Marketing Series Part 3: Building Your List and Reaching Out

Welcome back. I trust by now you’ve put together a killer portfolio to display proudly on your website (if not, go back and read the part one and part two of this series). Now it’s time for one of the most important stages in marketing your photography: building a list of target clients and researching those all-important contact details.

Firstly let’s look at the term “target client” and what this means. If you’re a fashion photographer you’re probably thinking “clothing brands” would be your target clients… WRONG!

Of course SOME clothing brands will be your clients, but not all of them and if you try to market yourself to everyone you’ll drive yourself crazy wasting so much time and resources as well as annoying a fair few buyers with irrelevant mailers in the process.

So how do you refine your target list? Let me use my work as an example.

My style of photography is “graphic & gritty with a touch of grunge”. A lot of the work I do is monochrome or muted colors and it is always quite angsty (certainly no smiley lifestyle shots). So do you think sending marketing material to brands that specialize in bright floral dresses or feminine bridal gowns would be a wise move?

No, instead I focus on brands that would benefit from my work, brands like “McQ” or “Religion” that demand that touch of grunge or “Boda Skins” & “Delusion” whose collections are sold on form and texture rather than colorful patterns.

Once you have a good idea of the type of client you want to target (remember to consider possible accessories & beauty brands too) then it’s time to start building your list.

There are a number of resources available for this so let’s start with the easiest. You can buy them.

Subscription Databases

Services like Agency Access who I use will help you build targeted lists of clients and advertising agencies which they keep updated with new contacts on a regular basis saving you the legwork of doing so yourself. I find these services particularly useful for getting your work in front of the big agencies and larger brands but next to useless for the smaller clients that will probably form your bread and butter when first starting to market yourself seriously.


Design Agency’s/Art Directors

One thing to be aware of is that the larger advertising agencies are not always involved with clients print marketing and instead are produced by design or art direction agencies. This is something that confused me greatly when I started working with Agency Access as a lot of the firms I knew I should be marketing myself to like ODD London & Wednesday Agency were nowhere to be found in amongst the agencies. Turns out with many of these subscription databases they fall under the category of “graphic design”, so be sure to scan that section too when building your list.

If you decide against using a paid service for these you can always just contact them. I’ve found a quick phone call stating who I am and what I’d like to email results in them sharing the relevant contact details with me, so don’t be afraid of the telephone!

A quick google search will help you discover the agencies in your locality and there are websites like LeBook that list a lot of these along with the campaigns they’ve worked on too.


We all know by now you’re not going to make a living from shooting editorial work these days and in the majority of instances it will probably cost you more money than it earns but you still need to be marketing to these clients as a spread in the right magazine could really propel your career and get you discovered by your dream clients.

The good news is that out of all of these they are the easiest to find contact details for so you don’t need to waste too much time. If you’re subscribed to a database like Agency Access the chances are any worth working for are already listed and if not you can easily get the details from the magazines mast head near the front of any issue (and sometimes online).

Unless otherwise stated by the magazine the contacts you are looking for include “Creative Director”, “Art Director”, Picture Editor” & “Fashion Editor.”

Client Direct

I’ve saved this for last as it will require the most leg work. It also happens to be the most important! Sure, there is no harm in sending your work out to the big agencies in hopes of landing that five figure campaign or to your favourite magazines in the hopes of a 6 page spread and priceless bragging rights. That however is not a business plan, it’s just luck (a proactive approach to luck yes but still a long shot). What you need is a list of 400-500 buyers representing emerging and established brands that are looking to hire the best up-and-coming photographers that you can reach out to with new work on a regular basis.

Let’s look at ways you can build these.

Online Retailers

My first point of call was ASOS. I visited the website and selected an A-Z of all brands. I then copied these names into a spread sheet and proceeded to sort them intro three categories.

GreenProduct and current marketing fit my style

– Amber – Product would suit my style but current marketing does not

– Red – Product and marketing not a fit for my work

Department Stores

I then continued to build the list by adding more brands that I discovered through department stores websites such as Selfridges and Harvey Nicholls. These are two that a particularly good at picking-up the most exciting emerging brands which is what you really want.

