Posts by: A Photo Editor
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I really like this quote from the Alex Pappademas story. Works for photographers too.
“Y’know, I grew up in a different generation. I grew up after World War II, and boys did different things in those days. You went camping. You went hunting. You boxed. And the image of a writer, to someone starting off in those days was not some schmuck who went to graduate school. It was Jack London, Nelson Algren, Ernest Hemingway. Especially coming from Chicago–a writer was a knock-around guy. Someone who got a job as a reporter or drove a cab. I think the reason there are a lot of novels about How Mean My Mother Was to Me and all that shit is because the writers may have learned something called ‘technique,’ but they’ve neglected to have a life. What the fuck are they gonna write about?”
There’s also and excellent profile of Terry Richardson written by Andrew Corsello that furthers my theory of how a photographers DNA imprint in pictures cannot be replicated or taught. Calling it talent is not very accurate because it’s the sum of everything you know and have experienced and it leaves a mark on the photographs. I’ve always liked Terry’s work and I’m somewhat floored by the story of his hellish/crazy upbringing and how that fed his photographic style and subject selection. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to walk and inch in his shoes if that’s what it takes to become a much sought-after photographer with an original point of view.
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Sports Illustrated releases 54 years of writing, photography and video in a searchable online database for free (here). I’m actually surprised by this move. Most magazines possessing that kind of archive and audience usually sell a set of DVD’s with the complete digital archive for a huge profit (i.e. National Geographic, New Yorker, Rolling Stone).
I have my suspicions that there were major copyright issues (in offering a complete archive) so instead of trying to clear that hurdle they went online, with everything they have rights to, in an attempt to catch up with ESPN’s online presence.
Either way it’s great for consumers.
In response to consumer complaints (I sent an email to the publicist) Adobe has revised their Terms of Service for their free online photo editing program (here).
“Adobe’s Rights – Adobe has retained only those limited rights that allow us to operate the service and to enable you to do all the things the service offers. If you decide to terminate your Photoshop Express account, Adobe’s rights also will be terminated. We don’t claim ownership of your content and won’t sell your images.
Shared Content – We clearly state the rights you’re granting other users when you choose to publicly share Your Content.”
Via, John Nack (here).
Last night I gave a presentation and sat in on a panel discussion on websites for the APA San Francisco chapter (website). It’s always nice to get out from behind the computer and have a discussion about photography with fellow art buyers and photo editors and of course meet photographers. I certainly enjoy talking shop.
On the panel with me was Zana Woods, the photo editor of Wired Magazine who was previously and art buyer at Foote, Cone & Belding and Debbie Mobley the Senior Art Producer at Venables Bell & Partners.
I loved hearing the different approaches we all have to working with photographers and I thought I’d highlight some of the interesting things that came up.
Zana prefers to see a book over a website and in fact bases all hiring decisions off looking at books. That was a refreshing point of view for a panel on websites. The website is not an end destination or even the place where decisions are made about hiring photographers.
Debbie leads the typically busy life of an advertising art producer. Websites are tools for quickly looking at portfolios to see if the photographer has the look or skills you need for a project you’re working on RIGHT NOW. She catalogs photographers by the printed and emailed promos photographers send her and when it’s time to find photographers for a campaign looking at websites is efficient and fast. She almost always uses printed books when discussing photographers with creatives and *never* shows a website to a client (they’re too literal).
When I was presenting all the different parts of photographers websites that I use when making a hiring decision (bio, personal work, tears) Debbie was looking over at me like “are you crazy, how in thee hell do you have time to look at all that stuff” and so we talked about some of the big difference between how commercial and editorial clients view photographers websites. In advertising it really is “all about the photography” and you can be a complete a-hole but if you’re photography matches the creative for the campaign. You’ve got the job. Additionally she never deals with the “I need a photographers in Canton, OH who can shoot a portrait for $4500. Monday.” So, she does way less crystal ball gazing on websites than I do. On editorial shoots the photographer and subject need to match up or you can have serious problems and on most shoots there’s nobody on set so you’ve got to make sure this is the right person for the job. In editorial, shoots fail, in advertising, never.
At one point we were talking about Matt Mahon’s website (here) which I’ve mentioned a few times here as something I find very entertaining and proposed a theory to Debbie that creatives might champion a photographer who they find interesting and entertaining at which point she whipped out an email where she asked her art directors what websites they particularly enjoyed to which they replied how much they dislike photographers who think they’re flash designers. “We just want to see photos, you’re photographers for crissakes, not designers.” Theory debunked.
