We’re taking the rest of the week off. See you next week.
John Stanmeyer begins a multi-part blog series on what it’s like to shoot for National Geographic:
Photography on very convoluted stories often flows like this: 70 percent research/logistics, 20 percent serendipity…and 10 percent photography.
It’s one thing to pen up a story proposal based upon research collected from news stories, books, feelings and direct observation. A proposal next evolves into a “Oh shit, now I have to make this happen!”
Some stories visually speak for themselves — war/conflict, social revolutions, famine and other event driven stories are primarily (though not all) about recording the occurrence transpiring before us. Long term photography projects are meditative, layered and protracted.
They can also be riddled in logistics, especially when it’s a story being told from many locations, like the food crisis would become.
Note: He’s got other interesting posts up on shooting a book with a holga and music. Check it out: http://stanmeyer.com/blog/
A reader asks:
I’ve had a strange situation crop up. I went to your blog to find guidance but the closest I could find was this article on the breakdown of fees for shooting video vs. stills:
In this particular case, I’ve been hired by an ad agency to shoot stills for an annual review, and video for a mini-doc – shot concurrently. So far I followed the structure from the article above – having consulted a few different producers and agents (all of whom are doing their best guesswork since this stills-and-video space is so new). Video was work for hire, and the stills I shot required fees for their use in the review and elsewhere. But here’s the new snag: the client wants to take the annual review in a different direction and fill a portion of the review with stills we’ve pulled straight from the 5D video footage.
The question now is, am I able to charge usage on those frame grabs as well? My thought is yes; If you’re hired to shoot stills and video and decide to shoot it all on the epic and pull your stills from the footage, then those stills require their own usage fees. Though the client is suggesting differently.
It seems with better and better technology and the ability to shoot entire photo jobs with 90fps video bursts, usage would have to defined by their use and not by their method of capture.
I reached out to Vincent Laforet to see what he thought. Here’s his response:
Unless he specified it FIRST in his contract that no stills could be grabbed from video without further compensation, and a detail of how that would be dealt with – the client can grab as many frames from the video as they desire, because that video is WORK FOR HIRE.
Happened to me once and it will never happen again. That’s going to be in all of my contracts from now on.
ImageBrief is a company that aims to become the marketplace where Image buyers and professional photographers can connect. The buyers post a brief with their requirements and the photographers respond with images that match. Seems simple what could possibly go wrong? Plenty of course. This kind of thing has existed before. Back when I photo edited for Outside Magazine there was a fax service that would send requests out to thousands of photographers. You can imagine what happened when I gave it a try. A crush of submissions with many so far off the mark you wondered if they just had a package ready to send out no matter what the request was just to get something under your nose. You end up with this volume problem where there are so many misses it’s not worth it to wade through and see if there’s a hit.
It’s inevitable that crowd-sourcing would be coming to image requests. Advertising has version’s where people create commercial videos: poptent.net, tongal.com and zooppa.com. Graphic design has Crowdspring.com where a writer for slate.com was pleasantly surprised by the results (here) after he offered $200 to design his newsletter logo. The experts he polled were not impressed but generally concluded that he got what he paid for.
It’s not clear of image brief wants photographers to shoot on demand or simply offer up existing images that meet their needs. I’m sure they’d be fine with either. If done properly this could be a great way for image buyers to connect with high quality stock that’s not currently in circulation. The key is restricting the membership so you’re guaranteed great results and attracting clients with high paying requests. I would have loved to make requests directly to photographers studios with specific needs and a price I’d be willing to pay. The problem is companies working online generally go for the masses, wanting to make money in volume over quality. I asked the co-founder of the company Simon Moss how he plans to address this. Here’s his response:
Rob, Thanks for giving me the opportunity to let you know how we plan to tackle this, because we believe it is the most fundamental part of what will make this platform a success. To be clear though – our goal is about quality and not quantity, which is why we have only approved about 30% of the photographers who have registered interest with us so far.
At the moment we are watching extremely carefully as new briefs are posted, and how different photographers respond over time. We notice that the first couple of days the accuracy is not quite as good as entries that arrive on day 2/3 and beyond. We are still in embryonic phase so this may change as we approve more photographers to contribute.
We will soon test some mechanisms to ensure a continual improvement of accuracy and also quality of responses so that the buyers who do have good money to spend will flock to the platform, in the confidence they will get a great outcome.
