Posts by: A Photo Editor

The George Lois Esquire Covers at MOMA

- - Blog News

“Many of Mr. Lois’s covers were controversial, not so say irreverent or deliberately provocative. The Liston cover cost the magazine $750,000 in dropped advertising. But they were immensely successful at drawing attention, on the newsstand especially.”

“What was remarkable then — and seems even more so now, when virtually every magazine cover is a thicket of text lines running behind or on top of one celebrity or another — is that the Lois covers were virtually textless.”

“When Mr. Lois learned that Esquire covers were conceived and assigned by an editorial committee, he likened the process to gang rape…”

Read the whole story at NYTimes.com (here).

Spring Cleaning at APhotoEditor.com

- - Blogs

I thought I’d air this place out a bit and offer a little transparency in an attempt to move the conversations we have here on to the next chapter. I’m sensing a vibe of suspicion among a couple readers and commenter’s and I’ll offer a little transparency in an attempt to clear the air and make things right. I’ve tried to avoid writing about what I do for a living, what my plans are and in general not turn this into a place where I solicit work but I think that can sometimes make people suspicious of my motivations for doing all this work in the first place. I’ll be very clear, I wouldn’t do this if I thought it wouldn’t lead somewhere. I don’t think anyone knows where blogs and free services offered on the web lead. We’re figuring that out as we go.

The most common question I get is people asking if I’m a trust-funder or millionaire. No, unfortunately I’m not. I have to work for every dime like most of you. I have occasional photo editing, casting and consulting jobs to pay the bills and I’m living unbelievably cheap in Tucson, AZ with a family member. This will change when I move to Durango, CO around May 25th.

Next, most people probably want to know what I plan to do with this blog and all these readers. It’s changed several times since I began because honestly I didn’t set out to create a mainstream photography blog so for pretty much the whole time I’ve done this the answer has been “I don’t know or care.” When I started blogging I only wanted to teach myself how to blog, then it became a fun way to rant about work, then it grew to became very large and time consuming so I started to think I might need to get some advertising on the pages and try to make a living off all the time I spend writing and moderating the comments. I just couldn’t see myself hawking any type of photography equipment here so I gave up on that. It didn’t seem like a very good match for this site.

So, I finally decided very recently that the best way for me to make a living is to offer other products or premium services for a fee. It’s an idea that many web companies employ, you offer a few things for free to drive traffic and to create your own advertising platform and then you sell a product that a small percentage of the visitors are interested in. I’m not ready to discuss what those products are but I can say the blog will remain open and free and I’ll continue to do things like the free promos, media phonebook and photo rank as a way to support the community I’ve created and keep people coming back. As much as possible I’d like the blog to continue to be a place where conversations happen. A few readers have noted that the comments are more informative than the posts and I love that there’s so many people willing to share their experiences and ideas. I’d like that to continue as long as possible but I can’t pay rent with comments or notoriety so I’m developing products that hopefully will.

I’ll note here that I’m very aware that my thoughts on the industry and ideas on how people should behave will slowly lose relevance the longer it’s been since I’ve worked at a magazine. I’m cool with that. I hope other Photo Directors will take up blogging (email me and I’ll set you up for free and give you advice on how not to get caught) to provide that in-the-moment perspective and I’ll continue to interview people and give my opinion on the news and make posts that I feel are relevant. People who no longer find any of this interesting are free to leave. I’m not trying to create a monopoly here or write sensationalist material to drive up traffic. The blog has to evolve into something written by a former photography director. A few readers have commented on how they liked me so much better when I was anonymous and working at a magazine. I’m not going back so let’s hope someone else comes forward.

There’s been recent discussion about my previous anonymity and I’ll explain why I started my blog anonymously. First off, I always told people who I was when they asked. I wanted it to be an open secret. I was only keeping it from my employer because I had a contract that prevented them from firing me without a payout and this could have easily been voided if my blog was discovered. My family and I had moved all the way from Santa Fe to New York and that was my safety net. I’m actually uncomfortable talking about it now because I’m still bound by a non-compete and other contract terms until May 16th.

