Chris McPherson stopped by to show his portfolio

- - Portfolio

Someone mentioned to me the other day that Chris McPherson was red hot at the moment, so I thought I’d do what I normally would have done when working at a magazine and called Deborah Schwartz to get his book in for a look. Only this time I shot all the pages and posted them here so you could have a look too.

Editorial book:

See a full frame slideshow (here).

I have to say that is one, well put together book. Excellent pacing, juxtapositions and the whole thing hangs together nicely reenforcing his style and vision.

Advertising tear book:

See a full frame slideshow (here).

There Are 109 Comments On This Article.

    • Kevin Zacher

      @Stupid Photographer,

      Are you joking with this response? I assume by being on this blog you are interested in photo marketing. You should realize not only is this ok, Chris McPherson was probably pissing his pants in joy that APhotoEditor ran a blog post about how on fire he is and then a slide show of his portfolios.

      Some photographers need to chill on all the rules and regs and BS and just do something.

  1. Very nice! I really love seeing these type of posts on here…doesn’t hurt that I am in the process of putting together my new book today so any new layout ideas are helpful. One quick question though…when calling in a book, is there any certain page/layout orientation you prefer(vertical, horizontal, etc.)? Thanks Chris & Rob!

  2. I’m sure he would be more than happy to have this happen. Curious about his agent. She has 4 or 5 people shooting in almost identical styles. Wonder how well that flies when the ads get doled out.

  3. speaking of hot, todd selby’s personal project theselby.com is blowing up. everyone keeps asking if i’ve seen it.

  4. You say page layout doesn’t matter, but I notice the book itself looks very nice; does it matter if my current book is a ring binder folder from raymans with transparent plastic A4 jackets to hold the images in?

    It’s like that mainly because I’ve only put it together recently (in the last couple of months) and am still undecided on the exact images to include.

    Lastly, I’ve been warned against putting horizontal images in on their side so that viewers have to turn the book to see them properly… Is this really a no-no? The obvious solution is to either print them small on one page, the right way up, or do as Chris McPherson here has done and spread them double page.

    Despite all of the above, I’ve still managed to book most jobs I’ve had meetings for.

    Thanks

  5. I’d love to see more of these… It’s interesting to compare a photogs website and his book.

    MORE MORE MORE….

    thanks

  6. I agree with Stupid Photographer, I for one wouldn’t necessarily want my book posted online for all to see. Its kinda like when you’re catching the big fish and everyone wants to know what kind of bait you’re using. The website is meant for public consumption, not so much the book. . .

  7. This is a great idea as it shows photographers just getting out of the gate (and some of those not so fresh to the scene) what a great portfolio looks and feels like. So many of the books I see have been badly edited and images within so often seem like they were taken by three different photographers. This has flow and appeal. It makes me want to see what is coming next.

    @9: I think there is a limit to photos that should be in ones book but the bredth of Chris’ work allows him to show this many images.

    The basic rule I give photographers when asking my opinion on their edit etc is to never include a photo you have to make an excuse for and that of course you are remebered for your worst image.

    @7: Love theselby project. Brilliant marketing by Todd. Interested to see how far he takes it.

  8. well looky here. its my book for everyone to see. i did btw give rob permission to display my work on flikr and his blog. i actually don’t mind that everyone can see since the same images are on my site. the only difference is what i choose to show and in what order. this is something that i change quite frequently. right now there are images in my book that were in quite a while ago and then taken out. now they are back in. it really depends when deb and i redo it how it works with the new work i want to get in. if i worried about what everyone else is doing and if someone may be copying me i would be a wreck. i really don’t give a sh**. i focus on my life and my work and thats it. of course its hard not to delve in every once in a while but i find i always get bummed out and start second guessing. the most important thing to me is being honest to who i am and what i choose to show.

  9. oh yeah? to answer #4 th, i think you may have a misconception of how it works with a rep at least in our case. deb doesn’t “dole” out the ads. the majority of the time my books are called in for a specific project that they (agency etc..) have in mind for me. that might include another photog on debs roster but most of the time if its a triple bid its not one of hers. it happens very rarely that i am up against one of our own. the other point i want to make is how you say we have “almost identical styles”. i really don’t think we do. yes, there are similarities in style but there is nothing identical about it. there may be an image here or there that i could’ve shot but as a body of work quite different. that is actually one of the reasons i think deb is a brilliant rep. she is able to manage a roster of 11 photogs that aren’t dramatically different like say a food, car, product, fashion photographer. the fact is that we are all pretty busy so something is working and the people that go to her site get it. sorry if that sounded defensive. it is tricky but you really do have to be confident in your own work and not worry about everyone else. having people like jason nocito who i do get put up against sometimes only brings more people to her site. he may get a job that i was up for of vise versa. it all evens out in the end.

  10. Chris, can you change the images in that book easily, or is it a “once in, can’t remove” type book? There was a book I had in mind that’s around £200 that looks reeeeeeeeally nice but once you put the images in, you can’t really change them; I don’t like that idea.

  11. hey andrew. yes, you can change them easily. they have screws in the binding that you remove and you can take out a page in the middle if you like. thats very important to me. i like updating it frequently and something that was permanent would drive me crazy. great idea for a limited series though like a self published book or something.

  12. one more thing. my rep deb does get calls where she recommends a photographer or two. i think the majority of my work is repeat business. there are clients i’ve shot over 30 jobs with. thats very important because then word of mouth becomes more valuable than any promo.

  13. Yeah, I’d say there’s two schools of thought (speaking as an outsider to the rep world) when filling a roster with photographers. Either the group hangs together or you diversify so you can handle every client under the sun. Both work, but there are plenty of amazing agencies doing the former: Julian Richards, Apostrophe.net and even Bill Charles somewhat fits that mold. If I was an agent I’d want to just concentrate on photography I had passion for because that’s what I’d be good a selling.

    I don’t think there are rules that can’t be broken with a book. For example: I was surprised at the number of pages, but then there weren’t any photos I thought should be dropped so more pages actually works in this case.

  14. Fair ’nuff Chris. She sounds like a stellar agent, glad she doesn’t pit her photographers against each other. And yes, you are not identical, just similar styles/approach.

  15. Great work,Chris.

    Is that an 11×14 book?