Some of these include (but not limited to):
– Providing the buyer the ability to rate both images and photographers based on quality/accuracy
– Our team ranking images based on accuracy and ‘fit’
– Introducing the option for moderation (ie; the customer can choose to have us moderate before images are displayed publicly)
– Introducing a reputation ranking system for photographers and having this impact the way responses are presented
– Creating an increase in commission for photographers who consistently submit high quality, accurate responses (at the moment it is 70% to the photographer – we could potentially have premium photographers on a higher rate).
From the initial feedback (we are already engaged with a number of advertising agencies and editorial photo editors) we are getting a great response – we just need to keep tweaking and listening carefully to both sides of the market so that we continue to create significant value on both sides.
I hope that all makes sense!
It will be interesting to see what happens. I see potential for this to satisfy both parties but these things tend to never play out how you expect. Hopefully Simon will steer it in the right direction.
Question from a reader:
Is there an “industry standard” for compensating photographers when their photographs of contributor writers (journalists) are printed in a magazine?
The writer is a friend, whom I cheerfully and with pleasure photographed a few years ago, seeking to provide him with publicity photographs, etc. At the time, I worked pro bono for him–my choice–with the understanding that, as far as he knew, I should be compensated each time my photograph gets used in a publication. Sure enough, a few months later, I received an e-mail out of the blue from a large and very well regarded publishing house with a request for payment delivery details, etc. for a single use in a monthly magazine. Very nice.
Soon after, though, a different large publishing house sent a request for the writer’s photo. I submitted the file digitally, and then when I had heard nothing more (received no compensation) a few weeks later, I sent a polite inquiry, which was rebuffed with the explanation that the magazine understood I had submitted the photograph as a courtesy. A subsequent, more forceful request was similarly denied, and I let the matter drop.
I was e-mailed yesterday by another magazine in that same (latter) publishing house, this time with a form attached for me to return “at [my] convenience, within a week”. The form granted the publisher my permission to use my photograph of one of their contributors (my writer-friend) without cost to the publisher. I have not responded.
Apart from the detail that the writer is a friend with whom I’m keen to maintain good relations, and whom I happy to promote in any way I can, I’m sure the general situation is fairly common, although I have searched in vain for anything online that addresses general standards with an industry-wide viewpoint. I guess that magazines have independent policies on whether and how much they compensate photographers in all situations, but I would also guess that any self-respecting publisher should at least put a coin in the tip jar.
It’s actually quite simple. Some publications will pay for contributor photos some will not. Why the difference? Some publications place zero value on that image. You will see them publishing crappy snapshots of a writer taken on a fishing trip where everyone else had to be cut out of the image. I would argue that every image in the magazine deserves careful consideration if you are serious about the photography and design of your magazine but, convincing them that professionally created contributor images, a laVanity Fair, add value, can be impossible.
So, how do you deal with giving your buddy publicity images? All but the very densest individuals will understand that when the writer says “contact this photographer for an image,” they will be paying for the use. When they contact you be proactive about the price and ask what their rate is for contributor photos. Be prepared to counter with your minimum, because there’s a good chance it will be below that. Finally, set it up with your buddy what he can use the image for and when he should send them calling for the high res. Lastly, understand that some people will place no value on this image, walk away from it, they’ll be calling him for fishing trip photos no matter what the price.
I’m moving to a different server this weekend. Might be a couple missing comments and 404’s. Sorry about that.
This decision over in the UK where an unpaid intern collected back payment because she was working instead of being trained should serve as a wakeup call for those who use interns for free labor.
“This judgment says that if someone is taken on as intern, and is doing a proper job rather than just being trained, then they will be regarded as a worker for the purposes of the national minimum wage.”
“And even if that is an oral agreement, as it was in Keri’s case, the evidence was sufficient enough for her to be judged as a worker,” says Mincoff. In other words, even if there is an agreement to volunteer for free, if an intern is doing real work, they still have to be paid.
I post a lot of quotes from interviews with your customers (PE’s, AB’s, AD’s) here and I wanted to point out something that’s rarely mentioned. Listen to what people say, but trust your gut and your numbers and always experiment to find things that work for you. Everyone (except experts in the survey field) asks questions that lead the interviewee to the answer they wanted in the first place and people generally give answers that are idealized. They say photographers should do X, Y and Z, but then ignore those directives when in an actual hiring situation. Here’s a great example of what I’m talking about:
You’re with Walmart. It’s 2009, and you want to do something new, something transformative, to out-innovate rival Target. You have a sense that Target is cleaner, better designed, less cluttered. Walmart aisles are crammed, packed, an infinite jumble of product.