I really enjoyed Zana’s point of view because she works on a national magazine but doesn’t live in NYC which was my experience for many years. She kept talking about this guy Andrew Hetherington (here) who’s some kinda hot shot photographer who shoots for Wired (had to bust your chops on that Jacko and yes she brought you up several times). Since she’s worked at Wired since 1999 she’s built a group of trusted photographers that she likes to work with, keeps a wish list of photographers she’d like to work with and uses the traditional methods (mailers, other magazines, contests, photographers recommendations) to locate new talent and call in their book. It was interesting to find out that she never reads email promos unless the subject line or email is personal and that they keep a database of all the photographers they’re interested in that’s searchable by location and shooting style.
Much of the conversation with Zana came back to this idea that she enjoys looking at websites but uses them to call in books. It’s never the place where decisions are made about hiring people. This is how many photo editors use websites and it’s important to remember that.
The panel really showed that everyone uses a photographers website differently but first and foremost for everyone was finding your portfolio and viewing the images cleanly and quickly. Some of your clients will continue on to check out other parts of the website some will call in your book and others will catalog you away. I think it may be disappointing for photographers to discover that a slick website and nifty features won’t really increase your chances of getting a job. I’d be willing to bet that changes in the future… just not when.
It costs millions of dollars to distribute photography in the form of a magazine page. Now, it can all be done for free, so will somebody please tell me where all the goddam photos are? Honestly you’ve got the internet at your disposal and every last one of you is lined up trying to get in the door at 1271 6th Avenue to see the Photography Director and show them your book so they can send you out on assignment and 3 months later it will arrive in my mailbox.
You can send it to me today, for FREE.
One issue of a magazine with 200 pages in it that prints 1,000,000 copies (40% draw on newsstand so some go in the trash) and reaches around 2,500,000 people costs $1,000,000 to print and distribute with $800,000 in circulation expenses (subscription and newsstand) and $350,000 in contributer fees and expenses (photos and words) and a staff salary and general business expenses (rent and utilities) of $1,250,000. This will bring in $4,000,000 in advertiser revenue (minus advertising marketing) and $1,000,000 in sales through newsstand and subscription.
(The numbers are a fairly accurate estimate of a magazine I enjoy and are NOT based on a magazine I’ve worked at.)
The cost to deliver a magazine to one viewer is $1.36 and the revenue generated is $2.00. If a 200 page magazine is 110 pages of edit (half of which are photos) then the expense to deliver a single page picture to one viewer is $0.012 and the revenue generated is $0.018. So imagine for a second that photographers generate and distribute their own content (or in a partnership with an aggregator) so now the revenue generated is $0.015 (newsstand sales are gone) and 4 pages of photographs reaching the same audience that you always reached (if you shoot for top national magazines) with the same advertisers willing to tag along should give you $150,000. You’ll have to subtract your expenses for producing those photos but you can clearly see there’s going to be some serious money to be made once this thing starts working properly.
I blame the photographers and publishers equally for clinging to the old way of doing business and not innovating something new, but it’s the photographers that stand to gain the most from creating a new way of reaching consumers and bringing advertisers along for the ride. If we all just sit around with our thumbs up our ass because we can’t do anything with photography without getting paid I’ll guarantee you one thing. The publishers will figure it out for everyone and they’ll happily keep the 1.6 million dollar (from the example above) cut they already get every single month for every single magazine they produce.
Oh, you may have noticed the smallest part of creating a magazine every month is the fees and expenses paid to all the contributors. Are you ready to do something about it yet?
One thing that will never change in this equation is the amount of time in a day. The more time people spend consuming different types of media the less time the spend with other types. The amount of money spent to reach these people doesn’t change either so if it disappears from magazines and newspapers it will reappear online but the key to the whole equation here is that more efficient means of delivering content equals more money to be spent creating it and less to spend on effing red tape (shuffling photos around the layout, contracts, estimates and on and on).
I think we can look at all these other professions changing their game (journalists, musicians, software companies, filmmakers… ) and glean some ideas how photography will evolve but the reality is, some people really need to get off their asses and make a move to figure it out. I like looking to musicians when thinking about photography because like the public’s taste in music, taste in photography is subjective and attracting people to it is way more complicated than just creating the best image. Perception, marketing, recommendations and other environmental factors play a huge part and I’ll also agree with several of my contributors that there’s a long history of business practices that will effect what can happen next so modeling this business off any others has its limitations. It just seems like everyone is doing something with this new distribution system except for photographers.
Distribution of photography is now free. It’s time to decide if that means you get paid more or less.
“The question is not really whether the Internet creates the only possible justifiable medium for distributing text to readers. Late capitalism is built on unjustifiable expenses. They’re called luxuries. The question is whether the reader in the Internet Age will regard a print magazine full of reporting that took months to gather, printed on the world’s diminishing supply of paper, as a luxury rather than an indispensable requirement. And whether that will change what gets written about, and how.”
“…the Internet won’t replace magazines, but it might replace their readers.”
Read it at The New York Observer (here). Thanks Steve.