    Rob, is it common to see a book w/ so many images in it?

  16. oopps. forgot to mention that. i actually prefer brewer-cantelmo.com but they are very similar. i think the quality is a little better

  17. Great Work Chris. Do you have to change the plastic sleeves often? Or can you easily clean them? Thanks

  18. Brewer-Cantelmo probably just got a spike in sales. :)

    Chris is an amazing photographer and an even cooler person, glad to say I’ve worked with him.

  19. I liked the advertising book. Especially nice to see when a photographer can get ad jobs which work with his editorial vision

    First two thirds of the editorial book I found so-so – although it is great photography to me personally it felt lik books I have seen a lot – in Europe – and frankly already 10 years ago.
    But maybe thats different in US – I cant judge but its kinda interesting should US editorial photography books pick up European trends. (well maybe thats just how it is anyway judging from the amount of independent and lifestyle magazines published in Europe)

    Last third of the editorial book was great again I thought.

  20. Re the books themselves… B-C is the top house (and charges the most), then there are H.O.P as mentioned, and ADB (Advertisers Display Binders).

    ADB has the best prices… but the fake leather books wear out on the corners rather quickly. From any house… for a real pro, I support spending more and getting a real leather one. They age better and look great after many years.

    The pages are always a nightmare… so keep them clean do you don’t have to replace them all the time. (expensive!)

  21. Reading your answer on #13… okay then.. no prob. But if some hack copied my book and posted… I’d be out to rip and tear.

    What I put out on the web is one thing.. but what is in my personal book that the real people see is completely another.

    To answer a few of the above…

    #3: wrong!
    It is like putting a book together and getting the chapters out of order.

    #5: you probably should… and always be doing more for it.

    #9: there are no rules.
    But rule of thumb… when you bore them, you are lost.

    #18: The problem is.. most reps are seemingly much lazier than they were in the 80’s/90’s…. And I have found that often a new photographer taken on… will only be repped if they already have clients… and then often those clients seem to slip to the older repped photog faves of said rep.

    In general: A photographer cannot get a rep… until he does not longer need one.

  22. I agree that Brewer Cantelmo makes a superior product at not much more of a price. I got a lot of attitude from House of Portfolios when I was shopping back in the day. I have been using B&T for 8 years now no complaints. The pages are only 50¢ each so the only problem of swapping them out is the headache of lining up the holes and screw posts. :)

  23. Guys you get so hung up on what to do/what not to do…

    How about this:

    Do whats you. Ignore what the internet peanut gallery says – if they were any good, they’d be busy working and not posting on the internet (what does that say about me now? hmm…)

    Photographers who try to please everyone come away with a scattered, mediocre body of work.

    Some people like country, some like rock n roll. I lost a big job this week to someone who liked rock n roll when I shoot country (to paraphrase the whole ordeal…) in one of those increasingly common triple-bids.

    I don’t worry about it. I don’t second guess what goes in my book. Next week my book will be called in for another big shoot, and I’ll get it.

    and everything “chris mc” says is true. same with with mr. photo editor.

    Do I modify the book for whoever is calling it in? Sure. Thats just common sense. I do have varied interests and I’m not a one-trick pony.

  24. Oh and as far as presentation goes, I think presentation does matter. mr. photo editor may say that page layouts and such don’t matter so much, its just the image (I assume this is his point), may be true, but having a thoughtful page layout and a pleasant browsing experience certainly can only help you.

    I ditched plastic sheet jackets a long time ago… i hate the glare off them.

    The leather book is certainly classic, but if you browse around and have a good eye for taste, there are other options out there that will hold up for years and stand out to people who see a dozen leather books every week…

  25. the question about layout was vertical vs. horizontal and if there’s a preference which I answered no. i think pacing and juxtaposition of images is important and difficult to do.

    as far as keeping it all a secret… uh, maybe in the 90’s but certainly not here.

  26. Rob, thanks for the time it took to put this post together. It is always enlightening to see someone else’s presentation. Really great work!

  27. Craig @35, if you ditched the plastic sleeves, does that mean that you only show one picture at a turn? In other words no spreads? The Left side is always blank? If so and I am guessing that if you don’t use the sleeves, it means you are showing one image at a time and cannot fit that many images in your book? Chris’s portfolio had a lot of images, and I think that the spreads work really nicely. Don’t your prints need changing more often? With the sleeves, you wont have to change the prints that often.
    Doktor @ 27. After your comments I went back and looked again, on my first look I really liked the book, then I agree it’s like so many other books out there.

    th @4, after your comment, I went and looked at his agent’s site, and you are right almost all the photographers she has have the same style! If you removed their names, and mixed up the photo’s I couldn’t tell who shot what!!!!! Chris says that’s okay it works for him and he’s busy. I must agree with you th, they all look the same.

    Debra Weis, if you are reading these post’s we would all be very interested or at least I would be, in what you think? I think all the photographers have the same style or at least very similar! Do you think it matters? Conflict of interest I think! But that’s me, and I only picked up on it after th @ 4 mentioned it.

    I love that Rob, put this together, for all to see.

  28. Great post, I love seeing this kind of stuff. I don’t have a ‘proper’ book yet but if I were to have one, I’d want a nice leather one like that…expensive though I bet!

    Alan

  29. I liked a lot of the images and the way you hung them together, but the editorial book could have been edited in half and would have been much tighter as a result. Right now it’s got as many pictures as the average photo book, but it’s too repetitive and I feel like what you’ve got is hammered home too much. You actually lose the subtlety of what you do by overselling the message.

  30. Jodi: Double sided paper, meet hole punch. Get some spray protector to protect the pages from those greasy AD hands :)

    Sometimes my left sides are blank. Sometimes the right sides are. Sometimes I think a series of photos deserve an eye-ball break like that. Yeah its kind of expensive to leave a whole side of the page blank, but whatever.

  31. Thanks Rob and great book Chris. Funny how many of the “critics” never even have a website to look at! Anyways, obviously the book is working and Chris is getting great jobs…that’s all that matters. Again, excellent work!

  32. A great range shown here… really impressed. Thanks for sharing, Chris.

    The big VISA catfish is such a memorable shot.

    About number of images, I’d imagine if all the images presented are strong, more would be better than less?