So you’re thinking of launching an uncluttering project. Strategic. Huge. Millions of dollars. But before you make any changes, you want to float the idea by customers.
So you conduct a survey, asking customers: would you like Walmart aisles to be less cluttered? And they say, “Yes, now that you ask, yes, that would be nice.” And you check the box by “customer input” and report back, hey everyone, good news, yes, customers like the idea.
Walmart spends hundreds of millions of dollars uncluttering their stores, removing 15% of inventory, shortening shelves, clearing aisles. Yes, it’s expensive and time-consuming, but this is what customers said they wanted, so you barrel through it.
You’ll never guess what happens now. (Actually, you’ve probably already guessed, but it sounded better to say you’ll never guess.)
Sales went down. Way down. I mean waaaaaay down. I’m talking, from the beginning of that project until today, Walmart has lost over a billion dollars in sales. (Yes, billion with a “b”.) It’s actually closer to two billion dollars of sales they missed out on, and maybe more.
Needless to say, the executives in charge of the project have been fired, and Walmart is spending yet more money to return to its original, time-tested strategy of offering a huge (albeit cluttered) inventory at low prices.
What people say isn’t always the same as what they do.
This has been a grievous season for the tight-knit tribe of combat photographers. For The Times, the sorrow began last October, when a land mine exploded under Joao Silva while he was shooting pictures of an American patrol near Kandahar, Afghanistan, destroying both of his legs and shredding his intestinal tract. This spring, three other photographers working for The Times — Jehad Nga, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario — were among the numerous journalists who disappeared into the custody of Libyan state thugs, where they were beaten and terrorized before we could negotiate their release. The darkness deepened by several hues last month when two admired lensmen — Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros — were killed while embedded with Libya’s hapless rebel militia.
Photographer Greg Benson has an excellent series of posts on his blog aimed at instilling basic business practices on anyone thinking of entering the creative services business. He’s up to part 4 out of 6 and the advice is very solid and makes a nice outline for someone looking to land their first freelance job. Here’s a couple highlights:
Be ready to talk money when somebody calls with a job
Know what you charge for a day’s work. Do not say “Yes” without talking price. If you don’t know market rates in your city, ask others. Know what you normally charge, but don’t be afraid to ask the photographer what his or her budget is. The same photographer may some have jobs with an editorial budget (lower) and others with an advertising budget (higher).
Develop a standard method for sending invoices, and email them promptly. I prefer PDFs over .doc attachments; a client should feel that he is looking at a finished product, not a work in progress.
Have a 30-second elevator speech in your brain
When you meet people – possibly in an actual elevator, but more likely in a networking situation – you will need to explain who you are and what you do in 30 seconds or less. Prepare a short speech for any situation. An example: “Hi, I’m Jane Doe. I’m a recent graduate of the Acme School of Art and I work as a photo assistant.
Practice your short speech with your roommate so that when you run into an important person that you’ve been dying to meet at a film screening, you don’t mumble and sound like a sophomore on a first date.
When you meet new people, remember Dale Carnegie.
Dale Carnegie wrote a book in 1936 called “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. The Big Idea of this book was that people love to talk about themselves. So, when you meet someone new, focus the conversation on what that person is interested in. Pretend you are Terry Gross on Fresh Air and interview them. Listening is better than blabbing.
It’s all very basic, but oh so important to have figured out before you start a career freelancing. Much of success in business depends on having a plan for the different situations that will arise and making business basics second nature.
These two model release related news stories landed on my desk last week. In both, the model is upset after seeing their picture used and even though they signed a release they want to go after the photographer because they didn’t consent to the use.
I asked Carolyn E. Wright the Photo Attorney, if the models have a case. She replied that “If the model releases signed in those cases are all-encompassing like this one: http://asmp.org/tutorials/adults-model-release.html, then the model’s don’t have a legal complaint. The best practice is for photographers or ad agencies to clear the specific uses with the models when the uses might be controversial to avoid these types of complaints.”
They can make a stink about it on fox news, but if the release is solid they’ve got nothing in a court of law.