I offer anonymity to my commenter’s in the hopes that people will leave interesting tidbits they wouldn’t otherwise for fear of something getting back to their employer or client. It works most of the time but in a few cases it’s used for personal attacks. I try and prevent that from happening by patrolling the comments and will block people I think are real disruptor’s and remove comments that are intended to be evil. That being said I’ve decided anonymous commenter’s can remain anonymous forever. I’ll never track you down and if I inadvertently discover who you are I will never tell anyone. The same goes with emails people send me. All are confidential unless you personally tell me I can reprint something. I hope that helps. I recently tried to track someone down (technically I can’t track an IP address only guess who it might be based on city and state) because I wanted to ask why they were leaving nasty comments and I wanted it to stop. I’m not going to do that anymore. If it becomes really aggravating or disruptive I’ll just delete the comment or block the commenter. Additionally, if you impersonate someone who posts here I’ll just delete the comment or let everyone know it’s not the same person.

This leads to the final topic for spring cleaning, my thin skin. I’m going to do a better job of allowing criticism and dissent to my opinions without immediately firing a comment back. As I said before I’d like the posts and comments to be a conversation and other points of view are encouraged. I don’t want to get in the way of that happening.

Help Redesign A Magazine

- - Blog News

Interesting experiment over at Vincent Skeltis’ blog where he’s looking for input on the redesign of a magazine called Foam (here). I’d advise them to hire Noe Dewitt to shoot the covers (read the demographic to see why) but then they’d probably run out of cash after the first photo session. Go big or go home I say.

New Magazine For The Uber Rich- Snob

- - Blog News

Mikhail Prokhorov — whose wealth is estimated at around $22 billion — plans to spend $150 million setting up a magazine, website and television station called Snob, the general director of the new venture told Reuters on Wednesday.

“It’s for people who are successful and those who want to be successful,” said Andrei
Shmarov, who will run Snob.

Via, BoSacks Newsletter.

Breaking Through The Clutter

- - Blog News

Advertising is on a self destructive path where you need more louder ads to break through the clutter which in turn creates more clutter. Referral from trusted sources will soon become the way most people find things.

Asking another photo editor has always been one of the best ways to find a photographer.

Read all about it on Copyblogger (here).

Photographers Leading The Way

- - The Future

I’ve been thinking that National Geographic photographers are uniquely poised to discover all the ways photography can reach consumers next. They already have one of the largest built-in audiences and that yellow border is instantly recognizable by the masses as a source for great photography. Plus, Geographic has always been good about moving the photography and photographers they work with into as many mediums as possible (books, calendars, note cards, videos, lectures, workshops) so consumers are ready to receive whatever they’re offering next. The biggest asset these talented people have going for them is the individual picture stories in their archive can have 100’s of great images no one has ever seen.

Stephen Alvarez is turning his massive 15 year collection of images into a picture-a-day along with a short story blog. He’s got other plans as well so this is just the beginning of attracting a huge following, one picture at a time. Check it out here: PictureStoryBlog.com

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And then on Stephen’s site I discovered that David Alen Harvey is planning a New York to California road trip as a personal project to make a “portrait” of America and he’s invited everyone to help him make it happen. As in, help pay for lunch, gas and finding interesting people to photograph. Genius. You can hang out with David, watch/help him make pictures, learn a thing or two and buy him a turkey sandwich. Then, when it’s all over the people he’s met along the way and all their friends will be standing in line at Amazon to buy the book. Hell, I’d sell the magazine story to the highest bidder, it comes with a built in audience and a blog that gets 100 comments on a slow day.

Here’s what David has to say on his blog (here):
“here is the deal….offer me lunch and i give you a portfolio review!!….travel along with us and fill up my car with gas (getting expensive) and you might just get an almost free workshop, or find a great family for me to photograph and get a signed print (see how entrepreneural i have become???)….seriously, all of your ideas are welcomed..”

Look out crabby old media barons, photographers are leading the way.

Wall Street Journal Adds Photos

- - Blog News

Daryl Lang at PDN writes “There are photos on the front of today’s Wall Street Journal! Photos that aren’t mug shots! Above the fold! Three columns wide! In lifelike color! What next, cats chasing dogs?” Read it (here).

