Tips From the Photo Rep: Are Source Books A Godsend Or a Waste of Money?

By Frank Meo   Thursday March 21, 2013


Should you take the plunge and advertise yourself in a photography source book? Publications like Blackbook, Communications Arts, and Workbook have been the traditional marketing choice for pros who want to get their names (and work) seen by art buyers and photo editors. But do they make sense in the digital age, when people can find out all about you and view your portfolio at your own website? The answer is not at all clear, notes New York photo rep Frank Meo. In this month’s edition of his series for Pro Photo Daily, Meo, the founder of, discusses the pros and cons of source books—why they might provide you with a unique presence for your work, and why they might not be worth the expense. He also offers tips on how to choose the best source book for your photography business. The right choice will be the one that supports your markets efforts on a number of levels.


Photo Source Books: Godsends, Necessary Evils, or Wastes of Money?

By Frank Meo

We all go through the pain of deciding, “Should I take the plunge or not?”

Should you buy an ad in a photography source book? I have found that art buyers, reps, photographers, and sales reps all have differing opinions: “I love holding a book in my hand,” one person will say. “I look at them once and never open them again all year,” another will say. “Websites are quicker and to the point.” Or, “I’m constantly tagging photos in source books for future reference.” Or, “They’re practical worth is overrated.” Or, “If a get a single advertising job, the source book ad pays for itself.” Or, “Source books give photographers instant credibility—like having a rep.”

There are plenty of heartfelt opinions about this topic, and not a clear answer. If you do decide to buy an ad in a source book, you’ll have plenty to choose from—Workbook, Atedge, Archive, Communications Arts, and Blackbook, to name some of them. But be prepared to pay a hefty price.

Is there a best? Yes, the one that works for you. Usually that book is the one that supports your efforts on a variety of levels.

Marketing Game Plan

My overarching feeling about source books or promotion in general is this: Before you think about which book to go in, you must have a well-conceived marketing plan of attack. Source book ads can, will, and should play a role in the process of promoting your craft. Think of your marketing plan as a campaign, not a one-off lottery gamble.

Support This Effort

Simply placing an ad in a source book will not guarantee success. What else should you be doing? Youmustalso be firing off various media/marketing cylinders focused around your ad. Today these supporting outlets are rather inexpensive, compared to what you’ll be paying for your source book ad: Search engines, consultants, and marketing services can supply the needed and incredibly important escalatory services that will make your ad a true value. Think of having various touch points where your audience can see you.

Discover True Value

Some books offer valuable incentivesfor ad placement, such as web placement, portfolio reviews with industry insiders, consultation opportunities, and parties where you can meet potential clients. It is imperative to do your due diligence to see and discover which offerings help you the most. Determine where you need help promoting yourself. Then seek the support of a source book that can fill that void.

First Things First

Before you start this process, you must of course have great work to promote. Not good work, but great work. Have a terrific website that hums—and a marketing budget that your spouse in comfortable with.

Ask Frank Meo: Do you have a question or issue you would like Frank Meo to address? We would love to hear from you. Send your queries and ideas to

Frank Meo has represented photographers and photojournalists in securing commercial assignments for more than 25 years, working with clients including American Express Small Businesses, Acura Motor Sports, US Coast Guard Xerox, ESPN, Citi, and Nike. He is founder of, an online global search engine that connects photographers to art buyers, editors, and clients. Currently, represents more 100 photographers in 60 cities around the world.






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