UPDATE: April Fools!
What started as friendly banter when photography agent Heather Elder wrote an open letter to art buyers with several responding back and everyone agreeing and asking for open and honest dialogue between the two, has suddenly taken a turn for the worse this morning when a senior art buyer at DHPH-NY/LA declared “I’m tired of this shit, you people work for me” then announced a new policy called the “silent bid off.” Now up to 20 photographers will be asked to submit silent bids on all jobs. The job will be awarded to the lowest bid or picked based on “arbitrary rules we’ve made that you have no idea about.” Additionally, an a la carte menu will allow agents to purchase more information about a job (e.g. budget, creative call, who you’re bidding against) that may or may not give you an edge in the bid off and could potentially mean you’re paying them if you win.
Senior agent David Chartikoff from Creative Photographers Agency fired back with new surcharges that will be added to all jobs. Photographers will have at their discretion the ability to charge thousands of dollars in “dealing with agency/client buffoon charges.” The DWACB charges include additional surcharges for people trying to eat and drink the expense budget in a single evening and people standing around set acting like they’re on “spring break” instead of working. He hinted at some type of hangover fine but was initially unsure if that might backfire on some of his well known photographers who “work better” when everything is a bit blurry in the morning.
Another art buyer jumped into the fray and instituted a new portfolio show policy inspired by the pac-man video game. Agents must schlep 400 lbs of portfolios, snacks and drinks throughout the agency and try to find as many creatives as they can in an allotted time limit. Each creative you find gives you a small time bonus that you can use to show a portfolio or go find another creative. When found you can ply them with snacks and drinks, but if it’s not something they like (e.g. they’re allergic to an item) they get to smear frosting on the prints of the book you were trying to show them. Once time runs out all the creatives convene in a conference room for a meeting and you must exit the building immediately. Obstacles placed throughout the building (e.g. life size sponge bob squarepants) will prevent agents from using any mechanical aids in this new pac-agent challenge.
Finally the Agents Association of America made a surprise announcement and revealed a new email marketing tool they’ve been working on called the “Email Blast Master.” The EBM is capable of locking up a computer and rendering it useless until the email is read and the link to the website clicked on. In addition to locking up the computer anyone not expressing enthusiasm at the invitation to “check out new work” will immediately have their personal email blasted to all flickr users with the headline “Looking For Fresh New Photographers To Work With.”
This was all happening in a secret forum where agents and art buyers discuss jobs, so “untouchables” (photographers without agents) cannot land them, but someone broke in and opened the thing up to the pubic. Go check it out (here) before they close it again.
Luke Copping has assembled the advice of 18 creatives talking about breaking your creative block. Love this entry from John Keatley:
Rather than talking about getting out of a creative rut, I am going to try to help you avoid getting into a rut all together.
I probably don’t need to tell you the life of a professional photographer is filled with many highs and lows. Victories and rejections are a weekly occurrence. The highs are obviously fun, but the lows are not so great.
My first piece of advice is to avoid the highs and lows. Don’t get caught up in the tidal wave of ups and downs. It takes a lot of adjustments to do this, but it is possible and well worth it. You don’t need to live in each high and each low. Learn to enjoy and appreciate accomplishments and victories in your career, but understand that it is temporary and tomorrow is a new day. Typically the phrase “tomorrow is a new day” is reserved for people who are living in a low and need something to look forward to. However, in photography, “tomorrow is a new day” also means someone else is going to do something noteworthy tomorrow and the spotlight will shift to them.
Second, learning how to not live in the highs and lows of your career keeps you from freaking out when you have a slow week or two. Create a consistent marketing plan and stick to it. Aside from shooting, there are plenty of important tasks and projects you need to put time into if you want to be successful. Making sure you are taking time for these activities and tasks will help you keep your mind off of shooting all the time, and personally I find this to help keep me balanced and creative.
Read the rest of this entry and 18 more on the Luke Copping Photography Blog.
Expanding on a story in Salon entitled “Why We Love Bad Writing,” by Laura Miller, the blog 1/125 applies the same logic to photography and asks why people prefer Chase Jarvis over Alec Soth. For literature it comes down to this nugget written by C.S. Lewis in “An Experiment in Criticism”:
a reader, who is interested solely in the consumption of plot, favors the hackneyed phrase over the original… because it is immediately recognizable. ‘My blood ran cold’ is a hieroglyph of fear. Any attempt, such as a great writer might make, to render this fear concrete in its full particularity, is doubly a chokepear to the unliterary reader. For it offers him what he doesn’t want, and offers it only on the condition of his giving to the words a kind and degree of attention which he does not intend to give. It is like trying to sell him something he has no use for at a price he does not wish to pay.
