Renowned Photo Manager Isabelle Dervaux talks about how she got started and her strategies for finding your focus as a Photo Manager.
Isabelle Dervaux has always loved photos. When faced with the reality of losing the images she loved, she started preserving her own collection and soon realized the demand for this special skill. The happiness it sparked when she helped other people with their photo collections inspired her to pursue a new career.
Isabelle is now a respected Photo Manager who was recently featured in The New Yorker magazine. We asked Isabelle to share her advice about how to find your niche and successfully serve a specific market in photo management.
How did you discover your target audience for photo management services?
I’m an Apple person. So I focus on people who have an iPhone and other Apple products. I teach what I have put together for myself and my family because I know it works.
I work with people who have lots of digital photos, and I can identify with the overwhelm that they are experiencing. When a collection is already consolidated within Apple Photos, files are organized chronologically, but more is needed. This includes curation and understanding how your photos are working for you and your family.
The explosion of photos that overwhelm people comes from the right place- we want more photos and we love our families. Taking pictures is one of the ways we express love for our children. But it comes to a point where it becomes too much and we need to do something. I help my clients not to end up with 50,000 to 100,000 photos that are difficult to manage.
To do this, I make people aware of what they have, how big the file is, and why that matters. I’m not just working with their photos, I’m working with the client’s relationship with their photos. When we really observe photos and ask the right questions, a person can own their pictures again. Then, we can create a plan.
Do you have any advice for people thinking about photo management as a business?
You have to start somewhere and you’re going to make mistakes. Take risks, do small jobs and learn from that. You don’t have to scan if you don’t want to, you can really specialize in what you are best at. Keep your services simple and clear.
As photo managers, some of us are trained photo conservators, but most people are not. We are not archivists or tech people. So because we can’t be everything for everyone, you have to know your limits. Start with something small. Do a project with your family, something that makes you feel good that you could talk about, and then join The Photo Managers, of course, and take advantage of their many resources. You might also join another Association like the National Association of Professional Organizers because it’s helpful for networking and connecting with other people who do the same thing.
How do you help clients with a lifetime of printed photos that they want to have scanned?
I love working with people and learning about their lives through photos. Often, clients think that they should have all their pictures scanned. I encourage them to stop and look at their photos, instead of rushing into scanning everything. Instead of taking up space on their computer with pictures they don’t want, we start to organize their collection in a way that makes sense to anyone who may look at it. Once their collection is organized, I make recommendations for scanning services. We also consider how the files will be named and where everything should live after that.
How have you found new clients over the years?
At first, I would tell everyone about what I do and they all seemed interested! But I learned that the ones who express an interest may not be the clients who actually hire you.
Next, I printed a lot of cute business cards and left them everywhere I could. Just the other day, someone called me who had been carrying my card in their wallet for years. You need to allow time for people to think about it before they hire you.
I also gave some donations to an auction at a private school. I decided to donate one hour so that if the client loves it they might hire me for more. My advice is to focus on the types of networking that you like to do. After you have a few clients, ask them to post about you on Facebook.
Another way to find new clients is to do presentations and events. When someone from the Wall Street Journal saw one of my presentations at a library, I got a little bit of press which helped me get a few clients. Remember to start local. Journalists always like to talk about who is in your town and local first.
My other recommendations would be having testimonials on your website, writing a blog if that is something you like to do, and building a mailing list. Most importantly, be consistent in whatever you choose to do.
What do you love most about being a photo manager?
I really like to do presentations. My world was all visual and more about illustration, which I then translate into photography. I talk about reading an image, learning about everybody that came before you, learning about how people were taking pictures in the past, and what they’re doing now. There is so much to learn and that makes me very excited!
I also like the thrill of the hunt when you get a huge collection. Even if somebody is not a good photographer, there are always a few great pictures. It is so cool when you find something that nobody else has seen. I’m really good at finding a few things that make a wonderful photo album when you put them together.
When working with my clients, I really like to teach people, help them realize a lot of things they didn’t know they had, and then help them make decisions. Rather than do everything for them and get nervous about it being perfect, I like to work with people to help them get more confident in working with their own pictures.
What do you like the least about being a photo manager?
Nothing is perfect. Every time I go to a photo manager’s conference, I compare myself to other photo managers who are doing things that I can’t do. It’s important to recognize that everybody has different processes. I built what is best for me in my own way. There are many aspects of business you do need to know, such as making, sales, copywriting, etc. It’s not always fun. That’s one reason I love being in an organization like The Photo Managers because you can ask other photo managers questions. In this community, everyone helps each other.
For more great questions from our audience answered by Isabelle Dervaux, watch the full video below.
#1: Be specific about your ideal client. Knowing exactly who you want to work with and what you want to help them with, will help you keep your marketing efforts focused and effective.
#2: Observing a photo closely is an art form in itself. Some knowledge of lighting, composition, subject and other photography skills can help you trim down a collection and select the best images for your projects.
#3: You don’t need to be all things to all people. Be clear about the services you offer and choose the type of work that you enjoy most.