Category "Working"

Design By Committee Must Die

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Everyone knows that magazine making is done by committee but nobody ever talks about how awful that is for making something brilliant. The meetings where you sit around and try to come up with something interesting to put in the magazine were particularly painful.

From a Smashing Magazine article:

In a business climate fueled by fear and the “Peter Principle,” as it is today, a decision not made is a tragedy averted. So, decision by committee provides a safe and often anonymous process for finger-pointing down the line… inevitably leading to the creative, of course.

…more here.

From the same piece:

A photographer I know once said, “I’ll give the model a big mole on her face, and the committee focuses on that and are usually satisfied with the momentous change of removing it and leave everything else as is.”

Everything You Know About Concert Photography is Wrong

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I like this guest post over on The Photoletariat by music photographer Jacob Blickenstaff.

Shooting Coldplay or Jay-Z means you are a big deal, right?

The guitar jumpshot. The close up of a singer wailing into a microphone. The moody back-lit guitar shot filled colored light and smoke machine fog. This is what makes good music images, right?

Music Photographer = Music Fan + Camera?

These questions and more answered (here).

Photographer Documenting Graffiti Artists Charged With A Crime

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On February 4th 2010, photographer Jonas Lara an Art Center Graduate and former United States Marine, was photographing 2 graffiti artists painting a mural in Los Angeles. An LAPD helicopter spotted the group, then a patrol car came in and arrested Jonas and the Graffiti Artists (or vandals depending on how you feel about graffiti). He was initially charged with Felony Vandalism which was later lowered to a misdemeanor and then changed to Aiding and Abetting which carries a 1 year sentence. His jury trial is set for May 12th (Tuesday).

This story has been bouncing around the internet for a little while now and I’ve wanted to write about it, but not without talking to a lawyer first. PDN has a story (here) that does little more than gloss over Jonas’s side of the case. I wanted to understand what rights journalists have in these types of situations so I asked the Photo Attorney, Carolyn E. Wright a couple question.

First, here’s what Jonas told me about the photography project he was working on:

I had been working on this graffiti series for about 5 years now as part of a larger project on the Los Angeles Art Scene. Documenting the life that no one gets to see, an underground culture that operates at night. A lot of what interested me is the camaraderie shared between different graffiti artists and the way they looked out for each other. In a way it reminded me of my experience in the Marines and training in the field and doing night movements. Of course there is a great level of excitement that goes along with these types of actions as well but for me I wanted to tell a story I felt wasn’t being told.

Next, here’s the email exchange I had with Carolyn:

APE: Is there some kind of shield law for journalists that would apply in a situation like this?

The Shield Law has to do with the inability to prosecute a journalist who fails to disclose a source.

APE: Certainly, important work has been done by photographers documenting illegal activities, but I assume you know going in that you might get in trouble with the law at some point. Are there laws to protect journalists in this type of situation?

I’m not a criminal lawyer but, of course, had to study it in law school and I have taken/passed several bar exams that test on the subject.

The state is prosecuting Jonas for vandalism under California Penal Code Section 594.

Picture 3

The state may be arguing that Jonas was an accomplice, solicited the crime, attempted the crime, or was a conspirator to the crime. Here are my notes on those crimes:

a) Accomplice Liability
(1) Accomplices are liable for the crime itself and all other foreseeable crimes. (a) But someone is not guilty of accomplice liability just because he is present when the crime is committed.

b) Inchoate (referring to something which has begun but has not been completed – ape) Offenses
(1) Solicitation: asking someone to commit a crime. (a) Crime of solicitation ends when you ask them. (b) Conspiracy: if someone agrees to the solicitation. (c) Sol/consp merge into consp.
(2) Conspiracy: people must be pursuing an unlawful objective. (a) Elements (Conspiracy requires an agreement to commit a crime between two or more people, an intent to agree, an intent to commit a crime, and an overt act. A conspirator is liable for all reasonably foreseeable crimes committed in furtherance of the conspiracy): (i) Agreement (doesn’t have to be expressed) (people don’t have to know each other) (ii) Intent to agree (iii) Intent to pursue the unlawful objective (iv) Consp doesn’t merge with the substantive offense. (v) Liability: each conspirator is liable for all the crimes of other conspirators if those crimes were committed in furtherance of the conspiracy and were foreseeable.
(3) Attempt: specific intent plus a substantial step beyond mere preparation, in the direction of the commission of the crime

But if Jonas can prove that he was just there and didn’t agree to the crime, then he should be able to get off.

