundreds of images. Next, we developed a list of top artist representatives based on specific qualifying criteria, then approached finding a rep in the traditional way of preparing a customized dossier with a sampling of loose fine art quality prints of his ballet campaign and a letter from the photographer inviting the reader to enjoy the prints, view more of his work on his site and to contact him if they were interested in taking the conversation further. Upon which, he returned calls and gathered information pertinent to his needs. We met our project objective about three months later when he signed with an artist representative.

POP: Where does your job start and reps end? How do you collaborate with the reps?

That really depends on the rep and their philosophy about working with their photographers/artists – their particular business model. The fuzzy area between my job and the reps lies somewhere around sales, although my work is highly influenced by their sales experience. It is always my intent to work well with the rep and listen to what they have to say about selling the artist, what materials they need, what type of work gets the best reaction, history of bidding, current jobs, etc. That is really the basis of my collaboration.

First and foremost, if my client is the photographer (versus being hired by a rep), I listen to them and get their approval to contact their rep. In some cases we are working on a personal project outside the commercial realm and if that is the case, it can mean no rep. contact.

POP: More and more photographers are showing their personal work and there’s also an evolving respect for the fine art work of commercial photographers. How is this impacting the conversations that photographers and reps are having?

I was just at the LeBook cocktail mingler in LA and one of the art buyers was talking about how she loves the fine art element. She too is an artist and has work up in a gallery. And right there we have a connection that is mutually interesting. After the production of Taking Liberties and working with Michael Tompert on his fine art show, 12LVE, I was amazed to see how locked in and present our commercial audience is for a fine art show. I hope this trend continues to grow and inspire photographers.

POP: Do you attend portfolio shows with reps?

Yes, whenever invited. I am a voyeur at heart, so I like to listen to agency folks talk about books and see how a particular image takes them on a tangent, the memory it evokes. I work a lot off of these comments and interactions.

POP: What has changed for art buyers since you left?

Aside from a managerial position, art buying used to be dedicated to core responsibilities of sourcing photographers, illustrators and retouchers — supporting the vision of the art director, pressing internally to get the desired talent, facilitating the contract and delivering final artwork. As time went on, we started to see more of a responsibility to present to the client, cost controllers, negotiate tighter budgets, and forecast art buying expenditures. The position holds much more financial responsibility in a very competitive environment. My hat’s off to the art buyers today.

They are also sourcing talent from a much larger pool. I remember years ago I had a conversation with the Art Buyer at Attik and he was telling me about hiring a tattoo artist for one of their layouts… I don’t know any details of that execution but so cool to even consider.

POP: If you could recommend one thing to a photographer, what would it be? If a photographer could add just one thing to their traditional marketing plan, what would you recommend?

My top recommendation would be to continually shoot, build the portfolio, explore and engage your POV as an artist. Tied for first is to learn how to be an active and profitable business owner.

If you could add one thing to your traditional marketing plan it would be something focused on relationship building that can be tracked. Go beyond brand awareness and learn to decipher and respond to the analytics.

To get in contact with Diane, please feel free to email her at diane.eames (at) gmail.com.

One Response to “Q&A with Marketing and Creative Consultant DIANE EAMES”

  1. 1 Kate Chase

    Thank you for this compellling interview. Diane is a true collaborator and could not imagine my work or world without her in it.

    Well done.


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