The secret to making anything better has always been to add photos. Glad they finally saw the light.

Free Promo Getting Better

- - Promos

I made a few more changes to the promo to get it working better before I send it out. I decided to change the name to:

FolioBrowser.com

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After seeing ILikeThesePhotos in print several times I was starting to think it sounded a little juvenile, not very professional and too one sided. Folio Browser is a little stiff but I can see it becoming a useful tool for Art Buyers and Photo Editors and I’d prefer it sounded professional (it’s kinda like when your daughter name’s the dog princess and the stupid thing gets lost and you have to drive around the neighborhood yelling princess at the top of your lungs).

The biggest change is that the links to photographers websites are direct. They don’t go to Flickr first. In fact you don’t even have to know Flickr is involved in any way. It just serves up the images for the thumbnail page. The other big change is that the title can now support a name and location for the photographer. I’ve heard from a few people that this would be a really useful addition. If anyone wants to help me out with the locations for all the photographers just visit the flickr page and leave a comment on each one (here). I may not have the time to get them all changed on my own.

I already have several requests to make region specific versions of this project (Canada, West Coast, Los Angeles, Mexico, Mid West) with different groups of editors selecting the final group. I think that’s a great next logical step and I’m excited to see if this could become a regular resource for people. Only time will tell.

The only major problem with the new version now is that it’s slower than the previous. See what you think for yourself:

ILikeThesePhotos

FolioBrowser

Great Blog Posts to Check Out

- - Blogs

Jacko has a new post (here), Heather Morton’s blog keeps getting stronger (here), Joerg is still going strong and always good to read (here), Robert Wright is still doing insightful posts (here), AVS has added some new material (here) (finally!), I’m really enjoying The Year In Pictures (here) and then Rachel Hulin is finding her voice (here) and I’m enjoying that as well.

Single Most Annoying Web 2.0 Feature For Photographers

- - Promos

Tracking my movements on your email promos and website.

I think my enthusiasm for email promos and links to work on photographers websites was completely cut in half the day someone emailed me and said “I see you’ve been checking out my book” I actually looked for a portfolio in my office because I didn’t recognize the photographers name, “I just wanted to see if I can show you some more work or shoot an assignment for you.”

Then I realized they had tracked me from an email promo I clicked on and suddenly I felt duped. Are all the photographers secretly tracking my movements to see when I click on a link or how much time I spend on their website. Man, that sucks.

The truth is I spend way less time on someone’s website that I really like and way too much time on websites I find horribly bad.

I’m sure it’s pretty satisfying to see how many clicks you get and how much time is spent on the website and what kinds of things get people to visit and what kinds of things get people to stay but letting me know you’re watching is downright creepy and makes me think twice before clicking and visiting.

Showing Your Book

- - Getting Hired

Bar none, showing your book is the fastest way to get a job in this business. If I meet you and like your work, then shake your hand and look you in the eye, it’s a virtual lock you’ll get an assignment. I was such a pushover in this regard that sometimes photographers wouldn’t even make it out of the building before getting a call on the cell phone with a job.

Usually what happens is I’ve got a shoot rolling around in my brain that I can’t quite land and I meet you and even tho you’re not perfectly what I was looking for in this particular story, your work is strong and you’re a nice person so I suddenly really want to hook you up with a job because well, I’m human. And, usually I can trot you over to the Creative Directors office and they’ll have the same reaction as I do “Zoiks Shaggy, let’s get this person a job.”

Getting in the door with your book is not easy (sometimes impossible) and if it was, everyone would be standing in line outside the Photography Directors office holding one of those butcher counter numbers waiting to get their assignment, so you get in which ever way you can. Keep trying, “Hey, I’m in the neighborhood and thought I’d drop by if you have time” or “I’m at the newsstand, saw the latest issue and wanted to drop by and show you my work” or get a meeting with a Jr. Photo Editor or an Art Director or the Fashion Director or the magazine down the hall. Whatever it takes.

If your work is strong and you’re not a complete jackass, show your book in person, it’s the best way to land a job.