  33. warmdriver

    I think what Rob and all these hi-profile clients are responding to — beyond any one particular image — is the forward-movement that Chris’ whole “oeuvre” seems to embody. One just gets the sense that he’s charging ahead with or without you, and that’s super-attractive. Initially there may be some luck involved, but getting to a place where those jobs are landing, and then remaining true to a vision attitude or approach under the elevated scrutiny and intense expectations — continuing to define your identity within that context — is major. There are thirty Brewer-Cantelmo books stacked in the corner of every photo department — no revelation there. A consistent body of successful commercial work that dovetails seamlessly with personal projects, edited more to evoke a rhythm that reflects your excitement about new challenges than anything else, will pop out from the confines of any binding. It may be a catch-22, since grand assignments facilitate grand image-making, but very rare is the photographer who actually embraces those opportunities to the degree that he achieves career lift-off. I’d say the main success in this portfolio is simply that it doesn’t squelch Chris’ vibe (easier said than done).

  34. Debra Weiss

    @39 – Jodi – Here’s one of the great things about photography – – you can put three photographers in the same room with the same object and the same light and you’ll come out with three different pictures. That is of course, unless you are a total hack and just copying what the other two are doing!

    Here’s the thing about art directors — what usually happens when they are looking for a photographer to shoot a specific job, they are looking at three or more books with similar styles, because they have created an ad with a certain look in mind and they’ll look for the style that best conveys their idea. But an art director – particularly a good one, can look at several books that could be considered extremely similar, yet there will always be something that sets one of those books apart, whether it is light, attention to detail, use of color, etc. So on one hand, there really is no conflict of interest. On the other hand is a different story:

    a) there are way too many photographers, or, people who think they’re photographers. My personal opinion is that it all does look very similar and very few can really take ownership of a style. Additionally, a lot of it just isn’t good. I’m actually appalled most of the time at what many consider good photography.

    b) too many are willing to jump on whatever is the current trend. If you want to have anything to do with a trend, make sure you’re the one to start it because by the time a trend gets to be a trend, it’s on its way out. I am presenting a program in NYC in September on this very subject.

    c) Agents will take on photographers with similar looks for a variety of reasons: they like the look; they want to create a niche so that when someone is looking for a particular look, that agent will be the go-to agent (this is more about the identity of the agent though and not the photographer) and they want to hedge their bets.

    In terms of presentation – I never use any of those companies when putting together a book for a client.

    @42 – A hole punch? You’re not in junior high anymore. The pages should be hinged.

    @40 – You bet this stuff is expensive and get used to it because you’re in for a lifetime of expenses as you will constantly have to invest in new portfolios, new promotional material, new equipment, etc.

    It is mind boggling to me that photographers, or people who want to be photographers, believe they can live outside the requirements of other businesses. This is a business, not a pajama party. If you were a doctor, or lawyer, or butcher, or anything else for that matter, you would a) have a sense about what business is, and b) you’d probably be taking out loans so that you would be able to run the business effectively. Most businesses fail because they are underfunded. Photography is no different, except that you are more likely than ever to fail now because of simple economics – the supply is outweighing the demand – and the prevalent lack of business acumen. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, markets are changing and shrinking. Equipment is obsolete the minute you get home and without understanding business matters, there is no way to keep up with the cost of technology. While there are a lot of trust fund babies out there, many are not and they will not be able to survive without business skills.

    Contrary to what many think, Photo Editors and Art Buyers are not your friends. You are not signing their paychecks. They are working in the best interests of their publications or agencies. That is they way it should be just as photographers need to working on behalf of their own best interests.

    Almost anyone today with a digital camera can get lucky and get a good shot – although they probably won’t know why they got it, and most likely will be unable to reproduce that shot. Add that to the many who will do anything just to see their image published and the ones that feel flattered when someone responds to an image ( I call this the Sally Field syndrome – they like me, they really like me!) that they give away the farm and you’ve got a recipe for something really unappetizing.

  35. i’ve worked with chris and he is a laid back great guy that knows what he wants and is confident in his vision. i am curious why the photo editor is calling in books? is he freelance art buying?

    thanks

    jonathan

    jonathanbeller.com

  36. @ 47. Jonathan: No, it wasn’t for a job. I’d never seen one published online before, so to me that’s a call to action. Also, I remember how curious some photographers would be coming into the office when portfolios were stacked up. I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds and figured many of you have only seen your own and maybe a few friends.

  37. @Debra: You’re funny, my junior high portfolios were in plastic sleeves.

    Obviously there is more than just a hole punch to it, I was perhaps being a little too facetious. The book is hinged. You know that most portfolios consist of punched pages yes? Whether its actual paper or a plastic sleeve, theres gotta be a hole in there somewhere…

    The paper route is more complicated because the page needs to be scored, and you must take into account what is covered up by the hinge when making prints.

    But what do I know… :)

    I do agree with the rest of your post though.

    I would also like to add “Reps aren’t everything” to the list. Many photographers bemoan their situations to “if I only had a rep…i’d have so much work”, when the reality is perhaps that is not the problem…

  38. I feel that I should jump in here. First, thanks Rob for your idea to post Chris’ books. I get so many inquiries from photographers about putting books together, what I think a book should look like, how many images to put in, etc… and I don’t have the time to respond to everyone. I am happy to see that it has been helpful to some to see a presentation of work.

    In terms of the length of Chris’ portfolio – I have always gotten a really great response to his books. We work hard on the editing, flow and juxtaposition of the images in his books.

    The more prolific a photgrapher gets, and the more work under their belt, the more good work there is to show. Yes, there is a line that can be crossed – and too much work would be mind numbing to look at. On the other hand, too little work can make a photographer’s book look young – like they haven’t shot very much yet. I have found that 60 or so images – as long as they are great images – show as a solid body of work.

    Yes, there is crossover in styles within my agency. I decided, when starting my agency, that I would be able to better sell work that I felt strongly about. And I thus chose photographers whose vision I could relate to.

    Jobs come in a few different ways. One, an Art Buyer, Photo Editor or Art Director will call for a specific photographer. I will only send their book in. Two, they will call with a project, and will ask for my input on what to send. We will discuss what they are looking for, and we will bounce names around based on different styles, personalities, attributes, etc… I will often send a few different portfolios to give a range, and it tends to work out that they will gravitate toward one in particular. Three, jobs will come in based on relationships with either me or with the photographer. Working hard, doing a great shoot, being reliable and nice to work with always helps in getting repeat work.

