Pay For Meetings?

I received this email from a reader:

I received an e-promo for a photography networking event hosted by nycfotoworks.com October 28-29th.

The event allows you to pay for “packages” of meetings with some pretty big names.
7 editors $399
6 agents $399
5 art buyers $499
14 editors $699
12 agents $699
14 editors, 5 agents $899
14 editors, 5 art buyers $999

What’s your take on this? Do photographers have to pay to get their book in front of someone now?

First off, let me say something about portfolio reviews. They should always be divided up into critical reviews and showing your work to potential client reviews. Critical reviews, in my opinion, are invaluable. To sit down with someone who hires photographers and get feedback about your work and presentation can really get you moving in the right direction. The more the better as well. You’re bound to get a few duds in there and if you can handle filtering through all the information thrown at you why not get as much as possible.

This NYCFoto Works event is billed as the latter. They claim:

First, photographers must apply and be accepted in order to attend the event. Because of this, reviewers know us as a source of professional talent and come to the event looking for photographers to work with.

Who knows how stringent they are on this. If there are slots to fill and bodies to fill them the level may not be as high as reviewers would like.

The list of reviewers is seriously impressive, to be honest, I wouldn’t mind meeting a couple of those people myself (list_of_attendees). So, what about this idea of paying to show your book? I don’t know about FotoWorks, but the reviews I’ve done in the past were unpaid, so it’s not like you are paying the photo editor, art buyer, gallerist, in some kind of weird kickback way to look at your book and talk to you for 20 minutes. If you already pay to create and ship your book, create and mail promos, then what’s wrong with paying the people who put this event together? I know doing this kind of event is hard work for the reviewers and for the most part they are all there to look at work and meet people. Why not support an organization like this that seeks to make it easier for people hiring photographers to meet a bunch of them at once.

If you’ve got a nice body of work, you’re getting some traction and were planning on making the rounds in NYC, $1000 gets you 14 editors and 5 art buyers in 2 days. Is that a bad deal?

Check out this video they made with some of their reviewers.

There Are 39 Comments On This Article.

  1. Interesting.

    Considerations:

    Getting a pre-screened list of talent to look at in a small and organized time-frame is also a timer/stress saver for the reviewers. So why put all the cost burden on the photographers?

    Charging attendees for the cost of putting on the event seems fair. However the packages differ by number of reviewers giving the perception that it’s pay for performance not pay for cost. Flat fee and transparency would be helpful. Do the reviewers get paid from the proceeds?

    Is there a risk that it sets precedent that in the future you’ll have to pay for any kind of face time? Further cost shifting….

  2. I did this last year, it was a great deal and in reality they’re saving the photographer a TON of money by going and setting up all of those meetings at once.

    Setting up meetings “for free” is really anything but…

  3. While $999 is too rich for my blood, it is the best list of reviewers I have ever seen. There are people on the list that it is nearly impossible (Michael Norseng, Susan White etc.) to get in front of normally.
    On a different note, a few of the reviewers have told me that they love doing portfolios reviews.

  4. I’m very torn. It is still a portfolio review, a quick one, with it’s inherent pitfalls, but the list is very impressive. Something just seems wrong with portfolio reviews and the $ though. I have a hard time thinking that they’re all doing this for the greater good of photography/photographers and would think that they aren’t really going to ‘find new talent’ that isn’t already readily available to them. It’s not like these people are new at this.

  5. I can’t speak for all of them, but I know that several of the reviewers are unpaid.

    What’s the rationale for not paying reviewers? They’re the real draw of the event, they bring expertise and access to an event that would be NOTHING without them.

    Funny how all these people who battle daily to the death over budgets agree to do this for free.

  6. How is this any different than paying for attending a review like Santa Fe? I agree about the difference between critical reviews and potential client reviews, but I think from a photographer’s perspective there is always a hope/expectation that work could come out of it either way. I attended Photolucida and Review Santa Fe and the cost associated with it, especially after hotel and airfare etc., are comparable if not more. This list of reviewers is as good as any I have seen. I see it as the cost of doing business. Yes, it hurts a little, but if you get one gig out of it, it pays for itself. It’s either that or spend hours and hours cold calling which I’ve done. I’ve been able to get into see a few of those reviewers by cold calling, but it can be Sisyphusian task.

