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Being Michael Clinard: On Conceptual Photography

Today's Lab feature is a look into the mind of the quirky, sometimes offbeat, and always talented conceptual photographer Michael Clinard.


Going Postal

Question: What should I consider when designing a postcard promo?

On top of the usual interoffice related emails they receive, an art director can get an average of three to twenty unsolicited emails a day from various creative people. I personally love sending emails because it's a quick way to put your work in front of an art director who will bookmark your website for later or who is looking for a specific illustrator and just stumbled upon your email. The problem with email is that sometimes they may see an inbox full of unrecognized names, and without seeing an image right away they may feel an impulse to delete them all without even opening them. At least that’s how I feel about emails I get from Etsy, Fab, Glit and other websites I have subscribed to.

Don’t Let Clients Pigeonhole You into Repetitive Work

Question: What can I do to get a client to call me for jobs that are not quite the same as the one I just completed?

Trying to get considered for work that might fall into a different category then your “expected” style is often quite hard to do. This is especially challenging when a client knows you for “X” and you’re looking to branch into “Y.”

Marketing Trends: Be Smart, Be Creative, Be a Leader

Question: How do I keep up with the trends and still retain my current marketing path?

I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says, “Change is good as long as I don’t have to do anything different!But the only thing that is consistent in this life is change. So how does that apply to this question about trends, and whether or not to change your current marketing plan?

Will an Art Buyer Really Read Your Blog?

Question: With today's busy schedules, are creative directors and art buyers taking time to read blogs?

Yes, everyone is busy and multitasking, but I do believe that art directors and creative directors are taking the time to read certain photographers’ blogs, and some art buyers may read them too, schedule-permitting.

Why? If they like the work they have already seen on your website, they are more likely to want to find out what else they can learn about you from your blog and to see what you’ve been up to lately. A blog gives them an extended peek into the photographer’s personality, and glimpses of what they might be like to work with.

Is There Any Future for Your Traditional Style?

Question: What if my point of view is not trendy? Is there still a market for a more traditional approach?

If your point of view is not trendy, have no fear! There is so much you can do with a more traditional approach.

Regardless of what I’m shooting, I personally do everything I can to keep trendy elements out of my images. My goal when I shoot is to create timeless images that viewers can look at years later and still relate to. When looking at older images by photographers such as Herb Ritts or Peter Lindbergh, it’s very hard to tell when the images were taken. Their images are classic and not trendy in any way, so they’re just as stunning and appreciated today as they were when they were photographed. I strive for the same timeless quality in my images.

Dialogues Podcast: Expanding to New Geographic Markets

Question: How can I land new clients outside of my geographic area?

Back in the day, the thought of a small business growing beyond its immediate locality was almost silly. If you worked in Topeka, your customers were in Topeka. Today, a good product and the right online marketing can help almost any small business, including freelance artists, expand to new geographic markets – but knowing when, how and where to expand is a real challenge.

Dialogues Podcast: Inspiration is All Around You

Question: What are some recommendations for sources of inspiration?

Some experts believe the only way for artists to stay inspired is interacting with other artists. Some say artists must look to other industries for innovative ideas. Wherever individual artists find their motivation, it’s crucial to creativity: Staying inspired is the only way a commercial artist can thrive.

Trying On a New Market? Passion Comes First

Question: How do you stay motivated when you’re just starting out in a new medium? It’s easy to be discouraged by that, both emotionally and financially, as it limits your time to work on proven art styles.

Changing directions and adding new material to your repertoire may be rewarding – and necessary to grow a photography or illustration business these days. For some, it means exploring new categories or redirecting efforts toward different markets. An artist may be established in the editorial market, for instance, but recognize opportunities in the advertising market.

A common mistake made by some commercial artists is to adapt their work and vision to fulfill a market’s needs and desires, rather than creating work they’re passionate about and seeking a market for it. The former demands second-guessing, and generally this means compromised rather than vision-driven portfolios.

The Art of Defining Successful Brand Attributes

Question: What’s the best process for identifying and defining my unique brand attributes?

Before you decide how to define and identify you brand’s attributes, you have to understand the meaning of a “brand.”

Close your eyes and think of great brands. Apple, MAC cosmetics, Disney, Starbucks … what do they all have in common in the consumer market? Each of these brands has not only created a quality product but a quality personal experience. It’s not only important to have a successful logo treatment, it’s important to create a complete brand – a complete experience.

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