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Professional Contexts Blog

Emily McBean (lecture 4)

For one of the professional contexts lectures, Emily Mcbean gave a lecture and held portfolio reviews. She is a creative producer and art director who currently works at Winkcreative; a creative agency.

Before her lecture, I was uncertain about what ‘art buying’ is, she defined it as matching clients to the right brief, so having a creative eye is essential to her job. Her job also includes producing shoots, commissioning photographers, managing budgets, negotiating contracts, finding studio spaces and locations, retouching, post-production and general admin tasks. The attributes for being an art buyer are similar to those of being a photographer, but it is key to have knowledge of the industry, knowing key names of established photographers as well as those who are up-and-coming.

I do not think that I want to go down the same career route as her, but it was interesting hearing about how she works with photographers and could share some insight from a different perspective. One tip she gave was to ask for a budget in the early stages of communicating with a brand and that way you can tell them what you can offer for that price. Sometimes there may be no budget but if you really believe in the cause, you could chose to make the work for your portfolio. The more experience you gain, the better your understanding of what your day rate will be. When looking for photographers, brands will look through the titles you have made work for previously.

It is a good idea to build up your network by creating a list of photo directors and try to meet them for a coffee to show them your work. If you have a look in newspapers and magazines, their contact details may be in the front, alternatively you could ring a switchboard and ask to speak to them or for their details that way. When looking for photographers to commission, she will question whether your work fits with the clients needs, is your work consistent and have you got enough experience to be a safe bet to deliver everything to a good level and smoothly.

She emphasised the need as a photographer to read into who you are in contact with and their publication. It is a good idea in the interview to bring in knowledge of what you have researched as well as your body of work which should always be reviewed and edited consistently and for each opportunity to show work. In 3-6 month, she said that you should keep in contact with those you have spoken to in the past to show them your completed project, or the beginning of a new one, just do not be too needy. For interviews, it is a good idea to arrive early and get a coffee nearby to give yourself time to compose yourself.


Luckily I was fast enough to sign-up to the 1:1 tutorials with Emily after the lecture as it was quite overwhelming how highly she spoke about my work. I think that at this point, what she sad to me helped so much with my confidence because I was only just coming to the realisation that it is okay to be a quiet person as my work can do all of the talking for me and this way I do come across as a genuine person.

I told her about how the networking side to being a freelance photographer scared me a bit, but she did a great job of convincing me to at least give it a go and to continue making work beyond university. You can get away with doing a lot of contacting people through emails and messages rather than on the telephone and that way (as long as you have done your research), you could send out the same email to multiple people in order to get what you want.

The body of work that I showed her was Everything’s Rosy which I had just recently completed about my Grandma and her past. She was really impressed with the images and how quiet they were and how sensitive they were. Her saying that I am already at the stage where I could be hired to make work was so shocking to me, especially since becoming a freelance photographer was not something I had seriously considered. She also commented on how my work is all very cohesive and that I had begun to find my own style in photography. I had only done three shoots for my final major project at this point and was nervous that these photographs did not fit in with the rest of my portfolio, but now I have more shoots, I can see that they really do, so I think that showing her my completed work and inviting her to the degree show (which hopefully will go ahead) will be important to maintain the connections I have with her. She followed me on Instagram in order to keep up with my work.

She recommended communities such as Firecrakcer who support female photographers and suggested assisting someone like Laura Pannack who is someone who I have looked up to as a photographer for a while because of how well she connects with her subjects, though I am unsure if I would want to work as an assistant, it is something to look into. Also to get in contact with Ivy Lahon from Save The Children. Again, this kind of work is not something I had considered before but is something that I think I would like to do.

I do feel very lucky that we have people like Emily coming into university to speak to us, as this tutorial, despite only being about 15/20 minutes long provided me with so many more things to consider for the future and the opinions of someone who’s job is to hire photographers, so knows what she is looking out for. Her feedback on my last project was so encouraging for me to continue putting in the effort with my work and hopefully good things will come from it.

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