  7. I applied for and was accepted to this event in July. I didn’t act on it until a couple of weeks ago when I actually purchased a package of reviews. I had some trepidation about it but figured it was worth checking out. I too was, and am, skeptical about how stringent the jury process is for the event, especially since they’re still clearly marketing it to photographers 3 weeks out (I got the same email from them yesterday that Rob did).

    I received a promo from PDN the day after I bought the review package from NYCFotoWorks which highlighted a review event that PDN and Palm Springs Photo Festival are putting together for PDN PhotoPlus on the same days (NYCFotoWorks piggybacked on the PhotoPlus dates). The PDN/Palm Springs Photo Festival event is significantly cheaper, has many of the same reviewers and more, but is not juried.

    Both events provide for one on one meetings with reviewers. The scheduling procedures are a bit different (I spoke with organizers for both events) and I’m not sure yet which one is more likely to get photographers in front of the people with whom they most want to meet. NYCFW has a scheduler who plugs photographers into slots based on a first come, first served basis but I wonder if more prominent photographers get deferential treatment.

    The PDN event appears democratic since the review slots become open to everyone at the same time and can be selected by photographers on line on a first come, first served basis. That could be better than the NYCFW procedure or it could be worse depending on how fast you are at navigating the schedule choices on line when the sign-ups begin. Seems kind of like buying tickets to a Lady Gaga concert.

    Once I’m there, if I get the sense that the jury process for NYCFotoWorks is suspect, I’ll probably opt for PDN’s program in the future. If it appears, though, that the quality of photographers at the NYCFW event is uniformly high, it may be worth the difference in cost. For it to be truly worth the difference, it seems the NYCFW will need to garner a reputation among reviewers for putting quality shooters in front of them every year.

      • @Shane, I’ll try to remember to do that. The reviews at NYCFW are on Thursday and Friday while the PDN reviews are on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I’m thinking about jumping over to PDN on Saturday to see a few more people and assess the differences for the future but I’ve got a big project coming up the following week and I’m not sure I’ll be able to stay an extra day.

  8. We photographers often want clients to see the value of our work rather than the cost to produce it…so I’ll extend the same courtesy in this instance. The value of the meetings is what I’m looking at. Since I live in Texas the cost of seeing half of that list individually on my own terms, in multiple trips to NYC, would be exponential. So, yes, if those are the people you want to work with…absolutely worth it.

    Too bad I’m a photographer and have no money to travel to NYC:(

  9. Do they pay the reviewers? How did they pull that impressive list together?

    My concern wouldn’t be the money paid to the organizers since reaching prospects is expensive no matter how you do it. My questions would be more about the authenticity of the event.

    I’d like to hear from the reviewers after the event to get their perspective on the talent they saw and whether they thought is was worth their time to attend beyond the money they were paid by organizers (if they were paid).

  10. Not sure how to feel about this. Just got back from making the rounds in NYC last week and met with a substantial amount of those reviewers featured above–(my direct cost was time spent emailing and making phone calls—-and yeah—it took 5 days instead of 2), but I guess I’m glad I didn’t have to spend an extra grand to make it happen. And, I like to think that personal rapport might help me to establish a relationship with a prospective client, but who knows… Whatever works, I guess.

  11. On second thought, if I didn’t have a free place to stay in New York and the extra time to spend there, this might make a lot of sense.

  12. Just another step in the trend of assuring that only the trustafarians will ever have a “career” in photography. Between the cost of decent digital equipment and the related necessary computer equipment, start up in this industry for a young person without means is nearly impossible. I mentor a number of talented young shooters who will probably never have a real career. I see promos by “up and coming” talent that had a higher production cost than most commercial jobs these days. Who is paying for that?
    Jobs are being produced at a higher cost than the budgets allow for all the time. The only people who can consistently do that are folks who do not have to make a living with their trade. Photography is rapidly becoming an avocation of the wealthy class rather than a profession someone can use to advance themselves financially.

    Sorry, kind of off topic but that’s what I was struck by.

    • @Mark Gamba, I think this is an unfortunate result of too many photographers, not enough work. Shooters need a way to stand out from the pack, and if you can afford an expensive, nicely done promo that will help. Just like in most other industries, having a lot of capital can be a huge advantage.