    I also get calls from people who have bookmarked my site or know of us already for having a certain style – and they will call us based on the fact that they can call in a range of portfolios in one style – which is always the first part of the process in choosing a photographer for a project. Ideally, mine are the ones who they end up working with – and I am grateful to say that yes, my photographers are working and happy.

    One other thought on this – If five photographer’s books are being called in for a project, there is a pretty good chance that they would have been called in whether those photographers are with one rep or five different reps.

    Finally, I feel that to say that my photographers are interchangeable is a sweeping statement. And, thankfully, I have not worked with an Art Buyer, Art Director or Photo Editor who has thought that they are. Quite the opposite, the people in our industry who I respect feel that their differences are immense. If all photographers out there are doing the same thing and are so interchangeable, then it would be a bit of a dart throw in terms of who is shooting what. I have a lot of respect for the buyers and photo editors out there whose job it is to find new talent, get great shooters to work on their projects, and pick the appropriate shooter for each assignment. They are not throwing darts.

  39. Ok. Would love to see a Paolo Pellegrin, Alex Majoli, Jonas Bendiksen, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Jacob Aue Sobol, Lise Sarfati or Josef Koudelka portfolio.

  40. Well done to Rob, Debra and Deborah and especially Chris. I would only say to Deborah that while of course her photographers are all different a number of them are working in at least a recognizably similar style and range of subject matter, the same niche, if you will. But they are all very good. She’s not trying to be all things to all clients, so good for her.

  41. Debra Weiss

    @53 – “You know that most portfolios consist of punched pages yes? Whether its actual paper or a plastic sleeve, theres gotta be a hole in there somewhere…”

    Yes Craig, I’m aware of how books are put together. It goes along with what I do for a living. However, there seem to be a fair number of really new, inexperienced people on this blog who might not have had access to professional presentations and it is conceivable that when told to get a hole punch, that is what they would do.

    “I would also like to add “Reps aren’t everything” to the list. Many photographers bemoan their situations to “if I only had a rep…i’d have so much work”, when the reality is perhaps that is not the problem…”

    I agree. In fact I believe the agent situation is pretty dismal. There are too many photographers and too few agents. On top of that, I couldn’t recommend many of them. I advise new photographers to not even think about getting an agent for at least 3 – 5 years. It is important for the photographer to learn how to establish relationships and deal with money issues. Some really can’t but many can and can find that having an agent might not be the best way to go. Even when the photographer is represented, they must remain proactive – too many believe the agent will take care of everything. By doing it themselves it will also help the photographer what the job of the agent really entails. Too many photographers enter those relationships with unrealistic expectations, not unlike the agent who has unrealistic expectations of the photographer. Another problem is that the new photographer really can’t afford to have an agent and it actually doesn’t make financial sense unless you are doing incredibly well. Glen Wexler and I do a program about this complete with pie charts!

  42. The issue I see here is that the photography is slick editorial. It is not GREAT, memorable work à la a Koudelka or others. I mean I guess if your ambition is to live in LA and drive a BMW and be a photographer you have made it with this work, but where is the RAGE to really see?

  43. Debra Weiss

    “By doing it themselves it will also help the photographer what the job of the agent really entails. ”

    This should read “…..it will also help the photographer understand what the job of the agent really entails.”

  44. Debra Weiss

    @58 – Sorry – but your comments are unfair to Chris and every other photographer who is not Koudelka or of a similar ilk and seems tinged with a bit too much superiority. I am a huge fan of Koudelka’s but that doesn’t mean all photography should look like his. Koudelka comes from so different a reality than Chris that there is really no basis for comparison.

    Living in LA and driving a nice car does not make one either immune to or inured to the world’s ills. The best comment I’ve heard this year came from Joachim Ladefoged http://joachimladefoged.com/ at the VII Photo Conference in NYC in May. Joachim has a spectacular body of work entitled “Albanians” which showcases their plight during the Kosovo War. Joachim photographed this over a period of three years. When he became a father he made a decision to give up conflict photography as he wanted to live to see his children grow. After his presentation he was asked by someone in the audience if he missed shooting conflicts. His response was, and I’m paraphrasing, “Yes – sometimes. However, I’m not an American so I don’t believe my photography is going to change the world.”

    In my opinion it does – sometimes. But his statement highlights the fundamental difference between Americans and those who aren’t. What one photographs is very much a reflection of our culture. You might not like it, but it doesn’t make it any less valid.

  45. Debra,

    Ok. well said. I am in much awe of Chris’ work. Of course he is working within a certain mold. HE IS DOING VERY STRONG WORK. Sorry, I just am impartial to Koudleka, Pinkhassov. . . ! Please no hard feelings!!!

    Best wishes,

    Davin

  46. Debra Weiss

    Davin – Absolutely no hard feelings. Believe me, I understand the Koudelka thing! And Pinkhassov too – some amazing work there.

  47. Debra,

    There is a big difference between doing editorial vs. the total abandon that Koudelka somehow has managed to continue for some 40 odd years. I mean he doesn’t do editorial or commercial work. He’s really unique. Respect at the highest levels. Who else carries around a 6×17 all over Europe and shoots hand-held?!

    Best,

    Davin

  48. Debra Weiss

    @65 “He’s really unique. ”

    Yes he is and so many others aren’t. How fortunate for you to be able to touch his work.

    Best,
    Debra

  49. stop analyzing chris’ book and go shoot your own…….chris’ stuff is dope. i wish i could shoot stuff that felt that free…….the people that deborah rep all have their own style…nocito, mcpherson, sire, delin, and the rest all represent different view points. they are not the same…..i think that is pretty obvious if you take the time to look at each one’s portfolio.

    keep it up…everyone.

    @58: different strokes for different folks…..oh yea, you’re being a bit presumptious about chris and you’re jonesing off koudelka pretty badly. so what if you touched his negs! he came into my lab!

  50. Craig, I agree with Debra Weiss, I am one of those fairly new inexperienced people, Straight out of college, who actually thought you meant a using a hole-punch!

