I know I’ve seen Sean Moser’s name on a call sheet, hell I’ve probably met him on a shoot. Sounds like he needs help.
My greatest piece of advice for hiring photographers I learned the hard way. After many failed and boring and misdirected shoots I discovered an axiom I now adhere to. Never hire a photographer to shoot something that’s not already in their book. This is worth repeating.
Don’t hire photographers to shoot pictures they don’t already have the skills to take.
Don’t misinterpret this to mean you need kittens playing with yarn to get a job shooting kittens playing with yarn. And, don’t take it to mean we never try photographers out or take a chance on photographers. We do, just not with the big shoots.
It means I want to see the visual language in your other pictures that will make up my picture. It means playing to your strengths. It means attempting to match the perfect subject and photographer.
I can’t always do this but when I do, it works every time.
Just watched a video over at PhotoShelter (here) via the Strobist (here) that was taken at one of their town hall meetings where Marni Beardsley, Director of Global Art Buying at Weiden and Kennedy talks about the photography business from her perspective.
It starts out a little slow and takes an hour to watch but it’s loaded with good stuff.
I really enjoy hearing other photo professionals corroborate my thoughts about the industry and so I wanted to highlight some of the points she makes that I agree with.
1. She hates micro stock. It’s crap.
2. Cold calls suck. I’ve always hated getting a cold calls and they don’t really get you any work.
3. Email is the best way to communicate.
4. Promo cards still work.
5. All that matters is the photography. Book, promo, email, website, coffee shop wall, magazine and whatever medium you can think of it’s all about the photography. Marketing matters little. If a creative finds a great photograph on Flickr she’s not afraid to go get it.
6. She loves Terry Richardson.
7. Treat people fairly and don’t work with assholes.
8. If you don’t support photographers and advocate for great photography we’re all out of a job.
9. Editorial and personal projects keep your work fresh.
10. General every day job frustrations like creatives asking for photographers who won’t work with us or looking for stupid concept stock photos or being asked to put shoots together last minute with a tiny budget.
Thanks for posting the videos Photo Shelter.
Holy crap, does everyone suddenly have a new book to show? I’m flooded with calls for book showings and drop offs not to mention people visiting from all over the country.
Must be that slow time of year when everyone gets itchy to drum up work.
Unfortunately, it’s also the time of year where I’ve completely blown my budget and I’m working on the smallest issue with the least amount of assignments (January).
It’s hard to get motivated to meet with all the photographers looking for work when I currently have none to give.
John McDermott just sent me a link (here) to his interview with the very talented DOP at Time, MaryAnne Golon. Very informative. Thanks John.
Here’s a couple great quotes:
What makes a good picture editor?
That’s a difficult question. I suppose, being a jack-of-all-trades, but above all knowing what is a good picture and what is a bad picture and why. You’d be surprised at how few photo editors working in the business today can actually make that distinction.
You need to be incredibly organised and you have to be able to juggle many different things at once. You have to be a friend, a psychiatrist, a fix-it person and a sales person. You have to know sales because you have to sell to everyone all the time. You have to sell editors on stories and pictures, and you have to sell photographers and agencies on assignments. When I’m told that editorial people have no idea about sales I just laugh out loud because selling ideas and garnering support is about 80% of what I do. Jim Nachtwey always refers to us as his champion and without a champion or a guardian angel you’re in big trouble in this business.
So a lot of that editing process has shifted to the photographer?
Yes. And I think a lot of photographers are very pleased about that because before they didn’t have any reasonable level of control over their work. They’d just send in the unprocessed film and then it would be, “Oh my God, why do they always pick the wrong picture?”. How many times have we heard that! But it’s also created a much bigger workload for the photographers and I think it’s almost been crushing for them. With the new technology they’re not only photographers but they’ve had to become editors and technology specialists too. What I think they should be focusing on is what they’ve always focused on – taking great pictures.
Three words that make me cringe.
It goes like this: photographer delivers an edit of the shoot, PE delivers that edit (takes out the extra sent along, ya know, just in case) to the Creative Director, layout is presented to the Editor at which point you may hear those three words.
Yes, there’s more… there are hundreds of images taken, I’ve simply given you the best but if you’d prefer we can change our policy of only running great photography and instead run the photos that go with a particular point in the story or photos that go with the preconceived idea you had in your head about who this person is… fine.
Photographers, don’t kid yourselves, there is a best photo from every setup (there may be multiple setups but not multiple bests). A layout has to be designed around the best photos from a shoot and then a headline written to go with the lead photo… the variations don’t matter.