If it requires more effort to consume, many will not bother with it. Think about a story crammed with words you don’t recognize. Taking the time to look those words up in a dictionary adds considerable effort. And, if you consider spending your free time developing your taste for finely crafted prose, you really need to be committed on another level to make that kind of investment. The same applies to photography. Developing your taste is no different than appreciating great literature, food or wine. You need to experience and study it to gain understanding.
What troubles Nick Shere of the 1/125 blog is that with “photography, the situation is somewhat more dire, because it is much, much harder for viewers to move freely between the “unliterary” photographic realm and the “literary” photographic realm. There is hardly any middle ground between them, the way there is with books. Instead of a middle ground, there is a chasm with hardly any bridges across it.”
It’s a great thought because there’s a lot that can be done to create bridges across the chasm and I wanted to point this out to photo editors, because I’ve been in those arguments about photography with editors where factual trumps sophisticated, but I’ve never thought to turn it on them with a literary example. The two articles I’ve linked provide plenty of ammo to do that. I’ve always believed the only way to engage readers is to challenge them. High dollar advertising will always prefer engaged readers over hits. Nick goes on to say:
To provide opportunities for everyday people to expand and improve their photographic tastes without making them feel like they are being sold something they have no use for at a price they do not wish to pay is one of the more important frontiers in photography at the moment, and one which few people are homesteading.
There’s plenty online dedicated to clichés, hopefully more people seize the opportunity to make more bridges.
Thx Santosh for the tip.
PS- My favorite sites for expanding my knowledge: Conscientious, BAG, B, AD Coleman, David Campbell, Notes on Politics, theory & Photography, DLK Collection, and the many photographers who occasionally write about their work.
From the blog Personal Scope Creep and the post with the title I’m using above:
As creative professionals, it’s second nature for us to inject a significant level of sensitivity and emotional thought into our craft. After all, the ability to connect with deeper insights during the creation process is part of our expertise and provides us with a unique ability that clients value and (usually) pay for.
What most creative professionals don’t realize is that this sensitivity can cripple your business. Without being able to separate the emotional from the practical, you put yourself at risk of being pushed around by clients, pushed over by colleagues, or even pushed out by competitors – all cases resulting in stunted growth potential.
Before we go further, I want to make clear that I am not an advocate of throwing all emotion out the door or losing the personal connections that make your business yours. Instead, I propose increasing your ability to decouple the personal from the business – just enough to help maintain objectivity and clarity, especially during times of conflict.
The concept is simple and can be adopted by even the most sensitive of souls, and so I present:
THE PSC FRAMEWORK OF BEING TOUGH:
Read it here.
From FotoWeek DC 2010, highlights from a John Harrington lecture on how to stay profitable in today’s economy.
I’ve been asked a few times about online storage solutions and a recent post by Greg Ceo got me thinking that I should ask everyone here what they use. There are several controlling factors in looking at online/cloud storage solution. Cost, speed to upload, chance of catastrophic failure, chance the company will go bankrupt. The last two are hard to determine but you have to consider that in most cases you’re dealing with heavily in debt VC funded companies and if you remember the Digital Railroad failure of 2008 there’s a chance they will suddenly turn off the lights and lock the doors if they don’t reach a certain level of profitability. My two cents on catastrophic failure are that you get what you pay for. The companies aimed at mom and dad backing up their pc for super cheap probably aren’t running as robust a solution as a company that provides storage for Fortune 500 companies. That theory is untested.
Here are a few I’ve looked at, please add more info in the comments.
Storage cost 1 TB: $143/month
Can you send in a drive: yes
Storage cost 1 TB: $113/month
Can you send in a drive: ?
Storage cost 1 TB: $70/month
Can you send in a drive: yes
Storage cost 1 TB: $5/month
Can you send in a drive: no. 2 – 4 GB per day.
Storage cost 1 TB: $5/month
Can you send in a drive: no
Note: 1 terabyte = 1024 gigabytes
UPDATE: Check out this post, Your Free Photo Storage Is Worth What You Paid For It