Social Media

All brands worth contacting will have some presence on social media and these channels will often give you great insight into their current marketing. Be sure to use the advanced search functions of services like Twitter and Facebook to identify brands in your locality as well as constantly searching for key hashtags on Instagram and Tumblr. For myself I monitor tags like #monochrome #streetwear #sportsluxe #luxuryleather

Whenever you discover a new brand worth mentioning, add it to the spread sheet and give it a rating.By now you should have a healthy number of brands on your list so it’s time to put that rating system into action.


If you’re being specific with your targeting then you will have a lot of reds on your spreadsheet. Congratulations, these are the companies you’ve just saved yourself a ton of time and money trying to market to.


These are the brands you could see you working with but aren’t particularly excited by their current marketing efforts. Whilst not worth labouring too much time on, if you can find their contact details within 10-15 minutes on google then go for it as you never know, they might be looking to switch up their marketing efforts and your portfolio in their inbox could be the inspiration they need. Simply fire them a quick speculative email asking for the best point of contact and see what comes back.


This list should contain all of your dream clients as well as any emerging brands you’ve discovered that really excite you. These are the ones worth spending your time researching to find those all-important art buyers and decision makers.

Firstly you can do as I suggested with the ambers and send a quick speculative email along the lines of:


My name is Adam Marc Williams and I am a fashion photographer based in the UK.

I am a huge fan of your brand’s imagery and would love to send you a sample of my work for consideration on future projects.

Please could you advise me of the best way to do so?

Give it a few days and if you receive the contacts you need by reply then great. If not though it’s time to do a bit of detective work to get past those pesky gatekeepers.


For smaller companies that do a lot of their own marketing in-house then Twitter can be a great tool for research as the advanced search functions really are powerful. As well as an official brand account a lot of owners and marketing managers will also have a personal one and quite often mention “owner of XYZ” in their profile description. This means a simple BIO search for the brand name can result in the contact names you’re after.



For those of you that are unware, LinkedIn is basically FaceBook for profesionals and is one of my favourite tools for discovering contact names as everybody on here lists their job titles and employment history so you can really dig deep and do your research. Some of the more advanced search features are reserved for paid members but there is still plenty you can discover with a free account.


DueDil (UK Service)

DueDil is a UK service for looking up details on registered companies (LTD,LLP,PLC etc..) and allows you to discover the directors names as well as registered business addresses. I resort to this last as quite often directors could be silent partners or removed from the everyday marketing decisions (especially at larger companies) but if the other methods fail then I don’t see the harm and they may well forward your mailers to the correct department if it’s not them.

**Whilst I’m not familiar with a U.S equivalent of this service I’m sure there must be one available. If anyone can name one then please do so in the comments

What use is a name without an email address?

Quite right, it’s all very good knowing who you need to send your work too but without their contact details we’re still goosed.

1. Google Them

Simply googling their name could bring up results containing their email address and is always my first point of call. People are usually quite cautious for fear of being spammed these days but there is often some article or blog post knocking around with their contact details listed.

Suggested search term: [name] + email

2. Ring Them

Yes, you will need to pick up a phone but get used to it as your follow-up calls will be far more nerve racking than this. A quick phone call could be all it takes to get the email address you need.

“Hi, this is Adam Marc Williams the fashion photographer and I’m trying to send an example of my work to Joe Blogs in marketing. What address should I be emailing it to?”

Most times this will work and you will be given the contact details to send your work to, after all, art buyers do WANT to discover new talent.If however you get a particular Rottweiler of a gatekeeper (anyone else’s mind just go to Ghostbusters?) then there is one final trick you could try.

3. Guess Them

Yep, not very technical but most people’s emails, especially in companies with a reasonable number of staff are actually quite easy to guess. You just need to learn their naming structure.

Do a quick google search such as: email +

As you will see for mine you will discover my address is

Let’s assume I had a marketing manager called Joe Blogs. From this you could deduct his email would be Other common naming structures could be:

So that’s it for the list building stage, simply rinse and repeat as needed and be sure to constantly keep them up-to-date as peoples job positions can change frequently, especially in agencies.

Join us next time when we will look at ways to start using your list and marketing to your target clients.

Read more of the Marketing Series

Adam Marc Williams