APE: Ok but what if you witness a crime and do not report it, is that something journalists should be concerned with?

No, there is no duty to report a crime.

If you want to help Jonas out, here’s a page where you can donate to help cover his legal costs:

I think it’s important for photographers to realize that you are not guilty of a crime just because you are present when the crime is committed and that you have no obligation to report the crime.

Ways To Piss Off A Photo Editor?

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RE: Photoshelter’s post, Top 13 Ways To Piss Off A Photo Editor

To be sure, there are annoying, irritating and potentially job ending road blocks that are thrown at Photo Editors on a non-stop basis. But, photo editing is a job that requires you to be resourceful, use experience to avoid failure, sift through the garbage and seek out great photography wherever it may lie. Sure, there are handout jobs where the number one requirement is no hassle, just great pictures from the photographer, but if it were always that easy there would be no need for photo editors in the first place.

Please digest with a grain of salt.

Real World Estimates: A Mash-Up of Product and Architectural Photography

By Jess Dudley, Wonderful Machine Producer

I recently helped one of our photographers estimate, negotiate and produce an architectural interior/product shoot. The client was a high-end furniture manufacturer in the northeastern U.S. working with a mid-sized ad agency in the southeastern U.S. And the project was to create a series of ads showing entertainment centers in beautiful residential settings.

Though this project has a lot in common with many routine architectural interior assignments, it ended up being worth much more. Most architectural assignments come from architecture firms, builders, or building owners, not ad agencies. And even though pictures from those assignments sometimes get used for advertising, the primary use is typically for brochures, web sites, publicity, portfolios and contests. It’s fairly customary for architectural photographers to charge a day rate (often around 2000.00 – 3500.00, depending on how much the photographer is in demand) plus expenses (capture fee, file prep, equipment fee, assistants and travel), for up to about 5 pictures. Architectural photographers can also often bump up this fee by licensing the pictures to related clients for the same property (like the architect, builder and owner).

This job was different because it was specifically shot for advertising use, it was a product picture more than an architectural interior, it required a fairly high degree of styling and other production, plus there were models and special retouching to boot.

Our estimating process normally begins with the photographer speaking to the the art director about the creative requirements of the job, and me speaking with the art buyer, art director or account executive to understand the licensing requirements. I then talk with the photographer so I know what production elements we’ll need in order to support his/her creative approach.

The art director will explain the concept to the photographer (sometimes with sketches or swipe art). And it’s up to the photographer (along with some input from me) to figure out the most effective approach. In this case, the job was to show entertainment centers in a beautiful home. The photographer had to decide whether it made more sense to build a set in a studio, or to work on location. Some photographers might opt for one or the other depending on their past experience, comfort level, and of course factoring in time considerations and cost, in addition to how it will affect the look of the picture. In this case, we proposed to shoot the job on location.

Another important creative aspect of this shoot was going to be the room styling. You can be the best photographer in the world, but if you don’t have anything to photograph, you’re sunk. And while there are many photographers who shoot interiors that are already styled in advance, a project like this requires the photographer to help conceive and direct the room styling. And to do that requires having a working relationship with a stylist who is going to understand both the sensibilities of the photographer and know what’s appropriate for the client and their specific project. We were able to show the client pictures that demonstrated that our photographer had a lot of experience collaborating with a very talented stylist, and this gave the client the confidence that we would deliver a high-quality product.

I’ve found that art buyers are often more comfortable talking money with an agent rather than directly with the photographer. That way, nobody’s taking anything personally. It’s just business. If they really want to work with that photographer (rather than just fishing for a price), they will often cut right to the chase and give the agent a good idea of what their price expectations are. That’s not to say that an agent should simply offer up the price the client wants. But it certainly saves a lot of back-and-forth for both parties when the photographer can scale the project appropriately.

