Behance Brings Creative Workers Together

Today’s photographers no longer need to learn darkroom skills or bone up on the different kinds of chemicals they’ll be pouring into trays, but they do need to pick up a wide variety of skills that have little to do with image-making. They need to understand the difference between RAW and Jpeg image formats. They have to  learn how to edit in Photoshop. And, toughest of all, they have to figure out how to market a website. While a plethora of portfolio sites now make the website-building relatively simple, bringing visitors into that site when there are so many alternatives available on the Web is a challenge as tough as capturing a bride’s beauty in dim light when she’s sobbing into her bouquet. One solution might be to team up with other photographers and hope that the crowd attracts clients.

That, at least, is the hope of Behance, a company aiming to bring together creative professionals from fields ranging from animation and architecture to Web design and woodworking. While the firm isn’t giving out membership numbers, according to Community Manager Sarah Rapp, photography is one of its “top creative fields.” The company has even launched a stand-alone product at Photography Served to help art directors and image buyers to find the right talent for their campaigns. For Rapp, the mass appeal of a service like Behance’s is the only way for creative professionals to effectively market themselves.

“The era of the static portfolio is over,” says Rapp. “While creatives can (and do) create their own isolated websites, having a static website like this is not effective – it will be just be one of millions of webpages, with very little opportunity of being ‘stumbled upon.’ By using a connected platform like Behance, there are dozens of ways your work and portfolio can be discovered. In the digital age, it’s essential to use these tools to market yourself with little effort, but much effectiveness.”

Want to Shoot for Apple?

It might just be working, at least for some contributors. Success stories quoted on the site include an illustrator who uploaded a personal project of cartoon supervillains. He soon found himself selling prints and talking to the creative director of a small design studio, which later hired him. Visitors to the network are said to include R/GA, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Apple, and JWT, clients large enough to make any advertising photographer happy. Portfolios placed on Behance are also shared across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, further increasing exposure — and improving the chance of finding work. And the site even operates a job board, allowing design companies to advertise positions. (Although most vacancies appear to be for designers and developers rather than photographers.)

Clearly, for art directors the ability to browse multiple portfolios in one place in a set format is always going to be preferable to searching the Web for appropriate talent. But a site whose goal is to make things simple for the creative industry has also managed to add a few layers of complexity.

In addition to its portfolio services, Behance also runs The 99%, which offers advice, tips, videos and even an annual conference on making ideas happen, which also happens to be the name of the company’s book. The Action Method is the company’s own productivity system, a kind of Getting Things Done for creative types, complete with Action Journal, Action Circa Notebook and Action Circa Refills (available for $17.50, $34 and $16 respectively.) When it comes to executing revenue-generating ideas, the portfolio company for creatives isn’t short of creativity.

Most intriguingly though, Behance also recommends that its members make use of its recently launched ProSite, a kind of drag-and-drop, template-based website service. Linked with Behance, users can draw their projects down from the platform and place them easily on their ProSite pages.

“The Behance Network is a platform for Creative Professionals to upload their work and host a portfolio,” explains Rapp. “With ProSite, you can create a fully customized online portfolio site, designed however you’d like, synced with your projects on Behance.”

The Static Portfolio is (Not) Over

It’s hard to see the difference between the two beyond ProSite’s unique domain and the Behance platform’s community. Both are methods of displaying work publicly to people who might want to hire you. More importantly, it’s hard to see too why a photographer would want to join ProSite if, as Rapp says, the “era of the static portfolio is over.”

Using ProSite to create a branded site however, Rapp argues, will take a “professional portfolio to a new level.” She recommends printing the custom URL on business cards and using it to refer people interested in your work.

None of that is new, of course, and even Behance’s gallery of creatives has long been superceded, at least for photographers, by PhotoShelter. And like building a website, creating a portfolio on Behance is still only the first step. Asked what members can do to stand out on a platform filled with plenty of other professionals competing for the same jobs, Sarah Rapp offered a long list of recommendations that included categorizing your work by creative field; using tags liberally; joining different networks such as the LinkedIn Network; connecting with other Behance members; and, for the greatest exposure, being featured on the main gallery, something that requires length, a strong concept and a clean presentation.

That sounds like a lot of work. A similar amount of work, in fact, as the kind of effort that photographers need to invest in making sure their website is seen. (And that website isn’t going to be linked to a platform packed with competitors.)

Behance’s platform does provide a useful service. Adding your projects to a platform viewed by the creative industry can only help to win jobs and land new commissions. But like any aspect of the photography business, don’t expect that work to come in without plenty of effort and large investments of time.

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