Remain in Light vol. 1

- - Blog News

500 submissions edited down to the final 20 for this new print publication of contemporary photographers. See the finalists (here).

Worth a visit becuase the work is outstanding.

Cheap Photography Business Model Fails

- - Blog News

Lucky Oliver shuts down operation:

“We spent the last year looking for the funds to grow LuckyOliver because, without the addition of significant capital, the return on investment for LuckyOliver and its contributors would not be satisfactory. After reviewing the options, the investment team decided that it was in the best interest of all stakeholders to shut the company down.”

John Harrington comments:

“I am not convinced that there will always be a robust microstock industry. How many redundant servers can continue to run with a significant staff to take orders and collect $1 here, and $4 there? I expect that iStockphoto will, in some shadow of it’s former self, remain. Jupiter will likely collapse under it’s own weight – and the fickle demands of shareholders who no longer see this industry as meeting the growth that they want for their own return on investment. Further, the novelty will wear off for many of the amateurs, and the demands for releases and indemnifications of Corporate America by judgement proof individuals, followed by the lawsuits that inevitably will quash this field, will just poison the well.”

Read all about it at the Photo Business Forum (here).

Buying Photos from Strangers

- - Working

When I started working as a photo editor I quickly learned a few lessons up front about buying photographs from amateurs: always ask how they planned to ship the images (we weren’t supposed to give out our UPS account to the non professionals) and determine beforehand what format the photographs might be in when they arrived.

I of course learned these lessons the hard way the first time I was handed the task of locating those awesome photographs the subject of a story always seems to claim his friend/mom/uncle/some dude took that will solve all the usual woes associated with trying to run stories about places no professional photographer has bothered to visit. A couple days would go by and I would call back to find the whereabouts of the images only to discover they’d been dropped in the mail with a stamp (duh, that’s how normal people send shit… not FedEx first overnight) and then a week later when the package finally arrives I discover the cruddy 3×5 prints (or worse disk film) and have to start the whole process over again only this time on a serious deadline.

The value in these otherwise unremarkable photographs was not the elusive subject captured by the writer’s uncle poorly depicted on 1-hour prints but rather the difficulty in obtaining the images and ergo exclusivity our publication would enjoy printing them (surely nobody else would go through all this trouble). In fact that exclusive look at things was so important, magazines with real budgets like People would fly a photo editor to the errant uncles house to gather the 1-hour photos themselves.

This has all changed of course, with the advent of digital cameras and the internet these once obscure, hard to obtain amateur photographs are everywhere and their value has evaporated overnight.

News organizations are picking up on this “citizen journalist” phenomenon as if we haven’t always used citizen journalists to fill in the holes and so I find it strange that they think they’ve discovered the holy grail of cost cutting in photography, because everyone seems to be missing one enormous piece to this puzzle. The value of these images to consumers is also zero.

It’s like walking into the furniture store and finding a junk-ass chair made out of two by fours and ten penny nails. “You’re trying to sell me a chair I could have built… drunk?”

Taking it one step further according to Thoughts of a Bohemian a website called Daylife (here) will scan the text on your web page and deliver relevant news images from a tightly edited pool of wire photography. He goes on to say “As newspapers and magazine are suffering more layouts as ad spending is weakening, most of the photo related professional are turning to the internet. However, because of its built in automation, it just seems that some of the jobs will not be recycle but ultimately replaced by machines. We will still need great pictures, thus talented photographers. Not so sure about needing photo editors.”

I totally agree that using wire photos or even citizen journalist images to “decorate” your story should be accomplished by machines because you’re not really adding anything of value to the overall package.

To all those content re-packagers who think any of this sounds like a good idea: good luck finding readers. Maybe machines will read that crap.

Superfast Free Promo Thumbnail Viewing

- - Photographers

Check out the new and improved thumbnail view for the free promo at ILikeThesePhotos.com. This will give buyers a great opportunity to view 297 photographers in 10 seconds flat. Don’t think you’ll find that anywhere on the web. Special wOOt to my new business partner Erik Dungan for coding that up. It took him all of 10 minutes to do it so look for cool stuff coming down the pike in the near future. I’ll be taking this show on the road (email) in the next day or so.