    @58, to be honest, I have never seen any of Koudelka’s work, in-fact I hadn’t even heard his name until you mentioned it! There’s,
    Debra’s point of being new and inexperienced! Could you add a link to his website so that I could see his work? Thanks.

    I am a still life photographer, can anyone suggest some good still life photographers site’s I could look at? I also like shooting children, so good children photographers as well, if you can please……

    If there is a difference in Chris’s Agents Photographer’s it’s very subtle! And I am just not experienced enough to see it. Good to hear that the actual buyers of the work can. Chris has great work, just a bit repetitive.

    @ 43, I don’t have a website you can look at, as I am a newbie, and straight out of college. Except Art is subjective, and either you like it or you don’t. I like Chris’s work, and he is obviously talented, but to my uninfluenced eye, and I looked at his agents site, quite a few of the photographers have the same style. There is nothing unusual or different, at least to my eyes. Good work, yes, but hundreds of photographers do the same thing. Go to other reps site’s, there is a link on this site that lists all the reps, they all seem to be following the same pattern, they all have photographers who are shooting in the same style. Must be a given formula of what buyers are looking for, otherwise I don’t think they would be shooting these images.

    @ 61 I think Debra Weiss’s post is right on the money, and I agree with it completely….Good one.

  51. PHOTOGRAPHERS: Read and really listen to what the Deborahs are telling you. In this post, forget what the other photographers are getting caught up in and realize that you’re in the business of photography as much as you’re into in the art of photography. Learn how to balance the two.

    I can’t tell you how many photographers I’ve just shaken my head over as I’ve walked away from a potential working relationship – because they had no idea how to handle a relationship with an art director/art buyer/agency/magazine. I’ve worked in each of those capacities and I could tell you some unbelievable stories.

    And know this: we on the buying end of things rely on competent reps like the Deborahs to deal with you before you deal with us. We don’t have the time or the luxury of gambling with our paychecks and reputations to be screwing around with incompetence.

    Do I sound harsh? Only if you don’t know what you’re doing or don’t take us seriously.

  52. I appreciate this blog very much! I guess I love Koudelka because I also love East Europe! I am based out of Bucharest right now. No hard feelings!!! Long live Rob and this whole shabang!

  53. Debra Weiss

    @71 – Showing the finished ad in a portfolio can be a risky proposition. If for some reason the art director doesn’t like the type or the design of the ad it is the photographer that gets blamed. While this is irrational, it happens. Unless the ad has won an award in CA, I’d be inclined to not include it, or, I’d show them differently. Years ago this was done as a means of offering credibility – it said “Look – I can shoot a real job and no one was killed in the process!” In my opinion, nothing says credibility like a well crafted photograph.

    Generally speaking, art directors (or at least the ones who really do have talent) do not care what you’ve done for someone else. They want to see what you will bring to the party. By the time they get to the point where the ad is actually being produced, they have already concepted and re-concepted that ad a gazillion times and are fried. Art Directors like winning awards and that makes sense since it is what furthers their careers. They’re looking for inspiration and a photographer who is going to deliver that award winning ad.

    I would hate to see this happening on a wide scale basis again because the reality is that most ads – at least those produced in this country are usually ugly, tasteless and without any real sense of design. Many good photographs have been destroyed by badly designed ads.

    @69 – For the sake of clarification, I’m a consultant – have not been an agent for many years.

  54. Jodi – actually I did mean use a hole punch. You need a decent book to put this hole-punched page into of course, but you need the punch to the get the hole in the paper :) You should also score the paper with a straight edge, so it has a place to bend when turning pages.

    There are services out there that sell paper already punched and scored for you, but they are expensive-ish. If you’re new and out of college you probably have more time than money, so you can easily do it yourself with a little DIY know-how.

    Much of what Debra touches on is also very DIY – like starting your business. I did everything at first, from accounting to marketing. I had no money to pay people to do those things, and I learned a LOT about the photo business (and business in general… I’ve since partnered in completely unrelated things).

    Money can get you in difficult to reach places, but dedicated hard work is what makes it happen.

  55. @ 73 Thanks Debra
    @ 74 Craig, thanks for your post. I think Chris’s book looks good in the plastic sleeves, and it seems to me that it will be easier to
    update the book more easily. I will try and find out from Brewer Cantelmo what they use to clean the sleeves. If Pro’s like Chris are using the sleeves, there has to be a valid and good reason, as I am sure his book must get called out all the time. I don’t think I want to score and punch the paper. Also I think there is more of a chance of the photo getting damaged with fingerprints etc. A sleeve can be cleaned or changed.

    Now on to the size a book should be? Chris’s book is 11X14, is that the actual size of the book or the Print size? Chris what paper do you print your pictures on, and do you do all your own printing? Thanks.

  56. Debra Weiss

    Jodi,

    Why would you want a book that looks exactly like 30 or 40,000 other photographers?

    Updating the book easily has nothing to do with plastic sleeves. Any book that isn’t perfect bound, but is held together with screw posts can be updated. Also, the page will need to have holes in order to fit over the screws whether or not you plastic sleeves.

    Personally, I hate plastic sleeves and many at ad agencies do too. While this might work for Chris, it is not a presentation I would ever put together for one of my clients.

    The page size should be dictated by how your work is going to look its best. You’ll actually have to do some work here Jodi and test papers – again to see which one is best for your work.

    So much of a photographer’s success is dependent upon their establishing and conveying a point of view with their imagery, their portfolio and their presentation of themselves. You can’t exhibit your point of view by copying someone else and you have only one chance to make a first impression. They keep telling me that photography is a creative field, so please think creatively.

    Just out of curiosity, did you go to school for photography or is this something you decided to do after graduating college?

  57. I take care of the fingerprints problem by having all of my prints coated in a protective spray varnish. It doesn’t change the look any, it just lays down a semi-waterproof and UV proof coat. So while I hope nobody spills a cup of coffee on it, its fairly easy to clean a fingerprint – and the varnish makes it more resistant to them.

    My book is a fingerprint collector… I just wipe it down before sending it out. c’est la vie. in a way, i’m kind of proud of a slightly worn book :) Though I take pains to protect it from serious damage. I’ve never had to replace a page.

    Its about as easy to change the work in it as it is with a plastic jacket one… You still have to take all the sleeves out to change up the order of things.