This is an ideal world but I live in the real world, so sometimes I get to hear those cringe worthy words. It’s my job to fight back.
There’s good discussion on the “not a photographer” post about how many images to deliver from a shoot. Finding the best photos takes time and experience and if you don’t have a couple days or weeks to look over the shoot, edit down and live with it or if you haven’t been shooting for eons it’s difficult to do. I work with enough photographers who do it to know it can be done.
After the assignment they deliver final prints with no contact sheets or they cut their contacts apart, tape them to paper and indicate the best photo or they leave the contacts intact but x-out the bad shots and write on top of the good shots or they deliver a disk with a tight edit in a firsts folder and variations in the seconds folder.
Whichever way, find the best photo and broadcast that you want it published.
My favorite editorial photographer of all time sends me 1 print at the end of a shoot. Is there more? No, there’s only one photo.
My joke about all photo editors being failed photographers resonated with a few people and the funny thing is, I get asked by 90% of the photographers I meet if I’m a photographer and I used to tell the truth, that no I don’t take many pictures, but this inevitably leads to a somewhat awkward moment where the photographer wonders how in the hell I got a job as a photography director.
I’ve always known I have a talent for working with creative people and a great eye for photography but it’s astonishing to people that I have no clue how to operate a camera.
I don’t really care how they work.
What a crappy feature Google Image has turned out to be for photo editors.
I get endless emails every day from editors and writers with useless google image links to shit photography or uncredited photography or even worse… amateur photography where I have no idea if it was taken with a Mark III or Hello Kitty camera from JC Penney and YES it makes a difference what camera it was shot with when printing on a 4 color press because really I have no way of knowing how it will turn out until production sends us a proof and usually by then it’s getting too late because the layout and story has been designed and written to go with the photo that a dumb ass algorithm found.
It used to be that editors, writers and art directors had no idea where to get photos from, so the images that I found offensive or that didn’t fit my aesthetic never surfaced but now that google image dredges the bottom of the ocean of horrible website photography my life is spent telling people why certain photos suck and others are awesome.
So, do me a favor google algorithm writers and talented photographers. Figure out a way that only the good photography surfaces so that when I type Richard Branson into image search I don’t get a photo of him running out of the surf holding his nutz.
A friends daughter dropped by the office for a little career advice a little while back. She recently graduated from college with a degree in the arts and is interested in becoming a photo editor.
(Okay, first off I find it fascinating that someone would choose photo editing as a career path. Aren’t we all failed photographers? Ha, ha, industry joke.)
She landed an internship at a magazine’s photography department which is the obvious first step and it sounds like a good job because they’re understaffed so she will have many duties not usually given to interns… unlike the boring shit I make our interns do: sending out tears, returning art and calling PR flacks for photos (editors idea).
Anyway, my whole point here is that I came up with a few tips for any aspiring photography editors out there:
1. Develop your eye for photography. Unless you were born with the golden eye you need to edit tons of photos because wading through all the crappy images to find the gems is what develops your eye for what makes a good image. It’s also helpful to track images from your edit to the final printed product so you can see which images make the final cut… unless, your editor and/or art director suck and then all the great images never make it on the page but that’s another story.
2.Keep a list of editorial photographers. You need to begin learning the names of all the great editorial photographers and try and keep track of the various shoots they’ve done over the years. This means visiting the newsstand and writing down the names of photographers who’s work you like. If the only photographers name you know is Annie Leibovitz, who by the way is under contract with Conde Nast, you’re up shit creek because you will never land her to shoot a 1/4 in the front of the book. I’ve tried. It ain’t pretty. The list of top editorial photographers is not long and you should know who many of them are.
3. Work on your institutional knowledge of photography. Being able to recall the photographers who shot Demi Moore in the last 5 years is valuable, not only if you need to find pickup images that aren’t in circulation but also to help inform how you will photograph her for the story you’re working on. Also, as an aside, editorial story meetings generally devolve at some point into a pissing match where people try to outdo each other with their knowledge of who wrote or shot this and who’s cool and what has appeared where… etc., etc. Rapid fire name dropping is a great skill to have (just don’t be that annoying guy who does it all the time).
4. Develop relationships with photographers. In the end, you will be hired to work at a magazine based on your relationships with great photographers. Not everyone can work at a glamorous magazine with massive budgets and movie stars to take pictures of and so you will need to develop relationships with photographers, especially when they are young and hungry, so that later on you can rely on them when you’re in a bind.
