Category "Working"

Covering conflict is perilous for anyone, but photographers are more exposed

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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.

Read the rest of this Bill Keller piece in the NYTimes Magazine and more of the interview on the Lens Blog.

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Tips For Young Creatives

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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).

Invoice promptly

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.

Start with Part 1 here.

Models Turn Against Photographers After Stock Sales

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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:, 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.

Agents And Art Buyers Go To War

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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.

You don’t need to live in each high and each low

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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.

Why We Love Bad Photography

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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.

Don’t Be A Wimp. Be Tough With Yourself – And Your Clients

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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:

Read it here.

Thx, Jess.

Online Storage For Photographers

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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.

Amazon S3

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

100 Portraits – 100 Photographers

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As a Photo Editor there’s nothing better than running into a curated list of photographers when you’re out trolling the internet for ideas. On a snowy day when not much is going to get done in the office I would spend a few hours adding photographers and ideas to my personal list. Here’s one from Andy Adams of Flak Photo fame called 100Portraits. Also, worth visiting and the gallery section to see a ton of images that he’s published with links to the photographers website. Good stuff.


What I Learned This Year 2010

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Several Photographers sent me this piece from The Denver Egotist called “What I Learned This Year 2010.” They asked some “creative visionaries” in Colorado to contribute in any form they would like. The responses are fantastic.

Adam Espinoza, Denver motion designer/animator –

5. Logic stifles creativity.

Jim Elkin, Denver director/executive producer at Roshambo Films –

Sometimes it’s better to fight for the things you want. Creative arguments are healthy and good for the soul. Some of the best Creative Directors I’ve ever met around the world haven’t been insecure bastards who just want you to agree with them. They don’t necessarily want you to say yes…they just want to know why you’ve made certain choices in your work. Stand up for what you believe in and what you’ve created. Do not be afraid to say where you’re coming from and how you got there. Just don’t be a jerk about it and always remember when to back off. Or as the infamous Kenny Rogers once said, “You’ve got to know when to hold them and know when to walk away.” Umm… unless you’re North Korea.

Gregg Bergan, Denver co-founder/creative director at Pure –

You have about 25,000 potential days to work, but less than 1,000 weekends before your children will leave home.

Jessyel Ty Gonzalez, Denver photographer –

Although producers and art buyers have a plethora of stock options, the need for unique and original imagery is rising. Magazine work – print or digital – is coming up again now that the dust is settling. And with better technology and faster speeds, imagery is proving great for rich content mobile ads.

Good photography wasn’t needed because, “it was just for a web ad.” But as the importance of digital and mobile has risen, great agencies have evolved their productions and realize good photography is needed because, “it’s for a digital ad.” This is great to see.

Sean Leman, founder/director at Rehab in Denver –

It’s beyond cliché to say that this industry is changing at a breakneck pace, but there’s a truth buried in that. Change and progress and uncertainty are gifts. They remind us that no matter how fucking smart we think we are, we’re really not.

I’ve learned a lot seeing what happens when I start from that place. When I’m open to the fact that there’s much to be learned. That my first answer is not necessarily the right answer. Let alone the best one.

Tom Van Ness, freelance copywriter –

Enjoy the process. A wise author once said that everyone says they want to write a novel. What those people really mean is that they want to have written a novel. There’s a big difference. The process is the key. Those that enjoy the process as well as the goal succeed more often.

Photographers And Their Effing iPad Portfolios

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I’ve heard more than one Art Buyer and Photo Editor comment that if they see another iPad portfolio they’re going to scream. Of course, for photographers the allure of a $500 portfolio is too much to resist, so it’s good to keep tabs on this as it surely evolves. I firmly believe the iPad makes a great supplement to the traditional portfolio and as more photographers add motion, it becomes essential for showing that work. And as a way to show depth or recent material that can impact a hiring decision what a money saver this will be. I don’t think we will find many photographers that don’t have one handy on set, at lunch, at an event and even walking down the street; loaded with all kinds of portfolios of their latest work.

The Photoshelter Blog has a post where 3 photographer talk about how they’ve incorporated the iPad into their portfolio presentation. I liked Darren Carroll’s solution of incorporating it into custom made Brewer-Cantelmo books containing high impact prints. The other two photographers, Steve Boyle and Shawn Corrigan have cool iPad only portfolios that are worth checking out as well.