There are times when a client either doesn’t have a particular budget, or they don’t want to say. If the client is inexperienced handling that type of project, the photographer/agent may simply have to work harder to understand what’s at stake in order to deliver a proposal that’s in proportion to the overall goals and wherewithal of that client. Sometimes, the client doesn’t want to say what their budget is because they might want to see several completely independent approaches that they can choose from. Again, in those cases, you’ll be forced to make an educated guess at the level of production the client might want. But regardless of the client’s price expectations, the actual picture requirements and the licensing needs will largely determine the value of the job. It’s also important to understand that the low bid does not always get the job. Sophisticated clients will be reluctant to work with photographers whose bids are “too good to be true.” Most good clients are looking for good value, not cheap prices. So pricing a project appropriately, and in proportion to all the specs, will give you the best chance of landing the job.

After getting the photographer’s thoughts on his creative approach to the project, I spoke with the art buyer. And as is often the case with relatively small advertising projects, she was a little vague about the licensing she needed. After I explained that the price was going to be heavily influenced by those variables, she decided that she wanted a quote on Advertising, Publicity and Collateral in the U.S. for 2 years.

Still unknown, though, was the number of images they were going to need. It’s actually not that unusual to not have all the information you want when it comes time to construct an estimate. What’s very important to remember, though, is that even in cases where your client is vague, your quote will have to be specific. If the specs subsequently change, you can revise your quote accordingly. In this case, I chose to work up two versions of the estimate to show the cost for 4 pictures and the cost for 6. I offered a fairly deep discount on the last two pictures to give them an incentive to do more rather than less.

Estimate Version 1
Estimate Version 2

The client opted for the 6 image estimate.

After we received the signed estimate, the first thing we needed to do was find the locations. Prior to estimating, the client expressed an interest in shooting at two of the many beautiful homes in the photographer’s portfolio, one contemporary and one transitional (you have to learn your vocab when working with architectural clients: modern, transitional, traditional, contemporary). This made scouting a snap. The photographer pulled his files of the homes that fit the mold and presented them to the client. They were so enamored with one of the locations that they chose to shoot both days in the same home.

A nice benefit of shooting both days at the same location was that we’d need less setup time/breakdown time, and it gave us more time for pictures. The client decided that they’d like to add a seventh shot and try out a few variations of the others, including adding models. As I was working up the revised estimate, I decided to simply pro-rate the seventh shot, but I felt that the variations with the models were worth more than the others. The models changed the feel of the pictures significantly, and required another skill set from the photographer. Also, a whole different ad concept could be developed around these new model variations. As such, we felt they should be licensed independently of the original shots.

Also, the client inquired about several exterior stock images to retouch into the windows. The photographer had a stock library for just such occasions. For nominal fees he licenses exterior stock images to drop into windows, turning an ordinary residential bedroom with a view of the shed in the backyard into a hi-rise condo with a view of a metropolitan skyline at sunset.

So we worked up our final quote – adding in the models, the additional situation, and the exterior stock images:

Final Estimate

The client accepted that, so I sent over an invoice for a 50% advance:

50% Advance

Now the production went into full swing:

I coordinated the location. The homeowner agreed to our location fee and allowed us to store furniture and equipment overnight.

I collected location and model releases. It’s very important to get signed releases. Otherwise, the client will not be legally entitled to use the location and models’ likenesses to advertise their product. You don’t want to spend all that time and money producing a shoot only to later find out that the homeowner or model wasn’t clear on your intentions.

Coordinating with the stylist was the most time consuming portion of the production. The rental location gave us a great start, but we had to consider whether the existing carpet, paint colors, drapes, and props were appropriate, and what we needed to add or replace. We had many, many conversations between the stylist, photographer, and client to get all the details right.

Hiring, renting and managing the assistants, digital tech, equipment, caterer, and models was pretty straight-forward. Between the photographer and us, we have a long list of regular sub-contractors, and we also keep a thorough vendor database that we can use when we need to.

Though very hectic, the shoot went smoothly. Between all the shuffling furniture from room to lawn to room, moving around lights and digital cameras and workstations, art directing and shooting – there was never a dull moment. We squeezed in all 7 shots, no holes were punched in walls, and the client was very happy with the results.