  58. Excellent post and discussion. I’d love to see more sneak peeks into others’ books.

    Regarding the sleeves vs double-sided paper thing….my big problem is that I do not like matte/rag papers nearly as much as the new generation fiber gloss papers (I like real BLACK), so I’m stuck with sleeves for now. Last I checked, the only decent double-sided papers available were the Hahnemuehle Rag Duo and other similar ones. Any new breakthroughs I may have missed?

  59. wow! this is great! i’ve been shooting and i come back to this. i love it. i guess rob really is on to something. of course its a little weird being on this end where i’m the one everyone is critiquing. the fact that not everyone is crazy about my work actually makes me happy. that means i’m doing something right. i’m not going to go on and on and talk about everything i agree and disagree with. i just wanted to touch on a couple of points. the thing i find most interesting is that it seems like the biggest critics are anonymous. hmm. at least let us see your work. i’m kind of new to this blog thing so maybe thats just how it is?
    all i can say is that you really need to do whats right for you. i’ve been shooting this way for about 11 years and getting hired for it for 9 years. its my life. my first book was comprised of friends and family. now i’m getting hired to make pictures of celebrities and other random people in the same fashion. people may think it looks slick or whatever and the fact is its pretty damn low tech. i still shoot film. i still print traditionally (when i can). i don’t retouch. i assisted for 10 years and can figure out pretty much any situation technically that i need to get out of, but choose to focus on my subject, not the lighting set-up. the other thing is this is my commercial portfolio. what ever happened to the notion of making money to do your art? i’m working on my 1st book and have a personal book i show some people. i also show at small galleries here and there and have plans for some shows in the near future. same style. maybe not as “slick”. i do drive an american car as well.
    as far as the black book i use that 30 – 40,000 other photographers use? that is exactly why i chose that book. why try to impress someone with the book your images are in? let the photos speak for themselves. there is no pre-judging with a boring black book. that is the least of my worries. some of the best advice i got when i was starting out was from paul jasmin who was the last photog i assisted. i was struggling with what kind of book to put my images in and he gave me the advice i did above. the other thing he said was to not try and please everyone. only show images you want to show and feel strongly about. the people that don’t get it are the ones you don’t want to work with anyways. the people that do get it will hire you for what you do and like to do. that has helped me from day one.
    lastly, what you guys are seeing is what goes to ad agencies. that tear book wouldn’t go to a magazine. i did not show tears like this until i had a decent body of work and actually get many compliments on it. again, nothing i do should be what everyone should do. do whats right for you. this works for me and i don’t plan on changing based on what ANYONE says except for maybe deb. i think when you get someone who is telling you what you should do you need to be careful. sometimes its great advice. you need to edit your advice just like you would your photos.

  60. one last thing. for anyone starting out or not starting out but not working. go to ny and show your book on your own. that my friend is how i got my start and my 1st job which was a feature for premiere magazine. trust me. that wouldn’t have happened from just a promo. i still try and meet with people at least once a year on my own.

  61. Oswald Bates

    Chris, great work and you hit the nail on the head with the magic word EDIT. Time and time again it boils down to: The best photographers are also truly great editors. You can’t feed the Haute cuisine crowd chicken fried steak. Know thy client.

  62. @ 76, Debra, I graduated college, and wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I ended up going to many photography workshops and just doing short courses in photography. I also took a job in a commercial portrait studio, where they did portraits of kids, and families, but mostly kids. Chris says in his post that he uses the same book that 30,000 photographers use, so that the work speaks for itself. I have asked quite a few photographers about this, and they all say the same. It does seem that it’s best to let the work speak and not the book it self. Right now I am just trying to put a good enough book together to get assisting, or freelance assisting work. I think that’s what I will be doing for at least a few years. Oh, and the plastic sleeves, I asked Brewer Cantelmo about them, and they reeled of the names of so many of the most established photographers that they had made books for, and all of them were using plastic sleeves. I also called up some agents, in NY, and was told that the majority of their books were Black, and with Plastic Sleeves. So I am a little confused here, if all the pros are going this route, what do you recommend that’s different? BTW the paper most people are using is a Matt Enhanced white by Epson. I thought I would do as much research as I could, before spending so much money on a book that might or might not fit in, and I would like the book to fit in, and the work to stand out.

    @79, Chris I don’t have a website yet, so I cannot direct anyone to a site, also my work is no where near your level!
    You are obviously very talented, my critique came after I went to your agents site, and saw the other people she represented, and that’s when I felt, that the style was almost identical, of-course that’s too my very unprofessional eye! I also went to other agents sites and they all have photographers who shoot in a similar style, at least to me it looked very similar. I agree, I don’t know much, except if you all compete for the same type of jobs, I think it must be very subjective when one gets picked over another. It’s also possible that in the end the cost decides who gets picked. I do like your work, I think it’s great, which is what I said in my first post. Except the competition must be very hard, as so many are doing exactly what you are….I am a little surprised that you still shoot film!
    and print traditionally. Also that you don’t do any re-touching!
    How do you stick to time constraints on jobs? Waiting around for film to get processed, how do you know if you’ve got the shot? I interviewed with a well known NY photographer, and he shot everything digitally due to time constraints. He also said that the art-director could see the images instantly….. He also hired all his camera’s by the day for a shoot, as he told me technology kept changing, and he could charge them to the job. Shooting film and not re-touching shows that you are really very talented to me. So if I said anything negative, I take it all back, after reading that!

  63. Debra Weiss

    @79 – “why try to impress someone with the book your images are in? let the photos speak for themselves. there is no pre-judging with a boring black book.”

    It’s about identity and some degree of individuality. Of course, ultimately, the work needs to speak for itself but as getting face to face meetings becomes increasingly more difficult, the book should be an extension of the photographer’s personality. It needs to have a voice because the odds are that it will not be in buyer’s office with you. And, again – you have one shot to make a first impression.

    Years ago, the NYC Police Dept. had a policy of using horses for their mounted units that were all the same color. ( I believe they were bays) They had psychological studies conducted. What they found was if a group of mounted cops were on bays and one was on a different horse and a psycho happened to be in the area looking to shoot a cop, the one on the horse of a different color would be the one to get shot as he was different from the pack and easier to notice.