There’s more but by this time I think she was completely bored out of her mind. Oh well maybe she’ll try and become a photographer first.
It’s tough getting new photographers past the editor on big shoots. There’s several techniques:
1. Gang up. Get the Creative Director to back you in the meeting. “Oh yeah he’s great, I worked with him at my previous magazine and he always delivered.”
2. Shiny Objects. Toss out important people or magazines they’ve shot for. “He shot a feature in Vanity Fair recently.”
3. Padded Portfolio. Print the portfolio shots that back your case. “See, she really gets what we’re trying to achieve here.”
4. Play Dumb. Assign and feign telling them about it recently. “Oh, I thought we discussed that she was shooting this earlier.”
(I should note here that we don’t always run photographers by the editor it just happens from time to time)
Editor comes to me with an assignment he’s made. Feature profile on this guy who, from what I can gather in the pitch, is a complete and utter bore. Furthermore, he refuses to give more than 10 minutes to be photographed and wants the shoot to take place in his drab suburban home. The editor goes on to tell me because of the story mix in this issue and his belief that this guy is as cool as the writer claims, the portrait needs to be dynamic. “Maybe he could swing from the rafters or jump off the high dive into the pool,” he tells me excitedly (a call to the publicist confirms he will be doing no such thing) “and whatever you do make it cheap we’ve already spent way too much on the cover and fashion and that feature story in Africa.” “He’s only available the day after tomorrow,” he croaks while exiting my office.
Who the hell can I get to take a shot of this guy? Everyone I call is gonna see it’s impossible. He’s a complete troll. No budget for props or grooming or something extra special like a water tank or a fake cannon and no time to build anything.
What. Am. I. Going. To. Do?
I could get all Chris Buck on him but… I know the editor will kill it because he thinks this guy is cool and dynamic not weird and awkward plus… if I burn Chris he’s not going to take my calls anymore.
Wait a minute.
There was that photographer who came by the other day. Very talented. Had a great book but not much experience. Well, maybe he’ll get a nice portfolio piece out of it because who knows if it will ever run. I’ve got his number around here somewhere…
I was checking out Thomas Broening’s blog and read something that made me laugh. Photographers pretending to be very busy shooting all the time when talking to each other. Some sort of primal chest thumping.
Well, I’ll just flat out admit that sometimes when calling a photographer or rep and I find out their schedule is wiiiiide open from here to eternity I get a bit crestfallen thinking “why isn’t this guy getting any work, what does everyone else know that I don’t?” Lame, I know but it crosses the mind.
So, I decided to activate a twitter account (on sidebar) as an experiment. As annoying as it probably is to know what someone is up to every moment of the day it might be useful as a business tool so people know when you’re at the office in a meeting or have gone home for the day.
I guess it doesn’t do anyone much good if I remain anonymous but I wanted to see how hard it was to keep up.
Thought I’d post my links to photography agents that I keep handy. It’s over there on the sidebar.
I’ve collected a pretty good list over the years, of agents I like and refer to it all the time. It’s by no means complete, I’m sure there’s a few dead links in there and I haven’t alphabetized the bottom entries but, It’s one of the first places I go to look for photographers.
Talking with one of the editors today we both got a laugh out of the fact that we sit around in an office in Manhattan trying to come up with brilliant ideas all the time when really we should be relying on the talented writers and photographer to come up with the ideas. If our magazine was called, Manhattan office workers, which it’s not, we’d be coming up will brilliant shit all day.
I run into this all the time, where the expectations of the photography are, that it will exactly match the idea that we came up with. I rarely tell the photograph how to shoot, unless it’s someone hired specifically to give them art direction. Sitting in and office in the middle of Manhattan in a meeting is not where your best creative work comes from.
Craig Cutler came to the office today at the insistence of the editor, because Craig is shooting a very expensive project for us and well, the editor wanted to make sure that we were getting exactly what we wanted out of it. That’s always a bit of an awkward situation for me because I really don’t know what I’m trying to get out of it. I’m really just trying to match a brilliant photographer with a project that will play to their strengths. I have no frickin clue what it’s going to look like.
The meeting went well because as you can see Craig is a brilliant photographer and the project plays into his strengths (still life) but is something he’s not really photographed before (animals) and that always leads to the best work because it’s an opportunity for them to sink their teeth into something new and exciting and challenging. Should be amazing. Maybe even win an award and all I had to do is make one phone call. Perfect.