Once back in the office, I began the tedious (but important) process of copying all of our receipts and organizing the invoice. We keep meticulous records of every expenditure so that everything is accounted for, everyone gets paid properly, and the client gets billed appropriately. Also, I try to present it in a way that makes it easy for the client to understand. I put copies of receipts in the order that the line item shows up on the invoice. And if a receipt isn’t self-explanatory, I indicate exactly what it’s for. After a long day of scanning and collating, I sent over the final invoice:

Final Invoice

For more information on Wonderful Machine’s consulting services, please contact Jess Dudley at or 610.260.0200.

Pricing & Negotiating For Photographers – Tag-teaming with TV crews on ad shoots

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I’m super excited about this new monthly column entitled “Pricing & Negotiating” coming in from the fine folks at Wonderful Machine. Since they price and negotiate for so many photographers they’re in a unique position to show us nearly any scenario you can think up. Here’s the first one:

Tag-teaming with TV crews on ad shoots

Our producer Jess Dudley recently quoted a job for one of our photographers to shoot a number of environmental portraits of real people, for a major New York ad agency and their pharmaceutical client. Each of the subjects was a patient using the drug made by the client. The pictures were going to be used in print ads and collateral material, to help illustrate the improvement in the patients’ quality of life since starting the drug regimen. This project was different from most because the ad agency wanted to shoot TV commercials (with a separate video crew) on the same day, using the same location, models, stylists, wardrobe and props. Shooting print and video simultaneously offers a number of efficiencies for the client. It certainly makes some parts of the photographer’s job easier, and it helps create continuity between the two final products. But it adds some estimating and logistical challenges as well. In the end, our photographer was awarded the job, and Jess also served as on-site producer and digital tech.

Jess explains how he approached the initial estimate:

Request For Bid

Since the client had a lot of experience commissioning photo shoots, they were able to express pretty clearly what they wanted to accomplish, and what their expectations were (though there were still a lot of unknowns). The art buyer sent us a letter (known as a “request for bid”) with many of the details that we would need in order to put together a proper cost estimate. Then, I followed up with questions.

When you’re working with less experienced clients, you’ll need to be more proactive about getting all the information you need. We use this cheat sheet to prompt us for all the items we’ll need to consider.

Here’s what the client asked us to bid on in the RFB:

  • 6 portraits of real people
  • On location at a suburban home (near the photographer)
  • You’ll have to schedule the still photographs around the video shoot
  • The video crew will find the location and dress the set (you may need additional props)
  • You’ll be able to share some of the wardrobe, stylists and catering with the video crew (and you may need to share part of those costs)
  • We’ll want unlimited use of the pictures for a year (mostly for consumer ads and print collateral)

The Fee

At the most basic level, I think about the total cost of any job as a function of time, materials and licensing.

Lumped in with “time” is not only the actual time needed to prepare for and execute the shoot, but also the difficulty, level of skill, and rareness of skill required. If it’s a job that hundreds of other photographers could do and want to do, it’s not worth as much as a job that only three people in the world could do or would want to do (either by virtue of special skill or unique style).

“Materials” broadly refers to all of the production items that you have to pull together to add to the photographer’s vision, in order to pull off the shoot. These might include: assistants, digital techs, retouchers, location scouts, locations, permits, insurance, studio rentals, hair & make-up stylists, prop stylists, props, wardrobe stylists, wardrobe, vehicles, travel, meals, catering, models, casting, equipment rental, set construction, etc.

“Licensing” describes how the client is going to be able to use the picture(s). Broad usage for a long period of time is worth more than narrow usage for a brief time. Advertising use is normally worth more than collateral use. Collateral use is usually worth more than publicity use. And publicity use is usually worth more than editorial use.

I normally bundle the “time” and “licensing” into one “creative fee,” taking all the factors I can think of into account. The client had already produced a similar project before, and I was able to see the results of that, which they seemed to be happy with. The approach they were looking for was relatively low-tech, simple, flattering portraits, with naturalistic lighting, showing the patients in a warm and friendly way. What they valued most was having a photographer who could bring out the personality of the patients.

