John interviews leading photographers about the future of stock photography and other important issues.
Interview with Collette Kulak of Marian Heath Greeting Cards
John: Collette, you have a tremendous amount of experience in the greeting card industry. For many years you were Senior Art Director for Portal Publications. Now you are Art Director with Marian Heath Greeting Cards.
How do you go about coming up with ideas for greeting cards?
Collette: It is a blend of caption needs, up coming trends and previous sales figures. I would say 80 percent are “freshening up” existing card line looks and 20 percent is a brand new look.
John: Do you ever use ideas supplied by freelancers on a speculative basis?
Collette: Sure…in fact it is encouraged. Often we are submerged in the current release and don’t have time to look ahead. It is wonderful to have someone submit an idea that is well thought out and tightly developed. It saves time on our end.
John: Do you hire photographers?
Collette: Yes we do. I have to admit it is more an exception lately than a regular practice because of budget issues. When we are going for a certain look that has a proven sales record then we are more than happy to apply the money to it.
John: What qualities do you look for in a photographer?
Collette: Someone that is willing to work with us. Greeting cards are a funny product. A lot goes into them. We need someone that understands that this is a $2.50 product that is going into a market that is highly competitive. The budget is tight but the quality needs to be high.
John: How do you find photographers?
Collette: I get blind submissions emailed to me and if interested I bookmark their website. I also look at images in the market and track down the source via their website. If you are able to place your website address on product credit lines, always do so. A little side note - I can’t tell you how many times I have not been able to find someone because they have a web address that doesn’t include their name.
John: What are some mistakes photographers have made when working with you?
Collette: The largest mistake is to submit without researching who our company is. There are many times we get repeat submission that are so off the mark. It’s a shame because it’s a waste of everyone’s time.
John: I know you license stock images. When searching for a stock photo, what is your procedure? Do you usually start with one agency and then progress to others?
Collette: I would say that stock is the majority of my photo purchases. It is the most affordable way to go for us. I do tend to have favorite stock agencies that I will search first…Getty being my first choice. The reason is simple. Getty is I where find the most applicable images.
I never go to just one agency. I always visit at least three agencies to make sure I am getting the best image that fits my need. I hit the “standard” ones; the ones I like to call my “bread and butter” agencies…Jupiter (which is now Getty…they are all merging a bit sad), Corbis and Masterfile.
If I don’t find anything at these agencies I go to the next tier…AGEfoto Stock, Super Stock and so on. There are agencies that I go to for specific looks…Aurora is a wonderful one for our more “artsy” line.
John: Do you care whether images are Rights Managed, Royalty Free, or Microstock?
Collette: Not really. I do have to say I usually use the Microstock to support the RM and RF images. I will often use it as an element to add to the other two types of images. We don’t buy for exclusive use so if something is RM or RF it often doesn’t matter.
John: Do you ever search individual photographer’s sites?
Collette: Yes, it’s quite fun.
John: What is the most satisfying part of your job?
Collette: Connecting with a great artist. There is nothing better than meeting someone that loves their job and is artistic and also understands that this is a business with cost limitations.
John: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Collette: I would say the price point of my product. It’s often a $2.50 price point. I can only pay so much for an image but I want something with really good quality. I realize how much goes into a shoot and I feel for someone when I am offering a tiny fee for the usage. All I can say is exposure and credit lines are a wonderful thing.
John: The world of photography has undergone tremendous changes in the last few years. I suspect the same might be true of the greeting card industry. If that is true, what are the changes?
Collette: There are and have been changes in the greeting card industry, but different than most people would think. Some would think email and e-cards have had an impact on Marian Heath’s Sales but this has not been the case.
People who buy cards tend to love the whole sender / receiver aspect of them. They value the tangible card itself. Getting something fun or beautiful in the mail means something to them. What has impacted our industry is the economy. Many of our high-end cards are in boutique environments, which are really struggling during these hard times.
The consumer is now are going into larger chains to purchase; for both economic and time saving reasons. The margins with large chains are incredibly tight. Like in so many product categories, the consumer is looking for more bang for their buck!
John: Is MH open to submissions from freelancers? If so, what is the best way to submit work?
Collette: Yes, we love them. You can send them to…
Marian Heath Greeting Cards
If it’s a digital submission then firstname.lastname@example.org and / or email@example.com
John: What advice would you give someone wanting to have their art used as greeting cards?
Collette: I would say understand whom you are submitting to. Look at their line of product. If your submissions are a bit out of the box for that company then have a solid reason why it would be good product for them to explore.