There are a couple methods to getting a magazine out the door on time every month. There’s what I call the “ABC” (Always Be Closing) method where the various sections are staggered, heading to production over the course of an entire month, which in theory sounds like a sane way to do it but in practice feels like you never let off the gas and makes it nearly impossible to take vacations or do anything besides ship pages. And, no matter how hard you try there always manages to be a couple all day marathons to ship pages at the end. The other method I’m calling “look everyone this thing ships in two weeks we really need to buckle down if we’re gonna make it,” where you smash the thing out in a week or two right up to the deadline putting in long hours and generally working as hard as you can in a sprint to the finish. Sounds bad in theory but is not too bad in practice because there’s a couple weeks of slacking in between the all-out efforts. But, you know who really gets hammered in this arrangement? The production department. So, the solution has always been to give everyone fake deadlines (I’m not really blaming them as they always seem to stay till 5am on closing week shipping pages).
Whatever method you’re using the fake deadlines are usually a conspiracy between production and the managing editor–who also tries very hard to hide those 5 week issues from everyone–so we don’t completely check out for awhile. One place I worked they had a fake thing they called “the early form” where they duped everyone into thinking they were printing parts of the magazine early. Problem was those parts were totally random which makes no sense whatsoever if you know anything at all about printing magazine forms.
The game for me was to figure out the real deadline and on occasion when a photographer I really wanted to work with needed more time, give it to them. I think some of the more stressful points of my career where those days after the fake deadline had passed and the managing editor, editor, creative director and production department were asking me for the film and I had to come up with an excuse everyday and thinking to myself “If this shoot fails, I’m definitely fired.” I certainly don’t think it was good for my health but I couldn’t resist when a photographer I wanted to work with said they couldn’t do it without a few more days to deliver final art.
So, what’s the drop dead date? Well, that depends on who’s asking. Photographers always get a couple extra days.
April Fools Joke. Since it’s over I thought I’d let you know first.
The NY Times has the details on the reported 25 Million dollar deal that would move her entire collection to Flickr with a Creative Commons License (!).
I grabbed a couple screen shots but the place is absolutely mobbed with people. I was able to drop a “nice one” on the picture of the queen tho.
Link to her Flickr page (here).
Newspaper ad revenues take their worst drop in almost 60 years (data here), which leads to a nice off the cliff graphic by Gawker (here) and a “Newspapers are f’ed” post by Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine (here) but hold on there, the Long Tailed, Wired Editor, Christopher Anderson responds with “Surprisingly, the industry is just ten percent off its historic highs (much like the stock market) and is still twice as big as it was twenty years ago,” dramatically pointing out how much money is still left in the system (here).
Meanwhile a story on PBS.org by Mark Glass looks at how Journalists have become bloggers and bloggers are becoming jounalists (here) the story includes former journalist turned full time blogger Erick Schonfeld who writes a post this weekend reflecting on his half year anniversary as a TechCrunch blogger (here) and Brian Stelter a blogger hired fresh out of college by the NY Times who wrote a great piece on (here) poltical news and the youth that included a very futuristic statement by a college student “If the news is that important, it will find me” which was highlighted by The Globe and Mail technology writer *slash* blogger Mathew Ingram (here) which prompts a Mark Cubin blog post (here) that claims we have finally reached the digital equivalent of Timothy OLeary’s “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.”
Deadline for the free promo is 11:59 pm EST today. Thanks for all the entries. I haven’t been editing photos lately and I’m stoked to look at all the images. Should take me a week to get the post up.
I’m not gonna lie. If you sent me an email and said check out my portfolio and the link went to Flickr I wouldn’t even look. It’s the same as the portfolio test. If you don’t have your shit together enough to have a nice printed portfolio you’re not getting the job. It’s not just about making great pictures it’s also about acting like a professional and demonstrating your commitment to taking pictures for a living. That way I know you won’t call me up the day before the shoot and bail because “something” came up or call me from the airport because the rental car company doesn’t take a debit card and you don’t own a credit card–yup, both have happened. I need a sign that you’ve done this before and that you’ve invested money in making it work.
I probably just scared everyone who was on the fence, off sending me photos for the free promo so here’s why in this case Flickr works. Obviously, It’s not your portfolio. We need to get rid of the stigma because Flickr is a great tool for photo editors and photographers to use in a pinch. No joke. Editing photography and transferring to a client remotely is not easy and this is an amazing online solution that works well. I’m billing this as a grass roots movement in finding fresh work so it’s low cost for everyone involved and buyers can appreciate that we found the best solution for the price. Lastly, on Monday, March 31st at 11:59 pm EST the entry deadline is over and I’m going to make the group private which means any photos that make the final cut can only be viewed by members of the group and not the public. The public and the photo editors/art buyers will only see the slide show I put on the blog (and that others put on theirs) and there’s no Flickr logo on that.
OK, hope that helps.