My normal rule of thumb for unlimited use of one image for one year, for a major brand, is that it’s worth about $10-20k. In this case, the pharmaceutical company was a major player but the drug itself was no blockbuster. For advertising use especially, I will normally charge by the picture rather than by the day. Even in cases where I’m quoting by the day, I’ll put a cap on the number of images we’re including for that fee. In this case, I felt that the first image held most of the value and each additional image was worth much less. Since they were very similar portraits, just with different people, each additional image merely complimented the first, rather than providing unique material.

The fact that the actual time, difficulty, and technical/creative demands would be relatively modest put some downward pressure on the price. The fact that it was a client with global reach, and they needed unlimited use (including the potential of national advertising) certainly put some upward pressure on the fee, and the one-year duration was a limiting factor. The fact that the location, props and models were going to be provided for us put downward pressure on the price. The fact that the project was local to the photographer put downward pressure on the price. The fact that the photographer had to work around the video crew was basically neutral. It just required that the photographer have patience and a manageable ego.

As a point of reference, I’ll sometimes check Getty or Fotoquote to see what a similar stock photo would fetch. But in the end, you just have to consider the totality of all the information you have, and use your intuition to determine the price. For this one, I decided to quote $14k for unlimited use of six images for a year.

The Production Costs

The art buyer wasn’t sure, at the time of the initial estimate, which production items were going to be paid for out of the video budget and which were going to be paid for out of the still budget. So to play it safe, I assumed that we were going to have to pay for everything we were going to need (or at least our fair share):

  • 1 digital tech: so the client could see the results as we went along
  • 2 assistants: to help move the equipment around, and stand in for the subjects
  • 2 hours of retouching per image: should be more than enough for non-supermodels
  • 1 production day: for me to pull together all of the production items
  • 1 scout day: for the photographer to walk through the location and map out a plan with the line producer
  • 1 location fee: we don’t have to find it, but we’ll need to help pay for it
  • 2.5 wardrobe stylist days (1 to pull, 1 to shoot, .5 to return) and some wardrobe: we were only going to need to augment what the video crew was already providing
  • Hair/make-up stylist: you might think that a makeup stylist could work on both sets, but because the stills and video were happening at the same time, on a hot day (requiring constant powdering), and sometimes hundreds of feet apart, I decided that we’d need our own dedicated person
  • Props: unlikely, knowing how thorough video prop stylists are
  • Travel, misc.: minimal for local shoot
  • Catering: breakfast and lunch for our crew of 4
  • Equipment: also minimal, so I chose not to charge separately for it
  • Sales tax: some situations require the client to pay sales tax, but rather than speculating on it, I just say, “plus applicable sales tax”

Here’s the proposal (estimate and terms & conditions) I sent to the art buyer:

Later, more details came in so I had to revise the estimate. The project changed from 6 people to 5, and they also wanted to license a head shot of each subject, which they would simply crop out of each environmental portrait. To me, it was a wash. It was 10 images instead of 6. But the head shots weren’t really adding a ton of value for the client, and shooting 5 subjects instead of 6 was less work for the photographer. So I left the fee at $14k.

The art buyer also decided that she would determine our share of the location fee, wardrobe, and catering, and she would just tell us the number after the shoot, to add as a line item on the invoice. We would quote our other production items in the usual way.

That all settled, she signed off on the estimate, and sent me a check for $13.5k to cover expenses.

We had a pre-production phone call with about 20 people to iron out how the day was going to go. Then we did a walk-through of the location the day before the shoot, along with the video director, prop stylist, and line producer.

The shoot went really smoothly. The video crew shot their thing, then sent the subjects to us to do our bit. We made adjustments here and there to the wardrobe and grooming. But otherwise, it all went off without a hitch.

A couple things (in general) to remember about price quotes:

  • A proposal should include at least a cover letter, estimate page, and terms & conditions page. This job was relatively straight-forward, so it doesn’t need much explanation. More cosmplex projects will require a more extensive description of how you’ll approach the shoot and how you’ll solve the technical and creative problems it presents. You’ll have to convince the client that you know what you’re doing, and that you’ll be able to deliver the final product.
  • Be clear about whether you’re offering an estimate (where the expenses are detailed, and will vary somewhat in the final invoice), or a bid (where you’re offering one lump price, and as long as the client doesn’t change the parameters of the job, that will be the exact cost).
  • Be clear about who you are contracting with (normally the ad agency).
  • Be clear about who you are conveying the image license to (normally the client).
  • If the client (or anyone else) is going to provide some normal production item (like catering or props), acknowledge it on the estimate so there’s no confusion about it.
  • Be clear in cases where the client is paying for any of the production items directly, rather than through you. If you are going to be on the hook for a lot of expenses, you’ll want to make sure that you either get the expense money up front, or that the creative fee, production fees, and/or mark-up justifies the risk.
  • Avoid having your payment be contingent on the ad agency being paid by their client. It’s very hard to collect money from someone with whom you do not have an agreement.
  • In the same way, be clear with your subcontractors. Normally, it’s the photographer’s obligation to pay subcontractors in a timely fashion regardless of whether they have been paid by their client. If you want your subs to share in your risk, the golden rule dictates that you have to tell them that at the time of the booking.

We delivered the pictures. The client was thrilled. Here’s the final invoice:

A little less than a year later, the art buyer contacted me for a quote on extending the licensing on all 10 images for an additional 2 years.

When a client relicenses a picture, I normally discount the rate on that use. As the pictures age, they tend to (though not always) decrease in value. In this case, I figured the second year was worth about 3/4 of the first. And the third year was worth about 3/4 of the second. So I sent her a quote for $18k, which she accepted.

You can contact Carolyn Tucker to find out more about Wonderful Machine at 610.260.0200 or

Point A Camera And Their Clothes Fly Off

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Looks like Seliger and GQ are in a little hot water over the Rielle Hunter (John Edwards affair) pictures where she’s got no pants on (MSNBC Story Here). The only reason I’m commenting on this at all is because I’ve been on the receiving end of phone calls by publicists and subjects who’ve done things on set with a camera pointed at them they later regret. To be fair the same thing happens to writers all the time. Fact checkers are routinely berated over the phone as people try to reshape what they said.

There is a known phenomena where people seem to rip their clothes off when you point a camera at them. Seems to have happened to Rielle. I don’t think the photographer is to blame.


Author Lisa DePaulo (wrote the piece in GQ) on hardball with Chris Matthews: When Matthews questioned the spread, DePaulo cracked, “This is GQ, not Newsweek.” (source)

And now the standard BTS video:

Negotiating The Editorial Contract

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Bill Cramer has an excellent piece on negotiating an editorial contract with a new client over on Wonderful Machine (here).

It’s pretty amazing that people starting out on the publishing side know so very little about the appropriate terms to include for hiring photographer. Inevitably it starts with boilerplate language handed to them from some well meaning lawyer looking to protect the company but you got to wonder why companies think they need all these rights and all that protection in the first place. It’s not like there are examples where the lack of an indemnity clause took down a media company or the lack of all encompassing rights prevented them realizing their true profit center, selling mouse pads with cover photos on them.

When starting a new job photo editors have a couple big hurdles to sort out if they want access to the high end talent of the industry. Your rates and your contract are deal killers on all but the biggest of jobs. I’ve never had a problem raising rates after starting a new job but I always ran into insane roadblocks with the contracts. At one company I worked at they had such a lock down on contracts that any changes had to be run by a very busy lawyer who was in charge of multiple titles. And, they refused to pay an invoice if the company didn’t have a signed contract on file. We ended up knocking on the lawyers door so many times in the first couple months that she finally called a sit down meeting to modify the contract. Of course any changes we made had to be approved by the owner of the magazine so I was very careful to insert language where I could instead of wholesale rewriting because he would be less likely to strike the entire change if it was small words instead of entire paragraphs. Anyway, half the modifications were passed and half were rejected leaving me in the position to let photographers know the terms were only negotiable in extreme circumstances, because now the lawyer instituted a policy of once a week modification discussions (too much door knocking I guess). Combine that with the fact that editorial could be slow in handing over assignments for each issue and working with new photographers could become a real high wire act if they didn’t like the terms of the contract.

Back to Bill Cramer’s piece (here), he shows incredible aplomb after striking the offending passages and receiving the loaded reply of “I know the photo editors are excited to work with you. Can you reconsider your positions and sign our standard terms and conditions ‘as is’?” and instead of flying into a rage, taking the time to calmly educate the client on why the changes are necessary.

