Career Profile: Photo Producer

Category : CAREER

June 2, 2011

What Does a Photo Producer Do?

I’m always curious about how people end up doing what they’re doing. Not all of us have a clear path mapped out while we’re in school, and so a first job is often the place where careers begin to take shape. I recently read an article about  Melissa Barry, a photo and art producer at SpotCo.  She started as an  intern and before she knew it, she was the savvy dealmaker, negotiating photo shoots and making sure all  illustration contracts were in order.  Not a bad place to end up considering she had no career path in mind. In fact, she attributes most of her success to luck and being in the right place at the right time. She states “Who you know is huge”, and you meet them by being driven and smart.

Read on. This might be your calling.

Okay, so what exactly do you do at SpotCo, Melissa?

I facilitate art development, am an art buyer, and also a photo shoot producer.  That basically means I connect with our artists/photographers (or their agents) to hammer out the budget required to create artwork as well as secure varying advertising-related usages.  For illustration it’s not much more than that. For photography I’ll see a shoot through execution by pulling together all the various elements (studio, hair, makeup, wardrobe, props, sets, talent, etc.) with input from our creative directors, photographer and client.

What’s the best thing about your job? And what’s the least fun?

The best part is all the interesting and creative people you meet. I also love getting out of the office to oversee photo shoots because it gives me a chance to unchain from my desk. Our projects vary widely so it’s fun and challenging to figure out the right way to get to the finish line. Of course, seeing all our hard work on a big-ass billboard in Times Square is my favorite part. The least fun is juggling expectations and attitudes. When it comes to creativity and craft, people usually need to be handled with care. Sometimes it’s hard to make everyone happy, especially when you’re working with a tight budget or timeline.

How much knowledge of photography and art is really necessary? How about math, accounting, and business skills?

For me the most important skill is being able to build rapport with all different kinds of people. Having a sense of humor is so important too. And having a reliable, systematic way to work through an endless list of things to do because when it rains, it pours. I wish I had taken more photography and art classes because I think they would have made me better at guiding projects. Everyone I meet has their own views/experiences to impart, so I’ve been taught a great deal along the way and still learn something new every day.

How did you end up at SpotCo? What’s your background?

Like many of my professors at the University of Central Florida told me while I was earning my degree in Advertising & Public Relations, it is indeed All. About. Networking.  Of course it’s all about being enthusiastic about what you do, and most importantly being able to communicate well, but we’ll get to that…

After gaining a marketing internship at a local Orlando office that presents the touring productions of Broadway shows, I began learning the ropes of promoting their season. Figuring out very quickly that plays are a much harder performance to push tickets for than musicals, I picked a play in their current line-up to use as my Advertising Campaigns class thesis because it presented a challenge. After finishing the project I got in front of the CEO of the office I was interning for and shared with him the work I had done. He liked it and offered to connect me with someone who was doing the marketing of the production currently running Off-Broadway.

Through this channel and my own aggressive measures, during the end of my senior year I was able to set up informational interviews with two different theatrical advertising agencies in New York. I emailed and name-dropped, I showed up on time, I was polite, I did my research on the companies and prepared lots of questions for anyone who took the time to see me.

When I moved to NYC the summer after graduating, I used the informational interview contact at one of those agencies, SpotCo, as a reference in my application letter for an internship there. I landed the internship, which led to my hire as assistant to the director of creative services, and then a promotion to associate producer of print & broadcast followed.  During my time as an assistant other opportunities opened up within the company, but I had learned enough about myself to know those positions didn’t quite suit me. I tried to make sure this wasn’t misunderstood as a lack of ambition, but that I was interested in other aspects of the business.  I’m still here at SpotCo, and my title was recently upgraded to producer.

What’s next? Do you have a “career path”?

Moving forward, I’ve thought about maybe working at a studio with one photographer, producing projects for just that person, because I’d find it interesting to collaborate on any long term or personal projects they have. I also love to take pictures. Behind the scenes is cool, but it would be great getting paid while being behind the lens.


Do You Have What It Takes To Intern At A Small Company?