Originally noted by Andrew Hetherington (here)–gonna start calling you radar–Fishbowl NY (AKA mediabistro.com) (here) claims the photographs by Nick Waplington in the April issue of Wired are proof positive of the reason why magazines exist. What no 1/8 page photos? BTW, Christopher Anderson, who wrote that article on FREE is the editor of Wired. That’s not a coincidence.
Original, exclusive or previously unpublished photography printed as big as possible is the only thing that makes a magazine relevant in the dot com age. Hoo-ah.
Unless we’re talking about a massive media buy advertisers generally hate replication and will look to reach their potential audience through all the available avenues without having to repeat themselves. It’s complicated figuring out how to spend your advertising dollars wisely to have maximum impact for minimum CPM (cost per thousand). For most magazines that means proving to advertisers (with MRI data and your own in-house surveys) that your audience doesn’t replicate your competition or offering them a better deal in terms of price, added value or anything really that shows you smoke the competition.
Well, guess what happened? There’s a new media company to compete with called the internet and you will never *ever* beat them on price.
The solution here is *not* I repeat *not* to make your publication resemble a website. When presented with one of those 1/8 page layout holes for an image I would remark (not too loud) that they could print a picture of a rhinos ass in there for all I cared. Designing a magazine to look like a web page with virtually unreadable images does nothing for me, the photographer or the reader. Why bother? I can get that online faster than you can say pica pole 3 times fast and when I click on the stupid unreadable image online it blows up to fill my screen. Can’t beat that.
Any print publication that simply reproduces imagery that’s been previously published and is easily available on the internet or even resembles stuff that’s already out there–most stock photography–will slowly bleed readers and lose relevance with advertisers. Additionally, publications that continue to use valuable print real estate to run content that’s better served online (news, lists, packages, pr photos) will simply get beat by media companies that are doing it cheaper and easier online.
There’s a vicious cycle of destruction on the horizon for magazines where editors who are forced to cut cost will in turn force photo editors to use more stock photography which will in turn drive the readers and advertisers away forcing the editor to demand more cost cutting measures further driving away readers and advertisers.
Not to worry, there’s a great solution available that everyone except the 85 year old media barons will like. Only publish well written, well reported, fact checked, in depth stories with stunning, original, surprising can’t-be-found-anywhere photography (full bleed, natch). Sure you’ll lose some of your audience and some of the advertisers will disappear and you’ll have to produce it will a smaller staff, but think of all the man-hours you’ll save not producing the same package you produced last year only this time it has to be different (ya know, because you did it last year) so you throw some twist in there that makes it less relevant for the readers and harder to actually produce because the twist doesn’t actually exist in reality, but hey it’s different.
Magazines do some things better than websites. They always will. Serve the audience that wants to read stories and look at pictures in a magazine and advertisers will want to reach them too. If you want a website build one *online*. Just don’t make it act like a magazine.
Ok, I’ve said it before so it’s only right that Jackanory (AKA Andrew Hetherington) calls me out (here) on the FREE promotion. Perception is everything, so acting like you’re too busy to submit a couple photos to the free online promo or pretending like you have too many clients so it’s not really worth the effort could oddly be considered a good strategy.
I’ll counter that by saying this is where all your existing clients can see some new work. Along with all the other photographers who are too busy to update their websites. There. It’s a chance to show new work because you’re too busy working to show it yourself. Extra points for camera phone photos of polaroids that will eventually make it into your book if you ever get the time.
I’ve wanted to do this for awhile and my thinking on the future of photography and photo contests and other things I’m cooking up has gotten me inspired to offer everyone the chance to promote your best work for free by submitting a couple images for a slide show. There’s plenty of photo editors and art buyers who are readers and I know they will find it extremely beneficial to view a quick slide show with hundreds of different photographers featuring their best work and I can’t think of any other examples where this exists, so here we go.
There will be a bar for entry and I will edit out any photographs that are a waste of time for potential buyers to look at. I know there are a lot of top shooters who may be wary of submitting their photographs so I’m going to make sure all the work displayed is top notch. You can also remove your images at any time if you don’t think I’ve done a good enough job.
The purpose of this is to connect photographers with buyers for FREE. That’s it. No bullshit. If that doesn’t happen to anyone then the project has failed.
I have a flickr group setup here where you can enter your submission:
You can only submit 2 photos for consideration, Size: 1024 x768 pixels (1024 can be the horizontal or vertical length), Use your website url as the name of the photograph with a 1 and a 2 after it and then put your url again in the notes so people who want to hire you can find you (it will appear when people click on the photo).
The slide show will be embeddable so anyone can post it on their blog to further the distribution.
Please only submit fresh work. I’ve looked at all of your websites (yes, all of them) and really only want to see new work.
If you really, really, really don’t want to join flickr to submit to the group email them to me.
Deadline for submissions is Monday, March 31st.