How Did You, How Do I, What Is, How Much?

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Hanoi Photographer Justin Mott has a nice post about where to draw the line when sharing information: Friends and Competition: How much information should we share? Where do we draw the line? Consider this:

My first major published assignment came to fruition because Gary Knight gave me an editor’s contact at Newsweek and he was even kind enough to insist I drop his name in the email. People were wonderful to me as I started my career so I’ve always felt the need to pay it forward.

and his interpretation of an email he receives quite a few times that takes it all a little too far:

Dear Justin,
Blah blah random not well thought out positive comments about your photography because I’m about to be really rude but I’m trying to mask it with this sentence. I feel like I should be getting the work that you get in city X. I can save that publication some money and would love it if you could pass along their information so I can get the next assignment instead of you.
Thanks so much,
Photographer X

Now, in this new world of over-sharing online I can see people getting carried away thinking they have a right to any an all information and for the most part I agree with Justin earlier in the post where he says “there are no big secrets here” and the information given out on lighting, marketing and business practices will not harm your business, but there is a line to be drawn and there are still secrets that you want to keep away from the competition. Personally, I like paint broad strokes with the information (I also like it when the experts don’t agree) and hate getting into the nitty-gritty details, because everyone will have a slightly different approach and for crissakes, if you need every single detail explained and defined you’re in the wrong goddam business. Photographers are creative problem solvers. Also, I believe in the school of hard knocks. So, while I’ve obviously benefited from sharing lots of information with people that wasn’t previously available, I think everyone should fall on their face once in awhile to build a little character.

Photographers And The Law

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It seems to be an open secret that terrorists use photography to plan an attack. I’m simply basing this on the rising number of incidents where photographers who are following the letter of the law are harassed by security and/or police for photographing our transportation infrastructure. Miami journalist Carlos Miller does a good job documenting the incidents over on his blog Photography is Not a Crime and it seems like the national media is starting to take notice as well with stories in the Washington Post, NY Times and on the NY Times Lens Blog.

Over on the Black Star Rising blog, David Weintraub has an excellent post explaining the rights of photographers:

The First Amendment gives photographers and videographers almost unlimited freedom to make images in public places. This includes every place from Wall Street to Main Street — streets, plazas, parks, bridges, shopping malls, industrial parks, city-owned airports, and transit systems.

OK, public places are fair game, but what about people? As long as they are in a public place, you can photograph or video to your heart’s content. This includes politicians, celebrities, police officers, and ordinary people.

Well worth the read and considering your chances of running into someone who doesn’t understand the first amendment it’s worth becoming an expert on the subject to help educate them and stop the misinformation going around.

Embrace The Unexpected And The Surprising

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Fascinating Q&A over on Heather Morton’s Art Buyer blog with Andrea Mariash, Senior AB at David & Goliath in LA. They’re talking about true collaboration as opposed to asking a photographer to just execute an idea that’s been researched to death. It’s interesting to hear on the advertising side about the need to educate the client “so they understand that comps are comps, they are not paint-by-numbers kits.” For anyone hiring photographers creating space for failure and sudden inspiration is the key to producing great work.

I worked with a creative director a million years ago who had gone through improv training. His approach to production was, “yes, and…” which is a traditional technique to up the funny. (I guess you’re not allowed to say no in improv; it’s a creativity killer.) The CD was a real wild card on set, but his ads were celebrated. Anyway, his attitude kind of rocked my world, to use a terrible but apt phrase. I stopped producing with do-not-cross lines, and adopted the “yes, and…” mentality. To me, basic production, being totally prepared, is the “yes” part. That’s the bare minimum I can give to my creatives and photographer. And then I feel like I’m free to spend my time on set facilitating the “and…” if it happens to come up.

I’ve come to embrace the unexpected and the surprising. I absolutely think it makes for better images. I’m all for hiring a dark horse photographer, or trying something new on the fly, or learning new stuff. I’m an early-adopter, and a risk taker. Not all producers and art buyers want to work this way, but it’s worked well for me. I guess it goes against our innate control-freak nature, so I’m constantly at war with myself. It keeps me thin, I guess!

Read the whole thing (here).