In the end he prevailed, but it seems so insane that people would want to spend an ounce of time mired in contract negotiations defending terms that as far as I’m concerned have zero value to the media company instead of producing content that will attract readers and advertiser to their product.

A Guide To Paper Buying

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Of all the things that make up a magazine, paper buying is probably the least understood. It’s also the most expensive line item in the monthly production of magazines. The quality of the paper was always a huge gripe in the Art Department, but I would have gladly taken a cut in quality for an increase in the photography budget.

Dead Tree Edition has a post called “The 10 Most Common Paper-Purchasing Mistakes” and I think it may even be possible to apply some of these cost savings ideas and not take a hit on paper quality. Wouldn’t that be awesome. People working in management positions at magazines owe it to themselves to understand the jobs of the other people in the office who have a stake in the monthly budget pie. And, who knows maybe some day you’ll find yourself creating a magazine on your own and need to buy paper. More insight (here).

Dave Labelle On Storytelling

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This is part of a profile of photographer and teacher Dave LaBelle that Fran Gardler made as a final project for his masters at Ohio University. You can see the final piece (here) but this is a part that was cut:

All the videos are (here).

thx, Jonathan.

Picture Black Friday

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Looking for something to do this Friday besides shop? How about participating in an open call to document Black Friday:

“Picture Black Friday is a photojournalism project that aims to revisit and analyze a combination of forces- a worsening economy, financial desperation, excitement, fear, and a distinctly American cultural tradition- that culminate the morning after Thanksgiving.”

Read more (here). I do think it’s important for professional photographers to experiment with different ways to tell stories and deliver content online. If certainly doesn’t seem like media companies are going to do anything about the future.

Perception Is Everything – For Photo Editors

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One of the mistakes I made as a photo editor early on was copping a “can do” attitude when it came to finding photography or making assignments. I figured I would just work as hard as I could and the end result was what it was. The problem with this is nobody factors in the limitations of the job they handed you after you’re done. A Creative Director I worked for once said “we need to manage the expectations” which basically means we need to discuss the limitations before heading off to try and solve the problem. When making assignments this means knowing beforehand what the subject looks like; what the environment in which they will be shot looks like; how much time you will have to make a picture; will there be a budget for wardrobe, hair & makeup, props; is the subject even aware thry’re to be photographed. There is nothing worse than discovering upon arrival of the shoot in the office that what was pitched doesn’t not match what exists.

When it comes to stock, a little investigation into whether there is good coverage of a subject matter is always a good strategy before a meeting. That way you can tell them “stock doesn’t exist so we need to shoot a picture and I’ve not turned up any photographers I like in the area so we need to fly someone in.”

The sooner you have these conversations in the editorial process the better it is for everyone. That way if the stock is crap and there’s no time/budget for a shoot making the decision to still run a story means they don’t care if the magazine looks horrible. At least they know they’re the one’s making that decision.

How To Photograph The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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I remember several years ago sitting in a meeting talking about “the great pacific garbage patch,” trying to come up with a way to photograph what we felt was an important story. A floating patch of plastic garbage somewhere between twice the size of Texas and the size of the U.S. was out there but couldn’t be seen because it floated just below the surface (WSJ story here) in a loose jumble. That story never happened because we couldn’t figure out how to do it. I was happily surprised to discover this week that Chris Jordan, a photographer who explores the phenomenon of American consumerism, found a way to tell the story.

These photographs of albatross chicks were made just a few weeks ago on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific. The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking.


See more (here).

The Business Of Photography – Books

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John Harrington sent me his latest book “Best Business Practices For Photographers” and at over 500 pages It’s a real door stopper. It has the look and feel of a college text book: loaded with examples, little notes sections along the way, 32 chapters and a cover image/design that screams textbook. For anyone looking for a place to understand the business of photography this seems like the place to start. At one point I considered getting an MBA and while doing research discovered the personal MBA website and this manifesto:

MBA programs don’t have a monopoly on business knowledge: you can teach yourself everything you need to know to succeed in life and at work. The Personal MBA features the very best business books available, based on thousands of hours of research. If you’re serious about learning advanced business principles, the Personal MBA can help you master business without the baggage of b-school.