Category : CAREER

May 31, 2011

Featured on BusinessInsider

To paraphrase the often quoted snowflake analogy: no two internships are alike. Internships at small team environments, for example, will be quite different than those at Fortune 500 companies.

And that could be very good.

By their very nature, smaller organizations enjoy little hierarchy. Free from the corporate ladder, all team members are expected to contribute. Everyone on the team must be productive.

Internships at entrepreneurial companies and smaller-scale non-profits have several advantages:

  • Real world, hands-on experience you don’t often get at a larger company
  • Direct interaction with C-level executives and the Founder team
  • Instantly becoming an integral part of a focused team
  • Mentorship from dynamic leaders

Far different than an “I’ll just put in my time” attitude often found at a mega-corporation, you’re accepting a major challenge by choosing an internship at a startup, entrepreneurial small business or change-oriented non-profit.

You’ll learn a lot, sometimes through mistakes. And, you’ll be “exposed” – in both a good and bad way. Good: you’ll work much closer with dynamic leaders, and be exposed to their networks and influencers. Bad: this is on-the-job training in front of a captive audience; you (and your co-workers) will quickly know what you don’t know.

So what are the personal attributes of someone who thrives in this environment? Consider this “Top 10” – and see if these points apply to you.

1. Passionate

You will be working with a small team of people who are extremely passionate about what they’re building. Success as an intern in this environment requires that you be equally passionate about the company mission – and the value of the products.

2. Enthusiastic

An emerging-growth organization can’t be shy about its mission or how it goes about succeeding; same for the individuals who work there. Often, small team organizations are short on revenue. To make up for the lack of financial resources, they thrive on energy and enthusiasm – no one is exempt, from interns all the way to the CEO.

3. Entrepreneurial

This almost goes without saying – but we’re saying it anyway. If you’re ambitious – the proverbial “go-getter”, and see yourself leading your own business or not-for-profit someday… where better to learn than with like-minded people already running a challenging small team? You’ll learn more here as an emerging entrepreneur than you ever did in college, guaranteed.

4. Resourceful

Your internship in a small team will come with considerable responsibility; a successful intern must be incredibly resourceful in completing assignments. Often in startups there is no roadmap, no “how to” manual. You’ll work on tasks that have never been done at this company. You’ll set precedents as you learn – and in the process, prove just how resourceful you are.

5. Self-Disciplined

With no roadmap and little handholding, an entrepreneurial intern must be disciplined enough to complete assignments and meet project deadlines – and sometimes even determine their own work schedule. This is especially true in a virtual assignment, but even an in-office internship will require self-imposed focus and determination.

6. Independent

Working independently in small teams, especially at start-ups, is the norm. You must be adept at working without direct supervision – and making decisions without the help of others – to complete the projects and initiatives assigned to you.

7. Leader

Depending on your role and unique skills set or personal network, you may be asked to lead entire initiatives. Taking on a leadership role in a growing company is a natural fit for most people interested in serving as an intern with a small team – and a great opportunity to be noticed early in your career.

8. Resilient

Emerging companies are constantly trying new approaches to achieve goals. Survival often means quickly discarding ineffective initiatives and trying something different. Interns working in this dynamic environment must not get discouraged if their work is replaced with a new approach, or are suddenly asked to change directions.

9. Versatile

Emerging organizations usually have more work than they do available resources. Everyone – again, from the CEO to interns – must wear many hats and must be flexible enough to handle various assignments. Those who excel in this area often find the work both exhilarating, and exhausting.

10. Coachable

Small team environments typically do not allow for elongated learning curves. Feedback is often spontaneous, direct and brutally honest. While in the long-term this form of coaching is highly effective, short-term it can cause some anxiety for those with thinner skins and temperamental egos.

As you’re reading though this list of characteristics, and perhaps wondering if you’re right for a small team internship, keep this in mind:

Not even the CEOs and Directors of the organizations you may work for have ALL of these character traits; some may only have a few. The fact is that small teams are typically looking for those who complement their existing talent – and not necessarily for the “ideal” candidate.

Even if you’ve only shown a few of these attributes in your career to date, you may be the perfect fit – and should consider a small team internship.

For more information about internship opportunities visit us at