      On the other hand, the playing field is more level in some ways than it used to be–one can have a web presence for free, which can be seen by anyone anywhere on the planet. And I don’t think startup costs were much less if at all in the days of film, when there was no way around having a print portfolio, and pro lab costs were pretty steep.

    • @Mark Gamba, I hear what you’re saying, but not every “up and comer” is working with a trust fund. There is such a thing as being smart with one’s money. I spent 5+ years as an assistant working my tail off in the trenches, saving the dimes, and it’s paying off slowly.

  13. I have no problem paying for reviews.

    I regularly show work locally and when I travel to NYC and other cities I alway try to set up meetings. It is a complete pain in the ass to try to get meetings on any level: local-national, editorial-ad agency. NYC is actually much easier to get meetings than than my local market. It can often take up to 6-9 months to get meetings with all of the local agencies where I am based.

    On a national ad agency level it seems that most people don’t want to spend time just to meet with one photographer, they would rather have a rep come in and show a few books at a time. Editorial is different of course. It is nearly impossible to get meetings with the people on that list being an unrepped photographer.

    Of course I would pay to have meetings with that list of industry people all in a matter of 2-3 days… It makes sense business-wise.

  14. ASMP/NY has 2 FREE portfolio reviews each year, maybe the only free review events in the NY area. Commercial in the Fall. Fine Art in the Spring. Only available to members. (The benefits of membership more than pay for the cost of dues.) Here’s a link to the list for the last (our 5th annual) Fine Art Review.
    http://tinyurl.com/asmpny-PortfolioReviewers

    Susan May Tell
    ASMPNY – Fine Art Chair

  15. I could see this being a deal if you don’t live in new york but, otherwise if your work is good enough you can likely get a meeting w/ a lot of those editors. Not saying it’s easy but it’s not impossible.

  16. $899 to meet with 14 editors and 5 buyers face to face? Absolutely worth it for those looking for commercial/editorial work. For those who spend time/money on marketing, that’s what, somewhere close to the cost of a North American subscription to Agency Access or Adbase where there’s no guarantee of ever corresponding by email, let alone getting a meeting.

    I just completed a portfolio review hosted by the APA in LA and met with buyers from TBWA/Chiat/Day, Saatchi LA, Team One, and two respectable reps. The cost to photographers was $100, but the event was held at 5th & Sunset studios, in two separate studios…which could easily be worth a couple of thousand dollars off the bat. The feedback (at least what I got) was critical, constructive, and at the same time, encouraging. I heard honest assessments and got some phenomenal advice about the direction of my newly formed career post-assisting.

    Thanks to Rob for linking to the event, I may very well fly in from LA to attend!

  17. The Portfolio Review Program at PhotoPlus is designed to be absolutely democratic for the attendee’s selection of reviews. No one can reserve reviews in advance. In fact, the software we’ve developed for this event notifies each attendee / registrant 72, 48 and 24 hours in advance, of the exact time and date that they can use a private link in their email message to log on and select their portfolio reviewer preferences. We don’t offer “grab bags” of reviews – our entire review schedule is posted online at http://2011.palmspringsphotofestival.com/review/pfr-nyc-faculties. This allows attendees to study each reviewer and their availability (their bios are available by simply passing the mouse over the names on the schedule) and how they might be a good fit. We offer over 90 reviews by a wide range of industry influencers – may of whom are available for 6-12 reviews.

    No reviewer receives monetary compensation at our program. We offer them access to PhotoPlus, and an invitation to the PDN party aboard the Intrepid Ship during PhotoPlus. Our reviewers are offering their time to help emerging and professional photographers – as well as stay abreast of new talent. It is an event that allows professionals in the field such as photo editors, art directors, curators, reps, stock agencies and others to meet new people in a controlled environment. It is obvious they cannot devote the time to personally meet photographers in their offices on an on-going basis during their busy weeks, so this allows a window for people to present work to them without a lot of chit-chat – they greet the attendee – look at the work, and, if the attendee has a leave-behind, have a way to reconnect in the future.