    I am not suggesting that anyone use a good looking presentation to conceal bad work, however this business is about a lot more than photography. When the buyer, and eventually the client see a presentation that has been put together with a great deal of thought, that is made with good materials and has a sense of style that separates it from the rest of the pack, a) it will get noticed sooner and b) the client will experience a stronger sense of security that the photographer will most likely take greater care with their job. This business is all about perception.

    As stated previously, if your book is working for you I think that’s great. I would like to believe that the best work always gets chosen, however I’ve spent enough time in this industry to know better.

    @83 – “It’s also possible that in the end the cost decides who gets picked.”

    With some clients, cost is always a factor. As a new photographer you have the opportunity to lay down ground rules as to how you’re going to run your business. The purpose of being in business is to generate profit. You cannot generate profit by taking bad deals. You will need to understand pricing, usage and negotiation. You’ll also need to understand the value your work has in the marketplace. Read my article entitled “The Value of Photography” on the home page of EP http://www.editorialphoto.com/ No other business allows clients to dictate price except the photography industry. Go along with that and you’ll be in a quick race to the bottom.

    “I am a little surprised that you still shoot film! and print traditionally.”

    Many photographers still use film. You should be working in the medium that best conveys what it is you’re trying to say. It’s all about your point of view.

    “Waiting around for film to get processed, how do you know if you’ve got the shot?”

    Jodi, I believe this is called being a professional.

    “Shooting film and not re-touching shows that you are really very talented to me. So if I said anything negative, I take it all back, after reading that!”

    Please, please, please take a history of photography course!
    Somehow, I get the feeling Chris would survive if you didn’t like his work.

  64. @57 “Another problem is that the new photographer really can’t afford to have an agent and it actually doesn’t make financial sense unless you are doing incredibly well”

    I’m interested in your rationale Debra.

    Chris – it might look pretty simple, but you have a great talent and your execution is great.

  65. @79: “my first book was comprised of friends and family.” I suppose it’s common sense, but hearing (reading?) that from you gave me confidence in my own work. Great work Chris

  66. @72: I see a few folios a month, and I don’t remember seeing any full of tear sheets. I’m not necesarilly criticising Chris, because he’s getting to do good looking ads, but I think it’s fair to say that most photographers in his position would be showing more of their personal work.

  67. @82 so true. i could have someone with a different ascetic edit my work and have it look like it was shot by another photographer.

    @83 there are times when time constraints do force me to shoot digital but for the most part, its not that much faster. i do know what i’m doing and would prefer that no one saw what i was shooting. i get hired for what i do so there is a lot of trust involved. its only recent that you can get by without really knowing what your doing. just yesterday i did an editorial shoot with 5 celebrities involved. it was in the studio which normally i don’t mind shooting digital because its such a controlled environment. instead i shot film because each celeb has a publicist with them who are generally very vocal and opinionated. can you imaging having a monitor set up for everyone to comment on while you are trying to focus on the subjects? no thx. with film i did a couple of polaroids and started shooting, interruption free. it is definitely another one of those personal choices. the fact that most people think its weird i still shoot film is another thing that makes me happy, because shooting digital is very uninspiring for me. no soul. no feeling. nothing i can really touch. give me a proof, grease pencil and loupe anyday. the last thing i want to do is what i’m doing right now, staring at the computer screen.
    @85 thanks mark
    @86 your work is great. keep it up. you gotta stay true to that.
    @88 i totally agree simon. i make limited personal books that i send to select clients and have a personal portfolio i show when i meet people personally. i probably need to do it more

  68. @ 84, Great article, thanks… I know chris will survive and is surviving, no matter what anyone says about his work on this blog. I’m still amazed that he’s shooting film and not re-touching!
    As up until now I haven’t met anyone that’s doing that anymore.
    I haven’t found any commercial photographer whose not working or tweaking with photoshop anymore! And I do like his work, all I was saying is, that there are so many photographers that are shooting in the same style. It’s as if they have found a formula to shoot what art directors and buyers are looking for.

    I also mentioned that as a newbie, I cannot see the subtle differences that everyone else seems to be able to see. I have spent hours going through a lot of agents sites, listed on this site, and quite honestly, if one were to cover up the names of the photographers and ask me whose image I thought it was, I couldn’t even guess! Whereas, I could more often than not recognize an Annie Leibovitz shot, or a David La Chapele image much more easily. The difference between Chri’s agents photographers is really very subtle for me, and that’s just my opinion….. Along with many who might or might not agree.

    @89, I see your point Chris, with shooting celebrities and having their agents interrupting you. Quite clever.

  69. “shooting digital is very uninspiring for me. no soul. no feeling.”

    I feel exactly the same way! I shoot digital on every job of course, but at the same time I also shoot film. Film is so much more of a pleasure to work with! I feel as though every time I hit the shutter on my Hasselblad, something actually happens! Whereas with digital, it just feels like my camera is more of a go-between, between the subject and computer screen.

    Excellent.

  70. great thread
    chris or debra if you have the time check out my website . i would oove to hear some different thoughts on the work.
    thanks again for a great thread.
    be on the look out for an update on the website soon

    jonathan

    jonathanbeller.com

  71. Debra Weiss

    @82 “so true. i could have someone with a different ascetic edit my work and have it look like it was shot by another photographer.”

    Am not sure how this could be unless the editor was seriously cropping and altering the work. Photographs don’t suddenly metamorphose just because of a different aesthetic. Also, I assume you would notice that pretty quickly and no longer be working with that editor. I spend a good deal of my time editing and work with what the photographer has given me. I might make certain choices of imagery that is different from the what the photographer would want to see in the book, but it is still his/her image. Photographers tend to get too emotionally caught up in the image to be truly objective all of the time.

    @85 “I’m interested in your rationale Debra.”

    By the time you get through adding up all of your operating costs and expenses, you will see that the agent is actually earning more than you. While most agents have some amount of overhead, it is not comparable to that of a photographer, except in a few cases. Good agents will require a lot from the photographer. In order to have been represented by me when I was an agent the photographer was required to go into at least one national source book, supply me with a direct mail campaign for the year, have multiple copies of the book, and supply new pieces for the book on a regular basis. Some agents now produce their own promotional book and a payment from the photographer for producing that promotional book is required when they enter into an arrangement with the agent. In order for the agent to do their job effectively, they must have the proper tools and those tools are costly.

