Commercial Photography: What is a Tear Sheet?

In the field of commercial photography, a tear sheet often stands in for more formal reproductions of work that you have done for other clients. Tear sheets are a great promotional tool for photographers at the beginning of their commercial photography business, as it is proof that you have been published by other commercial companies. A tear sheet can still exist as a number of torn photographs stapled together, but it is more likely to find the photographs digitally reproduced on a single A4 page. Businesses and prospective clients will often accept a tear sheet from a commercial photography professional in lieu of published or currently existing work. This is beneficial when the photographer has sold that work to businesses where the end result will not be seen outside of that industry. A tear sheet should contain reproductions of any existing and relevant work, and will usually be on an A4, with your name, or business name, and full contact details.

Materials Needed

  • An A4 sheet containing several reproductions
  • An interested client

Step 1 - Illustrations of your Work

Your clients will expect your tear sheet to provide an eloquent illustration of your work. Limit your reproductions to items that are recent, or which have particular relevance to the client. At least some of the works included on the tear sheet need to be in full color. Most clients will also ask for figure photography, or sequential photographs of products or places. Other illustrations of events relevant to the customer should also be included, such as wildlife, maps, plants, and buildings. Include a wide variety of your work.

Step 2 - Focus

Your tear sheet should concentrate upon the quality of your photography, not necessarily the large amount of contracts you have had. The work presented on your tear sheet should showcase the best of your recent output. Do not include anything which is not up to standard because you believe that it shows variety and range. Concentrate upon your strengths, rather than works you have struggled with. If you are working with digitally reproduced photographs, you might arrange the tear sheet to appeal to the current prospective client.

Step 3 - Receiving Tear Strips

Magazines and other publishers in which your photographs have appeared will often send that issue of the magazine as 'part payment'. You can extract the relevant sheets yourself. You can also take photocopies of the page, to ensure that you have a clean copy of the picture at all times.

If you would like to use more than one copy of your photograph in multiple tear sheets, you can ask the publisher for any over-runs of the magazine. You might be given them as part-payment, or you may choose to buy them from the press operator: expect to pay between one and ten cents for each page. You can also wait until that edition of the magazine goes out of date, and then contact the local distributor of the magazine. You probably won't be allowed to take the magazines, but you may be allowed to remove the pages that contain your photographs.

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