    JEFF DUNAS
    Director

    • @JEFF, Thank you for your post and revealing that your reviewers are not paid. I signed up for this review. Other than the snafu with the web server on the opening hours, the process was fair and luckily I ended up getting my 5 choices. On a different note, I wonder how many reviewers think it’s possible to really find new talent they want to work with at these events.

      • We’ve received a great many emails from our reviewers already. They found the experience very useful and have indicated they were happy with the quality of the work they reviewed. There have been assignments and new relationships formed from the program already. This is the window they can open to meet people and not have appointments in their offices for which time is an issue. It’s designed to be mutually beneficial.

  18. A friend of mine signed up for one of these, but before doing so, called to ask my opinion. We are both long time newspaper photojournalists trying to transition to the larger editorial/commercial market. My primary suggestion to him, was what editors have been telling me as I’ve been showing my work around. One editor in particular said that she loved my work, but wanted to see me develop some of the images into projects.

    So, what I told my friend was that I wouldn’t do something like this until I’ve finished some of the projects on which I’m now working. In short, I think that if you’re going to pay to put your work in front of these major players, you should have something that they will not only critique, but will wow the hell out of them.

    My 2 cents…

  19. If the reviewers or organizers make a profit at this, does that make it less valid or worthwhile? I do think this is a very valuable service to many photographers, and I don’t see what difference it makes if money is being made or not. If it’s worth the money to you, go for it; if not, don’t.

  20. I attended this last year. After I signed up for this expensive review, I had a bit of buyer’s remorse. After all, I’m in New York already, so I could probably meet with these editors anyway on my own, right? What I’m really paying for is someone else to schedule the meetings for me, and guarantee I can get in the door. But would I really get my money’s worth? I was skeptical.

    But it turns out that one connection I made at the event led directly to a paid gallery of photos being featured on Time Magazine’s website. See “Photos: Inventors and Their Inventions” at http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/0,28757,1934027,00.html

    So ultimately I did feel that I got my money’s worth. But if you can’t afford it, I recommend using their list of editors as a call sheet of people to contact on your own. It’s a pretty good list.

  21. I did this last year, I met some fantastic people and got some great feedback on my book. I’m going back again this year. It’s so hard to get people to stop and look at your work, for me this is a great way to actually get some face time with people.

  22. I was at nycfotoworks last year. I’ve also been to Houston for there big review 3 times. It’s hard to say if it has lead to any concrete results work wise. Although I’ve met a few people that have put me into some group shows from houston. Another good result is I have some real big name folks who I know well enough now that they will actually respond to emails from me and offer advice on projects I’m working on and that’s a pretty big deal.

  23. I wonder how the photographers that walk through this door are perceived on the other end by these editors, agents, creatives?

  24. I went to NYC last winter to promote my new book with disastrous results. 2 people, (my wife and I) spent 2.k traveling from New Mexico. First, we spent months contacting 50+ people, (editors, art buyers) and as predicted most never returned communications. Long story short we ended up only getting 6 reviews. 3 cancelled. They all occurred while we were in NYC, 2 on the day of the appointment. Of the 3 cancelations, one texted us the day before to canx, but never returned our attempt to reschedule. One had us sit in the lobby for 1.5 hours and never bothered to come down even though the receptionist verified she was still in her office. The third went to Puerto Rico and never told us. We sat in the lobby for 45 minutes. Finally the recep. called her assistant, who sitting only 50′ down the hall didn’t even have the decency to come out to greet us. Just told us on the phone from the recep. desk to just leave a promo card behind and get lost.

    2 of the folks who cancelled on us are on the reviewers list! I think the concept is a great idea and there are some heavy hitter reviewers on that list worth seeing. But the fees are too high and thus we never signed up. The organizers should recover their costs, but I think if the reviewers are being paid, perhaps they are there for the wrong reason. I’ve don PSFF reviews. I sensed the prevailing atmosphere there was that they weren’t there to find new talent to actually hire. So I would be interested in hearing from anyone who actually go a job as a result from a book review from the AD or PE

  25. I just completed my meetings at nycfotoworks and have nothing but positive things to say about the event. I was worried at first about the quality of reviews but everyone I met with was very honest and provided constructive feedback. I may have even landed an assignment because of it. It’s definitely one of those things that you get out of it what you put into it.