    When you are looking at a budget for the year, you have to allocate certain things to certain areas. Your agent would be considered a marketing expense. When you add their commission (which
    used to be 25%, now it is more commonly 30% and in some cases 35%) to you other marketing expenses – portfolios, promotional material, travel for meetings, etc. you are now spending a disproportionate amount of money on marketing.

    In a good economy it can take anywhere from 6 months to a year for an agent to make headway with a photographer unless they are taking on someone well known who at the time is currently working. Double that amount of time in a bad economy. During that time you are putting money out to run your business with possibly very little coming in. Of that amount, the agent is getting 30%.

    While many photographers seem to think that having an agent is the great panacea, it’s not. As I said previously, most photographers will never have an agent because there a too many photographers and not enough agents and the numbers simply don’t compute. Additionally, while there are some great agents, there are plenty that are just not. A big problem is the lack of standards. When we were sitting around as kids discussing what we wanted to be, Photographer Agent never entered into the mix, at least not when I was a kid since the profession didn’t exist at that time. I think there are big misconceptions surrounding this profession:

    #1 This is a creative position. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t agents who are creative, but the majority are not. First and foremost, it is a sales job. Most agents don’t know a lot about photography or business which makes for a deadly combination.

    #2 I’m going to hang out with creatives and have fun. While some aspects of being an agent can be enjoyable, there is a whole slew of them that aren’t.

    #3 The agent makes the photographer. No they don’t. They can open doors. Ultimately, it is the work that makes the photographer. The agent should be there to guide, protect, encourage and advocate.

    For the agent, this is pretty much a thankless job. Traditionally, the agent/photographer relationship has been looked up as “if the book is doing well, it’s because of the photographer and if the photographer is not doing well, it’s because of the agent.

    For the photographer, this relationship can be very frustrating as most, especially in the beginning, have totally unrealistic expectations of the agent and what the agent could/should be doing.

    If having an agent is something the photographer really wants, my advice is to take your time, do your homework and really try to find the right match. You don’t want to enter into a relationship that will quickly end as it is not good for either of you. Always remain in control of your business whether or not you are represented.

    One more thing – I think any photographer who turns over 35% of their fees should be institutionalized.

    @87 Thank you.

    @90 “Whereas, I could more often than not recognize an Annie Leibovitz shot, or a David La Chappele image much more easily.

    This is because they have taken ownership of a style. It is also because they happen to be better than others. While LaChappele’s work gives me a headache most of the time, I can appreciate its masterful qualities. The more photographers that enter the marketplace, especially those who really don’t know and understand the craft of photography, the more generic and banal the imagery will become.

    @92 Jonathan – I can’t do this. It is a big part of what I do for a living and it would be totally unfair to my clients. Also, I don’t work for free and my advice to all would be that you don’t either. Hope you understand.

  72. @94 this is not a blanket statement. this is regarding my work and is based on the way that i shoot. if i photographed a celebrity and shot 15 rolls of film and compared my edit to another person with a different ascetic (that isn’t trying to edit for me) it would be a drastic difference. the reason being that not every image i take looks like a “caught” moment. a shoot is a process and many times i take images i know i would never pick in an edit. those same images though could be exactly what the other person likes. looking into the lens with the perfect smile on her/his face. does that make sense?

  73. @94 Debra – Excellent information for everyone. Thanks for taking the time to explain that.

  74. @94: this should be posted for posterity somewhere so that every kid who thinks they’d make it big “if i only had a rep” can see

  75. NAME IRRELEVANT

    Playing the advocate, why so many of you think Chris McPherson’s work is so ‘spectacular’. Anyone up for the challenge of spelling it out for everyone?

    Not saying it’s horrible or anything drastically critical, just tired of comments online such as “beautiful!” and “nice!” with no actual praise in the commenter’s critique.

    Photo school had the same problem.

  76. i’m redoing my portfolio so that i can finally show it to editors out here in ny. I have made calls but have gotten scared about dropping my book off. but now i think i have a good amount of photos that convey my style and this post and discussion was real helpful
    especially Chris and Debra
    spot on about film

    i still shoot film for personal pictures. and I’ve been shooting film for so long i don’t really wonder how they turn out and rarely retouch them. but i shoot digital a lot nowadays

  77. “i’ve been shooting this way for about 11 years and getting hired for it for 9 years.”

    This is a strange statement because it makes it sound like you made a conscious decision to shoot a certain way, instead of just shooting what came naturally. How did you shoot before 11 years ago and what made you change your style up?

    Did you decide to shoot a new way because it was more hip or commercial?

    I feel like most of us only know how to shoot one way, our own.

  78. I completely concur with “irrelevant” – the irony of which is not lost on me – regarding the ‘spectacular’ nature of Mr. McPherson’s portfolio. Moreover, I think APE’s excerpt from ‘Walk the Line’ is actually more relevant to his visuals than anything I saw which was truly unique or representing an extraordinary vision. My thoughts were more reminiscent of Abercrombie/Fitch catalogue than a new vision. I’m thus surprised with APE’s tacit endorsement, frustrated by posts who throw out superlatives without context or further analysis, and appreciative of just how challenging it is to truly be unique.

  79. His work does nothing for me except for a few images. Its just not my think the whole American Apparel trendy photography at the moment. Guess its different and not for everyone. Chris Buck I get .. this guy I don’t. No depth.

    John

  80. Hi Chris, Thank you so much for sharing. This has been an enlightening blog. I love your book and would like to learn more about how you break landscape images over two portfolio pages (Like the image of your coca-cola bike riders in the pool).

    I have been experimenting with prints that are 11×14 landscape, that naturally don’t break evenly into two 11×14 portraits. I have two quick questions:

    1) I am getting the 14×11 brewer-cantelmo portfolio (like the other 40,000 photographers) :o) and I am curious how you accounted for the gutter on your two-page spreads (single image across two pages). Your images seem to line up perfectly.

    2) Is there a “rule of thumb” for fill location for images that do not scale (black or white, left or right or even?) Like the image of your coca-cola bike riders in the pool, the fill is white and on the left? (also please see my attempt at this here: http://www.martinoroselli.com/gallery/6461993_KxaHz/1/409867492_VuHVf)

    Any help or insight would be great.

    Thank you again!

    Cheers,

    Martino