I’ve since read about 15 business books (some of the list but many based on Amazon reviews) including 4 that I think should be the cornerstone of any personal business learning: Good To Great, Built To Last, What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School, How To Win Friends & Influence People. All of these I checked out at the local library.

Right now I’m really into a book called Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson that I would highly recommend for photographers and any other entrepreneurs. When you look at the principles that underpin a successful business you see the world in a very different light.

The great thing about reading a business book while you own a business, instead of while you’re in school, is that when you discover something important you can put it to work immediately. These books also prove to be awesome motivators.

Oyster Hotel Reviews – Hotel Photo Fakeout

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I like this new hotel review site, Oyster Hotel Reviews, because they understand how powerful the editorial voice can be when making a buying decision and they understand a photograph will convey the most information in the shortest amount of time. They’ve hired a bunch of writer photographers to go check out hotel properties and show you what they really look like.

My favorite feature is the photo fakeout on their blog (here). Where they shoot their own version of the hotels pool, workout room and hotel room to show you the careful cropping and outright photoshopping the hotels have done to fool you.



Peter Yang and Rolling Stone Win Magazine Cover of the Year

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I’ve sat through too many meetings where badges, sashes, boxes, hairlines and an entire dump truck full of coverlines were added to perfectly good cover images or instead a meeting where perfectly good cover images were thrown out in favor of images that held coverlines better, to not point out the irony of a winner with no coverlines. Sure, Obama was a shoo-in as a winning cover subject but go check out the other category winners (here). Keep in mind that this is an organization of editors (ASME) who decided to let the public pick their favorite cover out of a group of nominees. Of course this proves nothing about selling on newsstands other than the public has better taste than most editors, many magazine owners and every single newsstand director in existence.

A Cautionary Behind-The-Scenes Video Tale

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This cautionary BTSV story was submitted by a reader:

On a recent national advertising shoot we used our back-up camera, my new 5D MKII, to shoot some behind-the-scenes footage of me at work. We edited it down into a 3-minute video that we posted on my Facebook Group page. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but it did the job of showing me directing models and assistants. About 4 weeks after posting it, the ad agency I worked with called outraged, demanding all the fees and expenses back from the shoot, and then threatened to sue me.

At first we weren’t sure what we did wrong–we put it up well after the campaign had come out and after the agency gave us the go ahead to use shoot images for self-promotion. We had retained copyright and owned all the images. We didn’t show any video of the agency or client discussing strategy or anything like that. Although I did not announce that we were shooting video footage, the assistant who was shooting walked around in full view of everyone on the set, with a camera quite close to most people on the set. He shot quite a lot and it is evident that the AB and AD at least knew we were shooting stills.

The agency claimed that we violated the Confidentiality Clause of the Purchase Order because the entire shoot was secret, that they did not know I was shooting video and that I had no right to shoot video. We disagree with all of this, but we took the video down. Even after we took it down, they kept demanding the money back, and we spent weeks going back and forth with lawyers. Eventually they just dropped it, presumably because they knew they had no case. We think what happened was that the client found it on YouTube since we had included their name in the title, and was upset at the agency failing to control their brand. The agency was trying to make amends, and wanted to use us a sacrifice.

We were at first concerned when they argued that we didn’t “have the right” to shoot video. In other words, was it our shoot and set or theirs? In our view, a client does not own a set unless the agreement is work-for-hire. In this case, we were the production company, we hired everyone else, we rented the location, we carried the insurance (i.e. it was our production). No one could tell us what we could and could not shoot on our set.

We also amended the P.O. to give us copyright to “All images created as part of the shoot” and the right to use them for self-promotion.Tip: Always ensure in writing that you retain rights to all “Images” with an “s” or better yet, put “All images, whether moving or still.”

We left their Confidentiality Clause intact, but as it was written, it did not make the shoot itself confidential – just trade secrets and the like. The shoot itself was our work product, not theirs, and its mere existence wasn’t a secret. Tip: Just because the agency says you violated the contract, doesn’t mean you did.

However, in the future I do think it is a great idea to talk to the A.B. about behind-the-scenes video and whether it is OK with them if you shoot it and if you can use it for self promotion on your website. You may have the right to shoot it and post it, but if a jittery client doesn’t like what they see, you may lose a client and any relationship you had with the agency.