Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?

Article Dedication

in Honor of

David Octavius Hill & Robert Turnbull Macpherson


Taken in part from Presenting Photography to Curators and Museums artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

“Do you think printed promos are effective for marketing your work?”

That was the question posed on a photo blog. The blog was dedicated to commercial photogs and how to drum up biz.

Most of the responders to the blog article do zine style mailings.  Some of them use leftover zines as ‘leave behinds’ after a cold call. From my own experience with direct mailings the results have been ‘ifffy.’ I started with mail solicitations in 2012 with large mailings and have gradually scaled back on them. Over the last 12 months I’ve sent out 3 mailings totally about 385 hand-printed RPPC baryta 4 x 6 postcards.  No direct success from the cards.


One rejection reply from a mailing turned into an offshoot success when they suggested a referral.  The referral success led to a 2nd success with another institution and that success let to a 3rd success…at The Met!

Moral of the story…work blind, just do the footwork and explore any follow-up opportunities that are presented to you fully.

Reality…don’t sell the farm doing it.

Here is the deal, there are a zillion photogs just like you or better out there, all pounding on doors trying to drum up biz to pay this months rent.  Invest what you can afford to lose if you get nothing from your efforts.

One thing to be sure of is – only send out your strongest work. You know the deal, you only get the proverbial first chance to make a good impression. If your work is memorable it has a better chance of sticking around. Art Directors, ad agencies and  editors are inundated with images day in and day out and they trash most of it.

Here is what a gallery owner said in an interview when it comes to solicitations…

“It seems that photographers think that looking at new work is a gallerist’s job—but that isn’t our job. Our job is selling the work we already represent.”

Well, that may be her job, but your goal or ‘job’ should be to keep your name out there and under their nose on a consistent basis. This can be accomplished by sending out memorable work and / or do mailings on a regular scheduled timeline.

21Whoop-Whoop 21 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book (Candid)

by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

I had a museum curator once chew me out when I got too pushy with them, telling me:

“Please, I don’t need any more photos…the world is just polluted with photos.”

While it may be the editors, curators, art directors or ad agencies job to reject you, it is your job to keep knocking on their door. For there is a good chance they wont be knocking on your door without your effort.

In the old days I used to send out big, elaborate book / mini portfolio mailings, but had to scale back as it just was too expensive for me to continue.  So, I settled on the humble postcard.

For some reason humans like to save postcards.  I can’t say for sure how it is nowadays, but the above postcard was sent to a ‘Price is Right’ contest in 1959. Someone saved it and it is still floating around in 2020.

RPPCs have turned out to be a good, affordable marketing tool. They are relatively inexpensive and you can get attention focused on one great image. With postcards you can tailor images for individual interests and make them personal.


Guerrila postcard mailing Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Faces of Gentrification

Selection from The Americans…60 years after Frank artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

As a bonus, postcards also allow me to keep my 3 inkjet printers running in between projects with something useful to keep the heads clean.

When inkjet printers sit they have a tendency to clog the head. This can happen after a relatively short amount of down time.

Clogged head inkjet print Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Postcard printed from an inkjet printer with a clogged head.

p img 033 V13 3.8 x 5.8 CTF

Same postcard printed after the head was cleaned.

Postcard of New Year’s Eve – Skid Row Bar  L.A. 1971 (Candid)
Selection from Peering Into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A.
artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

If I don’t have any book projects or large prints to work on, I can either print test patterns and trash them or print something useful. So I prefer to go with something I can use and RPPC’s are excellent for that purpose.

Printer test pattern D.D. Teoli Jr. A.C.

Printer Test Pattern – Internet Source

If I am sending out something that may get stolen in the mail, such as Hakenkreuz in a Dress or a photo that is approaching X-rated, I use an envelope for my postcard mailings.

Hakenkreuz in a Dress Copyright 1973 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Hakenkreuz in a Dress L.A. 1973 (Not staged, an American Nazi in her bedroom.)
Selection from Peering Into the World of 1970’s Hollywood and L.A.
artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Even if you don’t send out anything offensive or X-rated, every so often send out an envelope to keep your mailing list updated. One of the drawbacks with reduced postcard postage is you wont get feedback as to undeliverable mail unless you pay for first class mail with an address correction request.


It is important to note that seasonality can affect your solicitations.  I don’t send out much from Nov to early Jan. My first mailing of the year arrives around Jan 15 – 20 and is usually New Years related. This was the postcard  I sent out in Jan 2016.

ten minutes after midnight infrared flash D.D. Teoli Jr..jpg

Ten Minutes After Midnight – Infrared Flash Photograph (Candid)
Selection from Piercing Darkness artist’s book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Mid-summer is prime vacation season, so I don’t do mailings.  If there is a long weekend, I don’t send out promotions before or after the holiday. I’ve found I don’t get much feedback during these times, so I accept it and put my efforts into a time that does offer a better chance of success.

Now, if you have the $, sure bombard your prospects year-round. Keep your name out there and make it easy for them to give you a call. For me, I work on a broke bohemians budget…so every penny counts!

Whether you decide to do cold calls and hand out leave behinds in person, send out zines, postcards, DVD’s, make phone calls, internet advertising or unsolicited emails – don’t forget to have fun doing it. Although $ is important, if you are a true photog….freezing time for the sake of it should be your first love!


De Wallen Graffiti 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.